By Dr. Oscar A. Galíndez
Date of the Event: July 16, 1972
Location: Arroyito, Cordoba Province, Argentina
Summary: Two men driving in a car were startled by a dramatic nocturnal lightning bolt, after which they drove past a sort of “train” with large orange windows. Subsequent effects: time distortion, travel amnesia, scant vehicle fuel usage and psychophysical effects.
The protagonists of this case were two well-known men from the city of Cordoba. One of them was Mr. Atilio Brunelli, 55, a music professor, composer and concertmaster; the other, Mr. Severino Porchietto, 61, was a retired industrial worker. Two meetings were held at Mr. Brunelli’s home, while a third took place at Mr. Porchietto’s. Personal contact with the witnesses allowed us to weigh their advanced educational background, the sincerity of their narrative and the unquestionable strength of their convictions.
The experiencers are long-time residents of the locality of Balnearia (185 km. distant from the city of Cordoba). Mr. Brunelli lived in that community for 24 years, moving to Cordoba in 1954. Mr. Porchietto lived in Balnearia for 30 years, also subsequently moving to Cordoba. This feature is of importance to our study. These are people who, linked by family and friendship ties to residents of Balnearia, travel 4 or 5 times a year to that community, with the result that they both had a detailed knowledge of the road traveled.
In their younger years, both formed a musical group, and for that reason they were invited on Friday, 14 July 1972, to participate in a get-together aimed at reliving those memories and others. Having accepted the invitation, both men traveled to Balnearia in a 1968 Ford Falcon belonging to Mr. Porchietto.
A recital involving several orchestras took place at the time, and it lasted into the early morning hours of the following day. The get-together took place at the Club Atletico Independiente Union Cultural de Balnearia, with around 1,500 people in attendance.
On the evening of Saturday the 15th, our interviewees were given a farewell supper and dance at the same club. During the occasion, Mr. Brunelli was given a commemorative plaque while Mr. Porchietto received a commemorative scroll, which speaks to the high degree of esteem in which our interviewees were held.
At 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, 16 July, they left the meeting place to embark on the return trip to Cordoba.
They are aware of the time, since at 2:00 a.m. they had told their hosts of the need to leave the party, given the lateness of the hour and the need to face a two and half hour return trip to Cordoba. Faced with the insistence of their hosts, they chose to linger a few more minutes, and they estimate this time period took 20 or 30 minutes. After the obligatory farewells, they left the event. They had consumed no alcohol whatsoever. Before leaving for Cordoba they filled up the car with gasoline (tank capacity = 65 liters)
The drive was regular and sustained, with speeds between 80 and 100 kmh, according to the features of the highway itself. Mr. Porchietto was at the wheel, and 3 or 4 minutes after having passed the town of Arroyito, they were startled by a tremendous flash of white light that lit the area as though it were daytime. Mr. Brunelli managed to see a dark shape in the sky at the apparent height of the upper frame of the windshield, but was unable to make out its outlines with any clarity, since the car’s roof prevented any further visibility. He paid no mind to the incident (which he took for a cloud at first), as he uttered the word “Storm!” after seeing it. The time was 3:10 a.m. and they were 76 km away from Balnearia.
Moments later, they noticed a row of rectangular lights on the left side of the road – some 50 meters away from the paved surface and on completely flat terrain –shortly after the sighting. They attributed the lights to a motionless railcar convoy (the train tracks run parallel to the pavement). The lights – dim orange in color – appeared to correspond to a structure 50 meters long and whose outline they were unable to determine, as it dissolved into the darkness.
Mr. Porchietto paid no greater attention to the “train”, although he perfectly recalls the light’s characteristics. Mr. Brunelli, on the other hand, turned to look as the car drove past, while admitting that he looked on with an unconcerned air. The sighting lasted 10 seconds.
Once the “train” was out of sight, Mr. Brunelli concentrated his attention incessantly on the sky, trying to locate the storm. He saw no clouds that confirmed his concerns. The night was clear and the stars shone with pronounced luminosity (he remarked to us that he had seldom seen such a clear and starry night).
Only a few minutes later, they realized that they were approaching a community whose lights led them to suspect must be Rio Primero, although they were bewildered, since they had not yet passed other no less significant communities, such as Tránsito and Santiago Temple. Suddenly they found themselves facing a curve to the left that evidently had nothing to do with the characteristics of the sit. Both men were surprised, as they did not expect such a detour, being so familiar with the road.
They continued their drive, ascertaining that it was the town of Montecristo, 25 kilometers after Rio Primero. Aside from their fleeting bewilderment, they gave the incident little importance, feeling that the nature of the nocturnal drive itself had created in their minds the impression of much shorter trip. They were glad to find themselves in the vicinity of Cordoba.
They covered the remaining 28 km. in some 15 or 20 minutes. Mr. Porchietto drove his companion to his home and then headed for his own residence two blocks away. Upon entering his house, Mr. Brunelli noticed that his bedroom clock indicated 3:30 a.m., but admits having not been surprised at having covered 185 km in barely an hour (Mr. Porchietto, on the other hand, told us he reached home at 3:35 a.m., stating that it was quite likely that the time was 3:30 a.m. when he dropped Mr. Brunelli off).
In order to facilitate an analysis of the incident’s general context, we think it would be helpful to highlight some details of interest that the protagonists of the case certified after reaching Cordoba.
a. Both men agree that they felt an unusual state of euphoria upon reaching Cordoba. They didn’t feel any fatigue whatsoever after their festive evening nor due to their return trip. Mr. Brunelli admits that he felt the need to waken his wife and daughters immediately to tell them about the honors he’d received in Balnearia, but curiously enough, never told them about the unusual aspects of the return home: the luminous phenomenon, the “train” and the inexplicably abbreviated trip. On the other hand, Mr. Porchietto told us that he was awake at 8:00 a.m., not feeling in the least bit tired. But unlike Mr. Brunelli, he told his family of all the vicissitudes experienced on the trip home.
b. One of Mr. Porchietto’s sons was getting ready to travel to the city of Rio Cuarto in the family’s Ford Falcon. When he checked the amount of fuel, he noticed that the tank (with a 65 liter capacity) was half full. He asked his father if he had added fuel after returning from Balnearia, to which Mr. Porchietto said no. Stunned by his son’s statement, he hastened to confirm the fact. The vehicle had indeed consumed only 12.5 liters of fuel, when it usually burns 25 liters on that trip.
c. As of that morning – aside from the unusual state of euphoria and contentment that overcame him – Mr. Brunelli began to notice a tingling sensation in the right dorso-lumbar region of his back. He described the sensation as a numbness that made itself increasingly noticeable, being limited to a circle measuring 1.5 centimeters in diameter. The area was completely numb, and then two minutes later, he would feel a growing tingling sensation until natural sensitivity was restored. This sensation repeated itself over four days, and four to five times each day. His wife told us the phenomenon at no time displayed somatic manifestations. No spots, warts or unusual discoloration of the skin were in evidence. She recalls, however, that whenever the symptoms appeared, her husband would ask her if she could see any particular discoloration in the affected area.
d. Mr. Brunelli always suffered from high blood pressure and often felt dizzy. Despite disobeying doctors’ orders, his blood pressure was lower from the date of the incident to the last day of our interviews (18 September). We do not know if significant variations have occurred subsequent to this. Mr. Porchietto, on the other hand, did not experience any similar sensation aside from the sense of contentment that overwhelmed both men.
e. At noon on Monday, 17 July, one of Mr. Brunelli’s daughters (who had been in contact with Mr. Porchietto over the phone, and had heard the details of the return trip from him) asked her father if something odd had happened to them during the return trip. It was only at that moment did he discuss the phenomena mentioned earlier. Despite the importance of the issues, Mr. Brunelli himself admitted that he didn’t know why his mind had “sidelined” the incidents for nearly 33 hours. Despite their significance, and his considerable memory, he did not remember them after reaching Cordoba. He only remembered them when prompted by his daughter.
f. In any event, Mr. Brunelli felt the need to contact Mr. Porchietto once again in order to exchange impressions on their experience. As a result of this, they confirmed that characteristic of the “illuminated railcars” and the departure and arrival times from and to Cordoba. They both agree that they are startled by the lack of curiosity they felt about the strange train, whose windows were not square, but rectangular (the experiencers estimate that each window was some 3 meters tall by 0.70 meters). Furthermore, there was no light or reflector on any corner of the object. Even more remarkable is that the train tracks are 10 meters away from the road and not 50, the estimated distance between the road and the “train”. Nor could they find a satisfactory response to the motives that kept them from realizing that they had seen something truly abnormal, and going back to ascertain its true nature. Mr. Brunelli considers himself remarkably curious, and admits that he acted out of character.
g. Another detail of interest is represented by Mr. Porchietto’s behavior. Despite being a chain smoker (we ascertained this during our interviews) he did not smoke a cigarette for the remainder of the trip after seeing the “train”.
h. In Mr. Porchietto’s opinion, moments after seeing the object, he had the odd impression that the car was balancing only inches over the pavement. Mr. Brunelli, on the other hand, admits having felt no such feeling, but acknowledges that they both noticed how smoothly the vehicle was running despite the characteristic bumpiness of the road. The radio was off. No interference with the engine or lights were observed, nor were their wristwatches affected. They perceived no fog or any odor whatsoever. They did not experience any muscular or cutaneous sensations at all during the sighting of the “train”.
i. During a subsequent daylight trip to Balnearia, they were unable to locate the exact spot where the incident occurred. They believe, however, that it was a few kilometers after Arroyito, the last town they remember passing. The landscape is completely flat in that area, without buildings of any sort. Furthermore, they did not see anything along the road that could be associated with what was seen in that instance. Whatever it could have been was evidently no longer there. After this survey, and after dark, they had the fortune of seeing a passenger train go by. This sighting was extremely useful, as they were able to contrast the difference between this train and the “train” they observed. The passenger cars rolled a short distance from the pavement (remember that the train tracks run parallel to the road, barely 10 meters away from it) and its windows looked very small, with a white light that allowed them to see the railcar interiors clearly. The strange object, on the other hand, had notable differences with regard to its distance from the road (50 meters) as the size of its “windows” (3 meters by 0.70 cm) and the soft orange glow emanating from them, as well as the absence of details corresponding to its interior.
The Time Shrinkage Issue
Aside from the unusual characteristics of the Brunelli-Porchietto sighting, it is obvious the most significant detail hinges on the notorious shortening of the trip. Here are some useful details that will help in understanding the episode:
1. The mean distance between Balnearia and Cordoba is 68 kilometers. Up to Arroyito it is 76 km; between that locality and Rio Primero, 56 km; and 53 km. between the former and Cordoba.
2. The witnesses only recall passing the town of Arroyito. The immediately noticed the “train” sitting still on the side of the road. 5 or 7 minutes later they saw the lights of what they took to be Rio Primero (132 kilometers from Balnearia and 56 km from Arroyito). However, it turned out to be Montecristo (157 km. from Balnearia and 81 km. from Arroyito.
It strikes them that they did not remember having gone through Tránsito, Santiago Temple, Rio Primero (the road passes through the center of town, which has excellent lighting) and Piquillin. Evidently, there is an 81-kilometer segment that the experiencers have no memory of.
3. If this impression was not complemented by other major details, it would obviously be irrelevant. These details are:
a. One could assume that they did not notice the towns they passed (which is unlikely, especially in the case of a town like Rio Primero) due to distraction, yet the sense of simultaneous astonishment felt by both men is significant. Both reacted in surprise to find a curve on the road to the left. It is interesting that people who knew the road so well would have become disconcerted at the same time. Mr. Porchietto acknowledges having felt somewhat nervous after seeing the object (therefore, he was not able to drive so distractedly as to not recall the towns they would have passed). Mr. Brunelli says that after seeing the “flash of lightning” he spent his time trying to find the alleged storm (this would have kept him alert, and he should have therefore noticed the towns along the route);
b. The vehicle consumed only 12 ½ liters of fuel from Balenaria, when the trip regularly demands 25 liters.
c. Mr. Brunelli entered his home at 3:30 a.m., ascertaining this with his bedroom clock. Mr. Porchietto reached his home at 3:35 a.m., acknowledging having dropped off Mr. Brunelli five minutes earlier. This means that they covered 185 kilometers in a single hour. Mr Porchietto’s Ford Falcon is not only unable to achieve such a speed, but being a cautious driver, he seldom drives beyond 115 kmh. When Porchietto was asked if he thought of looking at his mileage counter, he says that he didn’t do so, because he doesn’t keep track of the kilometers for each of his trips.
d. One of Mr. Porchietto’s brothers, who was also at the Balnearia meeting, confirmed that both experiencers left that city around 2:30 a.m. Others who attended the celebration corroborated the hour in question. Relatives of both men certified their arrival in Cordoba at 3:30 a.m. (Brunelli) and 3:35 a.m. (Porchietto).
e. Beyond the itinerary followed by the experiencers, there is no shorter route linking Balnearia and Córdoba.
The experiencers did their best to keep the experience a secret, discussing it with a limited number of friends (bear in mind that the interviews took place a month after the incident, and the press had not become aware of the subject). However, a schoolteacher friend of Brunelli’s made the case known to the correspondents of the La Razón newspaper in Cordoba, whose reporters interviewed Brunelli and published an article about it in the aforementioned afternoon paper. Disclosure of the event – at least in its broader sense – had some positive outcomes: the Isala family, also from Cordoba, contacted Brunelli to inform him that they had seen a lightning bolt, that very same evening, with the same characteristics he’d mentioned.
We interviewed the Isala family on 21 October with a view to obtaining the details of either experience.
They departed Balnearia between 2:35 and 2:45 a.m. on 16 July 1972. There were five people aboard a Ford Falcon (consuming 20 liters of fuel every 170 to 180 km): Mr. Tito Aldo Isala, Enrique Isala, Ludovico Isala and two acquaintances, Mr. Ricardo Baile and a young lady named Estela. After 15 or 20 minutes they were in the vicinity of Frontera (23 km from Balnearia) when they saw a bright flash of lightning to the SW that lit up the sector in a matter of seconds. The flash was exceptionally bright. They also thought it was a storm, but saw no clouds that would confirm their supposition. The night was cold, the skies were clear and full of stars. The time of their sighting is approximate to the one provided by Messrs. Brunelli and Porchietto. They had no further experiences and did not see the “train” after Arroyito. They reached Cordoba at 4:15 a.m. – that is to say, a travel time of between 90 and 100 minutes, according to the approximate departure times provided by the Isala family.
An Unlikely Train
We have confirmed with the Ferrocarril Nacional General Belgrano that there were no trains in the area at the time that the alleged Arroyito “train” was sighted. The last train departed from Cordoba at 22:00 hours on Saturday, 15 July, so it is unlikely that 6 hours after its departure it would still be 109 kilometers away from that station. Furthermore, safety guidelines require that the dispatch office be advised immediately of any problem with the train, by any method available. There is no record of anything untoward having taken place with the 22:00 train, which reached its destination without further remarks.
a. The Cuesta de Vacas (San Juan) “Train”
On 7 July 1968, while on a road trip from the town of Difunta Correa to the city of San Juan, Mr. Francisco Zamora, 40, an industrial worker living in that city, had a strange experience. His wife, Martha Frias, his sister Trinidad Zamora, his brother-in-law Carlos Muñoz and two children accompanied him.
After passing Cuesta de las Vacas (San Juan Province) they came across a sort of “train” crossing the road. They stopped the car until the “train” finished passing. When they resumed their trip, they were startled to find no train tracks. Looking around disconcertedly, they determined that they were on a plain. No train tracks had ever been seen there, since they recalled other tracks further along the road. They were certain of this and they confirmed it, finding the tracks outside Pozo de los Algarrobos.
In gathering the details of their sighting, they claimed having seen a railcar with windows measuring some 30 meters long. It gave the impression of being suspended in the air as it moved, about a meter over the ground. Visibility was perfect within the area of light projected by the car’s headlights.
b. The Colonia Helalcó “Train” (Santiago del Estero)
In the early days of July 1972 (some 15 days before the Arroyito Incident), the Director for the Frias Industrial School witnessed a similar event. Mr. Emilio Albaire was at his country home at Colonia Helalcó (Santiago del Estero) with his family when they saw an enormous elongated object – resembling a train – standing in the middle of a wilderness one kilometer away. A steady greenish-blue light illuminated its windows. It measured some 50 meters in length. Minutes later, the object projected a blinding light and rose vertically, turning itself into an immense ball of fire.
c. The Lavalle “Train” (Santiago del Estero)
On 8 July 1972 (eight days before the Arroyito Incident), Mr. Carlos Altamirano, assistant manager of the “Bonafide” branch of the city of Tucuman, was driving toward Frias (Santiago del Estero) with Aurora Bracamonte, secretary at the Frias Teacher Training School and Maria Angelica Bracamonte, both residents at that city in Santiago del Estero.
They had left shortly before 11:00 p.m. from Santiago and minutes later saw a fiery orb the size of a football drop in front of the car – supposedly a bolide – that exploded before it touched the ground. They saw the phenomenon as they crossed the Guayasan Mountains.
Further ahead, driving along Route 157 near Colonia Achalco between the localities of Tapso and Frias, near Lavalle, they saw something unusual. The time was 11:45 p.m., and after passing a curve in the road, some 800 meters to the right, they saw an object on the ground that Altamirano would describe as “a train among the trees.” It was a series of greenish windows about as tall as a common door, arranged along an object measuring some 50 meters long, resting on the ground.
The driver – alarmed by the phenomenon, as there are no train tracks in the area – chose to accelerate and drive off at high speed. Ms. Aurora Bracamonte stated that there are no towns or houses in the vicinity, and therefore, the bright light projected from the window could only emerge from a foreign object, since there is no electricity in the area.
For the benefit of scientific clarity, which must prevail when considering such phenomena, we have highlighted the most relevant aspects of the Brunelli-Porchietto Incident, abstaining from providing speculations that would do little to disentangle the problem.
One can only make an interesting distinction between the individual and common effects that both men suffered as a result of the sighting. Thus:
a. In common: Both Brunelli and Porchietto saw the flash and the object. They do not recall covering the final 81-kilometer stretch of their itinerary, felt no curiosity about ascertaining the nature of the element, and were overcome by a strange sensation of complacency.
b. Individual: Only Mr. Brunelli felt unusual psychophysical sensations, such as the numbing of a part of his right dorsal-lumbar region, having forgotten the incident for 33 hours and the normalization of his blood pressure.
We have the impression that something truly uncommon took place in that 81 kilometer stretch, where Mr. Brunelli, to judge by the individual effects, was the most affected. How and why? We do not know. We believe, however, that this investigation is far from over. We have taken the liberty of suggesting separate hypnotic regression sessions to the experiencers. They promised to check with their respective physicians to evaluate the adequacy of such verification.
[Translation (c) Scott Corrales, Institute of Hispanic Ufology (IHU). Special thanks to Guillermo Gimenez, Planeta UFO, and Ruben Morales, Mitos del Milenio]