Posted on: September 7, 2016

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I love a good lighthouse mystery, and this one has the added bonus of being one of the more intriguing cases in the UFO field.  The Isla de Lobos is a small island a few miles off the coast of Uruguay.  There has been a lighthouse there since the middle of the 19th century, and it’s the only substantial feature on the island, which is largely populated by seals (the name of the island means “land of the fur seals”).   The island is now a nature reserve.  The lighthouse, at 66 meters in height, has the distinction of being one of the tallest in the world.  It went fully automated in 2001, but it was back in 1972 that something very strange occurred there.

The care of the lighthouse came under the jurisdiction of the Uruguayan Navy, and a party of men would serve 15 days on the island, and 15 days off.  During their time on the island the men would live at a garrison house close by.  On 28 October 1972 Navy Captain Juan Fuentes Figuerora was amongst a party of 5 men who travelled to the island to carry out routine maintenance.

At about 10:10 PM Captain Fuentes went out to check on the generators, which were housed in a building at the base of the lighthouse, along with the telegraph office.  It was a clear night with no Moon (New Moon had been a couple of days before).  Fuentes was shocked to see mysterious lights on the flat terrace roof of the generator building.  At first the Captain thought it might be car headlights, even though he knew that was completely impossible, as the terrace was 6 meters off the ground.  He returned to his bedroom in the garrison house to fetch his pistol.   To do so he didn’t have to pass through the living area where the rest of his colleagues were seated, oblivious to all the excitement going on outside.  When he returned outside the lights were still there, and he described them as a mix of white, yellow and violet-coloured, flashing on and off.

The lights were sufficient to show him that there was a small figure standing by the object, which was described as metallic, copper-coloured, and standing on legs.   A second figure was descending from the object, followed by a third.  The figures were human-sized.  The first two were about 5ft tall, and the third was a 6-footer.  Their outlines were very dark, as if they were wearing black rubber suits, like diving outfits.  The witness said their heads seemed to be an elongated shape, but whether this was natural, or down to some kind of hood or helmet is not known.

When the mysterious visitors clocked the Captain, they seemed to hurriedly converse amongst themselves.  The Captain was thoroughly unnerved by the situation, and raised his gun up to shoot.  Except he found himself paralysed and unable to do so.  When relating his bizarre experience afterwards the Captain said he had felt a vibration and his hair standing on end, and a feeling of “Don’t shoot because it’s useless”.  The strange figures took advantage of this to re-enter their craft and make a quick getaway.  They pulled themselves up into the craft – although the witness said he hadn’t seen steps or a handrail – and the strange object flew off at high speed, emitting a blinding fireball as it did so.   Fuentes said the object flew off towards the beach.  It was going so fast that he was convinced it was “going to smash itself”.  The entire incident lasted barely just over a minute in duration.

Captain Fuentes rejoined his colleagues, who said he was as white as paper, and speaking with a trembling voice.  His strange story was not believed, and the Captain became rather upset by the disbelief and the ridicule which he encountered.   Once back in Montevideo he threatened to go to the newspapers, but before he could do so he was summoned to see a superior officer.  This man listened to Fuentes’ story, and then disappeared into another room to consult with two members of staff from the American Embassy.  After a while someone reappeared with some drawings, and asked Fuentes to show which one most closely resembled his experience on the island.  Fuentes did so, and was then dismissed.  The Captain said he hadn’t spoken with the Americans directly, but from listening through the door he was able to gauge that they were shocked and surprised by his close encounter.

In August the following year the Uruguayan Air Force passed the case onto the CIOVI, the Centro de Investigacion de Objetos Voledores Identificados (Unidentified Flying Objects Research Center) for investigation.  They put Captain Fuentes under extensive psychological testing.  They concluded that he was a simple man, straightforward and trusting, of limited education, and not the sort to be prone to imaginative flights of fancy.  Although the Captain’s lack of imagination and general honesty gave the case some respectability, the CIOVI only gave the case a credit rating of 50%, due to the fact that it had only one witness.

I have seen one review of this case – on the Phantoms & Monsters website – which suggests that the Captain simply saw a helicopter, and that the occupants of said helicopter panicked when he came out at them with his pistol raised.   Although that doesn’t answer who the helicopter belonged to, or what it was doing landing at a remote lighthouse late one Autumn night.  Sadly Captain Fuentes passed away in 2002.  By all accounts he was a good man (I got quite fond of him whilst writing this), and he’s left us with an intriguing mystery.




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