by Charles Lear
There are UFO cases noteworthy for their extreme weirdness that every UFOlogist is probably familiar with. There is the 1952 Flatwoods Monster Case, the 1955 “Incident at Kelly”, and this writer’s favorite, the 1966 Point Pleasant, West Virginia case involving the Mothman. Some might not be aware of a seriously strange case from Genoa, Italy known as “The Zanfretta Case.” This case is chronicled in a 2014 English translation of a book by Genoese reporter, Rino Di Stefano appropriately titled, “The Zanfretta Case.” The original 1984 Italian version was titled, “Luci nella Notte-UFO: il caso Zanfretta.” The translation is a bit clumsy, which gives the book a certain charm, and has a forward written by the late Wendelle Stevens. Stevens was a prominent UFO researcher and he wrote in his forward that he was excited by the case and invited Di Stefano and the principal witness, Pier Fortunato Zanfretta to his 1991 First World UFO Congress in Tucson, Arizona.
On Friday, December 8, 1978, a six column article titled, “Close Encounters in Torriglia” written by reporter, Enzo Bonifazi, appeared in the Secolo XIX, which was the “most widely read newspaper in the region of Liguria.” Di Stefano describes conversations about the case taking place in the offices of his own paper, Corriere Mercantile, as being mostly dismissive. Bonifazi had reported that security guard, Pier Fortunato Zanfretta had not only encountered a landed UFO, but had also come in contact with “a huge being, about three meters tall, with wavy skin as if it were fat or a loose sweatsuit and gray in any case.” Italian militarized police, the “Carabinieri” had investigated after being alerted by Zanfretta’s security company, “Val Bisagno” and stated in their report that there had been witnesses in the area who had seen a “great light” over Torriglia around the same time that the events involving Zanfretta had taken place. Di Stefano was intrigued by the case and asked permission from his extremely skeptical editor to investigate the case after hours, which was granted. Di Stefano, a press photographer and a fellow reporter drove to the site and were impressed by a landing trace that had been described in the Carabinieri report. On the frozen grounds of the Villa Casa Nostra, owned by dentist, Ettore Righi, was a semicircle approximately 3 meters across denoted by 15 centimeter wide line pressed 3 centimeters into the earth.
The group stopped by the Carabinieri station to talk with the commander, Brigadier Antonio Nucchi, and were told by him that he was acquainted with Zanfretta and that he considered him to be “decisive”, not easily scared and that he “never had strange thoughts in his head.” This made it seem odd to him when Zanfretta fearfully resisted returning to the site during the their investigation. Nucchi informed the group that there was a page in the Carabinieri procedure manual that dealt with UFOs and that there was an office of the Department of Defense in Rome that handled the reports. There was testimony from “a good 52 people” that they had seen a “large bright object” on the night in question including a Brigadier of the Italian Finance Police who was terrified by a large, completely still, flying saucer that projected a beam of light to the ground that lit up the area like daylight. Di Stefano was impressed to where he wanted to pursue the case further and made efforts to contact and interview Zanfretta himself.
When he met Zanfretta, Di Stefano found him to be very shy and that it took some effort to get the story out of him. Zanfretta told Di Stefano that he was out on his rounds as a night watchman on Wednesday, December 6, when, at 11:30 p.m. his car and radio both went dead near the Villa Casa Nostra. He saw four lights moving around on the villa grounds and went to investigate. Seeing the gate and front door of the house both open, Zanfretta moved in prepared to arrest what he thought were robbers. He was then pushed from behind and turned around with his “gun drawn and flashlight on.” He found himself confronted with a creature so tall that he had to look up to see its face and then did what most of us would do which was run like hell. As he was running, he turned around and was blinded by the light of a large, flat, triangular craft that lifted up with a hiss from behind the villa. Zanfretta shielded his eyes and noted that it had become very warm around him. An operator on duty at the radio command center at the time, Carlo Toccalino, later told Di Stefano that he had received a call from Zanfretta at 12:45 a.m. with him shouting, “Oh, my God, is that ugly!” Asked if he was being assaulted, Zanfretta replied “No, they’re not men, they’re not men!”
The director of Val Bisagno had delegated the task of dealing with inquiries about Zanfretta’s case to Lieutenant Giovanni Cassiba. Cassiba told Di Stefano that guards dispatched to find and assist Zanfretta found him at 1:15 a.m. face down on the front lawn of the villa. Upon seeing the guards, Zanfretta leaped up, gun in hand with his eyes “popping out of his head.” He had to be forcibly disarmed and the guards noted that his clothes were unusually warm despite it being a cold winter night.
The case had caught the attention of Italian UFO researchers and one of them, President of the UFO research group of Arenzano, Luciano Boccone, contacted Di Stefano and suggested that they get permission from Zanfretta and Val Bisagno to use regressive hypnosis in an attempt to glean more details. They found a hypnotist, Mauro Moretti, M.D., willing to get involved only if Zanfretta would provided written permission and then contacted Val Bisagno’s director, Gianfranco Tutti who agreed to allow Zanfretta to undergo the procedure.
Di Stefano, Boccone, Moretti, Cassiba, Zanfretta, and two friends of Boccone’s met at Val Bisagno on December 23, and at 9:30 p.m., began the session. Zanfretta was put under and taken back to the night of the encounter. He related the incidents that had occurred up to the point of seeing the huge being and then was asked by Dr. Moretti to describe what it was he had seen. Zanfretta replied, “They are green, with triangular yellow eyes, with big thorns, they have green flesh and their skin is full of wrinkles as if they were old. Their mouths look like they’re made of iron, they have red veins on their heads, pointed ears and arms with fingernails… with round things… They come from the third galaxy.” The session ended and Zanfretta didn’t remember anything and insisted that what had taken a half-hour had only been three minutes. Zanfretta was joking and full of composure while his co-worker, Cassiba, had been deeply upset by the evenings’ revelations.
Di Stefano held off on publishing the story out of concern for Zanfretta’s and Val Basigno’s reputations. Then, on the evening of December 27, at 11:46 p.m., the operator on duty at Val Bisagno received a call from Zanfretta asking for help. He reported that he was surrounded by a thick fog and that his car was driving by itself and picking up speed. At 11:50, Zanfretta called and told the operator in a calm voice that the car had stopped, that he saw a “great light” and that he was getting out. A group was dispatched to find him and they searched near a road sign Zanfretta had mentioned that marked Rossi, which was a village of just a few houses. Zanfretta’s car was found without him in it and as the group went to examine it, he suddenly leaped up out of a ravine with a wild frenzied look. He was chased down and slapped to bring him to his senses after which he was “trembling and crying” saying, “They want to take me away. What will happen to my children?” The night was cold and it was raining but Zanfretta’s clothes were reportedly dry and his head was extremely hot from the nose up. As the guards were looking around to discern their location, one of them, Raimondo Mascia, discovered huge, fresh footprints around Zanfretta’s car. The footprints were photographed the following morning and measured by the Torriglia Carabinieri who found them to be 50 centimeters long and 20 centimeters wide. In addition, a three-meter wide semicircle, skid marks and more footprints were found in an overgrown area to the side of the road.
The managers of Val Basigno wanted to have Zanfretta hypnotized again in order to sort out what had occurred. A session was scheduled but, in the meantime the managers had been contacted by the director of local television station TVS and were convinced to allow the session to be filmed and televised. The session began and Zanfretta described being abducted, stripped and having a helmet placed on his head that gave him electric shocks. He described there being more than ten beings in the craft with him and mentions that their feet were “very, very big.”
The story was published by DiStefano the morning before the broadcast on January 8 and after the broadcast it was the talk of the town in Genoa. Attacks on Zanfretta’s story began with a group of scholars in the pages of the newspaper, Il Lavoro. To counter the attacks, the managers of Val Basigno thought it would be a good idea to do a hypnosis session using “Pentotal” (likely, a translation for sodium pentothal) to which Zanfreeta agreed. In this session, with a doctor in Milan, Zanfretta repeated the story almost word for word but this time he had a dialogue with an entity from “Titania.” In Zanfretta’s own voice as the entity he said they were lost in space and looking for a place to settle and while the Earth felt cold to them they wished to speak to our leader, presumably to make arrangements.
Zanfretta was abducted repeatedly and hypnotized repeatedly including one more televised session on a nationally seen program, “Portabello” and more bizarre details were added to the case. His company cars had supposedly been lifted up into a craft on some occasions and to test whether this was happening, Val Basigno employees rigged a car with steel cables attached that would break if the car was lifted off the ground. They also hid a thermometer in between the front and back seats that would record the highest temperature. Zanfretta had another encounter and when the car was examined after, the cables had broken and the thermometer recorded a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius, which is 109.4 degrees Farenheit.
With so many publicized abductions it was impossible that Zanfretta’s life would not be affected. Val Basigno needed to convince the public they were helping to protect that their night watchman wasn’t crazy, so they subjected him to a psychiatric evaluation and he was found to be sane and sincere. In the meantime his gun license was suspended which meant he could no longer function as a watchman but rather than fire him, Val Basigno assigned him to the radio command center. The episodes stopped and a year later Zanfretta got himself a lawyer and was successful in getting his license renewed.
Zanfretta had one more encounter and a final hypnosis session. Over the course of his encounters his hair had turned gray and he gained 30 pounds. In addition, after each abduction, his urine would be black. That he was faking the events seems unlikely as his livelihood was threatened and he never profited. That his life was not destroyed is a testament to the kindness and understanding of his employers.