The Unexplained Castelo De Bode Dam UFO Case

Marcus Lowth
Published Date
January 20, 2020
Last Updated
October 21, 2021
Estimated Reading Time
14 min read
Posted in
UFOs, Sightings

Although the UFO incident over Castelo de Bode Dam in Portugal took place over 40 years ago, it remains one of the most intriguing UFO cases in (relatively) recent history. And furthermore, it remains unexplained. What is also interesting, like the Ota Airbase incident five years later, the Portuguese military and government would show remarkable transparency and an apparent desire to genuinely get to the bottom of the bizarre incident which occurred one June morning in 1977.

A superimposed UFO in front of a single engine plane

Just what did happen over the Castelo de Bode Dam?

The incident itself was but “5 or 6 seconds long” but is one that features not only the close proximity sighting of an object unlike any conventional aircraft of the time, but one that also had direct effects on the witness’s plane. Furthermore, and unbeknown to the pilot at the time, bizarre events were unfolding deep within the command center of the dam itself at exactly the same time.

As we might imagine, the incident has been researched and investigated by several researchers. Perhaps most predominantly by Portuguese journalist and researcher, Joaquim Fernandez. It can also be found within the pages of veteran UFO researcher and author, Timothy Good’s Beyond Top Secret.

In fact, decades later for a television reconstruction of the incident (which you can see at the end of this article), Fernandez would state that the incident was one of great importance as it was a “significant example of physical interaction” between such a strange and mysterious craft, and the actual “instruments of the plane” itself. It also remains, for all the genuine transparent investigations, unexplained.

A Routine Flight By An Experienced Pilot

At around 11:15 am on 17th June 1977, Jose Francisco Rodrigues was speeding down the runway of Tancos Airbase in a Portuguese Air Force aircraft – a Dornier 27 – ready to embark a routine flight. [1] The 23-year-old was already an experienced pilot, with over 800 flying hours of flight behind him. He was soon leaving the ground and heading into the cloudy, grey, skies overhead, which looked likely to disperse their soaking load at any time.

Around 45 minutes later, he was approaching the Castelo de Bode Dam, a hydroelectric facility, which could perhaps be of key importance as to the events that would unfold next.

Castelo de Bode Dam

Castelo de Bode Dam

As the pilot scanned his surroundings, he would suddenly notice a dark object coming out of a bank of clouds slightly ahead of him. He at first believed the object to be another plane so he changed his course before radioing to base for confirmation of other aircraft in the area. However, rather than confirm the other “plane”, the base claimed to have nothing out of the ordinary of their radar screens. And more to the point, no other aircraft apart his Dornier plane.

He decided to turn his plane once more so that he could examine the object further if indeed it was even there. However, when the control tower heard Rodrigues cry out in alarm as if something had surprised him, it was evident to all that something out of the ordinary was taking place.

There, directly in front of the young pilot’s plane, was a dark, round object, unlike any aerial vehicle Rodrigues had ever seen.

Disappeared In An Instant “From A Stationary Position!”

Knowing he was not looking at a plane but not knowing exactly what the strange craft was, Rodrigues would take in as much detail as possible. He would later state that the upper part of the object was black, although part of it was obscured by the clouds. Meanwhile, the lower part was made of several different panels.

It remained where it was “no more than 6 meters away” from his plane before suddenly vanishing into the distance at fantastic speed. And what’s more, and something not at all lost on the pilot at the time, it did so “from a stationary position”.

Impression of pilot's view of UFO

Impression of pilot’s view of UFO

It was at this point the pilot’s plane began to suddenly vibrate greatly while the compass began to spin aimlessly. Within seconds, despite his engine working, the plane went into a freefall nosedive, the treetops near the dam wall suddenly rushing up to meet him.

He would ultimately open his throttle and just as he was “almost touching the treetops” he regained control of the plane. Furthermore, he would manage to land the plane back at the base. After undergoing a medical evaluation (which he would pass with no problems) he would report the incident to his superiors. It was noted, however, how distressed he was due to the experience. An experience who both the doctors and his superiors accepted must be something a lot more than “just engine trouble”.

Corroborative Witnesses And Further Strange Events

In fact, the Portuguese Air Force would investigate the case thoroughly, and would ultimately cooperate with “independent” UFO investigators.

There were also two witnesses, who would corroborate Rodrigues’s version of events. At least as far as the loss of control of his plane. Two shepherds happened to notice his Dornier suddenly take the nosedive just over the dam. They would also witness the plane suddenly level out thanks to the pilot’s quick thinking.

They would even offer that they heard a loud noise before the plane came out of its “falling leaf” like descent. Both the description of the fall and the loud noise would match the nosedive and the opening of the throttle to regain control of the plane.

A picture of single engine plane flying over the countryside

Many UFO sightings take place near water

What’s more, at the actual dam facility itself, although they were unaware of Rodrigues or the bizarre object he had witnessed, at the same time he began to experience plane trouble, they would notice a sudden drop in pressure and energy. As if everything was suddenly being drained. The incident would last only a few seconds. Most likely for as long as the nosedive of the plane. It would, however, cause great concern to those working at the facility at the time.

Might it be a case of coincidence? It surely would, though, take the most skeptical mind to dismiss entirely the likeliness that a genuine connection exists between the two strange incidents.

Other Very Similar Incidents Of Interest

Whether there are further connections to be found are not, two other incidents [2] are worth mentioning here.

For example, an account from the files of Albert Rosales is of particular interest. It would take place in Carapito Beira Alta, also in Portugal just after midnight on 4th January. Furthermore, it was only six months before the sighting over the Castelo de Bode Dam. On the night in question a dogwalker witnessed a similar object while taking his German shepherd for a stroll. The canine would become suddenly and unusually “agitated”.

It was as he was seeing to the dog that he noticed the cause of its concern. Slightly ahead, a “dark, metallic, domed object” was hovering a short distance above the ground. Even more bizarre, a tall humanoid figure was stood near to the futuristic craft. As the dogwalker and his pet looked on, a blinding flash of “silver light” suddenly filled their vision. When the light vanished, so too had the humanoid and the domed craft.

A little closer in terms of time but further away as far as distance is concerned, is an account from the 1st July over a NATO base in Aviano, Italy. At around 3 am on the night in question, electronic alarms that used magnetic and motion detectors suddenly activated. At the same time, all power in the base suddenly died.

The back-up system would provide basic power, but for the next 20 minutes even this would be subject sudden “fluxes”. Several members of the base would report seeing a “luminous round object with a dome” hovering overhead. This activity over the base was at the same time as the power outages around the facility.

For now, though, let’s return to the Castelo de Bode incident.

Proof Of Something Untoward In The Basic Of The Principles Of Flight?

Given that one of the first things offered by many skeptics on these kinds of cases is that at such altitudes, usually being traversed at great speed to boot, natural phenomena and “sky mirages” can often make things appear to be closer than they are. Or out of shape, or even create something that is not there at all. And these “rational” and scientific principles explain how these things can (and do) sometimes occur. However, at least, in this case, such an explanation appears off the mark for several reasons. Not least of which, are the basic principles of flight.

At its very basic level, high air pressure is created below the wing of a plane. On the other hand, low pressure resides above. Put another way, the dynamics of a plane are such that air will move over the top of the wing of a plane a lot faster than it will underneath. This creates “lift” which combined with speed creates flight.

Artist's impression of the UFO

Artist’s impression of the UFO

If a vehicle passed by at great speed or, as Rodrigues claimed, took off at such speed from close proximity, the object would essentially take with it the high pressure and the slow-moving air. This would then cause the plane to drop out of the sky – essentially, to nosedive. This, even though the engines were essentially in working order.

This scientific principle is perhaps proof that something – whether physical or not – caused just such a scenario. This would also suggest that what Rodrigues witnessed that day in June 1977 was very real.

Weather, Water, And Unexplained “Unexplainables!”

There are several other points of interest for us to consider here. In Good’s write up of the incident, for example, he mentions the conditions. He states that “the weather was poor with imminent rain and a cloud ceiling of less than 3,000 feet”.

As we have mentioned in several articles looking at strange phenomena, might weather and the bizarre effects it can produce have something to do with some of these UFO sightings? And not necessarily from a mirage type of view. But something more in line with opening portals or gateways to other dimensions or realms.

And, once more, there is the large body of water below where the incident would unfold. This also should not escape our attention. Especially when we consider that many, many UFO sightings have a connection to water.

Newspaper clipping reporting on the sighting

Newspaper clipping reporting on the sighting

Perhaps most interestingly, what should we make of the fact that radar operators failed to see anything on their equipment. It certainly isn’t the first time that a visually confirmed sighting failed to yield results on radar. And while such systems do on occasion malfunction, they are, generally speaking, very accurate.

So, should we suspect that these objects simply can’t be physical crafts, despite the mountain of visual confirmations? And, as in this case, supporting evidence to suggest a physical craft was present? Or should we possibly consider the notion that futuristic cloaking devices might shield these crafts from radar? Or perhaps they are solid and physically present in a way that our collective scientific understanding simply doesn’t yet understand?

A Wave Of Portuguese UFO Sighting In The Mid-1970s

What is perhaps interesting is that there were many sightings of UFOs over Portugal during the summer of 1977, with several other occurring in the years before and after.

Although the date is uncertain other than it occurred at some point in 1976, a 46-year-old man, Mr. Lima, was driving his vehicle when he noticed two humanoid entities at the side of the road, each approximately 7 feet tall. Each of the entities appeared to have a “swollen” skull and appeared a blue-green color. At the same time of the sighting, the witness could see a bright, yellow light behind a wall a little way in the distance, from which appeared to emanate a low “compressed air” noise. For a short time, the engine and lights on his car temporary cut out.

Another intriguing incident occurred on the 1st June 1976 in Cascais, a local resident [3] witnessed three triangular shaped objects “dancing” in the sky overhead. The incident was reported by the witness’s son in the early 2000s. He claimed his father was at beach with some friends one evening and was lying on the sand looking upward when he noticed the strange craft, which were moving at a considerable pace across the night sky.

A superimposed UFO over Portugal

In the late 1970s Portugal experienced a wave of UFO sightings

His father would later state to his son that they appeared as though they were “made of stone” and that there were no lights anywhere on the vehicles. As they moved, they appeared to “dance” around one another as they moved. By the time the witness had called out to his friends, the three craft had vanished.

According to an article in edition number 33 of Insolitio, a strange incident unfolded in Carrapito-Guarda at around 9 pm on 3rd January 1977. The anonymous 24-year-old witness was alerted to something untoward taking place outside her house by a strange noise. When she looked out, she saw “a dark figure” that was “square box-shaped” and around 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide. The figure remained there for several minutes before disappearing. The witness’s 9-year-old sister also saw events unfold.

The following day, investigations of the area where the figure was witnessed discovered a “circle of compressed soil”. According to the account, grass simply refused to grow in this particular patch of ground since the sighting.

Sightings Increase In August 1977

August 1977 also saw a flurry of UFO reports throughout Portugal. On 5th August, for example, over Reguengos do Fetal-Leiria, a “large red UFO” measuring approximately 100 feet across was witnessed hovering around 100 feet from the ground. After remaining motionless for several moments, it suddenly took off at great speed.

Around a week later at 10:30 pm on 12th August, a “bright object” was reported in the skies over Lisbon. It flew in a perfectly straight line (eliminating the possibility that it might be a star or a planet) before simply disappearing. Two days later on 14th August, according to a report in the Jornal de Noticias, a strange object was seen hovering over Cabedelo for several moments at around 10 pm. It radiated an orange light several times before disappearing.

Another sighting occurred in Lisbon ten days later on the just before noon on 24th August. On the day in question three soldiers at a Military Administration School witnessed a disc-shaped object moving through the sky. It remained visible for approximately 15 minutes.

A superimposed UFO over Portugal

Many sightings featured multiple witnesses

Several strange sightings were reported at various locations around Portugal on 18th October. One of the first occurred at a little after 6 pm over Ermidas do Sado-Alentejo where a local man was driving when he witnessed a “green UFO” which appeared to leave a “red trail” behind it. Around an hour later at 7:15 pm in Oporto, an ovoid object was witnessed moving across the sky which also left a bizarre trail behind it. At the same time in Lisbon, multiple witnesses saw a bright green light moving across the sky. Behind it was a red trail and object itself was completely silent.

At a little after 6 am on 13th December 1977 at Portela Airport in Lisbon, observers at the facility’s weather station had just spent the previous six hours observing “luminous objects” that “changed direction and color” constantly after receiving calls from several witnesses since midnight the previous evening. The events were also witnessed by workers in the control tower, who undoubtedly stated the light was an unidentified object.

On the evening of 22nd January 1978 over Figueira da Foz, a disc-shaped object was reported to be hovering in the night sky. The object remained visible for around half an hour and shone strange red, green, and white lights. Several weeks later just before midnight on the 7th February, an almost identical craft with identical lights was witnessed over Soure before disappearing into the night sky.

A Very Active Summer Of 1978

At around 11 am in Lisbon on the 13th July 1978, around 30 workers witnessed a bizarre “ball-shaped” object moving across the mid-morning sky. It appeared to be made of a shiny exterior as it brilliantly reflected the sunlight. It was visible for around 45 minutes and moved in a bizarre zig-zag pattern.

Only four days later at 5:30 am on the 17th July in Castanheira de Pera a local woman was stood at her window when she suddenly noticed that none of the street lights were working. Even stranger was the ball-shaped object she could see hovering around 7 feet from ground. The ball appeared to be spinning at a significant speed and was glowing an amber color. Even stranger, the witness could hear no noise from it whatsoever. After several minutes, the object took off into the sky and disappeared immediately. The witness would venture outside a short time later and discovered that several rocks near the area and “burned”.

According to the 24th July 1978 edition of the Primeiro de Janerio newspaper, a disc-shaped object was witnessed by several people hovering over the Leixoes Harbor at around 9 pm the previous evening. It eventually moved away, changing color and direction several times as it did so.

Another sighting took place on 15th August 1978 over Porto when a group of campers (near the coast which is interesting given the connections between UFOs and water) witnessed strange glowing object that appeared to grow in size. Almost as if it was falling toward the group. As it did so, it changed color from bright white to red. Suddenly, the object stopped and hovered for several moments before simply disappearing in an instant. The following evening, a similar glowing object was witnessed over the town of Forte Catalazete.

A superimposed UFO over Portugal

Many residents of Portugal reported seeing a UFO in the mid to late 1970s

An account in the 31st August 1978 edition of Jornal de Noticias, Captain Damasio was flying from the Azores at around 9 pm on 30th August on his way to Portela Airport in Lisbon. During his flight, he witnessed a bizarre object approximately 30 miles from his location. He would estimate it was at an altitude of around 10,000 feet and occasionally “radiated a bright light”.

On the same evening and at the same time, A UFO was witnessed over the Lisbon region and was visible for around two and a half hours. It was described my multiple witnesses as round and “radiated a bright light” (remember Damasio’s description). A group of residents would even report the incident to a local army base who sent several soldiers to investigate. Amazingly, when one of the soldiers pointed his rifle toward the object it suddenly shot away at incredible speed and had disappeared in an instant. This made some people question whether the craft – or those on board it – realized what the soldier’s intention was.

No Signs Of Sightings Slowing Down

The sightings would continue into the Autumn of 1978. For example, on the 8th September over Santa Maria, an “elongated object” which radiated a red light was seen in the skies overhead. It remained in sight for around 90 seconds before disappearing.

Four days later in the Cabo Ruivo region, several residents saw an almost identical craft at around 7:30 am on the 12th September hovering only several hundred meters from the ground. Many people even stopped their vehicles so as to get a better look at the strange craft, causing several severe traffic jams in the region.

On the evening of 10th October, according to the 12th October 1978 edition of Diario de Coimbra, a bright, glowing object was seen over Coimbra just before midnight. Although the bottom of the craft glowed, it appeared the top was completely dark.

A superimposed UFO over Portugal

Many sightings of UFOs state they go out to sea

Even stranger, just over two weeks later over Lisbon, multiple residents noticed a strange object hovering over the city. It changed colors multiple times as it did so. Perhaps more unnerving, though, were the strange “machine gun-like” noises that were clearly audible during the sighting.

Around a month later on the 23rd November, residents of the village of Gois reported a cigar-shaped object moving overhead at a considerable speed. It was flashing an orange-red color as it did so.

Many similar sightings continued into 1979, usually involving circle or cigar shaped crafts with flashing lights or red, white and green (occasionally the lights were described as being a bright orange).

Without a doubt one of the most intriguing UFO encounters took place in the later summer of 1977 in a similar region of the country. And it is there we will return our attention to next.

A Portuguese Sighting That Took On International Interest

According to an account relayed by Roger Boar and Nigel Blundell, in the early Autumn of 1976, dozens of people in Viano do Castelo reported seeing a bizarre looking object overhead. A short time later, a group of fishermen (who were more than familiar with the stars) in Portimao noticed an equally strange object overhead. Yet another report surfaced several hours later when 12 fireman noticed shiny, circular object hovering in the skies over Guarda.

However, it was when an English woman living in Portugal reported a strange sighting to a British official to the Algarve, Mr. Armstrong, that the sightings became of an international interest. The unnamed woman would claim that both she and her husband, after being alerted by a strange low humming sound, noticed a strange craft hovering over their home in Alvor.

Armstrong promptly went to retrieve his binoculars and promptly located the object, hovering while flashing red, white, and green lights.

In early January 1978, Armstrong would send correspondence to Lord Clancarty in London, who himself had been pushing for genuine investigations into such strange incidents. The letter would state that Armstrong had continued to watch the skies following being alerted to them by the English ex-pat. He claimed that he had “seen at least one – and sometimes four – every night until mid-November”.

A superimposed UFO over Portugal

Why were so many UFOs witnessed over Portugal in the late 1970s?

He would continue that he had witnessed two identical objects hovering over the sea, both clearly in his field of vision. He continued that “one moved suddenly and rapidly higher into the sky”. He followed it for several moments until it disappeared out of sight. He returned his focus back to the remaining hovering object, which did the same as the first a moment or two later.

Armstrong had taken detailed notes of his sightings. He would claim that all of them featured to the same apparent vehicles that featured “a rapid red-green-white flashing around what would appear to be a circular base”. What’s more, Armstrong would claim that he only witnessed these strange crafts during the evenings or at night.

Armstrong had also managed to show several dinner guests the strange objects, usually after having been ridiculed for speaking about them.

Following this correspondence, a request was sent to the Portuguese Embassy in London for more information on what the strange objects might be. Ultimately, they would claim that they had little or no information to give on the strange sightings. It did, though, claim that a Portuguese airliner had experienced a strange craft of a similar description at around the same time. That pilot in question made a report of the incident as it happened, claiming that he was looking at a “circular object” that unlike “any aircraft he had ever seen”.

Official Stance Of “Cautious Alert”

No official explanation is on record from the Portuguese military or government regarding the Castelo De Bode Dam UFO Case. However, the previously mentioned Timothy Good would receive further information investigating the case in the early 1990s. And this information would come from the Portuguese Embassy in London. It would state that the official Portuguese position on the matter, and UFOs, was one of “cautious alert”. Furthermore, all pilots in the Portuguese Air Force are under the same instructions. And that is to “register the details of any non-identified objects” during the course of their time in the air.

The Portuguese officials, as we can see, are relatively open about this approach. It is likely, however, to be one that is in place across the vast majority of militaries. And most likely commercial airlines around the world, if privately.

Of course, despite this openness, although we know the full details of the incident (at least to the best of anyone’s knowledge) and we most certainly know that “something” most definitely did happen that afternoon, what the object might have been, where it came from, and why, are all questions that remain without answers.

Like other incidents, though, it continues to contribute to the overall big picture that is the UFO and alien question. And will one day, no doubt, prove to be just as crucial a piece in that big picture.

Check out the video below. It looks at the case in a little more detail.


1 Beyond Top Secret, Timothy Good, ISBN 9780330 349284
2 The 1977 UFO Chronology, NICAP
3 UFO Report, Cascais, Portugal, 1976, National UFO Reporting Center

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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