Are Strange: Unusual UFO Cults Examined
armed groups defying the government are nothing new -
one just has to look at Israel's mighty Masada fortress
to be reminded of this. The Nineties had their share of
armed resistance, most notably the Ruby Ridge and Waco
incidents. But in these cases the common denominator was
mistrust of the Federal government and the desire to defend
to the death a particular set of beliefs. As Scott Corrales
suggests, had the following case been made widely known,
a UFO factor might have been added into the mix.
1997, the UFOR mailing list posted an item that remains shrouded
in mystery. The list's owner, Francisco Lopez, did his level
best to glean further information on the subject even many
months later, when I pressed him for assistance in writing
the kernel of what would many years later become this article.
But it was no use. In the age of the Internet, that hall of
mirrors in which people can appear and disappear with impunity
by changing e-mail accounts and assuming different names (and
even identities), the source was well out of reach. The posted
item may indeed prove someday to have been a compelling hoax,
but there are certain details about it that have a ring of
truth about them.
begins in medias res, in the best tradition of classic epics:
"... I want to get the whole of the information first, and
then release it, rather than just parts," begins its author.
"Also, I need to edit out certain portions. Certain information
does not need to be released to the public. In some cases
the less they know, the better; it allowed us to work with
fewer interruptions." He or she then adds, with chilling effect:
"You should never be in the company of one with whom you would
not wish to die."
opening would have soared to new heights were it not for the
fact that the names and places mentioned in the message were
redacted with a series of asterisks. The author, a man or
woman with a military or law enforcement background, had participated
in the raid of a compound which involved live arms fire in
which "all brass was accounted for." The compound, a privately
owned skiing or hunting lodge, was then gutted and made to
look abandoned by the government forces involved.
evidence as possible was left," states the cryptic author
after indicating that a nameless group had been disbanded.
"Only Terran humans were found, no XTs or Greys."
might well relegate the unknown writer to the lunatic fringe,
since belief and/or concern of the alleged alien Greys has
waned in recent years. The message goes on to talk of how
the "cult" in question had cooperated with a number of individuals
over an unspecified number of years in the acquisition of
"breeder semen from sperm banks" and from unsuspecting human
males drawn into certain situations, only to be drugged and
subjected to the removal of such a fluid with a syringe. It
was then "flash-frozen by use of a portable D-flask of liquid
nitrogen, to be stored at a central location," according to
script for the X-Files or a description of a real event?
The author continues:
used a group of "renegade" (omitted) as aids (sic) and "technical
support," with a high priestess working closely with the
upper echelons of the (omitted). It appears that, despite
the usual (omitted) beliefs, this priestess and her companions
were heretics, if such a term can be applied to (omitted)
mentioned in this mind-bending message appeared to be quite
deft with the use of weapons, and a veritable arsenal of high-power
rifles, shotguns and combat weapons, including "an HK-91 sniper
rifle... a Steyr AUG Selective Fire Conversion, and a US Army
M60, with about 7000 rounds of .30 cal ammunition... over
fifty hand grenades, including explosive, flash, incendiary
and smoke... 180 kilos of Czech plastique explosive and over
a hundred military squibbs (detonators)," are mentioned in
the text. It is a supreme irony that this arsenal of death
should prove comfortingly familiar within such a high-strangeness
continue: the cult members were in contact with a human group
claiming to act on behalf of the "Greys" and capable of projecting
images of the entities from opaque, vitreous cubes. Although
the author professes being unable to examine this information
for him/herself, the putative alien messages appear to have
been linked with clandestine UFO landings. "Techniques have
been used to confirm that at least one incident took place
during May of 1995, but nothing further could be determined."
subscribers read this message and many, upon reading this
article, may question the wisdom of reprinting more unconfirmed
UFO-related speculation. One guesses that the entire operation
may have been a huge "psy-ops" exercise involving live fire,
good guys and "bad guys," with the entire alien scenario thrown
in for good measure or even as a "sickener" factor for the
Died Like a Space Commander"
The alien action/adventure story posted to UFOR smacked more
of science fiction than of Sigma Draconis until Argentinean
researcher Andrea Perez Simondini - widely known in her country
for her contributions to the study of UFO incidents along
with her mother Sylvia, as well as for being an active political
figure - forwarded a real-life account of a situation which,
at first blush, hauntingly echoed the one scenario posted
of the Radar 1 group has finally been solved," noted Andrea
in her letter. A contactee cult known as ASHTAR had apparently
spawned a disturbed group of paramilitary types, led by one
Guillermo Romeu, who assumed the name "Radar 1."
organization appeared to have been much more successful than
its parent in gaining a following and making itself known.
Romeu and his acolytes had access to the best technology and
were not afraid to employ it: from their headquarters at 269
Wernicke in the village of Boulougne, Buenos Aires province,
"Radar 1" (publicly known as Iglesia Manantial, the Wellspring
Church) broadcast its own brand of ufolatry over the FM airwaves.
Their station boasted a recording studio with three consoles
and mixing board for special effects, eight computers (whose
hard drives had been erased prior to the raid by Argentinean
authorities on January 12, 1998 and Romeu's death by self-inflicted
gunshot) and the same ominous arsenal as the improbable cult
mentioned on the UFOR list: one surface-to-air missile, bullets
of various calibers, gas masks, incendiary bombs, tear gas,
Israeli-made Desert Eagle.50 caliber antiaircraft handguns
(sic) of the kind used during the Gulf War, an approach radar,
chemical sample analysis equipment, radiation, electromagnetic,
electrostatic and heat detectors, etc. All of this gear was
stored in a Bronco 4 x 4, which they would use for alleged
letter explained that all of this lethal and non-lethal hardware
had been paid for partly by the 400 to 4000 peso contributions
of the cult's membership and its affiliates. "We strongly
believe," she wrote, "that the sect is a facade and there
exists a cover-up concerning the weaponry."
was this Guillermo Romeu? An electrician and occasional private
pilot, he had joined a contactee study group directed by former
UFO researcher Pedro Romaniuk before being expelled a year
and a half later. It was during this time that the new cult
was spawned, preaching messages received from the ubiquitous
space brother known as Commander Ashtar Sheran concerning
the "extraterrestrial evacuation plan." In a clever move,
the cult leader insisted on the group being widely known as
Iglesia Manantial in order to draw recruits from a large membership
pool composed by Pentecostal worshippers from other churches.
Romeu claimed that his extensive offensive capabilities, gathered
since 1991, were devoted to a single purpose: defense against
the alien Greys, whom he characterized as "extremely hostile
and [who] are using us as a source of food." Two years later,
his disciples were further cautioned that "an extraterrestrial
race sent by the Antichrist prior to the Battle of Armageddon"
would have to be held off by force of arms, thus prompting
new arms purchases and further training. Radar-1's members
were not averse to parading around in full battle array, showing
off their weapons and alarming the general public. They boastfully
termed themselves "Grey Hunters."
all cults, the price of dissent was high. Romeu was as authoritarian
a leader as any, and those among his "Grey Hunters" who showed
signs of wanting to part company with the group were threatened
and harassed. Those who left lived in constant fear of being
assassinated. Romeu's wife's called it quits in 1997, taking
Cristin, the couple's seven-year old son, with her. The cult
leader successfully gained the court's permission to attend
Cristin's eighth birthday. To everyone's horror, Romeu pulled
a pistol from his jacket, stood straight, and placed a bulled
through his right temple. "My father died like a space commander,"
said Romeu's grief-stricken son.
Diaz, the late Romeu's mistress, told the press that the cult
would continue its activities from the location of San Isidro
and would "have more weapons." Argentina's Secretary of Worship,
Angel Centeno, ruled that the cult's right to exist could
not be challenged, as it was lawfully registered with his
ministry. The Argentinean Foundation for the Study of Cults
(FAPES) subsequently reported that Romeu's right hand man,
Brian Bach, had assumed the reins of the cult, and urged the
country's legislature to appoint a commission to study cults
along the lines adopted by many European countries.
If we can bring ourselves to play the role of Devil's Advocate
yet again, can we lend any credence to the UFOR story as representing
a mop-up operation against a saucer cult in the U.S., much
in the same way that Argentina's government moved against
Iglesia Manantial? That country's authorities made it clear
that the cult was not being prosecuted for its beliefs but
for its stockpile of weapons - the same argument wielded against
the Branch Davidians at Waco. There was clearly nothing in
common between the cults except for the fact that the belief
in UFOs and aliens were reason for their existence - the latter
cult armed itself to the teeth against them, while the former
served up man in a platter to these forces. It can be noted
that both episodes serve as bookends to the Heaven's Gate
and the Solar Temple suicides. The late '90s were certainly
not kind to saucer cults.
Romeu's violence is reminiscent, to a certain degree, of the
activities of Brazilian contactee/terrorist Dino Kraspedon,
the nom de guerre of Aladino Felix, who underwent an alleged
contact experience in 1952 which was true to the contactee
fashion of the time - nocturnal encounters in the wilderness
with saucers and their humanoid occupants, disquisitions on
"Man's place in the universe" and life on other worlds. Kraspedon's
non-human "handlers" apparently endowed him with psychic powers,
giving him insight into future human events.
dropped from sight until 1968, when he was arrested under
suspicion of terrorism (not at all unlikely, since Brazil
at the time was seething with political unrest, best exemplified
by the activities of Carlos Marighella, the "father of urban
terrorism"). In his UFO Encyclopedia, saucer historian Jerome
Clark notes that Kraspedon was sentenced in 1971 and to be
remanded into the mental health system, after which he vanishes
from the record.
Felix truly contacted by aliens and steered wrong into a life
of crime? He apparently recanted his alien contact experiences
publicly, which should put an end to the story. Nonetheless,
the connection between alleged "alien contact" which translates
into violence cannot be overlooked.
UMMO's Little Brother
Thirty-two years after it first erupted on the scene, Spain's
UMMO hoax still commands attention whenever it is mentioned.
While not strictly a cult, given its lack of a leader and
clear-cut objectives believers in the planet UMMO and the
benevolent "Ummites" certainly carried on in cultish fashion.
"Its very name ought to have given it away," says the hoax's
creator, Jose Luis Jordan Pena, referring to the fact that
UMMO shared the same sounds when pronounced as the Spanish
word for "smoke."
journalist Bieito Pazos managed to secure a lengthy interview
with this fascinating character, gleaning details about the
blond haired space people from the star Wolf 424 and more
importantly, a true cult which was formed in the wake of the
UMMO experiment: a gathering of very intelligent men and women
known as PIROPHOS.
expressed in Kirlian photography by certain members of Spain's
"Sociedad de Parapsicologia" prompted Jordan Pena to realize
that people, regardless of their educational or economic background,
are fascinated by any phenomenon from which light is issued
in a strange way. This led him to create the fictitious deity
"Pirophos" and gather some twenty-odd persons in a grimy room
in Madrid. One of Jordan Pena's co-conspirators, known only
as "C," read out a letter (a tool that had worked well for
UMMO) to the congregation, from "our beloved charismatic leader
Phoros," living somewhere in the United States. As the lights
went out, the parties in attendance were startled to see a
bluish light issuing from C's mouth - proof positive that
the Great God Pirophos had chosen the speaker as the "regional
Phoselek" for all of Spain.
told his interviewer that the bluish light was "a basic yet
uncommon triboluminescent phenomenon which requires the use
of habitual and easily digestible substances."
wasn't the only surprise the master hoaxer held in store for
his well-heeled disciples: on a table covered by a purple
cloth stood a large glass container which contained a scintillating
light which bathed the faces of all present in an eerie glow.
Many of the economists, doctors, and engineers present dropped
to their knees in the presence of the Great God Pirophos -
who was in fact an amalgam of bioluminescent bacteria in a
nutrient agar culture. Later on, explained Jordan Pena, "Pirophos"
would be created based on a compound of phosphorus diluted
in kerosene or toluene.
(to give them a name) were entreated to follow a basic "moral
code" crafted by the hoaxer himself: a commitment to study
physics and biology, kindness toward spouses and children,
and above all, to maintain their religion in strict confidence.
The cultists were also told that their faith's supreme leader
was a man named George Lipton from Albany, N.Y. (Jordon Pena
had successfully placed one Theodore K. Polk from Export,
P.A. among the dramatis personae of the UMMO saga) who lived
in complete seclusion due to having achieved the rank of "Phoros"
- as high as could be achieved in the Pirophorean cult. Mr.
Lipton owed his secrecy to the fact that his body now shone
with a brilliant blue light...
was the ultimate reward," Jordon Pena stated, "to become the
God Pirophos himself - immortal before dying and immune from
all diseases... my eschatology was simple enough: the world
would end in the year 4634 due to the explosion of a supernova
some 220 light years from Earth. At that time, all the adepts
who reached the rank of Phoros would be forever joined to
that universal light known as Pirophos."
the early 90's the master hoaxer decided to bring his cult
to an end, much in the same way he had exposed UMMO. The cult's
members accepted the fact that they had been duped with a
mixture of astonishment and amusement. "Only two," Jordan
Pena told Pazos, "insist upon remaining faithful to that mysterious
Pena's tone throughout the interview with Pazos is that of
a mischievous schoolboy recalling youthful escapades. A highly
educated man, the creator of the UMMO and Pirophos does not
suffer fools lightly, and both of his fictitious communities
seem to serve the purpose of holding human gullibility up
to the harsh light of public scrutiny.
As we make the leap into the 21st century, many aspects of
ufology can be safely deemed as no longer relevant. While
there is a certain degree of hubris involved in the making
of such a pronouncement, few will disagree that things like
the "angel hair" which represented a major feature of field's
early days still retains any currency. The same applies to
the "critters" or "zeroids" the troubled the sleep of many
a researcher in the Sixties: either the phenomenon ceased
to occur, or it still occurs but researchers have gone off
to pursue more fruitful endeavors, like abduction research
it is undeniably tempting to consign contacteeism to the graveyard
of lost pursuits, the "kind space brothers" and their adepts
enjoyed a resurgence in the latter years of the decade. The
reasons for this range from disillusionment with formal ufology
(which is seen as having failed to "explain" the UFO riddle)
to a desire to merge spirituality and the ufological avocation
into a single current. Some might find humor in the realization
that the very same arguments put forth by scientists regarding
the public's dalliance with UFOs are similar to the ones used
within ufology to explain the desertions within the field
toward the "garden path" of contacteeism.
(and early '00's)-style contactee groups seem to differ markedly
from their mid-Century counterparts, showing a more volatile
and violent face to world.
Scott Corrales is a writer and translator of UFO and paranormal
subjects in Latin America and Spain. His work has appeared
in magazines in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Spain and Italy. Corrales
is also the author of Chupacabras and Other Mysteries
(Greenleaf, 1997), Flashpoint: High Strangeness in Puerto
Rico (Amarna, 1998) and Forbidden Mexico (1999).
He lives in Pennsylvania, where he edits Inexplicata:
The Journal of Hispanic Ufology. He may be reached at email@example.com.