Ochate: Aliens, Epidemics, and a Possible Hoaxer

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The ruins of Ochate.

According to legend, the little Spanish village of Ochate was struck by three different epidemics in a period of only ten years. The village suffered a deadly outbreak of smallpox in 1860, and the population was further devastated after being hit by typhus in 1864. A final attack of cholera in 1870 encouraged the last few survivors to leave Ochate for good. Amazingly, none of the other villages in the area were touched by the epidemics. Only the people of Ochate were affected.

Ochate, a Basque word meaning “secret door,” has sat in ruins ever since. A variety of different paranormal activity is said to haunt the place, from ghostly voices that shout for visitors to leave and “close the door” to mysterious lights and passing UFOs. As infamous as the place is today, it was relatively obscure until the magazine “Unknown World” published a picture of a UFO taken above the village in 1981. The photographer, a bank employee named Prudencio Muguruza,  later wrote a popular article about Ochate and its legends three months later in the same magazine.

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Prudencio Muguruza’s picture on the cover of “Unknown World.” (The article about the story translates to “UFO in Treviño.”)

Nobody’s quite sure about the meaning of Ochate’s name, but some paranormal enthusiasts believe the village is a “door” to another dimension.  In 1868, four years after the typhus epidemic, a local priest named Antonio Villegas vanished without a trace. About a century later, in the early 1970s, a farmer passing through the area also inexplicably disappeared. In August 1978, a man named Angel Resines saw a white light emerge from Ochate and break into three other lights. As he hid in his shed, Resines watched the lights fly into some mountains and disappear.

In 1987, a researcher pursuing the dimension gateway theory committed suicide while conducting a group investigation in Ochate. Why the researcher decided to do it here isn’t particularly clear, but he apparently killed himself in his car by carbon monoxide poisoning. The man’s ghost is now said to haunt the town. Later that year, another investigator named Mikel Colmenero claimed to have seen two human-like beings dressed in black suits and standing at least ten feet tall. Colmenero watched the creatures pass by in his car, so terribly frightened that he couldn’t bring himself to move.

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Another picture of some ruins in Ochate.

Other paranormal researchers who have investigated Ochate have run into nothing out of the ordinary. Some believe there’s nothing supernatural about the town at all. There aren’t any historical records, for example, that can verify the mysterious epidemics that destroyed Ochate in the 19th century. One skeptic, Enrique Echazarra, traced an 80-year-old man who lived in the town before the Spanish Civil War. Echazarra said in an interview with the Spanish newspaper ABC that the man “was very surprised at what was said about his town. He said that there had never been any witches, ghosts, or UFOs.”

It seems that Ochate was only abandoned during the first three or so decades of the 20th century. By the early 1930s, the population had fallen to only four inhabitants. Prudencio Muguruza, the man who popularized Ochate, has been accused of making stories up and faking his UFO picture. In 2014, Muguruza published a book about Ochate in which he claimed that aliens became stranded in the village in the 13th century. Some of the aliens died and were buried in an Ochate cemetery, while the survivors were eventually saved by a UFO that rescued them 34 years later. Alternatively, Muguruza also reported an even stranger second theory, in which the aliens fought the Templars.

Luis Alfonso Gámez, a journalist and blogger, has accused Muguruza of making a living off exploiting believers’ naivety. After popularizing his UFO picture, Muguruza sold the negative and quit his job. He opened a bookstore, made media appearances as a ufologist, and later dabbled in parapsychology. Of course, other people have reported seeing strange things in Ochate, and they haven’t made a living off it. Perhaps these witnesses really do believe they encountered ghosts, lights, and UFOs. Personally, I’d say they misunderstood natural phenomena and tried reapplying local legends to make sense of what they saw. (Muguruza’s picture, for the record, is believed to be a cloud.)

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  You can buy the book on Kindle here. 

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The Mysterious Montserrat Mountain of Spain

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Montserrat Mountain.

Montserrat is a mountain near Barcelona, Spain that’s long been regarded a sacred and magical place. In 880, it was said that a light floated down the mountains for six Saturdays in a row. When a search party headed by a bishop went to investigate, they found that the light fell on a previously undiscovered cave. Inside the cave, completely intact, was a statue of the Virgin Mary allegedly made in 50 AD. The statue soon attracted pilgrims and monks, and a monastery was eventually established in the mountain. Nicknamed “The Black Madonna,” the figure is venerated as the patron saint of Catalonia.

During the Nazi-era, German occultists believed that the holy grail rested somewhere inside Montserrat. In October 1940, Heinrich Himmler was sent to Spain to meet with Francisco Franco. Aside from being the commander of the SS, Himmler was also a founder of the Ahnenerbe, a pseudoscientific organization that launched expeditions across the world to find holy artifacts and evidence of ancient Aryan civilizations. Before meeting Franco, Himmler made a trip to the monastery in Montserrat. Himmler suspected that the holy grail was in the mountain, but the monastery received him coldly, and he returned to Germany empty-handed.

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The Black Madonna. The current statue might actually be a copy made in the late 12th century.

In recent decades, Montserrat has become a hotspot for seeing UFOs and strange lights in the sky. The mountain’s also been the site of some pretty strange disappearances over the years, some of which involved paranormal and UFO enthusiasts. In 1973, the Civil Guard (Spain’s national police force) found the body of a badly decomposed woman in the area. In a note in her pocket, the woman had written that she was going to meet with the supreme being. Her death was ruled a suicide.

In 1980, a month after a man and his dog vanished in the Montserrat, an 18-year-old girl named Gloria went missing in the near-by municipality of Olesa de Montserrat. Two days after her disappearance, Gloria was found walking in the woods, confused and disoriented. She had never shown such behavior before, but was apparently interested in UFOs and communicating with aliens. After being rescued, Gloria disappeared for a second time and was never seen again.

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Inside of the Montserrat monastery.

Another woman, Amparo Vielda Puig, went missing in Montserrat in 1985. Puig had gone to the mountain several times before, and complained of getting dizzy in certain spots of the area. In December 1990, a man named Carlos Teixidor told his family that he had “a decisive judgement with God and the Devil” and left for Montserrat. Teixidor was also interested in UFOs, and might have gone to the mountain in the hope of seeing one. Three weeks after he left, Teixidor’s body showed up near the Santa Cueva, the hillside cave where The Black Madonna was found.

In a case with a happier ending, a search helicopter was sent to look for a lost hiker. The helicopter was able to locate the hiker, but the man it found actually turned out to be a completely different person. The man said that he had been lost for three days, but was also with a “black woman” he had slept with. The only woman in the area the rescuers ended up finding was the corpse of a lady who had gone missing years earlier.

Nobody has gone missing in Montserrat since 1998, but UFOs are still seen in its skies. Luis Jose Grifol, a contactee who’s claimed to have communicated with aliens for almost 40 years, goes to the mountain to watch for UFOs on the 11th day of every month.

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.