On April 25 of 1977, a patrol of 6 soldiers in the desert badlands wilderness of a remote area of Pampa Lluscuma, near Putre, Chile, were settled down in their camp at approximately 4:15 AM when something caught their attention in the star-flecked expanse of sky above. The men watched in awe as two very bright lights descended from the heavens, with one of them silently approaching close to the camp to show that it was a brightly lit violet oval of light with two pinpoints of red light at either end, and another of the objects sinking down behind some foothills in the near distance, its violet glow still visible frosting the hills. The remaining light apparently then dropped down to a low altitude and seemed to just roam about over the desert, casting everything in that spooky glow. The men at first cowered under emergency blankets, but it soon became clear that there was no impending danger, and that these lights were simply hovering over the landscape. And thus would begin one of the strangest UFO encounter reports to ever come out of the country of Chile.
At the time this whole light show was odd enough that they felt it was worth investigating, and the leader of the patrol, a Cpl. Armando Valdez volunteered to venture out towards where the unknown light had sunk behind the hills to check things out. Valdez checked that his weapon was loaded and ready, and trudged out across the parched, scrub infested moonscape towards the unknown as his men warily gazed out towards that eerie glow in the distance. Valdez would not be gone for long, stumbling back into the camp a mere 15 minutes later, but something was obviously very wrong with him. He looked haggard, worn out, wild-eyed, and most oddly of all seemed to have accrued several days of beard growth in just that short span of time, when he had been clean shaven just minutes before. The patrol leader seemed to have some trouble walking, and when he sat down he merely stared off into the distance in a trance-like state and cryptically mumbled “You don't know who we are or where we come from but we will be back soon” before passing out. When the men searched him, they found that the watch Valdez had been wearing inexplicably showed that a full 5 days had gone by, even though he had only been gone a few minutes.
Valdez would awaken from his stupor at 7 AM, and oddly his watch seemed to be frozen in time, still stuck at exactly the same point it had been when he had returned to camp. He was more lucid this time, but try as he might he could remember nothing of what had happened to him after he had left that camp, much less why his watch and beard growth seemed to indicate that he had been gone for 5 days rather than 15 minutes. He would later say of his bizarre ordeal:
The surprising thing was the way it approached us. As soldiers we are trained to deal with any situation. But this phenomenon didn't seem to have any logical explanation. I would like to regain my memory of those fifteen minutes. I would even like to submit to hypnosis to draw out information about what happened.
The case became a media sensation in Chile, but there was some effort made to stem the notoriety of it all, with Chilean President and Commander in Chief Augusto Pinochet eventually putting a ban on any further interviews with the witnesses, and it then sort of slipped into obscurity until some researchers began digging into the story again. Notably journalist and researcher Patricio Abuselme went about reopening investigations into this strange UFO encounter, interviewing witnesses and Valdez himself for his 2010 book La noche de los centinelas (The Night of the Sentries), which he spent nearly 8 years compiling after extensive digging around. Abuselme says of the project:
This is the case that made Chilean ufology known worldwide. However, no one bothered to conduct a serious, in-depth investigation of the case. I took up the challenge in 2002, and it took me eight years to compile the protagonists’ accounts and reassemble this “impossible story.”
When I started this investigation, I did so in the secret hope of explaining the whole case in conventional terms. And I thought I was well on the way until the main protagonist of the story debunked the cases most controversial aspects – the growth of his beard and the wristwatch’s date change – by providing conventional explanations. The problem is that when I tried to corroborate it with the other witnesses, they provided a version that was mutually congruent, but at odds with the one offered by Valdés. For this reason, the book poses a controversy. If someone is looking for a story of mystics in direct contact with Martians, he or she won’t find it here. What they will find is information, information and more information. The outcome of a detailed journalistic investigation that enables the reconstruction of an intriguing real case that captured headlines over 30 years ago.
Interestingly, it has come to light in recent years that the story has indeed changed somewhat, with Valdez coming forward on an interview with Terra.cl. to claim during his research for his own book on the matter titled The Shadow of the Truth, that in retrospect he knew that he was never really abducted by aliens at all, although the strangeness with the watch and the beard was all true. Wait, what? Valdez, by this time retired from the military, would give some shocking comments on the affair that had kept people on their toes looking for answers for decades. However, he far from writes it all off as a fiction, rather being very cryptic about what actually happened. He would say in this interview about his hypnotic regression and the insights he gained:
I’ve been fully involved in developing my book and furthermore, looking into my experience, since I wish to be as factual as possible in my story. Truly, I wasn’t abducted. This is the reason for sensitive nature of what I’m putting forth in the book. Some important background details are being released. Look, it’s really complicated to explain all of a sudden. That’s the reason behind my trip to Putre, my scientific studies and the book I’m writing, because it’s all very complicated. I would say that I knew immediately how things had happened. What I’m explaining in my book [is making known] the reasons for which certain items went off on another track. Indeed. I didn’t think at first that I’d been abducted, although the matter of the growth of beard is true, as well as the subject of my wristwatch. But for this reason I have taken to writing the book to explain the reasons behind all of these things.
My story and explanations have been accepted to a certain extent, and I have told them certain things and in a certain manner. There are many who hold points of view different from my own and I don’t have to deny that there are contradictions. But as I said, the story is mine and they have not influenced me at all regarding my book. In fact, there are those who may agree or not agree with my book tomorrow, and will not stop what I’m doing. There are mixed items. The term UFO today is contaminated by another type of thing, and I prefer to speak in terms of FANI (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). I think that in my experience there is a bit of everything--a good measure of paranormal phenomena, strange effects, lights, many things acting in unison and this is what I am showing in my book, although it’s been hard for me to convey on paper what I felt, what I experienced and what really happened.
It doesn't make much sense to be honest, and making it even more confusing was an interview Valdez did with researcher Carlos Vergara, which was translated by Mexican UFO researcher Scott Corrales. It is a bit of a confrontational interview, with Valdez being typically cryptic and constantly plugging his book, and here is an excerpt:
- Were you abducted?
- In the context, I would say no.... In other words, had I been
abducted, I would have been sucked up and taken by a spacecraft
somewhere else. But I will make the truth known in my book."
- Excuse me, Corporal Valdes. Cut the book talk and tell me
something more solid.
- No, no, no. That's not what its about. I'm not trying to
promote myslef. All right, what do you want to know. Ask me and
I'll tell you."
- Where the hell were you those fifteen minutes?
- I can tell you that I was always present and looking at my
men. I even heard everything they said.
- So what'll it be then? Were you abducted or not?
- I can't tell you yes or no. I have a truth, but it's a long
story, son. The whole phenomenon must have transpired here on
Earth. The truth is harder to explain than a lie. If I said that
I went to another galaxy, it would be easier. This is harder to
- I don't believe you...
- You see? I only want to be at peace with myself. You want the
truth? I was never abducted! But another phenomenon occurred.
- What phenomenon?
- Something very close to home, having to do with Earth. And it
happened to me with a purpose I have just come to realize. I
speak of future things in my book. They call it eschatology…
What in the world is he talking about? It seems in a sense that Valdez is just as confused about what happened as anyone else, and for all of this we are no closer to any real answers as to what he encountered out in that desert wilderness, if anything. was he abducted or not? What does he think really happened? What is the meaning of his beard growth, the weirdness with the watch, and the fact that five others all witnesses the UFOs that kicked off the whole thing? It is hard to say, but it is certainly known that Chile has been rather a hotbed of UFO sightings over the years, so it seems that there could be something genuinely strange going on here. As to what that might be is anyone's guess, and the Valdez Chilean UFO Encounter remains just as enigmatic as it always has been.