Brandon Mathis, David Holub/Durango Herald photo illustration
Brandon Mathis, David Holub/Durango Herald photo illustration
Archuleta Mesa rises a few thousand feet over the small rural community of Dulce – hub of the Jicarilla-Apache Indian Reservation. A broad aesthetic plateau, it dominates the northern skyline.
Archuleta rock, as locals call it, appears normal. But it’s not what’s on the surface that creates an infamous chapter in the volumes of UFO stories.
It’s what is said to lie beneath.
Ufologists – those who study UFOs – claim Dulce is the site of a massive underground facility operated by the U.S. government and one or more alien races: a seven-story complex that connects to Nevada’s Area 51 and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The deeper you go, the darker it gets.
Some call Dulce a Cold War era government fallout shelter, far removed from alien races. Undeniably, residents of Dulce, a two-hour-plus drive southeast of Durango, seem to acknowledge that something is out of the ordinary.
Strong belief in UFOs
Theodoria Burns, a first responder with the Jicarilla-Apache Medical Service, said many Dulce residents believe in UFOs.
“Sometimes, weird things happen, like lights in the sky, different colors that vanish right away,” she said. “You think it’s an airplane, but it’s not.”
She said she has never seen a base, “but they say it does exist.”
The UFO researchers claim reports of strange lights, unidentified flying objects and cattle mutilations are higher surrounding the mesa.
In many accounts, a man named Thomas Edwin Castello, a character many say is fictional, claimed to be a senior security guard at the mesa’s secret underground base. According to lore, he came forward in 1979 with radical allegations.
Castello described a research facility, emphasizing the ominous sixth level, dubbed Nightmare Hall, where appalling operations and experiments were conducted by both humans and aliens.
He claimed alien abductions led to this unremarkable mesa, and what occurs, including cross-breeding and fertilization, is unimaginable.
Drawings surfaced of human-like fetuses in beakers, mutant captives in cages and vats of liquid containing human and inhuman body parts.
Among popular UFO community accounts, Castello claims to have quit his position as a security guard, going into hiding after a purported battle with the aliens inside the mountain, in which 70 humans supposedly were killed.
The resulting “Dulce Papers” proclaim infinite, shocking detail about aliens and secret technologies.
‘I hear things’
Calvin Martinez of Farmington has family in Dulce.
“I hear things. There are a lot of stories,” he said. “But one time I was at a cookout, and there was this light that came up, and it slowly merged across (the southern sky). People were taking pictures. It went around in circles and then back the way it came.”
Martinez mentioned a widely repeated UFO story of a woman who was found – unclothed – running from the mesa near the Navajo River.
“They picked her up, and she said she wasn’t from here, that they were doing all kinds of tests on her in that mountain,” he said.
While many maintain Castello is a fictional character, Paul Bennewitz is not. The Albuquerque electronics specialist ran Thunder Scientific Laboratories in the 1970s when he stumbled on what he claimed were UFO transmissions he traced to Archuleta Mesa, where he learned about the Dulce base. Later, he became convinced of a government conspiracy to discredit him.
In “The Dulce Report,” a published report by political scientist Michael E. Salla, formerly of American University and George Washington University, Salla wrote that when the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations became aware that Bennewitz was gaining attention, they developed an effort to discredit him by providing him erroneous information. Ufologist William Moore later went public saying that he was involved in a plot by the Office of Special Investigations to misinform Bennewitz, keeping him from collecting more accurate information.
Strange tales of aliens in league with the government and strange experiments are common among the UFO community.
New Mexico State Patrol Trooper Gabe Valdez, investigating various local reports, joined Dulce cattle rancher Edmund Gomez, whose cattle were being mutilated, and four other men to explore Archuleta Mesa in 1988. The group saw a UFO, said ufologist Jason Bishop, as well as lights coming from and fading into the mountain.
Several newspapers reported an “experimental boomerang aircraft” in the area, according to Bishop’s account. But Gomez and Valdez were suspicious.
Valdez wrote Dulce Base, a book about his investigations, and even appeared on the History Channel’s UFO Hunters in 2009. He revealed images: disturbing mutilations of cattle and what he claimed was a human hybrid found inside a cow. He also said he found gas masks and even a ballpoint pen at scenes.
A cow’s strange death
A resident who gave only a first name of Dee who works at Players Sports Bar & Grill in Dulce shared her own story from her family’s ranch.
“Our ranch has a canyon, real long, and the cows were way up at the end,” she said. “I guess something chased one down because you could see where it ran into the trees. It died, and where it laid there were three holes in the ground. There were no tracks, and that cow had no blood.”
Dee said she returned the next night, and the cow’s internal organs were gone.
“It had udders, but it was all burned out,” she said.
Cattle mutilations have been reported around Dulce for decades, Valdez said. But it’s the government, not alien activity, he said.
Dee said: “It was happening all over. I don’t know what it was, but the cows wouldn’t go up there for a long time.”
Dulce resident Shane Engle doesn’t believe in UFOs. Still, he can’t explain the time his mother’s car was taken over by an “unknown force” before she regained control. He also can’t account for the lights he’s seen. He does, however, believe in the mutilations.
“My uncle owned a ranch,” he said, pointing south. “One morning, he came out, and all the cows were hollow. No cuts, no wounds. They were hollow.”
Several Dulce residents declined to be interviewed but said that “something is going on up there.”
Norio Hayakawa, director of Civilian Intelligence Central, which bills itself as an oversight committee on government accountability, revealed the name of the base at a conference in 2010: Rio Arriba Scientific & Technological Underground Auxiliary.
One man said while exploring the mesa, he was stopped by “uniformed men who came out of nowhere.”
“That’s all I’m going to say,” he said, and walked away.
Maybe you don’t believe, like Engle, as he described eerie lights over an endless desert sky.
“I don’t believe in that stuff,” he said, “but I’ve seen it.”