While UFOs may be the most democratic of all unexplained mysteries –it can be experienced by both rich men or poor, illiterates or academicians, in developed countries or the 3rd World– UFO witnesses on the other hand are not regarded in such egalitarian terms; some are given more credibility than others depending on either their physical or mental aptitudes, training and professional career. For better or for worse, what one does for a living and how many years one spent inside a class room, determines whether others will take seriously your testimony of an encounter with something extraordinary.
Such is the case with police officers. Overall we consider them to be of above average moral integrity because we entrust them with the enforcement of the Law for the safekeeping of civilian citizens, hence their word can determine whether a suspect goes to jail or not. They have to be fit to fulfill their duties, have received instruction in firearm use and observation; but above all they have to be psychologically prepared to face any kind of situation, and be willing to put their lives at risk on a regular basis.
When a cop admits he or she saw a UFO, we inevitably pay closer attention.
There are many classic cases in the UFO archives involving one or several police officers as the main witnesses: The Lonnie Zamora case of 1964, The Herbert Schirmer abduction of 1967, the Exeter incident of 1965, or when deputy sheriff Dale Spaur and his partner Wilbur Neff chased a UFO from Ohio to Pennsylvania –the latter serving as inspiration for that famous scene in the first act of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind.
The story I’m about to share with you, fellow Coppertops, also involves a police member –a military police, no less!– but is not widely known in the English-speaking UFO circles. And yet it is so unique and steep in high strangeness, it almost makes the aforementioned examples sound too… conventional.
But before we get down to business, there’s another thing that distinguishes UFO encounters involving police officers, which we shouldn’t forget to mention: Cops tend to have more to lose when they go on the record with a UFO encounter. Their reputations and/or personal lives tend to be perennially marred by that one episode, no matter how many years pass –as was the case with several of the witnesses in the cases previously mentioned.
Which is why when Spanish UFOlogist (and my long-time hero) Juan José Benítez met with a member of the Civil Guard –the military force in charge of police duties in Spain– on a local café in his home town of Barbate during the summer of 1980, he was asked absolute discretion and never to reveal his real name or rank without permission. The guard was accompanied by a partner of his, who was also a long-time friend of Benítez and had arranged the meeting with the seasoned investigator, so he could hear a first-hand account of what could very well be one of the most confounding cases in his long UFOlogical career.
The event, the witness told Benítez –who included it in his book ‘The Tip of the Iceberg’– had happened in July of 1974. The man was 24 years old at the time and lived in the city of Jerez de la Frontera –one of the municipalities in the province of Cádiz. He hadn’t joined the Civil Guard yet, and worked instead at an auto-repair shop; he was a motorcycle enthusiast and loved to cruise in his Puch mini-cross through the local country roads and highways, which he knew like the back of his hand.
That night, like many others, the young Jerezano went to the neighborhood of San Juan de Dios to see his girlfriend. The weather was warm and pleasant, so the couple went walking to a nearby field, not too far from the National Road IV, to probably do the kind of things young people in love like to do away from prying eyes, on a nice summer’s eve.
At around 11:30 pm the couple noticed a strange light behind some cinder blocks nearby. It was round and amber in hue, like the color of a traffic light, and it slowly flew directly overhead at an altitude of around a thousand feet in complete silence. The astonished youngsters observed in amazement how the luminous object crossed the road, and seemed to land on top of a low hill some 1.8 miles away (3 kilometers).
“I didn’t think it twice,” said the guard to Benítez. With a fierce determination to find out what was it they had just witnessed, he took his girlfriend back to her home and then sped on his motorcycle toward the hill; but before reaching it and without any warning, the light disappeared.
Unfazed, the young motorist continued his trek to the hill. There, at its base he found a moped parked at a ditch. Suddenly he saw two male teenagers frantically running downhill toward him; they were the owners of the moped, and excitedly told him they had just witnessed a round apparatus with a dome on top, through which they had managed to observe two ‘shadows’ inside.
“I asked them to accompany me to the top, but they flat-out refused.” The terrified teens fled to Jerez as fast as their little moped permitted it.
Tenaciously, the young man rode his bike to the summit at full throttle. He reached the top and everything was in complete darkness, the night only disturbed by the nervous barking of dogs from a nearby shack. He searched around and saw that the orangish light was again airborne, flying slowly away towards the crossing of the roads to Sanlúcar and Trebujena. The man felt anger, thinking he had just missed the landed object for a matter of seconds.
Fortunately for our intrepid chaser, the light took ground once more on the steepest side of another nearby hill, some one and a quarter miles away from where he was. The game, as Sherlock Holmes might say, was still afoot.
Not taking the light out of his sight he charged toward the second hill, both his bike and his heart at full speed. But when he was no more than 650 feet away, the tricksterish luminescence faded away once more; whether it had disappeared or it just ‘shut down’ he couldn’t say. The motorized UFO hunter slowed down and felt outplayed in this bizarre cat-and-mouse situation. It was then when he first took notice of two most peculiar details: Not only was the entire zone enveloped in an eerie blanket of utter silence –“as heavy as lead,” the witness explained to Benítez– but also during the following minutes he never managed to see any type of vehicle transit in both directions, something totally uncommon on these heavily-transited highways.
It was as if someone had pushed a cosmic PAUSE button on the entire region of Jerez.
Fed up and on the brink of giving up, the motorcyclist gave the pursue one final shot. He rode in the direction of Trebujena, where there was a slope which he could use as a vantage point to better scout the whole area. With any luck, he thought, he might be able to track the elusive light one last time –which by now he was convinced it was no conventional aircraft.
But without any warning and before he could reach the slope a moving truck appeared heading directly in front of him. Its color was blue and had big red lights on the top of its cabin, a seemingly mundane vehicle –despite the fact it was the first one he had spotted in quite a while– if not for one small yet disturbing detail: When it crossed to his left, the guard explained to Benítez, he realized the truck did not make any noise whatsoever!
He didn’t even feel the expected rush of wind produced by its wake!
“It can’t be!” he thought to himself as he abruptly put on the brakes and changed direction, now in pursuit of the silent truck, which continued its unperturbed trajectory toward Jerez. It moved at an approximate speed of 37 miles per hour (60 km/hr) which made catching up with it easy enough, and the motorist began tailing it and keeping a close distance of no more than 165 feet.
The chase now continued through a zone of steep loops in the highway, and no sooner than the young motorist emerged from a left curve, he astonishingly realized the phantom vehicle had vanished from his sight; “something materially impossible,” he was adamant in his exposition to Benítez, “because at that point the curve gave way to a narrow, straight line of more than half a mile in length.” There was simply no place in which the truck could have pulled over without being spotted by the young man, nor an alternative road or detour it could have taken to lose sight of its biking pursuer.
The disappearance of the “ghost truck” was the last straw for the intrepid UFO hunter, and the totality of the strangeness he had experienced so far began to take its toll on his nerves. He decided to call it a night and return to Jerez, but the very moment he switched his motorcycle’s high beam, the road ahead was illuminated by a different source…
There, in front of him, was the amber light he had recklessly pursued like a motorized Ahab in hunt of and otherworldly white whale, shining all across the entire width of the lonely highway. He now could distinctly perceive a shiny-looking dome on top of it, which looked to him “like the glass in a bathroom” –perhaps because it was not entirely opaque. He knew it was the same object which had previously terrified the two teenagers in the moped.
Without knowing why, the witness began to make light signals to the object, switching from the low beam to high beam of his bike. But the object was unresponsive to the improvised communications attempt.
Just to make sure he wasn’t suffering from some sort of hallucination, the civil guard confessed to Benítez 6 years after his close encounter, he reached out and touched the escape pipe of his minicross. The throbs from the burned flesh in his right hand confirmed what his mind was frantically trying to reject: This wasn’t a dream.
This was REAL.
Maybe it was the burning pain what managed to rekindle the young man’s indomitable spirit. Maybe, if true, this is the account of the bravest UFO witness who’s ever lived to tell his tale. Whatever the case, the motorist knew he had no choice but to finish what he’d started. So, in a final push of courage, he revved his faithful bike and sped toward the flying saucer at full speed. Don Quixote couldn’t have felt more proud of this modern giant slayer mounting his mechanized Rocinante.
“But no sooner had I started to run in the direction of the object,” the guard told Benítez, “when in the blink of an eye the amber-like light, the domed object and all of that ‘turned off’, disappearing from my sight. And in their place appeared the lights of two automobiles!”
J.J. Benítez was just as incredulous as you might be by now, my dear Coppertops. He kept pushing the Civil Guard into explaining and re-explaining this last point of his incredible story. No, the police officer insisted, there hadn’t been any perceived lapse between the ‘dematerialization’ of the UFO and the ‘materialization’ of those two cars, parked one in front of the other on the right side of the highway with their headlights on. It had all happened completely simultaneously.
Confused, but still as curious and brave as ever, the young motorist slowly approached the parked vehicles, which appeared to him as big sedans (Mercedes or Dodge, he couldn’t really say) of a gray, shiny color –“almost as if they had just been car-washed.”
Not knowing what drove him to do it, he told Benítez, the witness stopped his bike near the driver’s door of the first sedan, which had its window down. Something told him these were no ordinary automobiles, despite the seemingly flawless disguise. He peered inside the car, which didn’t have any inner lights on, and saw that behind the wheel was a man with silvery hair who seemed to be around 50 years of age, and yet looked tall and athletic behind his impeccable ashen-gray suit, complete with a white shirt and a dark tie.
The driver wasn’t alone in the car. Next to him and on one of the back seats were two more individuals, and directly behind him was a tall, younger woman with long blond hair, dressed in a tailor suit which left her neck exposed. Despite the lack of light our young witness could tell she was very beautiful, aside from her serious expression.
The second car was no more than 3 feet away from the first, and although the young man was certain there was someone inside, it was too dark to tell.
“Buenas noches,” the middle-aged driver greeted the young motorist. “Please, where is the direction of the National Road IV?”, he proceeded to ask in impeccable Spanish without any hint of a strange accent. His eyes and appearance looked completely normal, and yet the witness felt there was just something odd in the features of these ‘lost tourists’ he couldn’t quite put his finger on –“their faces weren’t national nor foreign… they were just strange.”
The other three passengers never opened their mouths.
The young motorist started to explain to the driver how to get to the road he asked for. After a few minutes he realized that, even with the directions he was providing, finding the National Road IV at this ungodly hour of the night would be no easy task –this was, after all, during the ‘dark ages’ before Google Maps and Waze. Incidentally, during his brief inspection of the car’s interior the witness didn’t see any maps which the ‘tourists’ could use to orient themselves; so he diligently offered to escort the two cars to the road.
“Very well,” was the only thing the silver-haired man uttered as a way to thank the young Good Samaritan. The motorcycle ran ahead and the cars made a u-turn and followed behind. The roles had now been absurdly switched: The previous pursuer was now leading the ‘materialized’ cars into the city of Jerez, which were just as devoid of any normal sound as the blue moving truck preceding them, or the amber flying saucer which had started the whole thing.
The young motorist kept riding while keeping a close watch of the sedans with his rear-view mirror. The three vehicles crossed under a bridge –again, no sound coming from the cars bounced off of it– and once they entered the city and reached the zoo, the witness slowed down and stopped. The two sedans did the same.
The witness turned and reached the first vehicle, again from the side of the driver’s window, to talk to the silver-haired conductor. “Now you just follow straight ahead, and turn to the first right…” he started to explain to the elderly man in the gray suit. “Very well, thank you” was his stark reply, without letting finish the motorcyclist’s indications. Not once did he offer any smile or sign of appreciation for the young man’s service.
Either the young man now felt some sort of responsibility toward these ‘tourists’ –despite their obvious lack of cordiality– who could still find it hard to reach the National Road IV, or maybe something in the back of his mind deduced this was just a big ruse. “Do you want me to take you directly to the road?” he offered.
“No, thank you!” said the driver with great conviction.
“Hey, it’s no trouble at all…”
“No. THANK. YOU!” the man repeated. The tone of his voice and the force in his stare were crystal clear.
The young motorist bid them good night, turned 180 degrees on his bike and rode back home. The two cars moved through the street he had indicated them, and he lost them out of his sight, never to see them again.
Benítez had been listening to the Civil Guard’s astounding account, refraining from interrupting him too much, and only making a few occasional clarifying questions. The two officers –the witness and his partner– had gone uncomfortably quiet and so had he, sitting on that little café in the small coastal town where he had lived most of his life, when he wasn’t chasing after those elusive flying saucers all over the globe. He didn’t know what to make of the young man’s tale, other than he felt he was being totally sincere in his recollections –the fact that he rejected any kind of publicity being evidence of it.
Finally, Benítez ventured one final question, and he urged the witness to think carefully before he replied:
“When you approached those two cars for the first time, saw the occupants and spoke with the driver… did you note or perceive any special sensation?”
It didn’t take long for the military man to answer: “Yes. I felt they were expecting me.” [Emphasis mine]
Benítez concluded that first interview, and in subsequent days he contacted the witness again to fill in a few minor details. The officer added that soon after the strange incident he’d lived that summer of 1974, he started to complain from a strange ‘pressure’ in his temples. He went to see a doctor but it was simply diagnosed as a ‘nervousness.’ He lost his job at the auto repair shop, and enrolled in the Civil Guard two years later, where he’d had a very good career.
As it’s his custom, Benítez accompanied the guard to the place where the event took place, to take notes and make measurements. One detail lacking in the account made by the seasoned investigator in his book ‘The Tip of the Iceberg’, is any mention of possible burn marks or physical traces left by the UFO during its multiple landings. After 6 years the chances that any mark left by the object could still be found in the highway’s tarmac are very slim –after all, transited roads coming in and out of a city have to be regularly repaired and maintained. But what about the two hills where the ‘light’ took ground during the first stage’s of the chase?
Either it was something omitted by the witness in his testimony, or there simply wasn’t any physical evidence to be found.
One little thing Benítez does mention, however, might be more revealing than any sample of scorched material: When he parked his car –a small Renault 18 he owned at the time– in the same spot where the witness saw the gray sedans for the first time, and he tried to turn to reconstruct the exact itinerary followed by the cars as they were escorted by the motorcycle to the city, he was forced to back up at the edge in order not to hit the ditch, because the road was not wide enough for a complete u-turn.
And yet, the witness did not recollect seeing the two cars make the same corrective maneuver from his rear-view mirror. Something simply impossible considering the length of the sedans –or at least as possible as two big combustion-engined vehicles from the mid-1970s being able to cruise without emitting ANY sound…
Borderlands is the name of a book written by Mike Dash, dealing with all sorts of high-strangeness cases he’s investigated, like the one we’ve just discussed –the book has been commented by Ben and Aaron on past MU episodes.
Borderlands is also the name of a popular video game series, in which players are free to explore an alien planet and embark on different adventures at their leisure. There are several ways to move around the planet: Walking, which is slow and boring (not to mention dangerous); Teleporting, which you can only do once you find one of the few ‘Fast Travel’ terminals scattered across the game field; or, if you feel like cruising around the landscape, there’s always the option to ‘Catch-A-Ride’, which is the name of stations that instantly materialize a fully-customized four-wheel vehicle for you.
What makes the ‘Catch-A-Ride’ particularly fun is because it lets you customize your vehicle in many different ways; changed your mind about the paint color or think you want to trade the machine gun for a rocket launcher? No problem! You push the station button and your ride is switched in the blink of an eye.
For a videogame player, there’s nothing special about watching a full vehicle appear out of thin air. It’s what you expect from a make-believe cybernetic universe in which you can move around strange worlds, shoot guns, die and reborn as many times as you want. Just 1’s and 0’s running through the game’s code, right?
But what happens when similar capabilities are observed in what we think is the ‘real world’? Is it a hint that all of us are nothing but synthetic characters embedded in a universal sandbox for the benefit of god-like users?
If the story of the anonymous Civil Guard is true –and to be fair, there seems to be no further circumstantial evidence to corroborate it– then it is disturbing because of its encompassing implications. During all this time ‘conventional’ UFOlogists –read ‘nuts-and-bolters’— have operated under the assumption they are dealing with a tangible phenomenon; something, however exotic or foreign, that has nevertheless defined properties like a given mass or occupying a finite space. Something that could be measured, if having the luck of being at the right place and the right time.
What our young motorized hero claimed to have witnessed throws that out of the window though, because it seems to implicate a power capable of assuming whatever shape it suits it best: From a bonafide flying saucer to a large moving truck, and then even ‘splicing’ into two separate vehicles. We can only assume those ‘morphing’ abilities can also be applied to whatever possible intelligences control that power.
The ‘simulation’ was not 100% perfect though, as hinted by the lack of sound emitted by the multiple manifestations of the phenomenon. One wonders what would have happened if our intrepid UFO chaser would have dared to reach out and grab the arm of that mysterious ‘man in gray’ driving the mirage car…
Does this denote a limit to the phenomenon’s reach, the same a video game has to limit the ‘polygon count’ of every synthetic model generated in its cyber-space? Or perhaps it simply didn’t care to create a flawless deception to fool just one stubborn kid on a bike…
Or maybe the ‘flaw’ was also part of the ruse all along, to keep luring the witness into that absurd cat-and-mouse chase. Because surely a power capable of manipulating its shape could also make itself invisible to the human eye –the way the light ‘shut down’ just as the motorcyclist was about to catch on with it.
Whatever the case, the story of the ‘morphing flying saucer’ coaxes us to reframe our assumptions –see what I did there?– about what exactly we are dealing with, even if we’re still so far away to understand its true motives.
…Maybe that will increase the thrill of the game.