A major wave of UFO sightings occurred across much of northern Brazil in 1977 and 1978, and it is believed to have started in the vicinity of the small city of Pinheiro in the state of Maranhão.
In April, May, June and July of 1977, UFOs were seen in that region almost every night, and one official estimated as many as fifty thousand people had seen them.
A number of people received sunburn-like burns after being exposed to light coming from UFOs. In many cases, the UFO would simply appear without warning just above the head of a victim in a sudden burst of light that lit everything as bright as daylight for up to a kilometer around.
This is what I call a "Sudden
Daylight" experience. It was one of the most common encounters in Brazil
at the time.
Sightings were heaviest in the areas around Pinheiro, São Bento and São Vicente Ferrer, very small towns located west of São Marcos Bay. A particularly heavy flurry of activity in July attracted newsmen and the curious from São Luís, the state capital located on the northeastern side of the bay.
Cinaldo Oliveira, a São Luis TV news cameraman, and reporter Diel Carvalho spent two weeks in the area investigating the sightings.
‘‘Practically ninety percent of the people we talked to had seen the UFOs,” Oliveira said. ‘‘Many fishermen had actually been injured there, burned.
‘‘One night we filmed this thing going through the sky in a wavy motion. It looked like a satellite but it varied so much in form and shape. It would grow bigger and suddenly disappear. The people said that when it would appear again, it would be right near some person. That’s when they got burned.
‘‘This one we saw looked like a star but as the light grew brighter and bigger it would change to yellow, blue and red. Then it turned off.
FISHERMEN AFRAID TO FISH
“The next day, about three kilometers from where we were, a man appeared with some burns on his back. He said that when the light turned off, it turned on again right above him.
‘‘I don't know how many fishermen were burned but we interviewed about ten who had been burned. They weren't very serious burns but the men were so frightened they didn't want to go back to work any more. They were afraid.
“Farmers also saw this and we interviewed one farmer who was burned. We actually saw the burns. We heard of three cases of people who went to the hospital after the burns but we didn't get to interview them. We heard that on some farms cattle were burned up.
“On one farm there is a building where all the workers live and sleep. This man was fishing one night near the building when the light suddenly turned on. He ran as fast as he could into the building and the light kept going around the building for twenty minutes. It was a very bright light and where the light touched, it looked like daylight.”
José Raimundo Rodrigues, a teacher in Pinheiro and a TV reporter, said he saw the object twice and heard reports of people being burned.
“Some people in one of the villages said they even saw the object come down and land and saw people getting out of it. They said the light was as bright as the sun and they couldn't see too well because of it. But they could see two or three small forms come out from under it and get something from the ground.
“After the thing disappeared, they went to the place where it had been and they found some marks.''
Joel Cámara, then an engineering student at the federal university of Maranhão in São Luis, and his uncle, Sanatiel Pereira, an engineer, had both been interested in UFOs for several years. They went to São Bento at the height of the sightings to see what they could learn.
SKIN PEELING OFF
‘‘We were just leaving the city when we met a man who was burned horribly," said Cámara. ‘‘He said that when he saw the UFO he started running and when he couldn’t run any more he fell down flat on his back. It was such a strong light on his body.
“We could see the burns from where his short sleeves ended all the way down his arms. The skin was peeling off. This happened about a week earlier.
"Sanatiel heard about a farmer who was sitting on his porch one night in July and he suddenly saw a bright light spreading over his animals. And at São Bento, the operator of the airport was sleeping when he felt the temperature getting much hotter. He went outside and he could see a UFO up above.''
In Pinheiro, which is the largest city in Maranhão west of São Luis, Mayor Manoel Paiva estimated that as many as fifty thousand people in the area around Pinheiro saw the UFO between April and July.
“Two thirds of the population of this city saw a big ball of fire the size of a long-playing record,” said Paiva (right). “It came at a high speed and it would stop. Suddenly it would go up or down with the same velocity. Lots of people who were fishing here in canoes or boats were chased by this ball of fire.
“Many people felt bad. They had fevers and everything. They got sick from the eyes but I think it was because of the intensity of the light. The light was so bright it would seem like day. The intensity of the light left people a little dizzy and a little bit sick.
“Some people said they were burned by this object. The fishermen were so afraid they didn't go fishing for three or four months.
The mayor had seen the UFO himself several times. “It was a red light with blue radiation. Red was the color that would hurt the people’s eyes. It was always the color red.
“It seemed that inside the red ball there were some explosions because suddenly sometimes it would flash as if there were an explosion. It would get brighter and brighter.
“Sometimes we had the impression that the object had a yellow light besides the red light and the blue light. But the main color was red, and the blue light was the radiation. It would light up an area about a block square.
"What caught people's attention the most was that the object would go so fast and it would seem like a star. It had incredible speed. It would just go way up into the atmosphere until it seemed like a star and suddenly it would come back down again.
“This impressed me the most because if this is something from this world, then we have reached perfection because the object was without sound, had great, great speed, could stop any place it wanted to, could go in any direction. I was very surprised because of that.
“We used to see the object every night for a period of sixty to a hundred and twenty days. There were nights when the flying saucer, as people called it, would appear at six o'clock and then other nights the thing would come at four the morning.
“People would call me and say, 'Mayor, the fire is coming!' Some people called it flying saucer, some would call it fire. Most of the ignorant people call it ‘fire’. They'd say, 'Look, the ‘fire’ is coming!' Most of the people who have knowledge would call it an unidentified flying object.
"The object would come within a thousand meters of the earth. Sometimes it would go even lower, maybe three hundred to four hundred meters above the people's heads.
‘EVERYBODY WAS AFRAID’
"Some people were attacked by the light. They were chased by it. Everybody was frightened because we didn't know if the object had any radioactivity.”
The mayor admitted that he too was frightened. "Everybody was afraid.”
Mayor Paiva acknowledged that when he first began hearing reports he thought the people were lying. "But after I saw it I began telling everybody I was the liar.”
The mayor, then fifty, a cattleman who had served two years of his four-year term, told of the experiences some people had.
“There were twenty six people working about six kilometers from the city building some fences to keep cattle in. They asked one of the men to go fishing so they would have something to eat. When the man went fishing, he was very surprised when this object appeared just in front of him.
"He ran back to camp. He was exhausted and told everyone about the strange object like a fireball chasing him. Everybody in the camp saw the object, which had a blue light that lit up an area about a kilometer around.
"All the horses and cows, which were sleeping, woke up and were frightened. Everybody saw the strange object and they were very, very afraid of it. The light stayed about half an hour and then suddenly disappeared.
"The next day they moved to another place because they were afraid. They dressed up a piece of wood with old clothes like a scarecrow and put a kerosene lamp on top of it to see if the strange object would come.
“They hid in the woods to watch and sometime that night the object suddenly came very near the kerosene lamp. It stayed for forty five minutes to an hour. The light was so bright they could not tell the shape of the object.
"Lots of men who were working there left and went back home because they were very, very afraid of the thing."
The mayor said that on another night a man went looking for his donkey, which had strayed away eating grass.
"While he was looking for his donkey, he met his daughter, who was carrying water home. Suddenly she said, 'Father, look! The object is here!' And the object was stopped in the air at a height of thirty to fifty meters. It was shaped like a refrigerator with a cone on top.
“There was no light on it at this time... and when the object was taking off, it emitted lots of flames, a kind of oily flames. The object was very close to them. The man didn't see anybody or hear any sound and it just disappeared when he screamed in fright."
Mayor Paiva was concerned about the phenomenon and appealed to the federal government for help. "I was so afraid that I felt it was necessary to tell the government what was happening. It didn't show any interest. It didn't answer.”
During our interview, the mayor sent someone to get the first man in the Pinheiro area who reported seeing the object. He was Inácio Rodrigues do Rosário, a fifty-year-old fisherman.
“I was fishing in April or May 1977 with a friend,” Rosario said after he arrived. "About one thirty in the morning I saw a little fire, very little, in the north. The fire grew bigger. It was spinning. We were afraid and we jumped out of the boat and tried to find a place to hide.
HIDE FOR HOURS
“We were trying to escape and the fire was getting bigger and bigger and bigger and getting closer and closer. We saw a clump of bushes and we tried to hide under them so the fire would not see us. We were hidden in the bushes where we saw the object about a hundred meters away from us.
"The fire stayed until
about five in the morning and we were still hidden because we were afraid
"Just before dawn it disappeared, just as if you had turned off a light. Where the light had been we saw a kind of shadow and the thing was shaped like a refrigerator.
“When the sun came up, it disappeared. I got sick with dysentery and I spent the whole day very disturbed by this.”
In São Bento, a small town thirty one kilometers southeast of Pinheiro, we found João Barros, another fisherman who said he was burned by the object.
"I saw the light in a small river with two friends," Barros said. "We were fishing in a boat and about one o'clock in the morning the fire appeared. It lit up a big area.
“The light passed behind me going east. It was red in the center and greenish-blue on the outside. I felt a lot of heat and for three days after I felt like pepper was burning my back. I didn't go fishing or anywhere for one month because I was so afraid."
Barros said neither of the two men with him was burned and added that he was sitting in the boat nearest to the object as it passed by.
MAN’S BACK BURNED
In the small jungle village of Mata de Olimpio, about an hour’s drive southeast of São Bento, neighbors told us about still another man who was burned, Antônio Pinheiro. He and his wife were both visiting another village the day we were there.
“Antônio told me he went to the backyard of his house to go to the bathroom,” Ladislau Amorim said. "And when he was defecating the object appeared with a very, very bright light over his head.
“He ran back to the house screaming and when he got to the kitchen door he fell down. His wife came and took him inside the house. Then he felt dizzy. He felt heat on the backs of his arms and legs and his back. The light was on him as he was running. Both his arms and legs stayed numb for a week."
Another neighbor, Maria Pinheiro (no relation), said Antônio’s back was so hot his wife had to put wet towels on it all night so he could sleep.
Maria Pinheiro's own husband, Lafonso, also had an encounter with the object. He was a businessman who bought food and goods in Pinheiro and elsewhere to sell to his neighbors. He too was away the day we visited the village.
"He was coming home from Pinheiro about five o'clock one morning on horseback when the fire stopped over his head," Mrs. Pinheiro said. "He was very scared.
“He had a flashlight in his hand and when the light saw him it came down and stopped over his head. He stared at the light very scared and then he fell off his horse and started running.
WEIRD BALLS OF LIGHT
"He didn't get burned but he felt all the reactions as if he had got burned. He was very hot. The heat was very strong.
“The light stayed for about two minutes and then it disappeared. But he was afraid the light would come back again, so he stayed at a friend's house nearby the rest of the night."
UFOs were also seen in São Luís and other areas east of São Marcos Bay. São Luís is about seventy five kilometers east of Pinheiro plus a two-hour ferryboat ride across the bay.
In São Luís, two people who taught English had a strange but harmless sighting about nine o'clock one evening in July 1977. They were Ana Teresa Britto and Evaristo Santos, both then in their early twenties.
They were driving to a friend’s house near the beach in São Luís when a bright object suddenly appeared in the sky ahead of them. It was a dark orange color, very sharply defined, and was bigger than a basketball.
It was so startling that Evaristo nearly drove off the road. In two or three seconds the object disappeared.
Then a dozen or more small dark red balls the size of oranges came flying out of the spot where the big orange object had been and went in all directions before they too vanished. None of them fell to the ground.
The big ball had been much brighter than the smaller ones. None of them were glaringly bright and didn’t hurt their eyes. All were perfectly round.
The entire incident lasted only five seconds or so, but it was enough to frighten Evaristo and Ana Teresa.
“I didn’t know what was happening,” Evaristo said. “People here in São Luis said strange things had appeared in the sky and burned somebody, and I got afraid of it and drove fast to Monica’s house.”
(He was referring to
Monica Carneiro, who was my principal interpreter when I was investigating
the Crab Island cases. Ana Teresa also worked
with me many times and Evaristo interpreted for me during one interview.)
(He was referring to Monica Carneiro, who was my principal interpreter when I was investigating the Crab Island cases. Ana Teresa also worked with me many times and Evaristo interpreted for me during one interview.)
FOUR COPS SEE UFO
While I was working on the first Crab Island incident, in which a man died and two were burned, police officers told me about some sightings.
“I have some friends, four police officers, who were traveling to São Mateus and they saw something unusual in the sky,'' said Jucilmo Salazar Pereira, a police investigator for the state of Maranhão. São Mateus is a small city about two hundred kilometers south of São Luis.
“At first they thought it was the moon but the thing just stopped behind a babaçu tree and lit up the area. They radioed São Mateus and asked that someone be sent to see what they were seeing. The others came and saw it and after a while the thing disappeared.''
Another detective, Orlando Arouce, said: “I have a neighbor, an old lady named Neusa Cardoso, who used to get up around four or four thirty in the morning. This one time she went into her backyard and when she looked up in the sky she saw a red ball in the back yard of the house next door, about ten meters away from her and close to the ground.
“She was afraid but it didn't hurt her. When she called the people in the house, it disappeared. This was in March or April 1977."
(For a guide to pronouncing unfamiliar Brazilian names, click here.)