By Scott Corrales
Latin America Correspondent
Controversy Over an Intriguing UFO Case in Chile
The Valdés Case – the most paradigmatic episode of Chilean ufology – has been revisited in “La noche de los centinelas” (The Night of the Sentries), an 8-year-long journalistic investigation that looks into background events, locates the protagonists and “uncovers more than one surprise”, according to the author.
It occurred one early morning on April 1977 near Putre, in the Chilean highlands.
Eight young soldiers were keeping watch around a fire when they were startled by the appearance of two ghostly lights of unknown origin in the vicinity of some nearby hills.
One of them disappeared behind a small hill while the other placed itself at the foot of a mountain, flying over the area and engaging in approach-and-retreat maneuvers before the eyes of the disconcerted soldiers.
After three minutes of terror, corporal Armando Valdés, in charge of the squad, walked away from his companions toward the light. The young conscripts watched him vanish from sight for 15 minutes, during which their calls for him and their search yielded no result.
At a given moment, they heard the subofficer’s voice pleading for help, and they saw him walking toward them unsteadily. He had a dense growth of beard despite having been clean-shaven just minutes earlier, and the calendar on his digital watch was five days fast.
The startled conscripts settled him near the fire. And that was when he said, in a strange voice:” “You will never know who we are, nor where we come from, but we will return again.” He then fell asleep.
The case became a journalistic sensation and achieved global notoriety. But within days, its protagonists slipped into obscurity and Corporal Valdés became a legend.
Twenty-five years later, journalist and researcher Patricio Abuselme took up the challenge of reinvestigating the case and interview its main protagonists, an effort which is summarized in his book La noche de los sentinelas, an in-depth journalistic investigation on the incident, which he published in late 2010 under his own publishing house – Terra Incognita.
“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”, says the author.
In less than 300 pages, Abusleme provides a comprehensive view of the case, from the first journalistic dispatches reporting the incident to exclusive interviews with the main protagonists, including subofficer Valdés (Ret.) – unpublished details and conclusions that the author has described as preliminary.
“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,” says Abusleme.
“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.”
La noche de los centinelas is on sale in Chile’s main bookstores, but can also be purchased from the author at www.lanochedeloscentinelas.com
(Translation (c) 2011, S. Corrales, IHU. Special thanks to Guillermo Gimenez, Planeta UFO)
Visit Scott’s website: http://inexplicata.blogspot.com/.