However, we need not travel so far to encounter a part of the world that is even more perplexing than these others, although it remains little known to most people: Mexico's mysterious, magical zona del silencio--the Zone of Silence, just four hundred miles away from El Paso, Texas. Deserts are often considered to be mysterious enough without the added weirdness that this patch of earth some four hundred miles from El Paso has to offer. It is a place which gobbles up radio and TV signals, and which has of late been associated with the UFO phenomenon.
Centuries of Mystery
According to Dr. Santiago Garcia, there has been an awareness of the unusual properties of the area since the mid-nineteenth century, when farmers trying to eke out a living in the forbidding environment became aware of the "hot pebbles" which routinely fell to earth from the clear sky. In the 1930s, Francisco Sarabia, an aviator from the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, reported that his radio had mysteriously ceased to function, earning him the distinction of being the Zone of Silence's first victim.
Nonetheless, it wasn't until 1970 that the zone first entered public awareness when an American missile, an Athena, fired from the White Sands Missile Base, went off course inexplicably, heading for the Zone of Silence, where it ultimately crashed. A few years later, an upper stage from one of the Saturn boosters used on the Apollo project broke up over the very same area. The U.S, military sent a team down to the region to investigate its surprising natural properties.
Engineer Harry de la Pena was the first outsider to discover the zone and its perplexing radio interference properties. Humans have been resided in and around the scrub and cactus filled desert area since Prehistoric times, when an unknown tribe of natives clustered around a watering hole which is still in existence. The community of Ceballos, Durango, some 25 miles away, is the settlement nearest to the zone, and it is the starting point of any venture into its unreal atmosphere. The visitor will find vast expanses of flat terrain, pinpointed with thorny desert bushes and infested with poisonous snakes. No different from any other desert in that respect.
Pena and his group became aware of the "silence" when they found that it was impossible to communicate with one another via walkie-talkies: radio waves are not transmitted at the accustomed speed and frequency. Portable radios would emit but the lightest whisper when turned on at full volume. To this day, television signals cannot be received in Ceballos or in the neighboring ranches. Some magnetic force, with the power to dampen radio waves, seems to exist in the region.
Since the engineer's initial visit, scientists from around the world have visited the zone, flocking to the research facility erected at its very heart by the Mexican government. The zone's somewhat foreboding name has been changed to Mar de Tetys--The Sea of Thetys, due to the fact that it was once under water millions of years ago--and the research lab has been dubbed the "biosphere".
Curiously enough, the zone lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer and south of the 30th parallel, which places it in the company of a number of other planetary anomalies such as the Bermuda Triangle. UFOs and the presence of nonhuman life have been recorded in this anomalous region. Until a few years ago, there were people still alive who could remember having had encounters with allegedly extraterrestrial creatures in the early decades of this century.
On October 13, 1975, Ernesto and Josefina Diaz, an enterprising couple, drove into the zone in a brand new Ford pickup to collect unusual rocks and fossils which can be found in great abundance. As they busied themselves in their activity, they noticed that a desert rainstorm was heading toward them. Hoping to avoid being caught in a flash flood, they wisely packed their vehicle up and sped off, but not fast enough to avoid the relentless rain: the track ahead of them turned into a swamp: the pickup was quickly trapped and began to sink in the soft terrain.
While the couple struggled to keep their vehicle from submerging into the mud, two figures approached them, waving at them amid the torrential rain. Two extremely tall men in yellow raincoats and caps, with unusual but by no means alarming features, offered their assistance to help them get underway again. The men instructed the totally drenched couple to get inside the pickup again while they pushed. Before the couple realized, their vehicle had popped out of the hole and on to firmer ground.
When the husband got out of the pickup once more to thank the two men, he realized they were gone. There were no footprints in evidence or any surface feature that could have concealed their departure.
Travelers crossing the zone regularly report seeing strange lights or fireballs maneuvering at night, changing colors, hanging motionless and then taking off at great speed. Two ranchers heading back from a festivity witnessed how a coruscant light floated down from the dark sky and disgorged humanoid occupants, who glowed with the same eerie light and were walking toward them. The ranchers broke into a frantic run.
Physical traces of these nocturnal visits can be found. One witness returned one morning to the site where he had seen the mysterious lights cavorting the previous night, and found that the scrub vegetation "had been set on fire". Dozens of similar reports emerge from the zone, told by reliable witnesses.
Dr. Santiago Garcia, who has devoted much of his life to the investigation of this anomalous region, has speculated that some of lights seen by the residents could well be from a roving vehicle left behind by the U.S. military, recharging its solar cells by day and conducting furtive analytical missions under cover of darkness. Garcia points out that when the Air Force came to collect the Athena missile's wreckage, they took along several truckloads of desert sand for analysis. There is the widespread belief that huge deposits of magnetite exist in the area, and that this iron ore is responsible for the dampening of electromagnetic waves. It has also been proven that considerable deposits of uranium exist in the mountains ranges fencing the Zone of Silence. In 1976, a visitor to the region took the first photograph ever of a UFO landed near a topographic feature known as "Magnet Hill" by the locals. The photos clearly show a shiny silver object resembling a large stewing pot. The lucky shutterbug was able to take more shots of the UFO as it rose upward with a roar, disappearing toward the west.
Yet not all of the "extraterrestrial" visitors have been as elusive. The staff of a small local ranch was visited regularly by three tall, blond, long- haired visitors--two males and one female--who were described as being polite to a fault, extremely handsome and dressed "in a funny way". Their Spanish was flawless and had a musical ring to it.
The reason for these visits was to secure water from the ranch's well: the "funny" visitors would ask their hosts to please fill their canteens with water, never requesting food or anything else. When asked where they came from, the visitors would limit themselves to smiling and saying "from above." Could these visitors be the "nordic" types referred to by ufologists? Spanish researcher Antonio Ribera described similar "Blonds" operating in the vicinity of Rosellon, in the Pyrenees, where they would only trouble their human hosts for bread and milk, paying for them with gold nuggets. Almost white-haired "nordics" were reported along the Sierra Nevada, in California, were they would come down to barter with townspeople every so often. There exists a connection of sorts between certain enigmatic deserts and these angel-like creatures.
Luis Ramirez Reyes will almost certainly never forget his own. During the month of November of 1978, Ramirez visited the Zone as part of a news team assigned to cover a story on the bizarre site.
Choosing to go ahead of the main team, Ramirez and his photographer charged into the desert, navigating by intuition rather than by hard knowledge of where their final destination was located: the "biosphere" constructed by the Mexican government, a laboratory dedicated to investigating the unusual biological life forms found in the area and to conducting psychic research.
No closer to their target than when their reckless impulse drove them into the wasteland, Ramirez became painfully aware that he lacked water or the provisions necessary to survive in this hostile environment should they become hopelessly lost. Having reached a "Y" intersection in the unpaved desert road, they had chosen the wrong one.
Suddenly, he noticed that there were three figures walking up ahead, coming toward them. Hoping that these locals might be able to point them toward the biosphere, the journalist told his companion, who was doing the driving, to slow down to talk to them. He was startled when the driver passed them by, as if not having seen them.
After completing the cross-country trek, both men were relieved to find the structure of the biosphere rising in the distance. Upon arriving, and meeting up with their team, they discussed their unusual encounter in the desert with Harry de la Pena. In a sobering tone, Pena told them that there were no people in the desert who weren't part of the biosphere team and certainly no flocks for peasants to look for. An aerial survey in later days convinced the investigator of the utter desolation of the region that stretched for hundreds of miles. But if they weren't people, what were they?
"Nordic" visitors and other humanoids are not the only kind reported in the region. There have been sightings of oddly clad beings only a few feet in height as well. Ruben Lopez, driving through the zone one night in a van on his way to visit to a relative in Ceballos, noticed that his vehicle's engine began to sputter. This troubled him no end, as he had recently serviced the van. Abruptly, he became aware of five small figures that were standing along the roadside some hundred feet ahead. Lopez believed at first that they were lost children, until he noticed that they wore unusual silver one-piece outfits.
The little beings' heads were covered by helmets resembling those used by football players. Through the helmets' open front, Lopez could tell that they had adult faces. They approached the stalled van with curiosity, filling the driver with genuine fear: Lopez raced the van's engine in neutral, which caused the dwarfs to scatter into the desert darkness. The van continued functioning normally after the creatures had vanished.
The Archeological Enigma
The extremely ancient ruins in the Zone of Silence pose another disquieting enigma of their own. Archaeologists have been unable to determine their age, but they undoubtedly form an astronomical observatory thousands of years old. There is no connection between this Mexican Stonehenge and the primitive tribes that clustered around the watering hole which constitutes an oasis in the arid region. At some point in antiquity, someone was quite active in the Zone.
Perhaps they were interested, as are modern astronomers and geologists, in the large number of small meteorites that are attracted to the Zone's magnetic properties.
A meteorite that crashed in Chihuahua in the late 1950s contained crystalline structures that far outdated the Solar System itself. Researcher Luis Maeda Villalobos concluded that the meteorite contains "material as old as the Universe": Our solar system is some 6 billion years old, while the meteorite's age has been estimated at 13 billion years.
Whether we are dealing with UFOs, dimensional visitors who find the magnetic aberrations facilitate their journeys, or merely a poorly understood part of our world with unsuspected properties, no easy answers apply to the riddle posed by the Zone of Silence. The builders of the mysterious ruined observatory would have probably agreed.