Even the bravest of people can sometimes be horror-stricken when confronted by something unknown that seems terribly menacing.
So it was with seven members of Brazil's military police force when a mysterious object with two enormous lights hovered over a police car twice, making it shake back and forth each time and causing its engine and radio to quit working.
“We were terrified,” said Sergeant Dione Martins de Sousa, then twenty-nine and commander of the police car. “I was scared because there was no defense against it. I felt helpless."
Sergeant Sousa and three soldiers were in the car, which was parked in an almost deserted section of Belo Horizonte, a city of four million people and capital of the state of Minas Gerais in central Brazil. They and the other three men, who were in another police car a short distance away, were members of the Policia Militar, which is similar in many ways to state police in the United States.
Sergeant Sousa's group was a special patrol that supported regular police patrols. They were parked in a high section of the mountainous city. Sitting at the wheel, Souza could see much of the city from where he was. The three soldiers with him had dozed off as time passed slowly. It was 2:20 a.m., the date 0ctober 18, 1978.
"Suddenly I noticed two very bright lights over the car," Souza said in an interview in the Military Police headquarters in Belo Horizonte.
"The UFO came down over us, one hundred to one hundred and fifty meters. It was noiseless and each light was four to six meters across. They looked like an electric arc light.
"I tried to get out of the car but I felt a kind of half-paralyzed sensation. I noticed that the car trembled and shook and started to rock a little, back and forth. I spoke to the soldiers and warned them that we were suffering a sort of surprise attack.
CAR STALLS AGAIN
“We tried to run away but the engine wouldn't start and the radio system was completely out of order. We couldn't understand what was happening to us.”
As Sousa and the soldiers – Manoel Braga, Geraldo Correa and João Florentino – tried to figure out what to do, the UFO moved away. As it did, they were able to start the engine and the radio began working again.
“I immediately communicated with the Central Office of Communications and was ordered to try to follow the object. The lights were now in another part of the city.
"Following the orders, we drove to a point where we could see the lights more clearly. It was about one to two kilometers from the first place.
"When we arrived where the lights were, the car stalled again and again the radio went out of order. We felt all those sensations again. The car shook again and we felt we were under the control of the UFO.
"The four of us felt we were really in trouble,” said Souza, who had been a policeman for seven years. “We figured the only way we could get out of there was to release the brakes and let the car roll down the hill, which we did.
"At this time the UFO moved away again and when we last saw the lights, they were very far away. We noticed that they blinked and at the same time the city's lights blinked. We noticed that the whole district was blacked out, and when the radio was working again we were informed that the power and light company had reported a power failure in the area and had no explanation for it.
"The three soldiers were disturbed by this for two to three weeks after it happened. All three had bad dreams related to it. They dreamed that the lights were there again. They had headaches and gastric troubles.
"I had no physical aftereffects but was psychologically disturbed for two or three days. Every time I saw a strong beam of light from a car or something, I felt shaky and afraid.
LIKE AN ELECTRIC ARC LIGHT
“I think the other three experienced a bigger shock because they were napping a little and I was awake, and they were violently awakened to see this thing. It came as a complete surprise to them.
"There were about four other police cars in the area that saw the object but none of the others had the same effects. My car was the only one close to the UFO.
"The next day on patrol, we stopped at a few places and we heard several peopletalking about having seen the object." (In photo, Sergeant Sousa, seated, with Professor Hulvio Aleixo and Corporal Barbosa.)
Corporal Nairo de Assis Barbosa, thirty-five, a policeman for fourteen years, commanded one of the other police cars in the area. He and the two soldiers with him were on regular patrol in the area.
"I was about one kilometer away from where Sergeant Souza was," Corporal Barbosa said. "When he radioed the control center that he was seeing the object, I heard the message and we saw a light passing by about two hundred meters high. It was like an electric arc light, but they were big lights.
"As the lights went by, the city's lights went off. Dione radioed his location, so I went there immediately. Soldiers Teofils and Elias were with me.
"When we reached the point where Dione was, he told me to stay there while he chased the UFO. I watched Dione go to where the light was. I tried to communicate with him but his radio wasn't working.
"I noticed that at one time the object seemed to land and I saw what looked like lights inside it.
"Nothing happened to my car but I was afraid when I saw the object. I was shocked as it passed by. I was startled and frightened. The soldiers were afraid also. We didn't know what it was and we were frightened by it. I've never seen anything like it before in my life."
The interviews were arranged in cooperation with the commander of military police of Minas Gerais, who had the men report to police headquarters.
PEOPLE CHASED BY UFOS
The close encounter that Sergeant Souza and his men had was just one of many during September and October of 1978, according to one of Brazil’s leading UFO investigators.
"We had a mini-flap," said Professor Hulvio Aleixo. “We had two cases involving close encounters with police cars and about twenty-five cases of close encounters with civilian cars."
Aleixo was then a professor of psychology at the Catholic University in Belo Horizonte, and is president of CICOANI, the Center for Civilian Investigation of UFOs, which has been investigating UFOs since the late 1960s.
"We had reports from several people who saw UFOs over the area where the police close encounters occurred," Aleixo said. "They were not that very day, but a few days before and after. A few referred to close encounters, but the majority of the reports referred to a strange light appearing over the hill.
"We also had reports of people being chased in this area, people on foot, riding horses and on bicycles. There have been cases where people reported having the sensation of being burned, as if they were internal burns."
Professor Aleixo said Sergeant Souza's case was the second close encounter involving a police car in Belo Horizonte. About a week earlier, Corporal Raimundo Costa Reis, in his thirties, and Soldier José Ribeiro were in a patrol car searching for a stolen car. They turned into a street that ended at a cross street.
"As soon as they entered the street they saw a bright object to the right and ahead of them," said Aleixo. "The light was hovering some thirty meters high. Startled by the appearance of the object, Corporal Reis tried to explain it to himself as a light from a tower or something but instantly knew it wasn't because he knows the area well.
"So he drove down the street a little ways very cautiously until they were sixty to seventy meters away from it. At this point they were convinced it was a strange object and they tried to radio central control but the radio wouldn't work.
“Soldier Ribeiro opened his door saying he was going to jump over a nearby wall and try to run away because he was scared, but the corporal advised him not to because it could be worse. So the soldier closed his door and calmed down a little.
“Corporal Reis shifted into reverse but the car wouldn't move even though the engine was running. Reis told me it was as if the car was spinning in mud, but the soldier thought the wheels were in the air, and Reis said there was no mud in the street.”
At this point the object suddenly moved to their left, stopped and emitted a beam of light to Reis's side of the car. Reis felt the effects and the soldier thought the corporal was unconscious. For several minutes, Reis had lost his senses.
"The soldier managed with some difficulty to get the radio to work and messaged their position. At the same time, he was able to turn on the flashing red light on top of the car, and at this moment the object seemed to dim and the soldier said he thought he could see two figures inside it. However, he said he was not quite sure because he was tremendously scared. This terrified them.
"The object then vanished. Several other patrol cars arrived shortly after and a police major examined the area where the object had been, but found no marks or traces of it."
(For a guide to pronouncing unfamiliar Brazilian names, click here.)