XPI lead investigators, Allan Barnes and Lourdes Laguna, has an unnerving visit from a strange man in the desert during a UFO stakeout.
Lourdes shivered and pulled her shawl tightly around her shoulders. I rubbed my hands together and cupped my ice cold fingers into the palm of my hand, warming them up just enough so that I had the dexterity to change the battery on our camera, a thoroughly modded Canon 5D MK1 with a custom-built 500mm f/1.2 lens — the only one of its kind in existence.
The DSLR had been converted to record in full spectrum, and fitted with powerful infrared and UV spotlights. It was our primary UFO-recording tool, and we were testing it out for the first time at night.
We had been out in the Sonoran desert for more than four hours. It was 2 AM.
We were UFO hunting, but were a little late to the party, since we had missed out on the mass sightings that occurred over the past weekend, where scores of UFO buffs saw and videotaped lights dancing in the skies over the desert.
It had been quiet over the last two days, and by the time we were able to get to the area, the crowds of UFO enthusiasts had dwindled to only a handful of the hardcore UFO spotters. It was quiet.
We hadn’t seen a single thing other than a few false alarms (meteors). I was ready to call it a night, pack up, and move on to our next investigation, a haunted house outside Las Vegas, Nevada, that we were scheduled to investigate next week.
I radioed to Paul Nordstrom and local UFO researcher Hal Brantley, who were about a mile away staking out a secondary location. But there was no answer.
Lourdes shot me a look of concern. It was unusual to not get an answer. It was against protocol, in fact. No answer potentially meant that something bad had happened. Or it could just mean that the cold air drained the battery on their radio, and the backups, too.
Lourdes called them on her radio as well. Still no answer.
“Give them a few minutes,” I told her as I squinted into the sky and shivered. Maybe they were right in the middle of changing the battery.
“My radio is dead,” she said after a few minutes. I grabbed mine and hit the talk button, but there was only silence.
“Damn, So is mine.” That was an odd coincidence. A thread of uneasiness wormed its way into my body.
I rifled through the bag and pulled out a new battery. I nearly jumped out of my skin when a sudden, intense beam of light blinded me. I felt Lourdes’ hand grip my arm as she tripped over the tripod and stumbled into me. I grabbed her hand and helped her up.
I couldn’t imagine what police would be doing out here in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night. We were on public land. We weren’t trespassing. There wasn’t anybody around for miles and miles. No on-duty police officer would cruise this isolated stretch of road at 2 AM.
As the silence continued, my thoughts began racing. Maybe this was a robbery. Now I was sure of it. It’s one of the hazards of traveling with very expensive camera gear, and being out alone at night with it.
In my years of international travel, I have been robbed a few times — only once at gun point. I had had my bags stolen from a car only twice. I’ve lost a bag in flight on two occasions — never to be recovered. I’ve been mugged twice.
“It’s okay, just take what you want,” I shouted out. “We won’t resist, just take it and go.” That telephoto lens would set us back more than a hundred grand. Ouch!
I carry a gun, which I keep in a concealed shoulder holster. Not all the time, of course. I just take it with me when I’m out in the middle of nowhere by myself. You never know.
Of course, I have no plans to use it, unless they make a move on Lourdes.
Don’t get me wrong, she can take care of herself quite readily, too. Her petite frame belies a savage skill in martial arts that she’s honed from the time she was a little girl. Her father, a luchador, insisted that his daughter learn to fight, and fight well.
“What are they waiting for,” Lourdes said quietly.
This was no ordinary robbery. Maybe it was Paul and Hal playing some sort of practical joke on us.
The intense spotlight suddenly extinguished, leaving us blinded yet again in the instant darkness.
“Where’d they go?” Lourdes shouted as she fumbled for her flashlight. I had left mine in the bag, and now I was down on all fours shoving my fingers into the dust and dirt, frantically searching for mine. I no sooner reached for my holster when we heard a loud voice commanding us to stand up.
The voice did not sound like Paul or Hal, but by now, I was half certain that it was an elaborate prank of their design.
Lourdes turned on her flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice. Her light illuminated a man who was walking towards us. He was wearing all black — suit, tie, shirt, shoes — all black. His head was completely shaven, and he had no facial hair.
Oddly enough, he was wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses, despite the fact that it was pitch black in the middle of the desert. He wore a silver-colored device in his right ear with what looked like a thin antennae protruded straight up from the device about four inches. He did not carry a flashlight or any source of light that I could discern.
“You got to be kidding me,” Lourdes whispered. “An M-I-B?”
The man walked up to us and stopped within three feet, entering our personal space just enough to make us feel exceedingly uncomfortable.
“You folks need to leave. Now.”
That is all he said, in a monotone voice except for an oddly overexaggerated inflection on the word “now”.
He didn’t remove his sunglasses, and he didn’t move his head. He just stared directly between us, almost as if he were talking to somebody approaching us from behind. I glanced behind me only to see the suffocating blackness of the desert night.
“We were just packing up,” I said. “This is public land, we have a right to be here.”
“Your rights are not in dispute,” the man said. “But I must ask you to leave, or there will be…consequences.”
He paused before saying “consequences” as if to intentionally add dramatic effect. His voice remained an eerie monotone. His eyes, hidden behind dark shades, continued to peer into the desert night air behind us.
“Okay, no problem,” I said. I didn’t know if he was alone, or if there were more of them out of sight. I didn’t know what their intentions were.
I have heard of the so-called “Men In Black”, or MIBs as we Ufologists refer to them. Nobody knows who or what they are, or who they work for, though the prevailing theory is that they are government agents who work in obscurity, with the sole purpose of suppressing information about extraterrestrial visitation, and contact between them and the government.
Were they dangerous? Some of the stories I read suggested so, though I’ve never read about an encounter that turned violent. Even so, I figured that if we were offered a chance to leave, the safest course of action was to follow his directive. I expected the man to turn around and leave us, but he just stood there, motionless.
Lourdes picked up my bag and handed it to me. I slung it on my back and she picked up hers.
“Your SD card,” the man said.
“Excuse me?” I said. “Who are you? Who do you work for?”
The man just stood there, silent and motionless.
“Ask me when you have a warrant,” I said. I picked up the camera and slung the tripod over my shoulder. “Let’s go,” I said to Lourdes.
“That was not a question,” he said as we walked away from him back toward our car. He didn’t turn around to face us. He just stood there as before, gazing into the desert. “There IS nothing on your SD card.”
His emphasis on the word “is” sounded strange and forced.
I didn’t know what to say. We had probably taken about a hundred photos that night. Most of them were meteors, sure. We hadn’t logged any definitive UFO sightings, nothing to make even the most suppresive, secret wing of the US government concerned with what we had photographed.
I stopped in my tracks and turned to ask for clarification, but Lourdes grabbed my arm and pulled me toward the car.
We loaded our gear into the trunk. I took the camera with me into the front seat while Lourdes climbed into the drivers seat. I shined my flashlight around the area but could not see a car that this man would have driven out there. I aimed the light back toward where we were standing, but the man was gone. It was as if we had imagined the whole thing.
I don’t suppose you got a recording of that,” I asked Lourdes. It was standard practice for us to covertly record any encounters with people who approach us during an investigation — especially law enforcement.
She pulled out her iPhone and played back the audio file in her voice recorder app. There was nothing but static. Weird.
“Damn,” I said. “We’ll process it in the lab. Hold on a sec.”
I got back out of the car and plunked the camera on the roof. I peered into the pinkish glow of the LCD screen, which became even brighter when I turned on the invisible (to my eye) IR and UV spotlight mounted to the top.
I did a 360 degree scan of the desert around us. I could see a great distance as the full spectrum camera pierced the darkness. There was nothing but cacti, rock formations, and a distant pack of coyotes. No man in a black suit. No car that he would have driven out there (we are not walking distance from anywhere, and the nearest town is a good 50 miles away).
The road stretched ahead and behind us for miles, yet I couldn’t detect anything on the road. Even if the man had silently slipped away in a vehicle, I would still have been able to see him through the night vision camera — he would have been visible for a good 15 minutes or so in either direction due to the flat topography of the area.
But there was nothing. It’s as if he teleported himself into the desert, and then left the same way.
“Should we stay?” I asked.
“We were leaving anyway,” Lourdes answered, looking more unnerved than I’ve ever seen her.
“Yes, but maybe…just maybe this guy was a ‘Man In Black’ and wanted us to clear the area so that we wouldn’t see what they didn’t want us to see.”
“What about Paul and Hal?” she asked. “And how do we know they aren’t being watched, too? I don’t know that I want to stay and find out what the ‘consequences’ are that he threatened us with.”
“Then go slow,” I said. I got back in the car. She turned the car on and pulled onto the road. I picked up my radio and the battery inexplicably seemed to be charged again. I radioed to Paul and Hal, who answered on the other end.
“You guys see anything?” I asked, keeping a lookout for any sign of the strange man we had just encountered.
“Just a whole lot of nothing,” Paul said.
“Ah, you’re there!” I said. “So, nothing at all?”
“Nope,” Paul said. “How about you two?”
“Nothing, really,” I said, not wanting to communicate over the air in case of eavesdroppers. I’ll tell him and Hal all about our unnerving encounter back at the hotel. “Where are you guys?”
“We’re in the car getting ready to find you two after you didn’t respond on your radios,” Paul said.
“Okay, rendezvous at the hotel,” I said over the radio. Lourdes stepped on the gas and the the car raced forward down the isolated desert road. So much for going slow.
I hit the “Playback” button on the camera to review the photos that we had taken that night. There must have been something we photographed if it prompted the encounter that we just had.
My heart sank. The SD card had apparently been wiped clean.
Allan Barnes is a lead field investigator for Xpara International, a global paranormal research organization. (This story is fiction.) Read more paranormal investigation field reports.