You do not have to be a conspiracy theorist to know that the Bermuda Triangle or the Devil’s Triangle is an area over the North Atlantic Ocean where planes and ships supposedly vanish without a trace. While no other place is as widely known as the Devil’s Triangle, the Mapimí Silent Zone comes fairly close. This area in northern Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert is steeped in some fascinating myths and urban legends. It is claimed that radio signals do not work there, compasses stop working, and strange fireballs hover in the sky. Though most popular sources have refuted these claims, it has not stopped rumors from spreading.
Situated near the Bolsón de Mapimí, the desert patch made headlines when an Athena rocket lost control and crashed here in 1970.
On July 11, 1970, the United States Air Force launched an ATHENA V-123-D test rocket, carrying two containers of a radioactive element called Cobalt 57, from Utah’s Green River Launch Complex. Though its intended target was New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, the rocket lost control and accidentally entered into the Mexican airspace. Soon after, it crash-landed in the Durango desert in the area now known as the “Zone of Silence.” Right away, a team of covert experts arrived at the scene to find and retrieve the crashed rocket, which they were only able to locate after conducting over three weeks of exhaustive aerial searches. A road was then built to transport the wreckage along with some contaminated topsoil.
Though the entire operation was fairly hush-hush, the U.S. government hired a few locals to guard the crash site. The secrecy around the incident had already sparked interest, and the local guards had fueled the stories to garner some attention. Rumors kept spreading about the strange happenings in the area, and potential hotel builders and landowners saw it as an opportunity to boost the economy. A few scientists had supposedly visited the area and confirmed the phenomena, but documents related to the research are hard to find.
Among the many myths, the most popular ones are that radios and compasses do not work in the zone, and UFO sightings are fairly common.
Locally called as the ‘Zona del Silencio,’ the Mapimí Silent Zone overlaps the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve. The area was once entirely submerged underwater, and marine life fossils can be found all over, which is why scientists have often dubbed it as the “Sea of Thetys.” A number of large meteorites have also landed near the zone over the last century. However, the area was not called the “Zone of Silence” until 1966, when an engineer working for the Pemex oil company conducted an expedition there. While exploring the land, he had some problems with his radio, and consequently, he named the area the “Zone of Silence.”
Since the rocket-crash incident of 1970, people have reported magnetic anomalies and UFO sightings all around the area. It is also said that radios do not work inside the zone, compasses become useless, and people wearing “tight silver suits” can be seen. However, verifying these claims is not easy or always possible because the zone supposedly moves around. Naturally, visitors to the area have often seen their radios and compasses working fine.
Mainstream scientists and experts have repeatedly refuted the claims surrounding the mysterious Zone of Silence.
Due to the lack of proper evidence, mainstream scientists have rejected the theories surrounding the strange phenomena that supposedly takes place in the area. However, that has further fueled the imaginations of paranormal investigators and conspiracy theorists. Known as “zoneros“, the proponents of these theories are sometimes considered to be a threat to the historical and natural resources of the area. Visitors often scour the desert for “clues” and end up collecting historical and natural artifacts that might be valuable to researchers. The nearby ecological research station called the “Mapimí Biosphere Reserve” has also raised concerns related to the misguided popularity of the Zone of Silence.