ΠΟΛΥ ΣΗΜΑΝΤΙΚΗ ΠΕΡΙΠΤΩΣΙΣ
By BOB PRATT and CYNTHIA LUCE
(A similar version of this story was published in the August and
September 1998 issues of the MUFON UFO Journal)
On the night of January 13, 1996, the North American Aerospace Defense Command reportedly notified Brazilian authorities that it had tracked a number of UFOs over the western hemisphere that night and one or more had come down near the city of Varginha in the state of Minas Gerais.
Brazilian authorities were quickly notified and they immediately alerted Army units near Varginha (Var-ZJEEN-yuh).
It was the beginning of one of the most intriguing events in UFO history, the “Varginha ET Case.” Civilian investigators believe that over the next several weeks at least two and perhaps as many as six alien creatures were captured or killed and turned over to American authorities, and that a UFO may have crashed.
Eyewitnesses described the creatures as humanoid and three to four feet tall. They had dark brown, hairless skin that was very oily, big triangular heads with three short “horns” on top, and huge red eyes that were vertically oval. The arms were long and thin, the legs short and thin. They had no obvious noses or ears and only slits for mouths. The creatures weren’t wearing clothing and no sex organs were visible. They had unusually large veins growing out of their necks and running down their shoulders, arms, chest and back, making them look like weight lifters.
The “Varginha case” is a complicated one involving a series of incidents that apparently began on Saturday, January 13, but did not come to public attention until more than a week later after three young women spotted one of the creatures in a vacant lot. The young women had just finished helping a woman get ready to move to a new home on Saturday, January 20 and were walking to their own homes. Around three o'clock in the afternoon, they were passing through the Jardim Andere district of Varginha.
"We decided to take a short cut through a vacant lot," said Liliane da Silva, then sixteen, who was with her sister Valquíria, fourteen, and a friend, Kátia Xavier, twenty-two (shown from left to right in the photo at right, which was taken in the vacant lot by Vitório Pacaccini, one of the investigators).
Kátia was a maid for the woman who was moving, and the sisters, still in school, were helping her pack household goods. The three were walking to their homes in the Santana neighborhood just north of Jardim Andere.
The short cut took them on a narrow path through the vacant lot, which was then filled with tall grass and weeds. On their left was an empty cinder block building. When they were about fifty feet into the lot, something caught Liliane's attention.
"Look at that!" she cried. About twenty feet away was a strange creature squatting next to the building with its left side to them (the yellow spot in the photo below shows where the creature was crouching; note the same white paint mark on the wall in the photo above.).
The creature's left arm was between its legs and the right was next to the building. Its feet were hidden in the grass, and the girls never saw the hands or feet.
"It had oily brown skin with big eyes and three 'horns' on its head," Liliane said.
The huge veins running down its neck into the shoulders reminded Valquíria of “a big, soft bull’s heart. We thought it was the Devil.”
To Kátia, who was married and had three children, it was “not a human or an animal, nothing like a monkey or anteater. We got a good look at the creature.”
They found it repulsive but the huge red eyes and the “horns” were what disturbed them most. They stared for a stunned few seconds, then screamed and recoiled in fright.
The creature turned its head and looked at them, seemed almost frightened and crouched a bit lower, perhaps trying to hide from them. The women fled back to the street behind them, turned right and ran away as fast as they could. They didn't stop until they reached the Silva home more than twenty blocks away.
After they calmed down about twenty minutes later, Kátia and the girls' mother Luiza asked a neighbor to drive them back to the vacant lot. By the time they got there, the creature was gone, Kátia said, “but we could see the grass mashed down and we could smell sulfur or ammonia.” (In the photo are, from left, Bob Pratt, Liliane, Kátia in yellow pants, unidentified boys, and Valquíria in blue shorts.)
News of the incident spread quickly throughout the neighborhood and about ten thirty the next morning reached the ears of Varginha’s leading UFO investigator, Ubirajara Franco Rodrigues. He was then forty two and lived less than a mile from where the women saw the creature.
He got a phone call from a shop owner who had heard that “some girls had seen a weird animal, like a little monster.“
The report was interesting but it meant nothing to Ubirajara, a lawyer and university professor who has been investigating UFOs in the Varginha area since the 1970s. By evening, though, he had heard more rumors and then began trying to find out what had happened.
A friend named Sergio who worked at a TV station helped him and it took them several days to identify and locate Kátia and the sisters. These were days in which confusing and seemingly contradictory rumors were flying all over the city.
WOMAN CRY AS THEY TELL THEIR STORY
“Some people were saying a creature had been captured by Military Police and taken to Regional Hospital, that it had a big belly, seemed to be pregnant and made a noise like it was crying,” Ubirajara said.
“We talked to a boy who said he saw the capture but his words didn’t make any sense. He was too childish and very confused.”
They tracked down a woman who also supposedly had seen the capture “but she ran away the moment we approached her. Her husband tried to convince her to talk to us but she refused.”
When Ubirajara (below left) finally talked to the three women, they were still quite emotional about what happened. All three cried as they told their story.
In the following days he questioned them several more times and each time they related the same details without variation, bursting into tears the first several times. He became convinced they were telling the truth.
The rumors continued. A nurse reluctantly told Ubirajara that a section of Regional Hospital had been blocked off for some hours the night of January 20, with access being denied to patients, visitors and even employees. Soldiers and Army vehicles had been parked outside, and unidentified physicians from other cities had come to the hospital.
On Monday the 22nd, all hospital employees were called together and told that everything that had happened that weekend was to be ignored because “it was just a training exercise for doctors and military personnel.”
Then they were told that if anyone (“especially that lawyer Ubirajara”) should inquire about it, they were to deny everything.
The creature was reportedly transferred from Regional Hospital to Humanitas Hospital, which is much smaller and is in a more secluded location. More troops were seen there.
POLICE COLONEL TURNS MUM
One report said the creature, apparently dead, was seen lying in an open box propped up by two sawhorses in the Humanitas Hospital’s walled-in parking lot. Fifteen people – military men, doctors and others – were said to have stood around the box, watching as one of the doctors used tweezers to pull a long, thin black tongue out of the creature's mouth.
Rumors abounded, even in schoolyards. One youngster was heard saying: “My daddy told me about the ET and said everything is true and he has seen a film but this is very dangerous and you cannot tell anyone.”
Ubirajara checked around and learned that a relative of the child’s father worked at a nearby Army base and was under house arrest at the base.
Ubirajara went to Military Police headquarters and talked to the commander, a lieutenant colonel. When Ubirajara explained why he was there, the colonel said he knew nothing about any creature but offered to check it out. Ubirajara phoned repeatedly over the next few days but was never able to reach the man again.
That was when Ubirajara began to believe something unusual really had taken place and that officials were hiding it. He became certain a day or so later when a friend talked with a policewoman who had been on duty on Saturday, January 20.
She said the police received a number of phone calls that morning through the emergency number from people “saying they saw a little monster. But we thought they were kidding and didn’t pay any attention to them.”
For nearly a month the investigation proceeded in the belief that only one incident had occurred – that the three women had seen a creature which was later captured – and that for unknown reasons the authorities were trying to hush it up.
INVESTIGATORS JOIN FORCES
What was difficult to understand was that some of the rumors said the creature had been captured in the morning of January 20 BEFORE the three young women saw it in the afternoon.
The investigation entered a new phase in mid-February when Vitório Pacaccini joined the investigation. Pacaccini, who lived a hundred and ninety miles away in the state capital, Belo Horizonte, did not know Ubirajara at the time. He had learned about the case only on Sunday, February 11, when he read a newspaper story about the three women and the creature.
Pacaccini (right), then thirty two, had been a member of CICOANI, a UFO organization in Belo Horizonte, for eighteen years. At a special meeting two nights later, the members discussed the Varginha report, decided to investigate and chose Pacaccini to go to Varginha.
This was a practical choice for several reasons. First, his job as an import-export consultant had no set hours and allowed him considerable free time. Secondly, he had grown up in Três Corações, a city just fifteen miles east of Varginha. Furthermore, he had already made plans to go to Três Corações, where his widowed mother still lives, for the annual Carnaval festivities at the end of the week.
Três Corações plays a significant role in the case. ESA (Escola de Sargentos das Armas, or the Army’s school for sergeants), the area’s largest Army base, is located there and personnel from the base are believed to have taken a major role in the hunt for and capture of the creatures.
The day after the CICOANI meeting, February 14th, Pacaccini drove to Três Corações, phoned Ubirajara to introduce himself and set up a meeting for the following day.
INFORMANT CLARIFIES SITUATION
In an extraordinary coincidence, shortly after arriving at his mother’s home Pacaccini got a phone call from a friend saying a man who knew about the capture of the creature would be willing to talk to him.
The three met late that night in a secluded area, where the man described how four firemen had captured the creature on the MORNING of January 20 and took it to ESA.
The informant’s story helped clear up the confusing rumors. Only then did Ubirajara and Pacaccini realize there had been two creatures, one captured in the morning and taken to ESA and one seen by the three women, which may have been caught later that day and taken to the Regional Hospital.
Eventually, Ubirajara and Pacaccini came to believe the authorities had captured or killed at least four other creatures and possibly as many as six.
Originally Pacaccini had intended to conduct his own investigation but after meeting with Ubirajara and exchanging information with him, the two agreed to work together.
Over the next six months or so Pacaccini was able to make frequent trips to Varginha from Belo Horizonte. This took much of the burden off Ubirajara, who had a busy law practice and taught two nights a week at a university where he was a law professor and a lecturer in philosophy.
The two weren’t working blind. The case quickly attracted the attention of newspapers, radio and TV stations and began to get considerable publicity, both locally and nationally. Ubirajara received hundreds of phone calls, many from people who knew something about what had happened, or knew someone who knew someone who…
They checked out every rumor and report, and tracked down every witness or potential witness.
ALL INVOLVED IDENTIFIED
Among other things, they heard about a farm couple who saw a UFO very early on the morning of January 20 (true); a woman who saw a creature at the city’s zoo (true); a portable radar station that was trucked in from southern Brazil (unconfirmed); a motorist who saw a creature weeks later (true); and a military man who told a friend he had helped capture “an ET” (unconfirmed).
There were also rumors about another military person whose uniform got so “oily” in capturing a creature that his wife burned his clothing (unconfirmed); the mysterious death of a policeman who had captured one creature (true); and the puzzling deaths of five animals at the zoo (true).
Ubirajara and Pacaccini eventually were able to talk to twenty five firsthand witnesses – civilians, Military Policemen, Army personnel, doctors and others. They also learned the identities of nearly every military person involved with the creatures in any way.
At the same time, investigators in other cities were also helping, mainly by checking rumors that on January 23 several creatures had been convoyed to the renowned University of Campinas, where an autopsy was performed on one creature. The university is located in Campinas, a city more than two hundred miles south.
This story is based mainly on visits we made to Varginha in March 1996, just two months after most of these events took place, and again in August 1997. We spent four days there the first time, talking with Ubirajara and Pacaccini, before very much was known, and six days the second visit.
We were able to interview the three young women involved, Liliane on both visits, and another witness, a jogger whose testimony is related later.
In addition we were able to visit several sites where things occurred. This included the then-vacant lot where the girls saw a creature, a steep embankment several blocks away where another creature was seen, the woods where that creature was captured, and a huge pasture beside it where armed soldiers were seen searching for something. The lot is no longer vacant and several houses have been built there.
Only Ubirajara was available the second time we went to Varginha, Pacaccini being elsewhere in the state. Ubirajara’s time was limited because of his law practice and his teaching. In addition, he was leading a UFO conference in a nearby city the last four days of our visit.
In the beginning Ubirajara told us: "As an attorney, if I was in a court of law and had to prove that the firemen had captured an alien from another planet – with proof coming from an accredited place like the University of Campinas which would issue an official notice that said, ‘One dead alien blah, blah, blah, of this blood type or other’ – we have not been able to get that.
"We believe such reports exist and that this actually happened. I can prove – with testimony and witnesses, and we HAVE the witnesses – that these things occurred, but we don't have any official reports. A creature was captured but where it came from we can't prove without analysis.”
Following are some of the things we learned. In all instances, the creatures were much like the one described by the three young women. (In the scene below, photographed from the crest of the hill at Suécia Street, you see the tops of the trees in the woods and, just beyond, homes in the Santana district).
Most of these events took place in or near Varginha. It is a lively, busy city of about a hundred and twenty thousand people in the south of Minas Gerais, a state nearly as large as Texas. Minas has thousands of cities, towns and villages, nearly twenty million people, many ore-rich mines and other natural resources and lots of industries, including auto manufacturing plants.
Varginha (seen from the air in the photo below provided by Vitório Pacaccini) is almost equidistant from Brazil’s three largest cities – about two hundred miles north of São Paulo, two hundred miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro and nearly two hundred miles south of Belo Horizonte. It has a number of industries, including multinational corporations (American, Canadian, English and French), and is a leading coffee exporting center. It has three hospitals, four universities and vocational-technical training centers, four daily newspapers, four radio stations and three TV stations.
Much of the state of Minas Gerais is mountainous. Varginha is thirty one hundred feet above sea level and is spread out over a number of hills. Contrary to some Internet reports about the case, there are no jungles or predatory wild animals within at least a thousand miles. The countryside is lush and green, with much of it devoted to growing coffee.
THE MAIN CAPTURE SITE:
Many of the main incidents in the case occurred in or near a big patch of woods that separates the Jardim Andere and Santana neighborhoods. Both districts are about a mile and a half east of downtown. The woods run a bit more than a mile north and south and are up to three hundred yards wide east and west. A small stream runs through the woods.
An east-west street connecting Jardim Andere and Santana cuts through the middle of the woods, and a single set of railroad tracks runs north-south through the area, skirting the upper edge of the woods on the Jardim Andere side.
A number of well-worn paths run through the woods and a huge adjoining pasture. People going to and from Jardim Andere and Santana use them regularly.
The three young women who saw the creature had planned to go through these woods as they took a short cut home. They were walking downhill when they entered the vacant lot, which is three blocks above the railroad tracks and the woods.
NORAD, JANUARY 13:
Pacaccini – who owns a business arranging for the shipment of goods into and out of Brazil in seagoing cargo containers and also manages his family’s three coffee farms – was told that NORAD had notified Brazilian authorities about the UFOs.
In his book about the incident, Incidente em Varginha, Pacaccini said that in Belo Horizonte in July 1996 a Brazilian Air Force officer told him NORAD had notified CINDACTA, the Brazilian civilian-military air traffic control system, and CINDACTA alerted the ESA Army command in Três Corações. This was on January 13, but what time of day or night is not known.
Other than one incident to be related in a moment, there were no UFO sightings in the vicinity of Varginha on January 13 or January 20, but many were reported throughout the region as well as around the country before and after those dates and continuing through much of the year.
THE CRASH, JANUARY 13:
On Friday January 12, thirty five-year-old Carlos da Souza drove across São Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world, and checked into a hotel in the northern suburb of Mairiporã. He was going to Três Corações, about one hundred fifty miles to the north, and wanted to get an early start the next morning.
Souza owned an exterminating business and his hobby is flying ultra light planes. He planned to meet other ultra light pilots in Três Corações to arrange for a competition.
He awakened at four o'clock on the morning of Saturday, January 13, got into his red pickup truck and headed north on the heavily traveled Fernão Dias highway (BR 381) which connects São Paulo and Belo Horizonte.
The drive was uneventful until about eight o'clock, when he was about three miles south of the intersection with MG 26, of a state highway that leads to Varginha to the west and Três Corações to the east. A muffled roaring sound interrupted his thoughts, and he wondered if something was wrong with the truck.
He stopped to check but when he stepped down from the cab he realized the noise was coming from a cigar-shaped craft about four hundred feet in the air just west of the highway. The sun was reflecting off it.
The craft was traveling north, almost parallel to the highway, at forty to fifty miles an hour. It was silver-colored and appeared to be thirty to forty feet long and twelve to fifteen wide.
It had at least four windows along the side and what looked like a big jagged hole four or five feet in diameter in the front. There was a long dent or crack running from the hole back to the middle of the craft, from which point white smoke or vapor was coming out.
Astonished and excited, Souza jumped in his pickup and followed the UFO for about ten miles. It soon crossed over to the east side of the highway and eventually passed over some small mountains. Then it went into a sharp thirty-degree dive and disappeared from sight.
Souza thought it had crashed and began looking for a way to get to the area. About twenty minutes later he found a dirt road and turned onto it.
Minutes later he drove over the crest of a hill and there before him was wreckage spread all over a hilly field of knee-high grass. He also saw about forty soldiers and two male nurses, two trucks, a helicopter, an ambulance and three cars. All were Army vehicles.
Everyone was busily running around picking up pieces of debris. One truck already held a chunk half the size of a mini-van. A strong smell of ammonia and ether hung in the air.
It was a terrible crash and Souza doubted that anyone had lived through it. He was surprised to see anyone there, let alone the military. He didn’t know at the time that the site was only seven miles from the ESA Army base in Três Corações.
He parked and walked toward the wreckage, thinking he could help. He picked up a piece of aluminum-like material that was very light. It floated to the ground when he dropped it.
Then one of the men spotted him, shouted and in an instant armed soldiers rushed toward him. They ordered him to leave immediately. He protested, thinking someone had been badly hurt or killed, but a corporal screamed at him to get out and that “this is none of your business!”
Souza got back in his truck and drove away. But he was so astounded by what he’d seen that he abandoned his trip and headed back toward São Paulo. About ten minutes later he stopped at a roadside restaurant to have coffee and think about what had happened.
The emotional impact was so great that he was still sitting there two hours later when a car drove up with two men. They were in civilian clothes but military haircuts and bearing. One got out and walked up to him, asked if his name was Carlos da Souza, then asked what he’d seen.
“I saw everything and I know something happened there,” Souza said.
“You haven’t seen anything,” the man replied, then related many details of Souza’s personal life. “You live on such and such a road, in such and such a city, you’re married to so and so, and you’re the father of so many children, and your mother is so and so. If you tell people what you saw, it’s going to be very bad for you. We already have a complete printout on your whole life.”
Such personal information is readily available to authorities by computer once someone’s license number is known. The man warned Souza not to say anything to anybody, and then left.
All this occurred on January 13, one week before the three women saw the creature in nearby Varginha, but for nine months Souza told no one except his wife and two close friends.
He explained that he was frightened by the man’s threat. A twenty-year military dictatorship had ended only a few years earlier, and some of Souza’s relatives “disappeared” during the dictatorship, so he kept quiet.
He was not aware of the “ETs” in Varginha until the following September when he read a magazine article written by Claudeir Covo, a São Paulo safety engineer and a lifelong ufologist who had been working with Ubirajara and Pacaccini.
Souza contacted Covo, who eventually persuaded him to return to Varginha to show him and Ubirajara where he had seen the wreckage.
An inspection of the area – now nine months later – showed no indication that a crash had occurred, nor was Ubirajara subsequently able to find any farmers, farm workers or anyone else in the area who knew anything about a crash.
Not everyone believes Souza’s story, and even Ubirajara and Covo (it was Covo who told us what Souza said) have reservations about it because no other witnesses could be found. Also, some elements of his story were similar to things that had been portrayed in the movie Roswell.
In addition, Souza’s description of the UFO was almost identical to one seen by a farm couple on the morning of January 20 that the investigators – and much of the public – had known about since early in the investigation.
However, on a later visit to the site, Ubirajara and members of his Varginha UFO group found an area of ground about four hundred feet square that seemed to have been replaced by sod.
Furthermore, during the early stages of the investigation, several military witnesses said they had seen pieces of a crashed craft being transported into ESA by two Army trucks on January 13 and that later the wreckage was convoyed to the national aerospace center in São José dos Campos near São Paulo.
“There are things that favored Souza’s report,” Ubirajara told us, “but we have to say we could not verify it.”
THE FARM COUPLE, JANUARY 20:
Early on the morning of Saturday, January 20 on a farm six miles east of Varginha, Oralina de Freitas, then thirty seven, was awakened by the sound of cattle milling around, mooing and bellowing. A digital clock on the bedside table said one fourteen in the morning.
Oralina opened the window and saw the cattle were very agitated and stampeding all over the pasture three hundred to four hundred feet away. Then she saw a cigar-shaped object just above the cattle. There was no moon but the craft gave off a faint light.
Oralina called out to her husband, Eurico, forty, and he rushed to the window. “My God!” he cried. “There’s a submarine above my pasture.”
They could see gray smoke or vapor coming out of the back as it moved slowly, in a sort of rocking motion, only fifteen to twenty feet above the ground.
Neither Eurico nor Oralina ventured outside, but stood at the window watching as the object took forty five minutes to pass ever so slowly out of sight over a ridge about two thousand feet away, heading in the direction of Varginha.
They had the impression that it was having difficulties of some kind because of the very slow way it was moving. If the UFO was making any sound, the bellowing of the cows drowned it out.
All this time the cattle remained panicky and frightened but the couple’s four dogs, although awake, showed no reaction. Eurico and Oralina’s four children, aged twelve to twenty, slept through it all.
Ubirajara learned about the incident six days later. The couple, who oversee the farm, told the owner what happened. He in turn told a friend of Ubirajara’s who passed the story on to him.
The farm house is only about five miles cross country from the spot where Carlos da Souza said he first saw a similar UFO on January 13.
THE MORNING CAPTURE, JANUARY 20:
In Brazil, the Military Police are not members of a military organization or part of the armed forces. Instead, they are state police under the control of a state's governor.
Military policemen perform a variety of duties, including patrolling highways, putting down riots, and rescuing people in floods and other disasters. They are also the firemen for the entire nation, and one of their duties as firefighters is capturing mad dogs, wild animals and dangerous snakes.
It was in this latter capacity that four firemen answered a call around eight thirty on the morning of January 20 about a strange creature being seen near the woods in Jardim Andere. One or more persons had phoned police, who alerted the Fire Department.
By the time the firemen responded, three boys twelve to fourteen years old had seen the creature as they were walking along Rua Suécia. This is the first street above the woods and runs parallel to the woods. A steep, two hundred-foot-long embankment begins at the street level and leads down to the railroad tracks and the woods just beyond.
As the kids were watching, a man and a woman came walking by, not together, and they saw the creature also. At this time the creature was slowly shuffling down the precipitous bank toward the woods. The boys had been throwing stones at it trying to get a reaction from it, but the woman told them to stop.
When the firemen arrived in a fire truck, they told everyone to leave immediately, saying it was a secret Army operation. By then the creature had disappeared into the woods.
Wearing their regular uniforms and heavy gloves and carrying nets, the firemen went down the bank, crossed the tracks and entered the woods in search of the creature.
It took them two hours to capture it, partly because it kept running away from them in the dense growth, and partly because they didn’t know what it was and they were wary of it. They caught glimpses of it from time to time but it kept scurrying away from them.
If you walk into the woods (left), as we have, it’s easy to see why the creature was able to elude the firemen for so long. Thick, tangled bushes and countless trees (below) prevent you from seeing very far, and the footing is tricky even when following one of the paths. The terrain is rough and uneven, all up and down with almost no level areas. Cars and trucks can be heard on nearby streets but are seldom seen.
When the men were finally able to throw a net over the creature, it offered no resistance. It made a buzzing or humming sound as they struggled up the hill with it in the net.
At some time during the search, one of the firemen had returned to the truck and radioed his commander, told him what was happening and asked him to join them. By the time the creature was carried up to the street, the commander had arrived – as had an Army truck with two officers and a sergeant. It is believed that the fire commander had notified them.
The firemen handed the creature over to the Army men with little or no discussion. It was put in a wooden box, which was then covered by a canvas and put in the back of the truck with two men sitting beside it. The truck then left in a hurry to return to the Army base in Três Corações. The firemen and their commander then returned to the fire station.
THE JOGGER, JANUARY 20:
Some time between one thirty and two in the afternoon, a jogger saw seven armed soldiers cross a small footbridge from Santana and enter the pasture next to the woods in Jardim Andere. The pasture is on the side of a long hill leading five to six hundred yards up to the railroad tracks and Suécia Street above, where the fire truck had parked that morning. (In this photo, taken from the top of the hill near Suécia Street, the red dot shows the location of the footbridge, just left of the dot. To give an idea of the size of the pasture, just above the blue dot in upper center of photo is a person walking along one of the paths.)
Two of the soldiers were carrying automatic rifles and all were wearing side arms. Two also carried small rectangular, aluminum-colored boxes or suitcases.
The jogger wondered what they were doing. He had intended to take a short cut down through the pasture and across the same bridge but changed his mind.
The soldiers grouped into a V formation and moved up the hill. They searched a small grove of trees just below the tracks, apparently found nothing, then turned and moved toward the big woods.
The jogger, seeing them enter the woods, continued straight ahead for several blocks and then turned to his right into the street that leads through the woods to Santana. Just a minute or so later, he heard three distinct shots.
Astonished and extremely curious, the jogger returned to the street that overlooks the woods and saw an army truck with soldiers in it now parked there.
At that moment, four of the soldiers who had gone into the woods came struggling up the steep embankment carrying two bags, two soldiers to each bag. One bag was squirming as if something alive was in it, but the other had no movement.
The bags were heaved into the truck, the soldiers climbed in and the truck sped away. (At right, looking up the hill from the woods. The path is the one the three young women had intended to take as they walked home. The roof tops of several houses on Suécia Street can be seen at top, and a single rail of the railroad tracks can be seen just beyond the fence post in the lower left corner.)
Just what was in the bags is not known. However, it would seem safe to assume it wouldn’t take seven armed soldiers to capture a wild animal when four firemen without weapons had captured another “wild animal” in the same woods a few hours earlier and had turned it over to Army personnel without any discussion.
CREATURE ENCOUNTER, JANUARY 20:
This was the encounter the three women had. For some weeks the only thing most people knew about the “Varginha ET” was that Liliane, Valquíria and Kátia had seen a creature at three o'clock in the afternoon on January 20.
That incident, described in detail earlier, was publicized literally around the world. But, as we now know, it was just one in a series of related events.
THE STORM, JANUARY 20:
Luiza da Silva, the mother of the two sisters, said that when she and Kátia went to the vacant lot, they saw an impression in the grass where the creature had been and they also noticed a strong odor. But less than three hours later all that vanished.
"There was a hailstorm at six o'clock that was absolutely unprecedented," said Ubirajara. "It lasted only three or four minutes but it broke windshields and everything and wiped out all traces of the creature in the vacant lot."
THE DEATH OF AN OFFICER:
During or just after the storm, soldiers and military policemen continued their search. Among them were two plainclothes Military Police agents who spotted yet another creature – possibly the one that the three women had seen that afternoon. It was hiding in a construction site in the Santana-Jardim Andere area not far from the woods.
The two men were able to capture it and force it into the back seat of their unmarked police car. It may have been ill because the men reportedly took it to a small public health clinic for treatment. However, the doctor there refused to go near the creature and told them to take it to a hospital.
Sometime during all this, one of the officers, twenty three-year-old Marco Chereze, stopped by his parents’ house, soaked from the rain. He told his mother he was on a mission and would be working all night. He asked her to tell his wife he wouldn't be home for dinner, changed his clothes and left.
Only Chereze is believed to have handled the creature with his bare hands while capturing it, and he became gravely ill some days later with an unusual infection. He was admitted to a hospital with a very high fever.
He rapidly lost use of his arms and legs, and was unable to feed himself. At the end, he turned blue and failed to respond to treatment. He died on February 15.
The only advice authorities gave his family was that his coffin should be sealed, that the funeral should take place without delay, and that burial should take place within a few hours.
His father later recalled that several weeks earlier when rumors of ETs first began to circulate, Marco was convinced that this was only the beginning of a lot of trouble.
Marco's grandmother said that one night when the first reports of ETs came out in the newspapers, she was watching TV with him and his wife when a movie about aliens came on. Marco immediately switched the set off and said sharply: "Don't watch that – it's nonsense!" His outburst was puzzling and he offered no explanation.
Chereze's family reportedly sued the Military Police because (1) the cause of his death was never explained, (2) the results of any autopsy were never revealed – the only thing of note was a lab report saying a "small quantity of toxic material" had been found in his body – and (3) allegedly his official records were altered to state that he wasn't on duty that night.
THE CREATURE AT THE ZOO, APRIL 21:
On the evening of April 21, Terezinha Clepf, her husband and some friends attended a birthday party at a restaurant in Varginha’s zoo. Around nine o'clock, after Mrs. Clepf finished eating, she went outside to sit on the verandah by herself and smoke a cigarette. Several minutes she began to feel uneasy.
“I felt that someone was looking at me,” she said later. The porch was dark but some light was coming from the restaurant. “I turned to my left and saw a strange creature staring at me.”
It was about fifteen feet away and appeared to be four to five feet tall. “I didn’t know what it was, an animal or whatever,” Mrs. Clepf, then sixty seven, said.
“It was very ugly. It was brown and had a brightness or shininess to the skin. The eyes were big and red and the mouth was just a stroke. He stayed there looking at me.”
She was so terrified she could barely move for several minutes. Then, afraid to make any sudden movement, she slowly got up and walked back inside. She looked back once and the creature was still staring at her. It was several days before she could tell her husband about it.
THE ZOO DEATHS:
After that incident was publicized, Leila Cabral, director of the zoo, contacted Ubirajara and Pacaccini and told them that five animals had mysteriously died at the zoo about a week before Mrs. Clepf’s experience. An anteater, two deer, a blue macaw and a bobcat died suddenly and unexpectedly.
The anteater was healthy and tame. It died because of an “unidentified toxic substance,” Ms. Cabral said. The deer died of “caustic intoxication without apparent cause” and no cause of death could be determined for the macaw and bobcat.
THE THREAT TO THE SISTERS:
Around ten o'clock on the night of May 3 or 4, Liliane and Valquíria da Silva and their mother Luiza were asleep at their home in Santana when someone knocked on the front door. The father was working as a fare collector on a bus and the family’s two older daughters were at school.
Mrs. Silva went to the front door and saw four men dressed in dark suits. She thought they were associated with Ubirajara but soon realized they were strangers. By then, however, the men had gently pushed their way inside and insisted on talking to Liliane and Valquíria.
Luiza got the girls up and everyone gathered in the small living room, with the girls and mother sitting on one sofa, the four men on another sofa opposite them.
One man was about fifty, the others in their early thirties. They were polite but businesslike. Only the older man and one of the others talked.
They never identified themselves but spent more than an hour trying to get the girls to change their story and even implied they would be paid a lot of money if they made their denials publicly on TV.
Afraid to object, Luiza said they would think it over.
“They never raised their voices but we felt intimidated,” Liliane told us when we talked to her for the second time in 1997.
The men finally left but told them not to follow them or try to see what kind of car they were driving. The men were never seen again and the girls did not withdraw their story.
HIGHWAY SIGHTING, MAY 15:
A twenty one-year-old biology student, Ildo Lúcio Gordino, was driving from Três Corações to Varginha around seven thirty that night. As he was rounding a curve, a strange animal started to cross the highway.
“I had slowed because of the curve,” Ildo said. “About forty meters ahead the headlights shone on a dark brown thing with hair all over its body. It had huge eyes that reflected red in the headlights. It covered its face with its hands and crouched down.”
Ildo was badly frightened and he drove past the creature, which rose up and hurried back into the bushes.
When Ubirajara and Pacaccini investigated, they were surprised to find it had happened almost in front of the farm where Eurico and Oralina de Freitas had seen a UFO on January 20.
THE PASSOS CREATURE:
A seventh creature was seen several times in May 1996 in Passos, a city about forty miles north of Varginha, but whether it should be included as part of the “Varginha ET” case is questionable because this one was violent.
A twenty-year-old man named Luciano said he was walking home late one dark night when a hairy creature about five-foot-five and with a strange growl jumped out from the trees and attacked him. Luciano is six-foot-five and weighed a hundred and ninety pounds but was knocked to the ground, his shirt and jacket ripped by sharp claws.
He kicked out and knocked the creature off balance, jumped up and ran but was knocked down again. In the scuffle, Luciano kicked the creature in the groin, causing it to double over, and Luciano was finally able to escape to a nearby house.
Pacaccini investigated the incident and he saw Luciano’s injuries and torn clothing. He is convinced Luciano was telling the truth.
A week later Pacaccini and another investigator found three other persons in Passos who said they too had been attacked. Not knowing what the creature was and for lack of a more accurate term, all four victims described it as a “werewolf. “
Pacaccini believes the Passos creature is real and unexplained but doubts it is related to the Varginha creatures because of its size, hairiness and vicious nature.
“We are talking about a completely different creature, in a totally different situation,” Pacaccini said.
Almost from the beginning, some investigators were convinced that the creatures dead and alive had been taken to the United States.
This conviction was based largely on (1) the belief that these creatures truly were from some place other than Earth, and (2) statements made by disgruntled military personnel who resented the idea that Brazil would relinquish control of the aliens and turn them over to the U.S.
This conviction was further strengthened in early March 1996 – just five weeks after the initial incidents – by the visit to São Paulo and other parts of Brazil of Warren Christopher, then U.S. Secretary of State, and NASA Director Daniel S. Goldin, ostensibly to arrange for a Brazilian astronaut to join a future Space Shuttle flight.
We have felt from the very beginning that this is a strong case. There were just too many witnesses, even though most of them cannot be identified for fear of official retribution.
It was probably inevitable that from the beginning the case would be compared to Roswell. The constant denials by authorities indicate an official cover-up – as many believe is true in the Roswell case. However, many ufologists now believe the Roswell case has been discredited.
The Varginha case, on the other hand, is still relatively fresh and UFO investigators were immediately able to gather considerable evidence, including testimony from more than two dozen firsthand witnesses.
The investigation continues, although it is doubtful that any of those witnesses will ever be able to come forward and tell publicly what they know, or whether the government will ever acknowledge what happened.Copyright 1998 by Bob Pratt and Cynthia Luce
NOTE: All of the military and police personnel involved in this incident were reassigned to other parts of the country within months of the incident. The two chief investigators, Ubirajara Rodrigues and Vitório Pacaccini, have continued their investigations, but separately.
Each has also written a book about the case, both in Portuguese. Pacaccini published Incidente em Varginha in late 1996. Ubirajara’s book, O Caso Varginha, was published in late 2001. Pacaccini has also written an English version that has not yet been published. (In March 2002 Pacaccini cut back on some of his business activities to enroll in a two-year university program that led to his earning a doctorate in business administration in 2004.)