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Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Phantom Hotel Attic

     One of the major differences between fantasy and real life is that fantasy has to make sense. Robert Heinlein's novella, The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag has detectives follow the said Mr Hoag to a workshop on a certain floor of a building, only to return and discover that the particular floor of the building did not exist. However, by the end of the book, it makes some sort of sense. That is more than can be said for the following experience.
     The main protagonists were Francisco Tejero, 44, lawyer of Cadiz, Spain, and his wife, Teresa. The other couple were Jose Valles of Bercelona, and his wife, Pilar Osborne Domecq. Less than a month after the incident, on 5 September 1976, they told their story to Ignacio Darnaude, a ufologist whom they had both known for many years.
     Both couples had gone away for a short break in Albufeira, on the Algarve coast of Portugal, booking in at the Hotel Da Balaia in the evening of Monday, 9 August. Having gone down to the bar for a drink, they found themselves being closely observed a strange trio of two men and a woman. The men were short, and European looking, but very dark, and although they appeared to be 40-something in age, their hair was far too white. Suddenly, a couple of strange flashes issued from the trio towards them, and the couples had the distinct impression they had been photgraphed by some sort of micro-camera. It unnerved them, and they soon left for dinner.
     Both wives told Sr. Darnaude separately that they slept very badly that night. Teresa in particular spoke of being disturbed by very unusual dreams. Their rooms were on the top floor, the night was hot, and the window had been left open. About 5 am on 10 August she woke with a start, and saw a very luminous rectangle, "like a TV screen" on the curtains. Immediately, she thought of the "spies" of the evening before, and woke her husband, who leaped up and sprang to the window. To use his words:
"It was as though I were in some sort of trance, as if I had been hypnotised by someone. Outside, all was utterly, infinitely peaceful. I was moving about like an automaton, as though I had somehow been turned into a robot. I looked out at the window, and saw a quadrangular thing, with six reddish lights on it, on the hotel, but on another wing of it which made an angle with the main face of which our window lay. All was dark underneath the 'thing', and nothing was to be seen, and so I simply thought that the lights must have been left burning on those two top floors on the other wing of the building. I remained there motionless for a while, gazing at the 'attic', not without a certain feeling of irritation because one of the lights was being directed in such a special fashion right into our bedroom. Then I turned round and went back to bed and I said to Teresa: 'Those people up there must be all so turned on that they've left the lights on.' Then I lay down again and went back to sleep."
     The trouble was, when he finally woke up and looked out the window, there was nothing there! There was no other wing of the hotel running at right angles to their own, no "attic", no building structure at all. Nobody else at the hotel made any reference to any such object. However, the following night Sr. Tejero saw a luminous point of light fly overhead, and decided it must have been a UFO. If that means it was never identified, that it flew, and was presumably an object, then it can't be disputed.
     What to make of all this? Many people, I have discovered, do not understand the science of the accumulation of probability. If the chance of rolling a six with a die is 1 in 6, then the chances of rolling two sixes in a row is 1 in (6 x 6 = 36). Likewise, if the odds against A is one in a thousand, and the probably of B is likewise one in a thousand, the chances of A and B occurring together is one in a million. Unless, of course, A and B are part of the same phenomenon, in which case the odds are "merely" one in a thousand. In other words, if two unlikely events happen reasonably close together, it is most likely they are related. In this case, it means that the three "spies" were somehow connected with the supernumerary "attic".
     But perhaps there was really nothing unusual about the "spies". At the time the Marxist government of Portugal was under increasing public pressure (which was ultimately successful), and General Spinola was due to return to the country. Also, in Spain the arch-reactionary, Franco had just passed away. It would not be surprising if they were spying on every visiting foreigner, or at least those from Spain. The trouble is, as Sr. Darnaude pointed out, it wouldn't explain the unusual appearance of the agents. After all, the first rule of espionage is to ensure that your agents don't stand out in the crowd. Also, micro-cameras disguised as cigarette lighters or such are not exactly designed to give the game away by flashing.
     Then there is the phantom wing of the hotel. Even if it had been a real wing, it is unlikely that its lights would have left the unusual impression on the curtains. Although Sr. Darnaude referred to his friends as "serious, reliable, solid folk" without any knowledge of ufology, Sr. Tejero concluded that they must have witnessed a rectangular UFO poised stationary right above the roof of the hotel at right angles to it, such that it appeared like two uppermost stories of an adjacent wing.
     With due respect, I beg to differ. That sounds too much like a man with a hammer seeing every problem as a nail. You cannot explain every anomaly with the word, "UFO". Now, admittedly, there have been the occasional rectangular UFO (heck! practically every shape has been assumed by a UFO somewhere), but they are vanishingly rare. It would also be extremely rare for a UFO of any description to park itself in exactly the right position to be mistaken for the room of a building. And, of course, there are still the short, dark, white haired trio with the flash to consider.
     It doesn't make much sense. But then again, it's not fantasy, so it doesn't have to.
Reference: Ignacio Darnaude (with Gordon Creighton as translator), Spies in the supernumerary attic? Flying Saucer Review 23(3): 20-21 (Oct 1977).
     Now, if this has whetted your appetite, and you wish to read some way-out, high octane weirdness, I shall refer you to Albert Rosales' excellent compendium of humanoids. From there, click on "Epitome of High Strangeness", which is a 68 KB PDF document. All the contents are very, very weird, but the weirdest of all is the Rostov-on-Don incident at page 3. There you will read of a man who was seen to slip into a solid concrete wall, whence he found himself in a building in an alternative universe, and experiencing time dilation. No-one could make up anything as bizarre as that.

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