El Yunque National Forest, formerly known as the Caribbean National Forest, lies sprawled out over 28,000 acres of thick rain forest in northeastern Puerto Rico, and is the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System and the United States Forest Service and the biggest rainforest in the Caribbean as well as the largest tract of public land in Puerto Rico. The park orbits around two mountains, one of them also called El Yunque, meaning “The Anvil,” standing 3,540 feet above sea level and it is the home of an incredibly diverse menagerie of flora and fauna, much of it found nowhere else on earth and many of them endangered species. It is a splendid land of enchanting rain forests, placid vistas, revered by its native peoples as the dwelling of gods, and a popular place to go hiking and exploring, but it is also a place full of mystery. There have been many reports of UFO activity from here over the years, as well as unexplained vanishings, unexplained military activity, accounts of strange creatures prowling the forest, Chupacabras, cattle mutilations, underground alien bases, and other high strangeness, making El Yunque National Forest one of the strangest places in all of Puerto Rico, with its mist shrouded mountains and almost ethereal ambiance lending itself to such tales, and one case in particular serves to underscore this fact.
The strange case comes from the files of UFO researcher Scott Corrales, and takes us back to October of 1973, when a group of nine campers had come to this mystical land for the specific purpose of camping out and hoping to see UFOs. At the time, Puerto Rico was in the midst of an intense UFO flap, with sightings pouring in from all over the island, in particular El Yunque National Forest, as well as many reports of cattle mutilations, mostly blamed on the blood sucking entities known as the Chupacabras. Things were already somewhat surreal from the beginning of the excursion, with the group encountering a trio of hikers all oddly dressed in the same clothing and with nearly identical facial features coming the other way down the mountain as they ascended up the high mountain trail. The trio did not say a word or even acknowledge them. Rather weirdly, one of the campers would take a photo of the group at this time, which happened to include the other hikers, and they would later be found to have appeared on film as misty figures, but at the time it was just seen as a bit odd.
The group continued up the trail and set up camp up on the mountainside, planning to set up a vigil to watch the skies for any UFO activity, but it would not be from the skies that the strangeness would come. At one point during the night there was heard the crackle of brush out in the surrounding darkness, which seemed muted, as if whatever it was were trying to be stealthy. El Yunque National Forest has no large predators, so the group naturally assumed that this was another person out there sneaking around. They called out to whoever it was, but there was no answer and the forest fell silent again for some time. It was so disturbingly quiet, in fact, that they began to doubt that they had even really heard anything at all, or if it had all been in their heads. However, this would soon prove to have not been the case at all, and the night would suddenly erupt into a harrowing orgy of high strangeness.
Later that night, the campers were preparing to call it a night and go to sleep when the sounds from the forest began again, this time louder, and there was now obviously more than one person out there. Using the dim firelight and flashlights, the group peered into the darkness and could now make out at least 5 or six vaguely humanoid figures furtively creeping about in the forest around them. At several points, one got close enough that they could, to their horror, see that these were not people at all, but rather gray-skinned humanoids with elongated ears and “claw-like hands.” Now hit with a sudden sense of urgent dread, the campers made to get out of there, but found several of the creatures blocking the trail they had come in on, leaving the only route out through the unknown thick nighttime vegetation that was flanked on some sides by steep cliffs off limits.
The group’s leader, a Mr. Heriberto Ramos, would claim that one of the creatures had stopped its constant movements around the camp to stare at him as if contemplating him. Ramos took this as a sign that it perhaps wanted to communicate, and so he crept closer to the being. As he approached, he could see that it had “a triangular head and extraordinary eyes,” and Ramos claimed that he was able to get close enough to actually touch it. The creature merely regarded him with a look of curiosity, as if it was just as amazed by the Ramos as he was of it, its quiet calm belying the wicked looking claws on its gnarled hands. For a moment, Ramos believed that something important was about to happen, that some communication was about to take place, but another camper then trained a mini spotlight they had brought with them directly on them to send it scurrying away to its friends still blocking the path.
The creatures continued to circle the camp all night long, and other weird things happened as well. At some point, one of the campers allegedly went into a trance-like daze and began walking out into the woods like a zombie. When another camper went to retrieve him, he saw out through the murk “a glimmering, polychromatic egg” on the forest floor, which soon held him in a sort of hypnotic state as well, only snapping out of it when the two of them were pulled away by another camper. They would later see one of the creatures holding the “egg” and speculate that it had been a sort of bait to bring them out into the woods for purposes they could only guess at. That night no one would sleep, and it was not until daylight began to seep into the landscape that the mysterious humanoids evaporated back into the forest, oddly moving off to where there was known to be a high precipice right beyond the tree line. When morning came, the now exhausted and bedraggled campers examined the area to find it peppered with strange footprints, which were large and deep, suggesting something big and heavy. They managed to take photographs of these prints and then got out of there as quickly as possible. Interestingly, this would not be the end of the story.
According to Corrales, the reports of this and other strange phenomena from the forest made a splash in UFO circles at the time, and researcher Federico Alvarez decided to go out in May of 1974 to investigate along with a group of college students. On their way up the unpaved, muddy road in their car, they witnessed a very tall shadowy figure dash across the road in front of them. They got out and pursued it all the way to a cliff, where they lost its trail. It was as if it had just disappeared into thin air. After this, they went to the Yokah Observation Tower up towards the peak, where things would get even stranger still. Corrales writes of what happened next:
As a rudimentary alarm system against possible intruders, Alvarez explained on Martin’s program, the students devised an ingenious “tripwire” consisting of aluminum cans, which they strategically placed at the bottom of the stairway leading to the observation tower’s top. “Between one thirty and one forty five in the morning,” Alvarez stated, “The cans began to rattle.” Hesitantly, the students descended from the tower’s observation deck to witness an unsettling sight: the cans were moving around of their own accord, motivated by an invisible force. Some group members felt that things had gone far enough, and wanted to leave the site immediately, yet they were prevailed upon to remain for what promised to be another long night. Any doubts they might have had about UFOs were resolved at two o’clock in the morning, when a massive, coruscant oval–some 300 feet in diameter, by Alvarez’s calculations–appeared from the gap between two adjacent peaks. It remained motionless for five minutes and in full view of the students before vanishing behind one of the mountains. The unknown craft did not reappear.
What is going on with this place, and why does it draw in so much paranormal weirdness? Is there something to the geology of the land, or is it some quality that we cannot comprehend? Puerto Rico has continued to be a frequent feature on the landscape of the weird, and cases like this and many others remain unexplained.