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In 1978, a private security guard was destined to have one of the most bizarre, and outright terrifying, encounters with extra-terrestrial beings ever recorded. On the frigid, moonless night of December 6th, 1978, a 26 year-old night watchman, husband and father of two named Pier Zanfretta was on a routine patrol in the village of Torriglia, when he stumbled into a horrifying encounter with creatures that would forever change his life.
According to Zanfretta’s report, he was negotiating the dangerously icy roads in his patrol car, en route to the currently unoccupied country home of a client, Dr. Ettore Righi, when the engine, radio and lights of his vehicle all simultaneously, and inexplicably, died. It was at that moment that Zanfretta claimed to have seen four lights moving around in the garden of the Righi house. Assuming that the strange beams were emanating from the flashlights of would-be thieves, Zanfretta quietly climbed out of his car with his revolver and flashlight at the ready. The security guard — courageously committed to protecting his client’s home — silently slipped through the open gate and crept along a rock wall in an effort to get the jump on what he still assumed were ordinary burglars… it was then that he got the shock of his life. Just as he was preparing to leap out to confront these trespassers, Zanfretta felt something touch his shoulder from behind. He spun around, revolver in hand, but instead of finding an average human criminal illuminated by his flashlight’s harsh glare, he saw an entity that he described as being: “An enormous green, ugly and frightful creature, with undulating skin… as though he were very fat or dressed in a loose, gray tunic… no less than 10-feet tall.”
In later interviews, Zanfretta would include more explicit descriptions of these ostensibly interstellar beasts including such features as hairy, greenish skin, points on the sides of their faces, rounded fingertips, monstrous, yellow triangular eyes and red veins across the forehead. Based on this depiction, these life-forms may be akin to what some believe are a particularly nasty breed of E.T. known in ufological circles as reptoids. Zanfretta also described a unique mechanical apparatus that fit over their mouths, which enabled them to breath in Earth’s oxygen rich atmosphere. Later, while under hypnosis, he recalled asking these creatures about the odd device: “Why don’t you have a mouth? You get only those irons with a net, which give out light.” Zanfretta was so stunned by the sight before him that he immediately dropped his flashlight, but — in what was no doubt an adrenaline fueled burst of self-control — he managed to hastily snatched it up and sprint away from this bizarre brute. As he approached his car, Zanfretta would testify that a brilliant light began to loom up behind him.
He looked over his shoulder to see a massive, triangular shape, which blinded him with its luminosity. Zanfretta shielded his eyes with his arm and stared in awe as this gigantic UFO — which he claimed eclipsed even the house in its immensity — ascended with a “hiss” from behind the Righi residence. It was at this point that Zanfretta claimed to have been blasted with a searing wave of heat. Struggling, the guard finally made it back to his car where he proceeded to contact his security company’s center of operations in nearby Genoa. It was at precisely 12:15 am. when Carlo Toccalino — the security company’s radio operator — testified that Zanfretta was speaking in an confused and agitated fashion. Toccalino claimed that what little he could discern of Zanfretta’s incoherent babbling consisted of descriptions of bizarre, inhuman beings. When Toccalino asked his comrade to describe who was assaulting him, Zanfretta’s shocking response was: “No, they aren’t men, they aren’t men… my God, are they ugly!” At that point, the communications were abruptly broken off and Toccalino called the chief of the security service, Lt. Giovanni Cassiba. Cassiba — certainly concerned with both the welfare of his man and his client’s property — sent another patrol out to check on Zanfretta without delay.
Due to the treacherous conditions, the second patrol did not reach the site until approximately one hour later. It was at about 1:15 in the morning when the two night watchmen, Walter Lauria and Raimondo Mascia, discovered Zanfretta lying prone on the frozen ground in front of the Righi house. When Zanfretta saw the approaching guards, he leapt to his feet, eyes bulging with fear, pistol and flashlight both aimed at his comrades. Lauria and Mascia both attested that the usually timid and lucid family man was irrational and did not appear to recognize them, nor did he seem comprehend their urgent requests for him to lower his weapon. The guards, fearing for their own welfare, rushed Zanfretta and fortunately managed to disarm him before there were any unintentional casualties. The pair later testified that they were shocked to discover how warm his clothes were, despite the fact that he had apparently been laying on frozen ground for the last hour.
This event was so disturbing that the Italian military police — the Carabinieri — were immediately dispatched to the area in order to investigate. The very same night they found two distinct marks in the frost smothered grass behind the country home. These immense imprints — which some have speculated may have been created by the triangular UFO’s landing gear — were measured to be 9-feet in diameter and were shaped like horseshoes. The commandant of the Torriglia station, Antonio Nucchi — who had known Zanfretta for many years — stated unequivocally that he believed in the veracity of the guard’s frankly extraordinary testimony. When asked his opinion of the mental stability of this professional sentry, Nucchi answered: “I can state with certainty that he is a clear thinking man with no strange fantasies in his head. When we went to investigate the scene the next day, he almost didn’t want to come, he was so scared. Only something exceptional could have frightened him so.”
During the investigation Nucchi revealed that no less than 52 Torriglia citizens had reported spying a bright, glaring illumination emanating from the direction of the Righi house at exactly the same time Zanfretta testified to watching the triangular UFO rise up into the atmosphere. The story might well have ended there were it not for frenzy that soon descended on the village of Torriglia in the form of a scoop hungry press who had gotten wind of this extraordinary tale of UFOs, gargantuan alien visitors and a petrified security guard. Not surprisingly, the reactions that most of the television and newspaper reporters had to this story ranged from polite skepticism to outright ridicule of Zanfretta and his mental state. Some even went so far as to flat out assert he was lying about the whole thing. This incredulous attitude was shared by almost all of the journalists, with the sole exception of a reporter named Rino Di Stefano, who was working for the local Genoa daily paper “Il Corriere Mercantile.”
Di Stefano was intrigued by the Zanfretta case and wrote several articles on the subject. Unlike most of his peers, Di Stefano could not rationalize why a husband and father, who was engaged in a respected profession, would jeopardize both his career and his reputation in the community by making up a story as patently ludicrous as this. So he took it upon himself to contact Zanfretta in order to get to the bottom of this mystery. What seemed to confirm Di Stefano’s belief in Zanfretta’s sincerity – above and beyond the additional 52 eyewitnesses who claimed to have also seen a bizarre light in the area — was what he attested to be the man’s disdain for the dubious fame and local recognition he was now being bombarded with: “Zanfretta didn’t want to be famous. He refused the notoriety, because he was worried about his job and his family.” Zanfretta even admitted to Di Stefano that the crank calls he was steadily receiving were beginning to take their toll: “People call me on the phone at all hours just to play jokes on me. I don’t know what it was that I saw, but I saw it. I am not a liar… if I could have, I wouldn’t have reported my experiences, now that I see the consequences.”
On December 23rd, 1978, the harried Zanfretta – with the encouragement of Di Stefano — agreed to undergo hypnosis in order to shed light on what really happened on the fateful night of December 6th. The session was held in Genoa and presided over by Dr. Mauro Moretti, a psychotherapist and member of the Italian Association of Medical Hypnosis. During the session, Zanfretta confirmed that not only had he actually seen beings from another world, but that these colossal fiends had actually abducted him. He further claimed, under hypnosis, that these terrifying apparitions had transported him into a hot, luminous location where they thoroughly examined and interrogated him. According to Zanfretta, these the creatures did not speak Italian, but used a strange “luminous device” to translate what they were saying. During the same session, Zanfretta also indicated that the creatures came from the planet “Teetonia,” which was located in the “third galaxy” and that — perhaps most disturbingly — “they want to talk with us and that they will soon return in larger numbers.” It should be noted that “soon” could be a relative concept from species hailing from another world.
Sadly for Zanfretta, the horrific abductions did not stop here. At 11:45 pm., on the foggy, rain soaked eve of December, 26th — just three nights after his first hypnosis session — Zanfretta claimed to have been snatched yet again. The guard stated that he was driving his patrol car through the Bargagli tunnel, near the Scoffera Pass, when he suddenly he lost control of the vehicle. The panic stricken guard immediately radioed in and reported that his car was now driving of its own accord and had emerged from the tunnel. The horrified Zanfretta desperately tried to engage the brakes and the steering wheel to no avail as the Fiat continued to barrel through the drizzly fog bank up a steep incline. After traveling in the presumably remote controlled automobile for approximately a mile, the Fiat finally come to a bone jarring halt. Zanfretta was thrust forward by the momentum and smashed his head against the steering wheel. It was then that his car was bathed in a white-hot light.
At this point the security company radio operator claimed that Zanfretta called in, speaking in what he described as a “very controlled voice,” stating that: “The car has stopped. I saw a bright light. Now I am getting out.” Much like the first incident, Zanfretta and his vehicle were discovered at 1:10 am. by another pair of security guards. The first man to spot Zanfretta was Sergeant Emanuele Travenzoli. Travenzoli stated that he found Zanfretta in a field near the road and, despite the continuing downpour his clothes were warm and dry. Travenzoli also claimed that Zanfretta was in a state of shock; quivering and weeping. This time the men on the scene were disturbed to hear their companion declare: “They say I must leave with them. What about my children? I don’t want to… I don’t want to.” Once again the Carabinieri were called in. After they arrived on the scene, the military officers found, much to their befuddlement, that even though the Fiat had been exposed to the cold downpour for an extended period of time, the roof of the car was as hot as one that had been baking in the scorching sun. Equally inexplicably, the officers revealed that the auto’s interior was as “hot as an oven.”
As if that weren’t bizarre enough, the military police also discovered that the Fiat was surrounded by inexplicably large boot prints measuring 20-inches long, by 8-inches wide. These odd, bigfoot-like prints had a distinctive bare spot between the sole and the heel. This remains one of the most intriguing traces of physical evidence ever to have been left at the scene of an alleged alien abduction. The Carabinieri then came across Zanfretta’s revolver — a Smith & Wesson 38 Special — which had been fired five times. Amazingly, the still scared guard could not recall at whom or what he had fired the weapon. Needless to say — due to the unexplained firing of bullets as well as the public furor surrounding these abductions — the military police’s probe into these unlikely events required a full report. On January 3, 1979, all data in the case was collected by commandant Nucchi in a file labeled the “Report on the Sighting of Unidentified Flying Objects by Fortunato Zanfretta.” This file was forwarded to the magistrates court in Genoa with an inquiry as to what action should be taken. Finally, after the buck had been passed numerous times, the report was delivered to Magistrate Russo who, a year later on January 11, 1980, certified that it could be filed away with the declaration of: “No crime committed.”
The Carabinieri also informed the Italian Department of Interior and other military commands of the incident by two telexes sent respectively on December 8th and 28th of 1978. The Carabinieri defined the degree of reliability that these bizarre events actually occurred as: “good.” This concern on the part of the Carabinieri night not seem so far fetched when one considers the fact that in December of 1978, there were so many UFO sighting across Italy that Falco Accame — a former member of the Italian Parliament — asked both Italy’s Premier, Giulio Andreotti, and Minister of Defense, Attilio Ruffini, to inform the Italian Congress about their opinion concerning the nature of the recent UFO sightings and what threats they may pose to the citizens of Italy. Following his second encounter with the unknown, Zanfretta became somewhat of a reluctant celebrity.
His employers — concerned about all the publicity as well as the mental health of their armed employee — asked prominent neurologist, Dr. Giorgio Gianniotti, to examine Zanfretta. His diagnosis was: “The man is in a state of shock, but he is perfectly sane." Dr. Gianniotti’s conclusions helped to improve the credibility of this once unknown working class man, but the naysayers were starting to make life a living hell for Zanfretta and his family. It was then that Zanfretta agreed to undergo hypnosis under the supervision of Dr. Moretti yet again, and this time he consented to allow it to be televised in an effort to prove he was not insane.
During this interview, Zanfretta recalled being stripped and forced by the abductors to wear a strange helmet, which enabled him to understand their language, but caused him tremendous pain. He also remembered one of the aliens taking his gun and firing the bullets into a “panel,” in what one can only assume was an effort to see if human weapons had the capability of harming them. Zanfretta then expressed fear over the fact that he may be required to leave his home and family behind: “I know that you need me, but I don’t want to. I like to be alone. I have two children. I feel good this way… and after all you are not human beings. You are horrible.” Hundreds of thousands of viewers watched this extraordinary interview, but instead of clearing his name it only further exacerbated the skepticism of his critics and elevated his cult celebrity to a global level. Eventually, as is often the case in unexplained events, the furor died down… that was until Zanfretta was abducted a third time.
On the night of July 30th, 1979, Zanfretta was on a motorcycle patrol in the residential area of Quarto in Genoa — far from the lonely peaks of Torriglia — when he vanished once more. Again his fellow guards were the first on the scene. They managed to find him following a two hour search on the summit of nearby Mount Fasce. It should be noted that local eyewitnesses claimed that they had not seen the young guard or his motorcycle travel up the single road that led to the top of the mountain. This time a hypnotic regression was conducted at International Center of Medical and Psychological Hypnosis in Milan where, on his own request, Zanfretta was injected with sodium penathol by Prof. Marco Marchesan. While under the “truth serum’s” effects, Zanfretta claimed that he was lifted from the ground into to the alien spaceship by a mysterious green light.
Following the procedure, Professor Marchesan confirmed that: “No human being can knowingly lie while he is under Pentothal treatment, so I think it’s very probable Zanfretta had these encounters.” Still, for poor Zanfretta — and an even more unfortunate co-worker — the worst was yet to come. At about 10:30 pm. on Sunday, December 2nd, 1979, Zanfretta disappeared for the fourth time while driving an Austin Mini in the suburbs of Genoa. This time, however, the 26 year-old would not be the only one to have a brush with the inexplicable.While driving in the hills of Genoa searching for their missing cohort, four patrol guards claimed to have clearly seen a very strange, cloud-like object floating above them. Suddenly, two beams of light seemed emanate from within the large “cloud,” illuminating the patrol cars below. The vehicles’ engines concurrently stopped dead and the frightened, yet curious, guards got out of their patrol cards to get a better look at this UFO.
Apparently the Chief, Lt. Cassiba, became so frightened by the sight before them that fired his pistol at the unknown object. It was then that the ethereal lights were extinguished and the UFO slipped away. Sadly, Lt. Cassiba’s frightened reaction would not be the most tragic result of this unusual eyewitness event. One of those guards, Germano Zanardi, was so traumatized by the implications of what they had seen that it was said he never fully recovered his mental stability. A few months following this encounter he ended his life with a self inflicted gunshot to the head.
Just when it seemed as if it were impossible, this case took an even weirder turn, when on Monday December 3rd of the same year, at approximately 9:30 pm., Zanfretta got out of his patrol car at a self-service gasoline station near downtown Genoa. Zanfretta claimed that he heard someone calling out to him from the shadows outside the station. He described entity that was speaking to him as a tall, humanoid figure with a bald, “egg-shaped” head, who was dressed in a checkered suit that included a chest plate made of “steel” where the shirt should have been.
Zanfretta swore that the sound of the outlandish individual’s voice physically compelled him to obey the request that would come next. Apparently the voice — which may or may not have been telepathic as is often the case in Grinning Man scenarios — ordered him to drive his vehicle into a small cloud that was hovering just above the ground. Zanfretta did as he was instructed and claims that he and his patrol car were levitated within the cloud and deposited onto a huge spacecraft. Onboard the ship the guard was allowed to explore with the company of the oversized aliens. Within the colossal craft, Zanfretta claimed to have seen large, transparent cylinders filled with a weird blue liquid. One of the cylinders was said to have contained a “frog-shaped” body, which the aliens explained was: “An enemy of ours from another planet.” In two other cylinders, Zanfretta observed a large bird-like creature and another humanoid figure that he described as looking like a “caveman.”
Around this time these mystifying beings attempted to give Zanfretta a transparent sphere with what appeared to be an electrically charged pyramid inside. The aliens claimed that utilizing the sphere would enable human beings to comprehend who they were and how they live. Zanfretta tried to refuse the gift, stating that : “had enough of all these strange encounters and wished only go back to his normal life.” Nevertheless, the creatures insisted he accept it, informing him that he was to give the sphere to a man of whose name he had never heard before, noted American scientist and UFO researcher Dr. J Allen Hynek. Zanfretta — for reason only clear to him — claims that instead of giving this prize to the now deceased Hynek, he hid the object somewhere in the hills near Genoa. Zanfretta disappeared again on February 14th 1980, after which he was found by his colleagues in a state of shock and suffering from mild hypothermia. A villager living nearby stated that mere minutes before the rescuers arrived, he spied a huge, radiant mass in the sky.
During the next hypnosis session, doctor Moretti found Zanfretta to be uncharacteristically uncooperative. While hypnotized, he claimed he was contacting the aliens and began to speak an odd, unknown language. His voice became guttural and he uttered cryptic phrases like: “Question with negative answer, tixel… you can’t work out anything in a case like this. To believe or not to believe doesn’t mean anything: each thing in its own time.” Against all odds, Zanfretta managed to vanish yet again on August 13, 1980. But this time, he was under close observation and was found before the aliens – or a Grinning Man for that matter — could contact him. This was the end of his ordeal… at least until recently, when the now long retired security guard claimed the extra-terrestrials reinitiated contact. To what end remains to be seen. In 1984, Rino di Stefano wrote a book about these enigmatic events entitled: “The Zanfretta Case,” which details the harrowing events that took place between 1978 and 1980. That same year, the Italian state national broadcasting network, Rai Tv, made a two part docu-drama based on the book. While there can be little doubt that the purported series of events that took place near Torriglia, Italy borders on the absurd, one cannot dismiss the fact that there were over 60 additional witnesses to this strange aerial phenomenon and at least one poor soul who lost his life because of it.
To this day the perplexing case of Pier Fortunato Zanfretta remains the most famous account of an alien abduction ever to hail from Italy. But as frightening as this case is, an excerpt from one of night watchmen’s hypnotic recollections – in the form of a warning he seemed to be giving to the aliens — might paint a more optimistic picture of the intentions of these visitors: “I know you are trying to come more frequently… no, you can’t come to Earth, people get scared if they look at you. You can’t make friendship.” Perhaps now, a decade into the 21st Century, we might be ready to welcome these intergalactic travelers… let’s hope they treat technologically inferior people better than the human race usually does.
Possible connections to other Cryptids
- The Zanfretta Aliens share a slight resemblance to the three horned Ancient Ones in the cave paintings of Tassili.
- The frog creature could have some relation to the Loveland Frogmen.
- The description of tall, telepathic aliens with a grey epidermis — who also have a penchant for prophesying a dark future for humanity if it continues its current trends — are uncannily similar to creatures described in John Hodges' account of the Giant Space Brains of Palos Verdes