Down in the Jungle Something Stirred

Jacques Vallée. Confrontations; A Scientist's Search for Alien Contact. Ballantine, 1990.
After the dull rehash of Dimensions, Vallée pulls out all the stops with amazing tales of UFO mayhem in South America. 

The book starts with Vallee's re-examination, fourteen years after the events, of the infamous 1966 Niteroi UFO lead-masks double-deaths case in which two men, members of an occult UFO cult were found dead, for no apparent reason on a hilltop outside Rio de Janeiro, with two curious lead masks on the ground nearby. At the time most ufologists simply put this down as one of the odd things that people got up to in South America. You will remember that in the 'sixties the pages of Flying Saucer Review were filled with this sort of stuff, but that gradually it fell from favour as ufologists' interests moved away from the search for sensation in exotic parts to the perfectly good sensational cases that started happening in rather more accessible areas of the globe like New England and Wiltshire. Vallee also calls for a re-examination of these cases, and also asks researchers to reopen the books on such long forgotten events as the Ubatuba magnesium case. I cannot see today's ufologists following his advice with any enthusiasm

What Vallée shows in this book is that the strange things did not stop happening in South America just because the ufologists were tied up elsewhere, and a large part of it consists of Vallee's investigations of a series of sensational UFO-related cases in northern Brazil in the early nineteen-eighties, with some excursions into cases he has investigated more locally in California. The Caifornian cases are interesting, and show something of the complexity of the UFO experience in America in recent years, which tends to have been overshadowed by the abduction pandemic.

However the heart of the book is Vallée's first-hand investigation of a series of UFO events in Brazil. Here, in an area of many thousands of square miles south and east from the mouth of the Amazon, there have been throughout the seventies and eighties a great number of cases of apparent hostility. Hunters out at night in the heavily forested area have been 'zapped' by intense lights from strange flying objects termed 'chupas' (described as 'like fridges'). Many of the hunters have subsequently suffered severe physical effects, and have in some cases allegedly died as a result of their experience. This is alarming stuff, and it may be very important. It is a pity then that Vallée has chosen to drag in such fraudulent data as the supposed killing of the entire population of a Kenyan village in 1954, and the ridiculous horror-comic account of the death of Joao Prestes in 1946.

The accounts of his travels in the remote parts of Brazil are fascinating, but they seem to me to be yet another example of what Peter Rogerson has called the 'Herr Professor' school of UFO research (in Vallee's case perhaps 'Monsieur le Professeur’ would be more appropriate) and there seems some evidence that the famous game of 'let's see what we can get the city-slicker to believe' is being played. For one thing, Vallée seems to be unsure just how remote, naïve, innocent and unspoilt the people of this area are - an effect known as the Kinder Syndrome, after the writer of that name who investigated the Billy Meyer case in the remote, primitive backwaters of, well, Switzerland, actually!

At one point Vallee informs us that: "These are people who have never heard of Close Encounters, or of Steven Spielberg. They fish and hunt because they are too poor to afford the food they need. At night the countryside is perfectly dark. The only high-tension line is over twenty miles to the west." Yet a few pages later on we learn of a UFO that was causing some concern by hovering over the diesel generator for, wait for it, the local TV station! Now it's possible that Brazilian TV consists of nothing but educational documentaries and imported Portuguese fado recitals, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the occasional American soap-opera or science fiction film wasn't shown from time to time. Before I started making patronising statements about what 'these people' may or may not have heard about I would have studied the TV schedules for quite a long time previously!

Incidentally, northern South America is of course the centre of the international drugs trade, many of whose operators fly choppers - or do I mean chupas? It would be useful to them if witnesses to their flights became so scared that they did not care to investigate too closely. Much of the injury caused to the unfortunate hunters consists of skin rashes and scars of the type which could be caused by aerial spraying of chemicals. The sort of people who might be doing that over tropical rain forests wouldn't want their activities investigated too closely either. Vallée informs us that the Brazilian Army has been seen nosing around the area. I’m not surprised.

In his final chapters Vallée seems to be moving into Cordon Creighton's territory: the UFOs he 'concludes' (as much as any of Vallée’s work has a conclusion) are a force that have been sharing our Planet with us for millennia. A force that uses and manipulates mankind in a terrifying manner. I wouldn't disagree with that. except that Vallée seems to think that this force is something other than our own strange and terrifying psyche. In this book he has shown no evidence that this is the case, although he has presented us with a highly readable, if often flawed, account of a great deal of first-hand investigation. As someone said a long time ago: "From the depths of my armchair I recommend this book." -- John Rimmer, from Magonia 36, May 1990.

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