The Night of the Shape Shifting Humanoids


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Sooner or later… it happens.

If you develop a passion for the UFO phenomenon for as long as I have, sooner or later you wake up to notice them saucers are not as sexy as they used to be. Aerial sightings, photos of disk-shaped or triangular objects, they all start to feel irrelevant. Even the landing cases, with their trace evidence on the ground, eventually lose their allure.

Perhaps UFOs, like any other dependency, cause the user to slowly grow a certain ‘resistance’, forcing you to ‘increase the dosage’ in order to get that thrilling buzz…

Thus, the seasoned saucer addict ends up getting his kicks from the hardcore stuff: The close encounters of the 3rd kind, in which witnesses end up in hair-raising, hand-trembling proximity with the enigmatic entities in (apparent) control of the phenomenon. And make no mistake, my fellow junkies! When it comes to this old Fortean fiend, the weirder and more nonsensical the case, the sah-weeter!

And so it is, my dear Coppertops, that I present to you a prime-time, vintage humanoid encounter so head-scratchingly bizarre, you’ll probably end up with a mean case of the munchies: The Conil case.

The Location

The Spanish province of Cádiz, part of the autonomous community of Andalusia, has always had its fair share of exotic visitors. Its capital of the same name was originally founded by the Phoenicians, and was subsequently occupied by the Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs, until the latter were expelled by the Catholic kingdom of Castilla. Because of its enviable geographical position, Cádiz has always been a crossroads of civilizations, and its future will probably remain closely tied to the sea just as it has always been for thousands of years; although instead of Phoenician traders, Roman conquerors or Ottoman invaders, the local economy now depends on attracting tourists with dollars or euros to spend.

The Light

Aerial view of ‘Playa de los Bateles’ at Conil de la Frontera. Cabo Roche can be seen in the distance.

Our story takes place in the coastal town of Conil de la Frontera –Conil for short– on the night of September 29th, 1989. Although to be precise, our story began weeks earlier, with 2 couples of local youngsters: Loli Bermúdez and Pedro Sánchez, Isabel Sánchez and Pedro González (relationship between the members is not entirely clear) who were taking a placid stroll along the ‘playa de los Bateles’ or ‘Bateles beach’ (“Batel” is a traditional local term for a small, oar-propelled boat). The age of the kids varied between 17 and 23 years old, and just when they were enjoying the cool breeze from the sea and each other’s company, at around 8:30 or 9:00 pm, they suddenly noticed something odd: A glowing, round, reddish-orange object, as big as the full moon, which appeared to be standing still, some 200 meters directly above the Roche cape, approximately 5 kilometers away from their viewing position.

The amazed group contemplated the ‘light’ for around half an hour, until it silently moved toward the horizon and was out of sight. Driven by curiosity, the young witnesses decided to return the next night at the same hour, equipped with a pair of 7×50 binoculars, to see if by any chance the object would return; sure enough, the ‘red moon’ was punctual to the meeting, and performed exactly the same as the night before. The binoculars allowed the adolescents to discern 4 white dots in a square formation at the center of the glowing circle, like the flamboyant button missing from a god’s jacket.

The ‘button‘ would emit a random flash from time to time, and then it was lost out of sight towards the western horizon, after completing it’s indecipherable ‘mission’. The same bizarre operation was repeated for 14 or 15 consecutive nights, always leaving around 9:30; the kids would always remain up until 10, in hope the light would make a second come-back; it never did.

The Encounter

By that time, the witnesses’ families and others in their inner circle were aware of what the youngsters had been witnessing for a whole fortnight –whether they all gave credence to their testimony or not is clear. What we do know is that on the night of September 29th, a 5th member had joined the group of intrepid UFO hunters: Lázaro, the brother of Isabel, and the youngest member of the party.

As it was by now their routine, they all sat on the beach at 8:30, directly in front of the Los Corales bar. The sea was calm and the coast was practically empty, with no boat in sight (we’ll get back to this on part 2). Their approximate distance from their position to the bar was around 300 meters. And they waited.

They didn’t have to wait long. Aside from their old friend, the “red moon,” which had faithfully appeared in its accustomed position, for the first time the witnesses also saw a new development: What looked like a bright white ‘semicircle’ coming from the sea; with the help of their binoculars they could observe, at the center of it, a group of ‘red lights’ forming a sort of triangle. This new UFO silently flew past above their heads, moving toward the town, leaving the group amazed, and excitedly commenting the impressions of the event among themselves.

But then a third, blaring light appeared right over them, seemingly so high or bright they couldn’t discern any sort of shape. The witnesses noticed that when the UFO above them made three consecutive flashes, the red UFO at Roche cape would respond with two, and so on and so forth. A sort of ‘communication’ between these two objects seemed to be taking place, which lasted for around half an hour.

While they were fascinatingly observing this luminous ‘exchange’, something else caught the attention of our young witnesses: At around 9 pm, they noticed two strange figures standing by the beach’s shoreline; their presence raised the alarms of the UFO hunters, not only because of the literally ‘alien’ appearance of the entities –identical in appearance, almost 7 feet tall, covered with white flowing ‘cloaks’ whose ends reached all the way down to the water, and with round, featureless white heads with no hair– but because their arrival had not been detected by the youngsters; almost as if they had suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

Sketch of the ‘cloaked’ figures observed by the witnesses

One of the girls of the group, understandably unnerved by this observation, proposed to the rest of them to leave. Pedro González urged his companions to remain calm, suggesting the two ‘cloaked’ individuals could be some ‘pranksters’; perhaps two of their town neighbors had decided to play a joke on them by –rather lamely– dressing themselves as ‘ghosts’ with white sheets? The idea, however improbable –if nothing else because the tunics of the two beings were so bright they almost looked as if glowing– momentarily swayed the fears of the witnesses, who decided to stay.

But suddenly, the two entities started to move out of the water, towards them. Their gait was awkward and laborious, as if they were unable to bend their knees, and while they walked they kept their arms firmly on each side of their torso. Their long clothes covered their feet, as well as their hands.

The approaching figures finally managed to trigger the fight-or-flight response in all the members of the group. Panicked, they started to run away –in all honesty, could ANYONE blame them?

The group broke down their escape, though, once they realized the beings were not in pursuit of them. Instead, they had stopped and turned on their axis to face the sea, apparently looking in the direction of the ‘red moon’, which had faithfully remained on its fixed position the whole time. The group of witnesses miraculously controlled their nerves, and decided to remain observing the amazing sight from a cautionary distance (approximately some 30 meters or 100 feet away from the figures).

The unfolding of otherworldly events on this fateful night were far from over…

The Transformation

While the two cloaked visitors kept their attention toward the glowing red object in the distance, the young UFO hunters observed something akin to a ‘shooting star’ on the night sky: a small, white-blue light the size of a tennis ball falling toward the beach, yet vanishing or ‘turning off’ just 2 feet or so before crashing over the heads of the entities. As if on cue by the disappearance of the orb, the two humanoids proceeded to seat on the beach, with their backs kept stiffly straight, while at the same time swiftly digging into the sand to build a sort of u-shaped wall surrounding them; once completed, they presently lied on their backs of this makeshift fortress.

In-situ reconstruction of the ‘trench’ built by the beings, in which they laid down

If the purpose of the sand ‘trench’ was to obstruct the sight of the humanoids from uninvited interlopers, it was only partially successful; let’s not forget our original witnesses were still at the scene and quite capable to observe the prostate figures, although with more difficulty. Pedro González was once again forced to calm the nerves of the more jitterish among them, while the rest kept passing on the binoculars to better watch the bizarre spectacle, which proceeded to yet another unexpected act.

Soon after the beings lied down on their backs, they proceeded to pass around them a bright, small sphere of a cyan-blue color –perhaps, we could speculate, the same orb which had fallen down moments before– although this time it seemed as small as a ping-pong ball in the eyes of our young witnesses, who observed this strange ‘ball game’ performed among the humanoids around a half-dozen times or so, until Pedro González –the one who had bravely convinced the rest of the friends to stick around– without any warning tossed the binoculars to the ground and started to flee the scene. The other Pedro (Sánchez) quickly intercepted him to know what was going on, and that’s when the terrified young man informed his friend he had observed a third figure at the scene, at the foot of the other two entities. This new humanoid was considerably taller (around ten foot, according to their testimony), clad on a dark, tight-fitting suit and displaying an enormous pear-shaped head. The two young men decided not to tell the rest about the ‘giant’ and returned to their friends, but when Pedro González took the binoculars, he could not longer find the enormous humanoid near the two others, who still remained lying on their backs and passing the little blue sphere back and forth between each other.

The strangest act in this alien stage play the young men and women had been observing, was about to commence.

Suddenly the little blue light disappeared, and a few seconds later the two beings got up from the sand. To the amazement of our witnesses, though, they no longer retained their original appearance: The white, cloaked figures had somehow changed into what looked like a human couple! The male was tall (around 7 feet, which was the original height of the white beings) had long blond hair and was wearing dark jeans and a checkered shirt; the woman was slightly shorter than the man, her hair was also long but dark in color, and wore a thin blouse and long skirt.

Without saying any word, they turned and started walking toward the town, one in front of the other, without even bothering to ever once look at the startled group of youngsters who had bore witness to their entire transformation; a transformation, it should be pointed out, that for some reason wasn’t 100% perfect: The witnesses later revealed to the researchers who went to Conil to investigate the case, that although the features of the ‘female changeling’ were very beautiful and perfectly ordinary, the forehead of his male companion on the other hand was abnormally prominent. How could someone looking like an extra in a cheesy sci-fi flick could go around unnoticed in a tourist town??

Exeter, the extraterrestrial leader in the B-movie This Island Earth (1955). Did the Conil male ‘infiltrator’ look like this?

The Giant

Just when they were about to reach one of the Conil’s dark alleys, the witnesses’ attention was shifted once again toward the beach, where they could see above the water a small, white cloud coming from the coast toward them at great speed. When the compact ‘cloud’ reached the shore it stopped and rapidly evaporated, and at that moment is when Loli –who was using the binoculars– alerted her friends about the presence of a dark figure near the water. Pedro González snatched the field glasses out of the girl’s hand, and confirmed it was indeed the same enormous being he had seen before.

The black giant with the pear-shaped head stood motionless in front of the young, baffled witnesses, until it quickly moved rapidly away toward the west. As if this wasn’t already strange enough, the humanoid –according to the witnesses– wasn’t even ‘touching’ the ground! Rather, its feet hovered some 8 inches above the sand, and as it floated away its arms were kept firmly on each side of its torso.

The being’s departure elicited a strange response among the members of the UFO party: The oldest and the youngest in the group –Pedro G. and Lázaro– suddenly started to run in pursuit of the giant. Asked later why they reacted in such a way, they couldn’t give a proper explanation; their chase turned out fruitless though, since no matter how hard they ran, the giant moved (or ‘floated’) even faster. When the two were about 50 or 60 meters away from the being, they finally heeded the desperate shouts of their companions pleading them to stop, which they did.

Sketch of the black-suited ‘giant’ observed by the witnesses

It was at that moment when the giant also stopped moving and turned its head toward Pedro and Lázaro. Its black eyes, huge as hen eggs, robbed the two of whatever courage they still possessed, and even though the being’s attitude was not menacing, it somehow gave the impression to the young men that it was warning them not to follow any further. At last they returned to their frantic friends and let the giant lose itself in the night.

With the couple nowhere to be seen, and the giant gone –was its purpose just to deviate the witnesses’ attention and prevent them not to chase the other beings?– the incredible events of the night were apparently over… or so they seemed.

The Aftermath

Graphic explaining the location of the sand trench in relation to the witnesses’ viewing position. It also shows the distance between the beach shore and the town

As the group of young men and women remained at the beach, excitedly commenting among themselves on what had just transpired at that humble location of the Cádiz province, they were able to witness one last unknown phenomenon around 10 pm: By the coast and heading from west to east, a small white light followed a silent, zigzagging trajectory, like a bouncing ball in one of those old sing-along children TV shows. A rather unimpressive finale, judging by the sort of spectacle preceding it.

Shortly after, an additional witness appeared on the beach and joined the group. Juan Bermúdez was an adult town resident –possibly related to Loli, one of the girls– correspondent for a local radio station as well as a painter; he had heard of his young neighbors’ nightly escapades at the Bateles beach, and as he had done on previous occasions decided to go there and see if anything interesting occurred –in a later interrogation with UFO investigator Bruno Cardeñosa, Bermúdez confessed he himself had actually had the chance to observe the giant humanoid on 3 previous separate occasions, during the first hour of dawn; if true, that would mean the Bateles beach had been the scene of extreme high strangeness even before the night of September 29th.

When the boys and girls told him what had happened, Bermúdez helped them investigate the area where the two cloaked humanoids had accomplished their incredible transformation. The group noticed the ‘trench’ the beings had built –which was approximately 2 meters wide by 1 meter long– showed discernible ‘scratch marks’ on the sand, as if it had been done by long and slender fingers.

Reconstruction of the footprints left by the couple, compared with the size of an ordinary foot

But was even more interesting were the ‘footprints’ the beings had left on the beach as they made their escape toward the town. They were enormous: 18 inches long and 6 inches in their widest part, with a very prominent arc as well as a huge toe impression that seemed to go deeper than the rest of the foot. Which raises the question: When the young witnesses saw the ‘transmogrified’ alien couple walk out of the beach, why didn’t they notice such abnormal feet?

Unless the image of the human couple wearing ordinary clothes was just an elaborate illusion, one that was nevertheless unable to conceal their actual imprints left in the sand? This might serve to explain why both set of footprints had exactly the same size, despite the fact the female walk-in was not as tall as her 7-foot companion.

Adding to the confusion was the fact the group also found many more footprints than they expected. Aside from the ones going from the ‘sand trench’ to the Conil, an action observed by the witnesses, 20 paces away from the trench there were imprints of the same size and characteristics, but going in several different directions and covering an area of approximately 10 feet in diameter. What’s confusing about this is the fact the 4 boys and girls NEVER observed the couple deviate from their straight line toward the town alley, so they couldn’t had the time to leave all those additional prints.

But if they didn’t do it, then who did?

Local newspaper running an article about the Conil encounter (October 5th, 1989)

The fantastic Conil encounter with what seemed to be shape-shifting humanoids took little time to garner attention from the local media. First through the radio station Juan Bermúdez worked for, and then via an article published by El Diario de Cádiz on October the 5th. On the second part on my retelling of this wonderful episode, we will explore what else transpired after debunkers attempted to shoot down the case. But far more interestingly, we will discover what happened after the enigmatic couple of alien infiltrators returned to the ‘scene of the crime’.

To be continued…


Main References:

  • Juan José Benítez, La Quinta Columna (1990)
  • Bruno Cardeñosa, “Infiltrados.” Año Cero magazine (12-96)

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