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The Zone of Silence: Anomalies in the Mexican Desert

by Les Hewitt

Our planet may not be very big on a planetary scale, but it is home to many weird and wonderful things. Majestic sights, spectacular landscapes, icy tundra, and mountain ranges can all take one’s breath away or offer inspiration. Some natural wonders on this planet also possess reputations of an eerie nature. One place that springs to mind is the Bermuda Triangle. But there is another less well-known location with legends that rival those of the famous Devil’s Triangle: the Zone of Silence, also known as the Mapimi Silent Zone.

Zone of Silence, zona del silencio

The Zone of Silence is in the desert of Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila in Northern Mexico. Credit: Cryptocone, CC3.0.

Where is the Zone of Silence?

Not far from Bolsón de Mapimí in Mexico, there is a 50-kilometer area of desert that has earned the name La Zona del Silencio, or the Zone of Silence. It lies in the Trino Vertex. This is where the Chihuahua, Durango, and Coahuila states meet, roughly 400 miles south of El Paso, Texas. A prominent mountain range borders the zone on its east side.

This region of the Mexican wasteland is remote, and the closest urban settlement, Ceballos, is about 25 miles away. Residents of the surrounding towns have been aware of the strange legends about the zone for a considerable time. As many legends go, few, if any, about this desert land have been proven true. Nonetheless, the stories still maintain a sense of wonder and intrigue.

Zone of Silence map

The Zone of Silence map showing the approximate area of rumored radio disturbances and strange phenomena. Google Earth 2017.

How the Legends Began

The first of the rumors purportedly began in the 1930s after the pilot Francisco Sarabia once had to make an emergency landing due to “radio anomalies.” Sarabia was airborne over the region when he began to notice his instruments acting oddly. This was not the only problem that he was facing; his radio equipment also failed to work at all. Something was interfering with the normal operations of his aircraft.

harry de la peña coined the zone of silence

Harry de la Peña, 1966. Source: Dr. Samuel Banda, blogspot.

Then later in 1964, a PEMEX engineer, Harry de la Peña, was surveying the desert in the quest to run an oil pipeline to Jiménez, Chihuahua. During his expedition, he encountered a dead or “silent” zone that affected his radio communications. It was de la Peña who described the area as “the zone of silence.” Since then, the term stuck and has been used repeatedly. Having taken great interest in these radio anomalies, he went back to the zone several times to attempt to repeat the phenomenon. What he discovered was that the dead zones were not fixed; they appeared to move around from place to place, and he was unable to pinpoint the exact locations of radio interference.

These reports of radio blackouts gave the Zone of Silence an eerie reputation, but what occurred several years after de la Peña’s first expedition into the zone would cause a flurry in the UFO, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theorist communities, and the legends grew.

See also: Nevada Triangle Steve Fossett Mystery

U.S. Rocket Lands in the Zone of Silence

During the Cold War, the White Sands Missile Base in New Mexico had been conducting a series of tests using Athena RTV (reentry test vehicle) rockets. The missions were a joint task between the USAF and the US Army and were designed to investigate the impacts on the missiles as a result of reentry into the atmosphere.

On July 11, 1970, the Athena RTV V123D rocket launched from Green River Complex in Utah. Its final stage carrying a capsule of radioactive Cobalt-57 was supposed to drop down in the desert of White Sands, New Mexico. Instead, the rocket developed a fault, overshot its intended destination by more than 500 miles and ended up crashing in the Zone of Silence at 26.7467 N and 103.7458 E. This was about 500 miles south of the border.

When the US government requested permission to enter the area and retrieve the debris, the Mexican government allowed officials access to the site. They worked quickly and covertly to secure the area and begin a search for the radioactive capsule.

Retrieval of the Athena

As the legends go, when the retrieval team entered the site, they quickly realized that something was affecting all communications. Without effective communications, coordination between the teams was much more difficult. But something more than just interrupted radio signals was happening. Television and satellite signals were also experiencing disruptions. The popular conclusion among theorists is that local magnetic fields have somehow created a dark zone for modern technology. However, there are no official reports that suggest the US government indeed experienced any of these problems.

It took several weeks, but the U.S. government eventually found the capsule, retrieved the debris, and conducted a through radioactive clean-up of the entire area. About 20 tons of radioactive soil, including plants, were removed and deposited in the White Sands desert.

See also: The Disappearance of Flight 19

Other Strange Phenomena

In addition to stories about loss of radio signals and communication, countless reports of anomalous events have surfaced about the Zone of Silence. Few of the reports are credible, and the overwhelming majority of them have not received an adequate explanation. These anecdotes chronicle everything from strange lights in the sky to rectangular aircraft to people appearing almost out of nowhere.

There have been enough reports of activity that some people have drawn parallels between the Zone of Silence and other areas of the world, such as the Dragon’s Triangle close to Japan and the famed Bermuda Triangle. Perhaps they arrived at these conclusions because the Zone runs in near-longitudinal alignment to the Giza Plateau and the Bermuda Triangle – between 25° and 29° North.

Anomalies of the Zone

There appear to be a number of anomalies about the zone that can be classed as unusual. Maybe this desert area is unique in this regard. Although unproven, one of the traits most often associated with the area is the high levels of magnetite and uranium. Some investigators that have studied the area and its possible effects believe that these higher levels of minerals are responsible for the lack of signals deep within the zone.

Purportedly, many meteorites that penetrate Earth’s atmosphere tend to end up close to the area too. A lot of these meteorites consist of iron or other metals that are attracted to magnetic fields. However, some experts point out that the Zone of Silence has not attracted any more meteors than normal.

A Weird Trio

There have been testimonies about strange beings in the Zone: specifically, the same three people on a regular basis. This trio consists of one woman accompanied by two men – all blondes. One ranch, in particular, claims more than its fair share of encounters with this trio. According to the staff there, all three members of the group dressed in clothing that was “not at all suitable for a desert environment.”

Purportedly, they all spoke fluent Spanish like natives and were not only extremely attractive but also polite to an extreme. Every visit had the same motive. The three would request to fill their canteens with water from the well on the property. They never once asked for food or for anything else. According to ranch staff, when one ranch-hand dared to ask where they originated, the only reply they gave was “from above.”

An Encounter in the Storm

A report made in October 1975 further cemented the Zone’s legacy as a truly weird place. Fossil hunters Ernesto and Josefina Diaz ventured into the Zone to collect samples and any unusual rocks that they could find. While they worked, a rainstorm was heading in their general direction. Fortunately for the couple, they noticed it and took action to avoid being caught up in a flash flood. However, it proved to be too late for them to completely avoid any trouble it could cause them.

While they tried to outrun the storm, they could not. The ground around their pick-up truck began to transform into a boggy swamp that stranded them inside their vehicle. What followed could well be described as an incredible slice of good fortune, or perhaps something else entirely.

Two men with above average height approached the vehicle and its occupants, and they offered to free the trapped couple. Both rescuers wore identical clothing: a yellow raincoat and a cap. As quickly as the pair showed up, the Diaz’s truck somehow made its way onto the firm ground and out of danger. Ernesto ignored the instruction to remain inside the truck and wanted to personally thank them for their efforts. Whoever these men were, they vanished without leaving behind so much as a footprint in the mud.

Activity in the Skies of Ceballos

Mexico had the pleasure of a total solar eclipse in 1991. Ever since then, the nation has been one of the most active UFO hotspots in the world. Some of the purported activity within the Zone pre-dates the eclipse by a number of years. One such report of a UFO sighting surfaced in September 1976 in Ceballos, the closest town to the Zone.

A little before 9 pm, residents began reporting a massive rectangular shaped object just hovering still above their heads. Witnesses say that it was about 300 meters in length with alternating colored lights pulsating around its rim. From within the object, a deep hum was detectable. It seemed to have a detrimental effect on the town’s dogs, as every single one howled and would not stop barking at the thing while it hovered. Eventually, the object disappeared within a second or two.

Witnesses all agree that it headed towards the Zone of Silence.

Research in the Zone

Although there are many mysteries of a paranormal nature within the Zone of Silence, many people favor a more scientific explanation. There is speculation about whether there is an ongoing investigation into the strange anomalies of the area. The Mexican government and scientific organizations have been at the forefront of actual research within the zone. However, their primary objectives appear to focus on the rich diversity of flora and fauna within the desert habitat.

“The environment of the area is unique and has its own species: 31 species of endemic plants, such as certain species of Cactaceae, and 75 species of protected animals, particularly the desert tortoise, currently declared a vulnerable species. It is also possible to find fossils and arrowheads in respectable quantities, given the paleontological and prehispanic past of the region … In 1979 the area was declared part of the Mapimí Bolsón Biosphere Reserve and a laboratory had been built next to Cerro San Ignacio [mountain range] the previous year” (Dr. Samuel Banda).

Urban Legends of the Mexican Desert

The cumulative effects of radio disturbances in the zone throughout the years, coupled with the rocket crash and secretive operations to retrieve the radioactive capsule led to highly exaggerated claims about the site. Over the years, the legends about the Zone of Silence spread throughout the world. Naturally, any place with a bizarre reputation will have an increase in visitors, and Ceballos and other small communities around the area are no exceptions.

Evidence that there is anything unusual or paranormal about the Zone of Silence is non-existent. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the stories about the loss of radio communications were completely false. There are mountain ranges around the zone that may possibly cause some interference.

Although the legends are highly criticized by skeptics as “ridiculous” and “fraudulent,” history has shown that it is quite normal for superstition and magic to precede scientific reasoning. It is up to the observer to discern the truth. Within the magic of the unknown, one finds the unbounded realm of imagination where anything is possible. The legends about the Zone of Silence are amongst a wealth of incredible stories from around the world that continue to feed our imagination.

Ancient Origins
Profiling the Unexplained
Strange Mag

Sites pulled: 11 October 2017

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