[CNI News thanks noted researcher and author Bob Pratt (email@example.com) for providing us with this detailed update, dated October 1, 1997, on one of the world's most intriguing close encounter cases of 1996, the alleged sighting and military capture of several unusual humanoid creatures in the Brazilian city of Varginha. CNI News provided extensive coverage of this case as it developed, but this is our first update since October 1, 1996, and our most detailed account to date.
Bob Pratt, whose latest book is UFO DANGER ZONE: Terror and Death in Brazil -- What Next? (Horus House Press, 1997), has traveled extensively in Brazil and interviewed most of the witnesses and researchers involved in the Varginha investigation, making him probably the top authority on this case outside of Brazil.
Look for UFO DANGER ZONE at your local bookstore, or order direct from Horus House Press, P.O. Box 55185, Madison, WI 53705-8985 (phone orders 608-537-2383) for $16.95 plus $2 postage and handling.
CNI News also thanks Cynthia Newby Luce for her assistance with this story.]
Copyright 1997 by Bob Pratt
Reproduced with permission
The "Varginha case" in Brazil involving the alleged capture of ETs first came to light after a humanoid creature was reportedly spotted crouching in a vacant lot on January 20, 1996.
The original investigator was Ubirajara Rodrigues, then 42, a lawyer and university professor who had been researching UFOs since the late 1970s. He began his investigation after hearing about the sighting several days later. In early February, he was joined by Vitorio Pacaccini, then 32, an export-import broker in the state capital, Belo Horizonte, 305 kilometers to the north. Pacaccini, a ufologist since his teens, grew up in Tres Coracoes (pronounced "Trace Core-uh-SOY-shhh"), a city 25 kilometers east of Varginha ("Var-ZJEEN-uh"), where his widowed mother still lives. Because his work allows him considerable free time, Pacaccini -- who also manages his family's three coffee farms -- was able to spend much of the next eight to ten months on the investigation, although in the end he neglected his business and had to work hard to get it going again early this year.
The basic story [as previously recounted in CNI News] is that at 3:30 on the afternoon of January 20, 1996, three young women (then 14, 16 and 22 years of age) saw a strange humanoid creature as they were taking a shortcut through a vacant lot. It frightened them so much they fled, running all the way to their homes one and a third kilometers away.
Later, as the investigation unfolded, Ubirajara learned that military police (the equivalent of state police in the U.S.) had captured a creature earlier in the day in woods three blocks away from the vacant lot, meaning there were now two creatures involved. Then a witness told of seeing armed soldiers searching the same woods early that afternoon, hearing three shots being fired, and then seeing two body bags (one squirming, one still) being loaded onto an army truck.
Around 6 P.M. that day, another creature (possibly the one the three young women saw two and a half hours earlier) was captured in the same area. In April, a woman saw still another creature at the Varginha zoo. In May a motorist spotted yet another near a highway east of Varginha; and still later a possible seventh creature was seen in Passos, a city some distance to the north.
Then, late in 1996, a new witness came forward saying he had seen a UFO crash near Varginha early in January.
Varginha is a very lively, busy city of about 120,000 people in the south of Minas Gerais, a huge state with thousands of cities, towns and villages, millions of people (Belo Horizonte, the state capital, is as big as Chicago), many mines and other natural resources and lots of industries, including a number of auto manufacturing plants. The economy of Minas Gerais is greater than that of the country of Chile. Varginha, 330 kilometers northwest of Rio de Janeiro, has a number of industries but is also one of the country's leading coffee exporting centers, and calls itself the coffee capital of Brazil. It has three hospitals and four universities. Being in mountainous country, it is spread out over a number of hills. Contrary to some American and Internet reports, there are no jungles or large predatory animals within at least 1,000 miles. The countryside is lush and green.
In early August, 1997, I went to Brazil for two weeks because I wanted to know more about the Varginha case. Cynthia Luce, an American who lives in Brazil (and is a MUFON representative) and I were in Varginha in March 1996, just two months after the incidents there came to light, and we spent four days with Ubirajara and Pacaccini (I had known Ubirajara since 1979 and Pacaccini since 1991); but since then I had heard nothing firsthand about the continuing investigation.
On this trip, Cynthia and I spent three days in Varginha and four more in nearby Sao Lourenco, where Ubirajara led a UFO congress, and we were able to speak to him about the case a number of times. However, we rarely had his total undivided attention. In Varginha, he was busy with his law practice much of the time during the day and at night taught at one of city's universities (he's a law professor and a lecturer in philosophy and is vice director of the university's department of juridical sciences). However, he was able to take us to various sites connected to the case. We also had an unplanned visit with a key witness who is still afraid of being identified.
We also spent about an hour with Liliane Silva, one of the three young women whose sighting of a strange creature on January 20, 1996, triggered the Varginha investigation. We had talked with Liliane, her sister Valquiria and Katia, the third woman, at length at the Silva home in March 1996. This time we questioned Liliane mainly about the mysterious nighttime visit by four men who tried to get her and her sister to publicly deny their story, as recounted below.
I came home from Brazil more convinced than ever that the Varginha case is a valid and strong one.
Many of the main incidents in the case occurred in or near woods that separate the Jardim Andere and Santana districts about two kilometers east of the downtown Varginha area. The woods run a bit more than a kilometer north and south, following a small stream, and are 200 to 300 meters wide east and west. An east-west street connecting Jardim Andere and Santana bisects the woods. A single set of railroad tracks runs through the area and skirts the western edge of the woods.
Following are some of the details we were given in August, mostly by Ubirajara:
In Pacaccini's November 1996 [Portuguese language] book about the case, "Incidente em Varginha," he said an unidentified Brazilian Air Force officer told him confidentially that NORAD had tracked one or more UFOs in the skies over Minas Gerais, heading toward the Varginha area, and notified Brazilian authorities. They in turn alerted a big army base at Tres Coracoes, just east of Varginha. According to Ubirajara, the date was January 13, 1996, but what time of day or night is not known.
That same day, January 13, after the sun came up -- according to Claudeir Covo, a ufologist from Sao Paulo, and Ubirajara -- an ultralight pilot named Carlos Souza was driving north from Sao Paulo on the highway to Belo Horizonte. About 8 a.m. he was about five kilometers south of the Varginha-Tres Coracoes highway intersection (itself about 15 kilometers from Varginha) when he heard a strange noise. He thought something was wrong with his pickup truck and stopped. When he got out, he realized the noise was coming from a cigar-shaped craft about 120 meters in the air not far away and off to the left side of the highway. It had windows along the side and what appeared to be a big jagged hole in the front, a long "crack" running back to the middle of the craft, and smoke or vapor coming out of the "crack." It was moving to the north.
Souza jumped in his pickup and followed the UFO. It crossed over to the right (east) side of the highway and eventually passed over some small mountains, then went into a steep dive and disappeared. Souza thought it had crashed and desperately searched for a road that would lead him to the area. After about 20 to 30 minutes, he found a dirt road and turned onto it.
A few minutes later he came over the crest of a hill and saw wreckage spread over a wide area -- as well as about 40 armed soldiers, two trucks, a helicopter, an ambulance and several cars. (The site is close to Tres Coracoes, where the army base is located.) Souza stopped and was able to pick up a piece of very light material that floated to the ground when he dropped it, but soldiers with rifles rushed toward him and ordered him to leave immediately.
He was so shocked by that he abandoned his trip and headed back toward Sao Paulo. After a few minutes he stopped at a restaurant to think about what he'd seen. He was still there two hours later when a car drove up with two men in civilian clothes but military haircuts and bearing. One came up to him, asked if his name was Carlos Souza, then told him much personal information about him (all quickly available by police computer once a license number is known) and warned him not to talk about what he'd seen.
A 20-year military dictatorship ended in Brazil only a few years ago, and Souza was frightened. Several members of his family "disappeared" during the dictatorship, so he kept quiet, telling no one other than his wife and two close friends. He was not aware of what had happened in Varginha until seven or eight months later when he saw a magazine article in Sao Paulo by Claudeir Covo. He contacted Covo, who eventually persuaded him to return to Varginha with him and Ubirajara to show them where he had seen the wreckage.
All during the week of January 13-20, the investigators learned, there was a lot of military movement throughout the entire Tres Coracoes-Varginha area -- armed troops in trucks and other vehicles from the army base.
Then, shortly after 1:00 a.m. on January 20, a farm couple living ten kilometers east of Varginha were awakened by stampeding cattle and saw the "submarine" or cigar-shaped object, with smoke or vapor coming out of it, moving slowly about five meters above the ground. According to Ubirajara, the object was moving so slowly it took 45 minutes to pass out of sight over a ridge just a few hundred meters away. Claudeir Covo thinks the couple may have been mistaken about the date and may actually have seen the UFO a week earlier, on January 13 instead of January 20 -- the same object that Souza saw. However, we never had a chance to talk to Ubirajara further about this.
The next action occurred around 8 or 8:30 a.m. on January 20 when the Varginha Fire Department received a call that a wild animal had been spotted near the woods in the Jardim Andere district. In Brazil, firemen (all members of the Military Police) are responsible for capturing mad dogs, wild animals, dangerous snakes and so on. Four firemen responded in a fire truck. They found five civilians -- a man and a woman and three boys 12 to 14 years of age, all passersby -- at the scene, watching a creature that had gone down a steep embankment toward the woods. The boys had been throwing stones at it to get a reaction from it, but the woman made them to stop.
The firemen immediately told all five to leave and then went down the bank, crossed over the railroad tracks and entered the woods in search of the creature. Varginha is very hilly with few level areas. From where the truck was parked on the closest street to the woods is about 100 meters and it is a very steep incline, dropping a good 50 meters. A ragged path runs down the length of it. Near the bottom is a railroad cut. Anyone using the path must slip and slide down to the tracks, cross them and then scramble about five meters up the other side of the cut, where the path continues, goes through an old fence and enter the woods. It is a treacherous path and coming back up is even more of a struggle (I know). Anyone carrying anything up or down the bank has a hard job.
It took the firemen two hours to capture the creature, partly because it kept running away from them in the dense bushes, and partly perhaps because they were afraid of whatever it was. Some reports claim it gave off a strong offensive odor.
I myself went into the woods and it is easy to see why the creature was able to elude them for so long. You can't see very far and the footing is tricky. I could hear cars and trucks all the time but never saw them. And it is rough, uneven terrain, all up and down with almost no flat areas.
Apparently at some time during the search, one of the firemen 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 finally captured and carried back up that long hill, the commander had arrived -- as had an army truck with two officers and a sergeant (possibly notified by the fire commander). The creature was handed over to the army men with little or no discussion and everyone left.
About 2 o'clock that afternoon, a jogger saw seven armed soldiers cross a small footbridge from the Santana district into a huge pasture immediately south of the woods. The bridge is at the bottom of a long sloping hill leading up across the pasture to the railroad tracks and, higher up, the street where the fire truck had parked that morning. Two of the seven soldiers were carrying what appeared to be automatic rifles and all were wearing side arms. From the footbridge to the street above the woods is at least 600 meters, maybe more. The jogger had intended to take a short cut across the bridge but decided not to because of the soldiers. The soldiers walked up the hill and inspected a small grove of trees near the railroad tracks, found nothing and then moved back toward the big woods, fanning out in a broad V formation.
The jogger saw them enter the woods. The witness continued jogging and then turned east into the street that bisects the woods, heading toward the Santana district. A minute or two later the witness heard three distinct shots -- Pow! Pow! Pow! -- as if from a rifle, became curious and jogged back three or four blocks to the street overlooking the woods. By now an army truck was parked there (about where the fire truck had been earlier) and the witness could see four of the soldiers struggling up the long steep bank with two bags, two soldiers to each bag. One bag was squirming as if something live was in it, but the other had no movement. Other soldiers were inside the truck. The bags were heaved into the truck and the truck sped away.
Neither the witness nor the investigators know what was in the bags, but 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 a decidedly unusual creature in the same woods earlier in the day.
At dusk that afternoon, around 6 p.m., a short but violent hailstorm (quite unusual for that time of the year) hit Varginha, breaking windows, windshields and causing other damage -- and wiping out any prints or traces of the creature the three young women had seen. During the unexpected storm, two military policemen spotted yet another creature (possibly the one the three young women had seen) in the Santana-Jardim Andere area not far from the woods, were able to grab it and put it in the back of their vehicle.
Either during or just after the storm, one of the officers, a man in his 20s, stopped by his mother's house soaked to the skin from the rain, told her he would be working all night and asked her to tell his wife he wouldn't be home for dinner. He changed clothes and left.
This same officer became very sick some days later with an unusual infection, did not respond to treatment and died on February 15. His family is convinced he was involved in the capture of the second creature and reportedly sued the military police because the cause of his death was never explained, the results of any autopsy were never revealed and allegedly his official records were altered to state that he wasn't even on duty that night.
One night early in May, four men dressed in dark suits and ties knocked on the front door of the Silva home. The two sisters, Liliane and Valquiria, and their mother, Luiza, were asleep (other members of the family were working or at school). Mrs. Silva thought the men were associated with Ubirajara, but they turned out to be strangers. By the time she realized that, the men had gently pushed their way into the house and insisted on talking to the two sisters. All gathered in the small living room, the girls and mother on one sofa, the four men on another opposite them. One man was about 50, the others in their early 30s. They were polite but businesslike. Only the older man and one of the others talked. The men never identified themselves but spent more than an hour trying to persuade the girls to change their story and even implied they would be paid if they made their denials publicly on television. Afraid to object, Luiza said they would think it over. The men finally left but told them not to follow them to try to see what kind of car they were driving. They were never seen again; and the girls did not withdraw their story.
During 1997 there have been reports on the Internet that the girls were charging $200 for an interview. Liliane appeared shocked and surprised when I asked her if that was true. She emphatically denied it.
In April (1996), a middle-aged woman sitting by herself on the dark verandah of a restaurant at the zoo as she smoked a cigarette after dining saw a strange creature looking at her over a railing a few meters away.
One night in May, a university student driving on the Varginha-Tres Coracoes highway spotted a creature that had started to cross the highway. It was so strange looking that it was frightening. It darted back into the bushes when it saw the car. Later, when investigators took the student back to the site, they realized it was right next to the farm where the couple had seen the UFO in January.
Finally, in November, Spanish ufologist and writer J.J. Benitez, whose books are published in Brazil, infuriated virtually all Brazilian UFO investigators when (according to Ubirajara, Pacaccini and others) he made a quickie six-hour visit to Varginha without contacting any of the investigators or witnesses, found three holes in a triangular pattern in the pasture near the woods, then returned to Sao Paulo, called a press conference and announced he and he alone had found landing marks made by the UFO that brought the creatures to Varginha -- something that none of the Brazilians had been able to do.
I know of Benitez' statements only second-hand. But during my recent visit to Varginha, Ubirajara showed Cynthia Luce and me the three holes that Benitez found. They are in the pasture 75 to 100 meters from the edge of the woods, are spaced out unevenly (roughly 28 by 30 by 25 feet) over a steep part surrounded by more level areas and are next to a tree that Benitez said was dead. Ubirajara says that, at his request, a physicist and an agronomist examined the three holes. Their conclusion, written up in a report (Ubirajara said), was that two of the holes had been dug by a post-hole digger, with the excavated piles of dirt, long since nearly washed away by rains, lying next to them. And the third hole was an ant hill that had collapsed and sunk in upon itself. Benitez also reported finding desiccated insects inside the triangle made by the holes, but Ubirajara's scientists said desiccated insects are found all over the pasture.
The "dead" tree was very much alive when we saw it in August, and the third hole looked very different from the other two, which did look like post holes. All three were located on one of the steepest parts of the pasture, perhaps the most difficult spot to be found in the area if a UFO had landed there as Benitez claimed. It has been nearly a year since he visited Varginha, but the mere mention of his name still brings an angry reaction from Brazilian ufologists.
The only real sour note in the Varginha case is that the two main investigators -- Ubirajara and Pacaccini -- fell out badly some time ago over reasons that had nothing to do with the case itself. The animosity is very real, and I don't know if they'll ever talk to each other again.
Pacaccini is writing a book in English and Ubirajara wants to do a book in English. Cynthia Luce and I have tried to persuade the two of them to work together to produce the only definitive book possible. Each knows things the other doesn't. Each has access to witnesses that the other doesn't.
Varginha, I believe, is a good, solid case. But the rancor and bitterness between Ubirajara and Pacaccini could turn it into another Roswell-like quagmire. Our fear is that eventually there will be Pacaccini's book, Ubirajara's book and God knows how many other versions, as has happened in Roswell, and no one will really know what happened at Varginha.
[CNI News comments: Given the potential importance of the Varginha case, and the excellent investigatory work so far accomplished by Ubirajara and Pacaccini, we join Bob Pratt in calling for a mending of fences and renewed cooperation between these two researchers, so that the world can be given the clearest possible picture of what really happened in Varginha. Meanwhile, thanks again to Bob Pratt for the foregoing report.]
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