Somewhere at the end of a long and dusty trail in the central part of the state of Ceará, in northeastern Brazil, there is a small village called Jabarú.
Jah-buh-ROO, as it is pronounced, became important to me after the following item appeared in the October 23, 1984, edition of O'DIA, a daily newspaper in Rio de Janeiro:
FORTALEZA (AGS) A UFO that appeared in Jabarú, 35 kilometers from Quixadá, is causing panic among the local citizens, who are arming themselves to face "men from another planet."
All this started last Tuesday when a luminous object emitting incandescent rays and flying from one side to the other very swiftly flew over the town at a low altitude. Jabarú citizens are panic-stricken, according to a telephone report by journalist Jonas Souza, a correspondent for DIARIO DO NORDESTE.
According to the journalist, the population of Jabarú, which is small, has even had to change its habits following the appearance of the "beast from the sky" and everybody goes home after 6 PM, closing their doors and not going out under any circumstances. However, the bravest among the men stay outside, well armed with guns and clubs in expectation of an invasion.
That was an intriguing report. Similar "invasions" had taken place in other parts of Brazil and this news item had a wow sound to it. However, it was more than three years before I could check it out.
The Beast From the Sky has many names in Brazil. Some call it the "Chupa," "Chupa-Chupa," or "Chupa Sanguine," terms that come from the Portuguese verb chupar, meaning, to suck. Many people, particularly in the Amazon region, believed the chupa-chupa sucks the blood from its human and animal victims. Others think it sucks the energy from them.
The beast has also been called "The Light," "The Fire," "The Animal," "The Aparatus," "The Machine," "The object" and occasionally just "disco voador," or flying saucer.
The Portuguese equivalent of the acronym UFO is OVNI (objeto voador não identificado) but that's a term seldom heard when people tell their terrifying stories. For them, this is something very real and personal with a definite identity, a beast from the sky that comes down without warning and attacks them.
In September 1988 I went to Quixadá with two friends, Reginaldo Athayde and Jean Alencar. Both of them are veteran UFO investigators from Fortaleza, which is the capital of the state of Ceará and is located a hundred and seventy kilometers north of Quixadá.
Reginaldo (left) then owned a pharmacy and Jean (right), a lawyer, was a public defender in the small city of São Gonçalo do Amarante, some distance west of Fortaleza. Jean spoke English, among other languages, and interpreted for me on several of my visits to that part of Brazil in the 1980s and 1990s.
Reginaldo's investigations had taken him into the central part of Ceará many times over the years, and one of his sources was the same Jonas Souza who was named in the newspaper story cited above. We went to talk to him.
Souza is a respected radio newsman in Quixadá, a city with a population then of about a hundred thousand people. We had no reason to doubt his word.
He told us he hadn't personally gone to Jabarú but had heard about the sightings from a man who lived there and had come to Quixadá on business and Souza had no reason to doubt that man's word.
That was good enough for us, and about one o'clock that afternoon Reginaldo, Jean and I set off for Jabarú to find out for ourselves exactly what happened there. The directions were simple: Take the two-lane blacktop highway east out of Quixadá and, after three or four kilometers, turn south on the first dirt road. This will take you right to Jabarú. Nothing to it.
It wasn't that simple and we never made it. We found the dirt road and turned south. The road soon began to narrow and eventually it became just one lane. Soon that deteriorated into just a pair of paths worn by tires.
We asked directions several times and each time we were told Jabarú was just a few kilometers farther.
It seemed to go on forever, crossing through one farm after another. Several times gates blocked our way and we had to open them to get through, then close the gates so livestock couldnt get out. Once, one gate had a padlock on it and we had to backtrack to a farmhouse and ask someone to unlock it for us.
After what seemed like hours later, our luck ran out. We reached a long stretch of road that had been washed out by floods, and going on would have damaged the car. We finally gave up.
But in July 1993, Reginaldo Athayde and I finally found Jabarú and of course no one there knew anything about that beast from the sky.
Howver, the people there told us, there was another Jabarú!
"It's around the lake and beyond that mountain, said a village leader, pointing to the south, but you can't get there from here."
Fortunately we didn't have time to try to find the other village. Goodbye, Jabarú.
It would have been nice to find the other Jabarú to see if the beast really had visited there or if someone had conned our friendly journalist. Fortunately, there are so many villages, towns and cities in Brazil where strange things have happened that failing to find the fabled Jabarú wasn't too important.
From that moment on, however, "Going to Jabarú" became a standing joke with us. But it also became sort of a symbol of our efforts to solve the UFO mystery and learn the truth about the Beast From the Sky.
That road is long and rocky with a lot of obstacles and detours, but one day we'll get to the end and find out what is behind this fascinating and sometimes malicious phenomenon.
(For a guide to pronouncing unfamiliar Brazilian names, click here.)