The 1996 Varginha Episode – A Hoax? Hysterics? Or A Cover-Up?

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
July 27, 2018
Last Updated
September 5, 2020
Estimated Reading Time
8 min read
Posted in
Aliens, Encounters

The alleged sightings of alien creatures in Varginha, Brazil in January 1996, for a time, captured the interest and imagination of much of the international media. Even more so when apparent witness statements claimed Brazilian military personnel had taken the extraterrestrial into their custody. Further claims soon surfaced of an apparent crash of a UFO. One which killed several of the occupants and forced those who survived to flee from the ruins of the crippled vehicle.

An artist's impression of the strange creature

An artist’s impression of the strange creature

The Brazilian authorities have always steadfastly denied any involvement in the case. However, some researchers have continued to dig away at the claims, even when one of the witnesses allegedly admitted they had concocted the story. And, on this occasion, these suspicious researchers might be correct to pursue their interest. To some, this sudden retraction by one of the initial witnesses to the events in the opening weeks of 1996 is just the latest in a long list of efforts to discredit those who wish to investigate these claims. And in turn, distance themselves, and the truth, from the public.

The South American continent is a hotbed of UFO activity and has been for a long time. And the incident in Varginha remains one of the most well-known, and controversial. Of all the UFO researchers who have investigated the incident, leading UFO author, Timothy Good’s is one of the better communicated. He would dedicate an entire chapter to it in his book Unearthly Disclosure, published in 2000. Which was, relatively speaking, in the years immediately following the incident. Before we look at the account in detail, check out the short video below. It features A. J. Gevaerd testifying at a citizen’s hearing about the apparent crash and recovery.

A “Demon-Like” Creature, Huddled Against An Abandoned Building!

On the afternoon of 20th January 1996, at a little after 3:30 pm, three young girls were walking together in Santana (in the north of Varginha). Sisters, Liliane and Valquiria da Silva, sixteen and fourteen respectively, and 22-year-old Katia Xavier, came to an open and vacated plot of land, and a most remarkable sight. In front of them, was a strange, “demon-like” creature, huddled against the wall of an abandoned cinderblock building. Its skin was a leathery brown color and it seemed to have a “triangular-shaped head” with large red eyes. Its limbs appeared much too small for its body, with an estimated height of two-and-a-half feet.

As the trio remained where they were, unable to take their eyes from this bizarre creature, they noticed how it appeared as frightened as they certainly felt. They would later report how it appeared to “crouch lower” against the wall of the building, almost in an attempt to escape their gaze.

After a moment the three girls turned and ran back to the main street. They would continue at full pace until they reached the teenage sisters’ home. It would take around twenty minutes for the ensuing situation to reach a level of calm in order that the account was understood. Katia, along with the sister’s mother would then make arrangements with a neighbor to return to the spot where they witnessed the strange creature. By the time they returned, however, the creature was no longer there. There was an impression on the grass where it had sat previously. There was also a distinct and strong smell of ammonia. This, incidentally, is an aroma noticed in the details of multiple close-contact reports.

A UFO Crash In Varginha?

Although they didn’t see the creature, someone else had. An elderly woman and her granddaughter had heard the three young girls’ screams when they had first spotted the strange figure. Although the girls themselves had already turned and left the area by the time the two witnesses arrived, the grandmother and young girl remained and discreetly watched events unfold. They would claim that a vehicle from the city fire department arrived. Firemen would quickly “secure” the creature, before driving away as if nothing had happened.

The encounter would soon find its way to journalists and UFO researchers. One, in particular, Ubirajara Franco Rodrigues, would investigate further. His notes speak of his belief in the three girls “sincerity”. And furthermore, he would find more corroborating witnesses. Perhaps most interesting of these was a bricklayer Henrique Jose de Souza, who claimed to have seen a fire department vehicle at the location of the alleged sighting, although the time he claimed to have seen this was earlier than the time the three girls saw the creature.

An even more explosive witness would come forward in the shape of local resident, Oralina Augusta. She would claim to have been woken just after 1 am in the early hours of 20th January by the sound of “bellowing cattle” on a local farm several miles away. When she went to her window, she could clearly see the cattle “stampeding” in agitation. And she could see why. Above them hovered a “submarine-shaped”, brightly glowing object. She quickly woke her husband.

As both stared from their window, they could make out “grey smoke” rising from one side of the craft. It suddenly began to move but did so in a “rocky” stop-and-start motion. It seemed obvious to both that the craft was damaged in some way.

More Than One Creature On The Loose!

In Brazil, the fire department comes under the control of the military police. This, in itself, makes the claims of the fire department taking the creature into their control perhaps more credible. It would further come to light in the records of the Varginha City Fire Department of a call at 8:30 am on 20th January. According to the details of the call, a “strange creature” was roaming around in the woods on the outskirts of the city, not far from the site of the apparent apprehension later that afternoon.

By the time the fire service arrived at the location, the records show three young boys reported to them they had seen the creature. The direction they claimed it was heading would (in theory) lead to the location of the three young girl’s sighting. Furthermore, two more residents (an unnamed man and women) would confirm the boys’ statement. The woman even recalled the boys were throwing stones at the creature. She would tell them to stop, which they did. It then disappeared into the woods.

The fire department would send a small search unit into the woodland, but aside from the odd glimpse of something moving, there was no confirmed sighting. That was until two hours later when, according to the notes of Rodrigues, they managed to corner the creature. They managed to “net” it, noticing how it gave no resistance whatsoever, perhaps suggesting it was injured. Might this presence have been the one noticed by Souza?

Thinking their mission complete, the commander was radioed. When he arrived, he ordered a complete sealing off of the area. Furthermore, the operation was now classified top-secret. According to the notes, more creatures were in the area. The searches would continue under the watch of Lieutenant Colonel Olimpio Vanderlei Santos.

Hints Of A Cover-Up!

Another creature was captured later that afternoon, taking the total to three, including the one witnessed by the three girls. An intense storm would break out shortly after, bringing a halt to the search for several hours. However, by 6 pm, the search units would venture back out into the woodland.

Two officers (described in reports as “plain-clothed agents”) would locate and capture a fourth creature. Unequipped with the devices and tools of the search teams, the two agents forced the creature into the back of their car. According to investigations of local researchers, the agents would drive the creature to a small local clinic. However, the doctor would refuse them access to the premises and would refuse treatment. Instead, he urged that they take it to the hospital in the city.

One of the plain-clothed agents, apparently identified as Marco Chereze, had “handled the creature with his bare hands” during its apprehension. Within days, he became extremely ill and was hospitalized with the loss of the use of all of his limbs. He would deteriorate rapidly, showing no response to any treatments. Ultimately, he would die on 15th February. However, the events that followed are disturbing, to say the very least.

The hospital offered no explanation for the officer’s death. They did, however, order that his coffin was sealed shut and that the funeral should take place “within hours”. The family would sue the Brazilian military over Chereze’s death. However, the only new information they discovered was there was a “small amount of toxic material” in his body, and perhaps more damning, an apparent altering of official records showing that Chereze was not on duty on the night in question.

The spot of the sighting

The spot of the sighting

(Another) Alien Autopsy?

According to Rodrigues’ investigations, an entire wing of the city’s hospital was off-limits in the days following the incident. Furthermore, the military would hold a meeting with all employees of the hospital. They would inform them the events of the last few days was a “training exercise for doctors and military personnel”. Perhaps more ominous, they were instructed to “deny everything” if anyone asked them any questions. Especially “that lawyer” (which was Rodrigues’ trade).

On the afternoon of the 22nd January, three large military vehicles were present outside the hospital. At this point, the reports state the creature was still alive. By 6 pm that evening, however, it was dead. The military would place it in sealed high-tech containers ready for transportation.

According to further investigations by local researchers, sometime around 4 am the following morning, in the early hours of the 23rd January, a convoy of military vehicles led by a “yellow Volkswagen van” left the city of Varginha. Their destination remains unknown.

Some claims state that Sr. Fortunato Baden Palhares would lead the autopsies of the presumed alien creatures. He would always deny this. However, according to a student who asked him about this apparent autopsy in the late-1990s, he stated that he would “really love to give you an answer, but please, ask this question in ten or fifteen years from now”. Perhaps Dr. Palhares was being rather optimistic on the disclosure he seems to be suggesting would happen.

An American Presence!

Further investigations would reveal at least one US agent on location in Varginha from the 20th to the 23rd January. Furthermore, it would seem that NORAD had warned the Brazilian authorities the week previously on 13th January 1996 that it had “tracked a number of unidentified objects over the western hemisphere that night. And that one or more had penetrated Brazilian airspace”. Whether one or more of the unidentified objects in question crashed to the ground somewhere in Brazil that evening, quite possibly near Varginha, is open to debate. There is, however, a report of such an incident.

Carlos da Souza was driving along the Fernao Dias highway early on the morning of 13th January. He was less than five miles outside of Varginha when he suddenly heard a “muffled roaring sound” coming from overhead. When he turned his attention skyward, he could see a cigar-shaped silver craft traveling approximately fifty miles per hour. He could clearly see four windows along the side of the craft, which he would estimate to be around forty feet long, He could also see a jagged tear or crack at the front of the object. Thick, white smoke poured outwards into the air from this mechanical wound.

The craft soon overtook Souza, and for ten minutes he followed the silver object. However, after that, it disappeared in a “dive” over the tops of the trees. From Souza’s vantage point, there was no doubt it had came down somewhere in the woodland.

The three main witnesses at the location of the sighting

The three main witnesses at the location of the sighting

Advanced Notification From NORAD?

He continued to drive his truck in the direction he believed the object came down. After several minutes came proof of his conviction. He brought his vehicle to a stop, not wanting to get any closer. In a field ahead of him, he could see the scattered silver remains of what was obviously the cigar-shaped craft that had passed overhead only minutes earlier. Surprising to him, was the presence of around forty soldiers, who were busy gathering up the wreckage and hauling it onto military vehicles. That they were there so quickly didn’t add up to Souza. Of course, we know now that they were likely acting on information from NORAD.

He noticed a piece of silver material not far in front of where he stood. He moved to it and picked it up. As he did so, however, one of the soldiers shouted out to him to leave immediately. He did so but claims that when he stopped for coffee several miles down the road, “two military men in civilian clothes” would approach him. They knew his name and informed him in no uncertain terms that he was not to talk about what he had seen.

While there is no absolute proof of Souza’s account, it does correspond with the apparently leaked information about NORAD – details that Souza wouldn’t have been aware of at the time. What is for certain is the case very likely has more to it than a simple hoax. And, at the same time, very likely carries disinformation so as to further hide the truth of the events of late-January 1996 in Varginha, Brazil.

The video below looks at this most intriguing case in a little more detail. One, like many other such controversial cases, divides opinion in the UFO community.

Marcus Lowth

Marcus Lowth is a writer with a love for UFOs, aliens, and the Ancient Astronaut Theory, to the paranormal, general conspiracies, and unsolved mysteries. He has been writing and researching with over 20 years of experience.

Marcus has been Editor-in-Chief for several years due to his excellent knowledge in these fields. Marcus also regularly appears as an expert on radio talk shows including Troubled Minds and Unexplained Radio discussing these topics.

Read Marcus' full bio.

You can contact Marcus via email.

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1 Comment

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  • Garry says:

    Is it too much a stretch to hypothesise the government(s) on Earth being reluctant to go public is because the Alien government doesn’t want it? Maybe there are alien ‘civilians’ that are controlled just as we are by so called ‘leaders’ …and, if but maybe … The ‘leaders’ are are in cahoots with each other … for what ever reasons? … if but maybe???

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