Sunday, September 27, 2020

Argentina: The Night Aliens Threatened to Invade Neuquén



Argentina: The Night Aliens Threatened to Invade Neuquén

By Luis Burgos

 Many residents of Neuquén witnessed four flying saucers over their city in December 1973 (“The Year of the Humanoids”). It was the talk of the town for an entire week, and it all ended days later with a desperate, massive caravan of residents who set out to contact the aliens who had landed in Balcón del Valle.

Architect David Vincent was the sole witness to a UFO landing. He had seen a craft from another galaxy landing in a deserted, lonely location one evening. No one believed his story. Thus, his challenge would be to unmask the strange aliens who mixed among humans and whose only goal was to conquer the world. But how could he achieve it?

The architect was the lead character of “The Invaders”, a U.S. television series starring Roy Thinness and which caused a rage in the 1960s and 1970s worldwide. In those days, entire families and groups of friends would cluster around the T.V. set to watch the incredible program whose every episode proposed the same challenge: unmasking the aliens.

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.” Such was the opening narration to the show, followed by a disquieting musical theme.

In those days, Neuquén was a city of little more than 40,000 residents undergoing a sharp growth spurt due to strong migratory currents from other parts of the country and from around the world. As in other urban regions “The Invaders” was also very popular in this corner of Patagonia, being broadcast once a week on Neuquén’s Channel 7 as part of its evening programming. It was a show that no one would miss watching, making it a television event, perhaps because at the time the subject of UFOs was fashionable and burgeoning.

Many media outlets constantly reported each and every UFO sighting reported from any corner of the country. The chance that an extraterrestrial landing could be real was a source of fascination.

One night in mid-December 1973, Edgardo Troncoso chatted with a group of teenage friends beside the canal that ran along San Martín Street. At the time, Parque Central was non-existent, barely being a sandy lot with some scattered trees. Nor were there tall buildings in Neuquén at the time, or abundant street lighting. For this reason, the skies offered a marvelous skyscape of stars, planets and small heavenly bodies that twinkled or moved slowly across the deep, dark Patagonian skies.

It all happened in a matter of seconds. Perhaps it was barely past midnight – no one could say for sure – but amid the vast ocean of stars, four ‘flying saucers’ appeared all of a sudden, bedecked with small multicolored lights, floating in the sky, noiselessly. The objects were flat, with a slight protuberance in their middles which also issued small flashes.

The saucer squadron made no sudden moves; it commenced a slow descent before the surprise of the young men, who stood up and were petrified, unable to believe what they were seeing. The vessels remained suspended over that part of the city for an instant before vanishing at an amazing speed. The fellows were astounded at having become the unwitting spectators of such a sighting. All those episodes of “The Invaders” that were such a source of fascination to them, often prompting them to gather around the television set in a friends’ house. They could not believe it – flying saucers really existed.

After the amazing experience, each boy went home, thinking about what he had seen, wondering who might be at the helm of those mysterious vessels, and the reasons for their display over the skies of Neuquén. They went to bed convinced that they had been the only ones treated to the sight of the UFOs, but they were very wrong.

The next day, news of the flying saucer sighting was the one subject of conversation in the entire town, as many residents of Neuquén claimed having seen them. Over the ensuing hours, the young men learned of similar sighting reports from various cities in the Alto Valle and the region as a whole. They subsequently learned that the phenomenon had been visible as far away as Bahía Blanca. How was this possible? Were they truly flying saucers?

All manner of speculation arose in the following days concerning the strange sightings. Radio and television alike conjectured about the presence of the strange objects over Patagonia while the extraordinary phenomenon was discussed in offices, bars, schools and businesses until the subject was finally relegated to the background…but for a short time only.

If there ever was a popular radio show in Neuquén back then it was “El Clan de los Solitarios” (The Loners Clan) broadcast every night on LU5. Osvaldo Cabanillas, its host, was capable of conjuring lovely landscapes through his speech, as well as the classic songs of the time that he carefully selected to make his radio show complete. His listenership was solid, to the extent that thousands of ‘loners’ throughout the entire region would wait nervously by the radio as the last minutes of the day counted down to the start of the imaginary club that summoned the entire clan.

A few days after the sightings, Osvaldo began his nightly routine, talking to his lonesome listeners, sharing commentary adorned with fine music, filling the radio waves with the customary good feeling. The show progressed normally when the tone of the host’s voice changed suddenly, pronouncing some intriguing sentences: “Something’s happening right now in Neuquén, but it may not be prudent to discuss it…” he said. “I fear for the reaction it may have among those of you listening, but believe me, there is nothing to be afraid of,” he added, without giving any details of what was supposedly happening. At this point of the show, listeners had their ears glued to their sets. What happened? What was going on in Neuquén?

Osvaldo kept his audience intrigued for some 30 or 40 minutes until he finally issued the unexpected news. “I am being told that the flying saucers have returned to Neuquén and at this moment are landing in Balcón del Valle, where the cliffs are located,” he said. In a matter of minutes, the city’s downtown area became the gathering point for people about to embark on a desperate run to the highest point in town. Citizens of Neuquén riding cars, motorcycles – even bicycles – took off speedily so as not to miss the spectacle that was playing out over Patagonian skies yet again.

“The saucers are back and they’re landing at the cliffs!” they shouted as they progressed along the final segment of Avenida Argentina, which at the time was little more than an unkempt track of sand and stone. Some carried portable radios to follow Osvaldo’s unbelievable story; others tuned into LU5’s frequency on their car radios. A mixture of fear, but also intrigue and fascination, could be felt on the journey. Some had taken the news as a gag, but were going all the same ‘just in case’. Edgardo Troncoso, the young man who had seen the alien vessels with his friends only days before, grabbed his bicycle, pedaling desperately in an effort to repeat his incredible experience. When the crowd finally reached the highest point of the city, they scanned the skies that spread in majesty over the cliffs. But there was nothing more than starlight to be seen, and a bright moon lighting the valley and banks of the Neuquén River.

“Perhaps they’ve already landing and are hereabouts,” someone suggested. Others began wandering the deep canyons that wound their way between the cliffs to find the mysterious craft, but they didn’t find them. The more credulous among them conjectured that the flying saucers had perhaps landed and taken off quickly, as they had done the last time.

Disheartened by the frustrated alien encounter, the ‘loners’ descended along the avenue wondering what had happened. Some returned home; others stayed in downtown bars to continue chatting about the subject. Shortly after they would learn that the news had been, in fact, a prank by Osvaldo aimed at keeping popular fascination over the subject alive. Furthermore, it was Saturday, December 28, “The day of the innocents” (Translator’s note: December 28 is April Fools Day in the Spanish-speaking countries).

Frustration over not having seen the spaceships again, coupled with Osvaldo’s prank, did not cool the ardor of Neuquén’s enthusiasts. After all, the saucer sighting had indeed occurred, and it did not rest on the eyewitness accounts of one or two people. There had been many.

A week following that Saturday, thousands gathered around their sets to watch “The Invaders” again so as not to miss the thrilling plot of alien conquest. The episode’s viewership was as massive as it had ever been. Everyone paid close attention to the protagonist’s exploits and his efforts at convincing unbelievers that the world was in peril, although this time, based on the events in Neuquén, they felt the science fiction yarn wasn’t so far-fetched after all. Could an alien invasion take place? Was such a thing possible? Perhaps. But if such a thing were to happen, the situation would be different. Now, many would rise up and come to their planet’s defense.


[Translation © 2020 Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology, with thanks to Luis Burgos]