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Every country in the world has paranormal ‘hotspots’ –regions that are characterized by strange phenomena, lore involving local monsters, or a high concentration of UFO sightings: Loch Ness in Scotland, the San Luis Valley in Colorado or Pine Gap in Australia.

For Mexico, the crown for the most famous paranormal hotspot would undoubtedly go to La Zona del Silencio (The Zone of Silence), an inhospitable location in the northern desert where the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango intersect.

Zone of SilenceAs a Mexican Fortean I used to get questions about the Zone of Silence all the time during my first podcast interviews, and I always tried to answer them the best I could, no doubt disappointing my interviewers with my sparse responses: That according to the stories, this place causes such bizarre interference to electromagnetic radiation that compass needles go haywire; that in 1970 an Athena missile rocket launched by NASA lost control and crashed-landed there due to those same electromagnetic anomalies, which prompted the ‘Gringos’ to go out an investigate (including Werner von Braun himself); that according to the locals there was a spot in the desert where radio waves couldn’t be transmitted, like some sort of ‘magnetic interference cone’ (hence its popular name); that it is the one spot in Mexico with the largest concentration of meteoric ore (which was either the reason behind the aforementioned interferences, or another symptom of an even bigger mystery); that the strange ‘energy’ present in the zone triggered strange ‘mutations’ in the local and fauna (including the curious ‘pinkish’ color of the cacti growing there); and finally, that close encounters with UFOs and non-human entities were very common in the area.

Like all Fortean mysteries, one should always strive to follow the excluded middle path. And as such, a cursory investigation would reveal to the curious that many of the legends attributed to the Silent Zone or the Zone of Silence appear to be pretty unsustained.

Opuntia Macrocentra

Yes, an American rocket did crash in the area –not that strange considering it was a test and a rocket– and the strong security measures enforced by the American authorities while retrieving their equipment, might have given rise to the infamous legends of magnetic interference; yes, pinkish cacti grow in that desert, but this plant species is not exclusive to the region –which happens to be a protected biosphere reserve– and is also found in the Southwest of the United States; yes, the zone is pebbled with meteorites, but there doesn’t seem to be any indication that there’s a higher concentration of them there than in any other place –perhaps they are easily more found and better preserved there because, well… it’s a freaking desert.

And as for close encounters of the third kind, there *is* the somewhat anticlimactic testimony of Luis Ramírez Reyes, an important Mexican UFOlogist –who unfortunately never managed to attain Jaime Maussan’s popularity abroad, despite the fact they both worked for Televisa network as reporters– who claims to have been ‘rescued’ once by three mysterious individuals, when he and his cameraman got lost while driving through the desert for a TV segment, in 1978.

Luis Ramírez Reyes, Mexican UFOlogist

According to Ramírez Reyes, the enigmatic good Samaritans –who looked just like regular humans to him (slim, tan face and straw hat)– didn’t seem to have any business walking in the middle on the desert without any equipment –or even water!– that day, except to give the two clueless journalists the precise indications needed to reach their destination. The three men didn’t ask for any reward or compensation, and calmly continued their way across the huge desert landscape.

Embellished tall tale? Overworked imagination? Perhaps, but the most interesting detail in Ramírez Reyes’s account is that apparently he had spotted the three men walking by the road directly toward him –and passed them by– two times prior he and his companion decided to stop their car and ask for directions, and that his colleague (the driver) didn’t see them until the third time, even though they were driving at less than 10 miles per hour…

And now comes this new trailer for an upcoming movie: Silencio, directed and written by Lorena Villarreal, which seems to use the many legends surrounding the Zone of Silence (whether factual or not) as the background for a thriller drama starring John Noble –famous for his performance as Dr. Bishop in the series Fringe) and Rupert Graves:

In order to save her son’s life, Ana embarks on a quest to find a powerful stone from the Zone of Silence, located in Mexico. Someone finds out the power the stone possesses and believes it is a power worth killing for.

The trailer explicitly states the story involves time-travel, which sounds more interesting than typical X-Files thrills –let’s just hope they didn’t spoil the whole plot in the teaser. Since this is a Mexican-American production, it seems likely the entire film’s budget was the equivalent to a single episode of Fringe, but perhaps the lack of flashy CGI will be compensated with smart writing and decent performances.

I, for one, welcome the exploration of fringe topics beyond the tired clichés of Roswell and Area 51. Who knows, perhaps one of these days I’ll make my own personal pilgrimage to that enigmatic desert –I’ll be sure to bring a good-quality compass, though. And plenty of water.

Silencio is scheduled to premiere on October 26th in the US.