UFOs in the Amazon: 45 Years of an unsolved mystery

Residents of northeastern Pará still remember facts which, 45 years later, remain unexplained, even after the military investigation in Operação Prato [Operation Plate]: what would be the explanation for the attacks reported to have injured people and even caused deaths in the region in the 1970s?

Caio Oliveira - Translated by Silvia Benchimol and Ewerton Branco / UFPA

In October 1977, Carmen Vale was in Belém with her family when rumors had it that strange things were happening in the sky in Colares, her quiet hometown in northeastern Pará. Local people reported that in that city, as well as in other locations in the Salgado Region – part of the Amazon region strongly influenced by the encounter between the great mouth of the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean – the phenomenon known as “Chupa – Chupa” was victimizing people. Attacks came from the sky, usually in the dark of night, and shrouded in eerie lights and strange noises.

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Soon and quickly, the scary stories spread out. As a resident of one of the most affected places, Carmen was impressed and distressed. After a long time away from home, she decided to come back to the small village of Ariri – the town which is currently accessed by eight kilometers of road departing from Colares. But at that time, almost 50 years ago, the journey seemed even further away, as it was possible only by the river in canoes. By arriving in town, she was able to hear the dramas faced by her neighbors.


“They came to tell me: 'Sidoca is in not in good health'. So, I went to pay him a visit. He was lying in the living room white as a sheet. I asked him: 'compadre, what do you feel?' And he replied: 'I feel my body so weak. One night, I woke up and there was a sparkling stuff above me, and since that day, I've been feeling feeble and weak like this'. Just about three days later, Sidoca died”, says Carmem, who is now 90 years old, but keeps the intense memories with clear details of those days shrouded in mystery.

image Resident of Colares, Carmen Vale (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

After saying goodbye to her friend at a wake held in his house, it was her turn to experience the strange phenomenon. “We came from Sidoca’s house around midnight. I lay down, put my arm like this [over my eyes]. Right after I closed my eyes, I heard that weird noise. I saw the light! It came towards me and attacked me right here. I don't know what happened afterwards, I became deadened. My body was numb. I wanted to move, but I couldn't,” says Carmita, showing the signs on her arm.

“These are physical evidences that have withstood time, after those days of physical ailment and weakness following the attack”. She still lives in Ariri and is one of the last witnesses to the terror that befell that community. The residents, to this day, still go without a satisfactory explanation for what happened in that occasion.

Phenomenon caught the world's attention

For many of the ufologists who travel from all over the globe to get to know the region up close, there is no doubt that in the 1970s, the state of Pará was one of the places on the planet with the highest incidence of visits by extraterrestrials.

Almost 45 years later, Operation Plate, an initiative of the Brazilian armed forces aimed to inspect what these phenomena were in fact, remains one of the largest official military missions organized in order to investigate unidentified flying objects (UFOs) that became known worldwide. However, very little is still known about what the military have found.

Operação Prato

Uyrangê de Hollanda Lima is the most famous name when the issue at hand is Operation Plate. He was Captain of the Air Force at the time and the officer in charge of commanding the mission that found out what the various reports, such as that of Dona Carmita’s [referring to strange lights that haunted the northeast of Pará] were about. By arriving in the region in October, the captain set up his base at Praia do Humaitá, in the newly established municipality of Colares. From there on, he led missions and collected testimonies from alleged victims. Among his subordinates, was lieutenant Pedro Ernesto Póvoa, a psychiatrist. After talking to some people who had been attacked by the lights in the locality of Santo Antônio de Ubintuba, Póvoa affirmed it had been, according to him, a case of "collective hysteria".

image (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

Hollanda only concluded his investigation in the area on December 5, 1977, when he met with Brigadier Protásio Lopes de Oliveira, a military authority who was, then, in charge of the 1º Comando Aéreo Regional [1st Regional Air Command] (Comar 1), in Belém. The captain said that he and sergeant João Flávio Costa had seen, days before, a gigantic flying object, shaped like an American football, floating over the Guajará-Mirim River, in Ananindeua. After hearing his subordinate's impressive report, Brigadier Protásio ordered the entire operation to be suspended.

Currently retired, and displaying the rank of colonel, Hollanda himself spoke about the case again, in a famous interview, given 20 years after these events, to ufologist and journalist Ademar José Gevaerd, editor of UFO magazine. At the time, Hollanda reported on his sightings and revealed that the entire military investigation was widely documented, but only a fraction of what was found had been made available for public consultation.

Two months after granting this interview, Colonel Hollanda committed suicide by strangling himself with a rope from his robe, in his own bedroom. The tragic end of the military authority added an even greater aura of mystery to all the facts and episodes surrounding the entire operation.

Attacks turn into headlines: burns, punctures, fevers and deaths

Before setting up a base in Colares, Operation Plate had, in fact, emerged from a broader context of reporting and monitoring the Amazon, far beyond the borders of the State of Pará. The press in Maranhão had already reported, at the end of April 1977, a strange incident with four fishermen – José, Firmino, Apolinário and Aureliano Correia – who were sailing in a boat near Ilha dos Caranguejos [Crab Island] .


After an unexplained event, involving strange noises and lights, some of the victims escaped with serious burns, however, José Correia died while still on the boat. Other reports of similar apparitions have been registered before, but many consider the episode in Baixada Maranhense to be the epicenter of the series of events that followed, in the subsequent months, traveling the Atlantic coast to the border with Pará, and also extending to the Metropolitan Region of Belém. Sightings occurred in the district of Mosqueiro (mainly in Baía do Sol beach) and in Ananindeua. One of the most commented reports of the time, also cites an episode that supposedly took place in the Curió-Utinga neighborhood, in Conjunto do Basa, a well-known residential area in Belém.

“The journalistic investigation was set out in two villages located in Viseu city: Vila Itaçu and Vila do Piriá (the latter is now named Cachoeira do Piriá), besides other municipalities in the border of Maranhão state”, says Carlos Mendes, a journalist who was in the region even before the military arrived.  At that time, Mendes was a newbie reporter who was sent by Jornal O Estado do Pará [The State of Pará Newspaper]. “When I arrived, my colleague from O Liberal newspaper, journalist Álvaro Martins, had already been there. He had been writing news since the beginning of July 1977. Then, I went on collecting other testimonies Álvaro had not taken yet, and confirming the ones he had accomplished so far, that reiterated the occurrences. From that day on, I began to consider giving credibility to people’s reports. You must listen to it and check out whether it is acceptable or not”, says Mendes, who became so interested about UFOs that, in 2019, he published a book entitled “Luzes do Medo” [Lights of Fear]. In that book, he tells what he had seen and heard during the journeys in the region of Salgado Paraense [northeast of Pará state].

Carlos Mendes interviewed around 80 people during the investigation of the unexplained cases. Each municipality referred to the apparition by a different name. “Aparelho” [Device], “Luz vampira” [Vampire Light] and “Chupa-chupa” [literally, sucker-sucker] were some of the names given by the riverine people to the objects and phenomenon witnessed. Despite of the differences, the similarities in the local people’s reports are more evident, since they were isolated communities, almost 300 kilometers far from each other. Beyond that fact, they would report the same physical and emotional symptoms. 

image Journalist Carlos Mendes (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

“After being attacked, people would faint. During the unconscious moment, it would happen what the ufologists call abduction”, says Mendes. The patients taken to the health center in Colares  would have symptoms such as, anemia, dizziness, fever and, in some cases, punctures and first-degree skin burns. 

“Burns, in women, were in the breasts area. They would say the beams burn. I saw that. I also saw punctures similar to needles perforations; Mr. Newton is a live witness of such event. He was attacked in the neck. That man could not move his head for many days”, says Carlos about one of the interviewees. 

“I was 18 and those stories were already being told in Colares”, remembers Newton Cardoso, known as “Tenente” [Lieutenant], who is now 64 years old, one of the most famous victims of the “Chupa-chupa”. “I was in the beginning of the relationship with this lady who is my wife now. That day, I returned from fishing, I left some fish at home and I went to see her, in Mocajuba city. I told her: Listen, I heard about a thing in Colares that is attacking people, then she told me, ‘The same thing is happening around here’. She hung a hammock for me. I fell asleep. Suddenly, that thingy came towards me, I felt a high temperature in my body. That thingy bit me three times next to my neck. I threw my sheet away and asked her to help me. I heard she was screaming”, narrates the witness. That night changed his life forever.  

image Resident of Colares, Newton Cardoso (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

Newton is sure he had an experience with aliens. He believes Captain Hollanda also did – but at that time he omitted a lot of things he saw during his days in the coast of Pará. “Hollanda would not admit: hey, it was that thingy that was sucking people”. He packed and left to Belém”, guesses Newton, surrounded by his ETs made of clay.  

Colares is still under the influence of strange facts 

Journalists, documentary producers and ufologists from all over the world frequently visit the island of Colares, trying to interview the remaining witnesses and record their versions about the episodes occurred in the 1970s. One of those who is dedicated to that independent  investigation is Heitor Costa, founder of the group Ufologia na Amazônia [Ufology in the Amazon], a collaborative group that has promoted many trips searching for new information. 

image (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

“For a group of experts in ufology, it was a hostile event. For another group, it was data collection. With those people who claim they were attacked and who say they had their blood taken, it is possible that research was performed by those entities”, says the researcher. “I can affirm that something extraordinary, in fact, happened in that area. People were attacked and they were desperate”, states Heitor, who is an important collaborator of web sites and publications related to this theme. 

The strange events in the decade of 1970s in Colares region happened only 16 years after the island was proclaimed a municipality, separated from Vigia, by a law published on the 29 of December 1961. The history of the island, thus, merges to the history of Operation Plate. It is not possible to refer to the island without mentioning the mysteries about it. Now, the horror spread almost half a century ago is over, but the residents have embraced the fame of “Land of ETs”. It is common to find drawings of little green men and flying objects in houses and shops, including sculptures. The city is trying to slowly use that fame to attract tourists.  

“Many researchers have come here. There was an international ufology conference and there is always this connection to Colares. There are survivors from the attacks. Our intention, as the city mayor, is to explore the potential of such events, promoting the cultural and touristic aspect”, affirms Fabiano Furtado, Secretary of Culture, Tourism, Sport and Leisure in Colares. However, even though the events that occurred during the 1970s arouse global interest, there is not a museum nor a cultural center in the city yet, which could help keeping those stories alive.  

image Secretary of Culture, Tourism, Sports and Leisure of Colares, Fabiano Furtado (Márcio Nagano / O Liberal)

“It is part of the municipality culture”, explains Eden Corrêa, an artist, hairdresser, painter, and also the “official” sculptor in the city. He makes cement statues to decorate houses and shops. The sculptures are also like a kind of post card for visitors in Colares. “Since Operation Plate was launched here, the extraterrestrials became linked to the city. That has inspired me, I mean… those stories about the UFOs the ancient residents used to tell. My parents experienced those stories, because of that, I had the idea of creating sculptures, so we would not forget the tradition about the ETs”, explains the artist. Eden Corrêa has already exported his art creations to other municipalities in the state. For him, Colares was indeed visited by beings from outer space 

“I believe in it, because my parents would not lie to me. They experienced that. They say during that time nobody could sleep. Everybody stayed awaked at night to keep watching, because the lights would appear and people would light up fireworks to scare them away”, says the sculptor. As an artist, he dreams about the day that peculiar story could be used for the purpose of profiting in the region. “I think it is possible to make investments, to attract more tourists. The city would benefit from that”, he smiles. 

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