In a lovely small city on the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, a man and his grown son took what they believe was a trip to an all-red world that had no sky.
Francisco Nuñez was sixty-six and his son Carmelo was twenty-three at the time. They lived in Mendoza, an attractive city with sidewalk cafes and streets that are lined with tens of thousands of trees. It is in the wine country of western Argentina, on a line between Buenos Aires and Santiago, Chile.
Francisco and Carmelo believe they were taken to a strange city with buildings so tall they couldn't see the tops of them. The buildings and everything else was red and they couldn’t see any sky. That was on the evening of July 6, 1978.
Francisco was an auto mechanic who worked for the Mendoza Provincial Ministry of Labor. He was responsible for keeping the ministry's vehicles, including police cars, in working order.
Carmelo was also a mechanic and in their
spare time, he and his father fixed up old cars in a repair shop at their
home and sold them.
Neither the father nor the son was overly tall but both were stocky and strong, especially Carmelo, who was quite husky. He had a strangely soft, gravelly voice that reminded you strongly of some of the menacing characters in The Godfather movies.
The exterior of the car was beautiful, its dark green restored to its original luster, and the engine ran to perfection when I visited the Nuñezes in November 1978.
Carmelo hadn't gotten around to restoring the interior yet, but he had installed extra dials and gauges on the dashboard to monitor the engine's performance. He had also put in a radio and tape deck as well as stereo speakers. He liked to tape his favorite music at home and then play it in his car when he was driving around.
He was playing a tape of modern music on the evening of July 6 when he drove his father to Maipu, a suburb on the southeastern side of Mendoza. They went there to talk to a man about doing some masonry work for them. The same tape was still playing when they started driving back home around nine o'clock.
On their way home, Carmelo started to drive onto an expressway ramp when a new, olive green pickup truck seemingly came from out of nowhere behind them and passed them, going very fast. (Carmelo, at left in this photo, and Francisco pose at the entrance to the expressway where the incident began.) Then, as soon as the truck had passed, it slowed down – and so did Carmelo's car, even though Carmelo never took his foot off the gas pedal.
HEY! WHAT HAPPENED?
Carmelo was a curiously uncurious fellow and although he thought this was a little odd, he didn't think much about it. Then, just as he drove onto the expressway itself, the truck – and the expressway – disappeared.
"Hey, Carmelo! What happened to the truck?" Francisco asked.
"I don't know," Carmelo replied in surprise.
"Where's the road?"
"I don't know."
Both men were stunned. They found themselves driving in total darkness, unable to see anything.
"The headlights were on high beam but we couldn't see anything," Carmelo told me a few months later. "Neither of us could see anything for a few minutes. Everything was dark."
Long after the incident was over, both men became convinced that the truck and the highway had not disappeared at all. Instead, as Francisco said, "WE had disappeared! We didn't know what had happened. We felt we'd lost our way. Then, some minutes later, the car very swiftly entered some city. We were going very, very fast and the buildings were just flying by."
He said the old Chrysler was racing down the middle of a broad avenue lined with big buildings with rectangular windows. The buildings reached higher than they could see and everything was red.
The eerie red light was shining from inside the buildings as well as being reflected from something high above them.
"Where are we?" Francisco asked for what was to be the first of many times.
"I don't know," Carmelo said, trying to figure it all out.
To Francisco, it looked like "one unending building with the red light coming from inside as well as outside. I couldn't look down because it made me dizzy. I felt seasick.
“Everything was red. The avenue was fifty to sixty meters wide and all the buildings started from the road and went upwards completely straight, very tall. We couldn't see the tops of the buildings because everything was reddish up there.
“The light came from above. It was a reflection and it lighted the whole city. There were no clouds. It was a ceiling, not a sky."
They saw no curbs, no sidewalks, no doors, no cars, hydrants or signs, no people or animals, no trees... nothing but the tall, unending buildings on either side as far as they could see.
Carmelo normally never drives faster than fifty miles an hour, but he felt they were going at least twice as fast, if not faster.
"We were going as fast as a bullet," Francisco said.
Carmelo couldn't feel the street under his car. "It felt like the car was controlled by something else, like it went by itself," he said. "The steering wheel seemed fixed and I couldn't turn it. The car felt as if it was in the air and not on the street."
Midway in their journey, Francisco got very cold, even though he was wearing a jacket. "I couldn't stand the cold," he said. "It was like twenty degrees below zero!"
Carmelo (at left in photo with his father) was wearing only a green jersey over his shirt and wasn't bothered by the cold.
"How beautiful it is," Francisco
said in wonder. Carmelo agreed, faintly aware of unfamiliar music coming from
his tape deck.
Francisco was hard of hearing and barely heard the music.
The old car hurtled down the avenue for what seemed at least fifteen minutes, and then the journey came to an abrupt end after this brief exchange between the two men:
"Where are we?" Francisco asked for the umpteenth time.
"I don't know," Carmelo said once again. "It seems the Martians have taken us."
At the very moment he said that about Martians, the red city vanished and the two men found themselves on a familiar street. The long, noiseless ride instantly became one of rattles and bounces as the car jounced over railroad tracks. They were in the suburb of Godoy Cruz, six kilometers from where they had entered the expressway.
When they got home, Carmelo's mother asked why they were late and Carmelo replied: "We went to a place where nobody goes."
He refused to tell her anything more and Francisco wouldn’t explain what Carmelo meant. For nearly three weeks, neither man told anyone about the incident.
"We felt as if our minds were blocked," Francisco explained. "Then, one day at work I was talking with my boss and suddenly I felt as if my mind had been opened up and I told him what had happened to us."
Francisco accepted his experience but didn't understand what happened or why.
"I cannot imagine why this happened to me," he said. "I felt we were not on earth. I think we were taken some place, where I don't know. After this happened to me, I have felt like I have more knowledge, more strength."
I was then working for the National Enquirer. Under instructions from my editor, I had the two men hypnotized by a physician. Both told of seeing several large tunnels, like entrances to underground parking garages, something neither had mentioned in the interviews.
Under hypnosis, Carmelo also said that he, his father and his mother had seen two UFOs hovering over Mendoza one night the previous January – something that both had hinted at in the interviews but had refused to discuss.
Neither man saw a UFO the night of their strange experience, and there are no known witnesses to what happened to them on the expressway. However, UFOs were seen in Mendoza the same day.
Among the witnesses were two watchmen in the suburb of Godoy Cruz, Marcos Ricardo Palma, thirty five, and Gilberto Caballero, forty eight.
Just before dawn, they said, they had watched a fleet of UFOs seemingly playing a game of chase in and out among the tall concrete light pylons of the city's then new soccer stadium. The two men stopped cars and buses to point out what was happening. They said at least fifty other people also watched.
This happened as Caballero's shift was ending at six a.m. and Palma was taking over. When Palma arrived just before six, he noticed something moving in the dark sky.
"It went about five hundred meters, made a turn and came back," Palma told me. "It was still very dark at the time.
“We thought it was a cloud, but it was moving too fast and when it went back over the stadium we realized it wasn't. The stadium's security lights were on and we could see the reflection of the lights on the windows of the object, and then we saw more objects.
"They were round and very bright, going in a figure-eight pattern in and out around the light poles. There were maybe twenty five or thirty of them. They had green windows and were about the size of a small foreign car, maybe two or three meters in diameter.
"We stopped buses and cars and about fifty people saw these things with us. We couldn't believe they were flying saucers. There's no doubt in my mind that these things were not planes or helicopters. There was no noise.
"After twenty five or thirty minutes, they suddenly disappeared, going north very fast."
Caballero tells much the same story, but he believes there were many more UFOs.
"There was a whole cloud of them, maybe five hundred, in perfect formation, maneuvering and avoiding the light columns," Caballero said. "I was very impressed.
“The objects looked conical and had windows on top. They were small, but two people could fit inside them. They had dark green windows and the rest was silver. There were windows all the way around the tops.
"Farther to the north there seemed to be a much larger object, rounder and fatter and very big. It was sitting in the air motionless. About six thirty a.m., the UFOs all went north. I didn't see the big one at that time. I was distracted by the people and didn't notice when it left."
Several Mendoza UFO groups investigated the incident involving Francisco and Carmelo Nuñez, checking with police, neighbors and others.
"Our group interviewed many people about the Nuñez men and we found them to be very honest," Vitório Corradi, head of one UFO organization, told me. Corradi, then forty one, taught language and literature in Mendoza.
"We sent four people into their neighborhood to question neighbors and tradesmen about the father and son and we found they are considered to be honest, reliable, law-abiding people who are good mechanics."
Corradi said his group, the Instituto de Estudios de Fenomenos Extra Humanos, worked with the Mendoza police in investigating UFO incidents. Adolfo Siniscalchi, then twenty eight and a sub-inspector in the Intelligence Division of the Mendoza Provincial Police, confirmed this.
"We don't officially investigate the UFO phenomenon as such but we are concerned about public reaction to UFO sightings because there've been so many cases," Siniscalchi told me at police headquarters. "There have been a lot of UFO cases and public reaction has been high. There's been a lot of anxiety. Some people are uneasy and some are scared.
"We do look into UFO cases, unofficially. The Nuñez case we looked at more closely because the Nuñezes sometimes repair police cars and they're known to us. They are honest and reliable people. We don't think they invented this story.
"We went to the site and investigated. We don't know what happened to them, but we feel something did happen to them. Even though no UFO was seen, we consider it to be part of the UFO phenomenon."
Dr. Alfredo Stefanelli, the physician who hypnotized the two men, said: "Basically, these men were telling the truth. They believe this actually happened to them. It is my opinion that they are not educated enough to have made up such a story, and the incident itself is too elaborate to have been made up.
"A double hallucination would be very unlikely. It would be very strange if two people had the same thing. And, then, one had a hearing problem and the other doesn't. If it had been a double hallucination, both would have heard the music regardless of the hearing problem."
Another physician who was a UFO investigator also believed the Nuñezes were telling the truth. He is Dr. Carlos Wittenstein, then forty three, a cardiologist and geriatrist. He and a colleague, Dr. Hector Bercerra, put the men through a number of tests and worked with them for many hours.
"They always told exactly the same story each time with no contradictions," said Dr. Wittenstein. "There is no fraud in this case.
"Since 1968, Dr. Bercerra and I have investigated two hundred seventy two UFO cases, and we believe only five are true cases. The Nuñez case is one of them.
“In these five cases, the people always tell the same thing, the same type of experience, the red city, everything. They all tell the same story about the red city."
I investigated the Nuñez case in November 1978 and the story was published in the National Enquirer the following February. Two months later, I got an advance look at the manuscript of The Andreasson Affair (Bantam), a book written by Raymond E. Fowler, a Massachusetts UFO investigator.
With the Nuñez case still fresh in my mind, I was startled by some of the things I read. It was the first I'd heard of what soon became known as the “Betty Andreasson Case.”
Betty Andreasson was a housewife who said she had an unusual encounter with UFO entities in 1967. However, her case did not come to the attention of UFO researchers until 1975, and in 1977 Fowler headed a team that spent twelve months investigating it.
This resulted in the book by Fowler, which was published in the summer of 1979. Although her experience and that of the two Nuñez men were quite different, there were several features that were strikingly similar.
At one point, Mrs. Andreasson recalled under hypnosis going through what looked like a dark tunnel and feeling extremely cold. Then she and the UFO entities with her passed out of the tunnel into a "place where it's all red. The atmosphere is all red, vibrating red... there wasn't any vegetable life... no foliage... just land and buildings."
Asked while under hypnosis if there was a sky, she replied: "Just the red atmosphere. It was solid and yet it had air."
There was no way that either the Nuñezes or Mrs. Andreasson could have heard about each other's case before either story was published.
Her story was investigated in 1977 but not revealed publicly until mid-1979. The Nuñez case occurred July 6, 1978, and was not publicized in the United States until early 1979, long after Fowler's investigation was completed and some months before I ever heard about the Andreasson case.