Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Waking up at a 1,000 feet: case (probably) solved

Tonight’s ‘Fantástico’ TV show investigated the case of Odair Berti, who at the beginning of this month woke up to find himself 1,000 feet from the ground over a steep and inaccessible rock. You can watch the segment above, in Portuguese – that’s the man, and that’s the rock.

Odair don’t know how he ended up there – the last thing he knew, he went to sleep early the previous night. A rescue team, Fantástico clarified, took nine hours to get to him with proper equipment. He was tired and dehydrated, but “didn’t have a scratch” in his body, which was protected only by a shorts, a shirt and sandals. No climbing equipment.

Mystery? Solved. Well, probably. Some people will not believe the explanation.

The news program revealed the small detail that Odair is a somnambulist, a sleepwalker. “He has been already found in the streets, at midnight, dreaming. This time he went to sleep at 8PM, in the shed in the middle of the bean crop [near the rock]. He woke up at midnight, at a point of the rock wall 80 meters from the ground”.

Oh, that’s another detail. The rock may be a 1,000 feet high, but Odair didn’t climb to the top. He only climbed up to less than 300 feet. Which is no small feat, but easier to conceive.

But can a sleepwalker not only walk through dense vegetation, but climb 300 feet up a steep rock wall, at night, wearing only sandals and without injuring himself? It may seem unbelievable, as many TV viewers around here are already protesting, but that which we call somnambulism is something quite bizarre.

Behold, dear readers, the not quite widely known… homicidal somnambulism. From Wikipedia:

“Occasionally, sleepwalkers kill people, usually a family member, during their sleepwalking act. There have been several rare cases in which an alleged act of homicide has occurred, and the prime suspect may have committed the act while sleepwalking. About 68 cases to date have been known.”

The illustrative case is that of Kenneth Parks:

“In the early morning hours of May 23rd, 1987, Parks reportedly got up (not awoke) from his sleep, drove roughly 23 km to his in-laws’ home and broke in, assaulted his father-in-law and stabbed his mother-in-law to death. After all this, he managed to drive himself to the police station. Aside from a few isolated events, the next thing he could recall was being at the police station asking for help, saying “I think I have killed some people…my hands.”

Parks’ only defense was that he was asleep during the entire incident and was not aware of what he was doing. Naturally, nobody believed it, even sleep specialists were extremely skeptical. However, after careful investigation, the specialists could find no other explanation. Parks’ EEG readings were highly irregular even for a parasomniac. This combined with the facts that there was no motive, that he was amazingly consistent in his stories for more than seven interviews despite repeated attempts of trying to lead him astray, that the timing of the events fit perfectly with the proposed explanation, and that there is no way to fake EEG results, Parks was acquitted of the murder of his mother-in-law and the attempted murder of his father-in-law.”

Ideally, more investigation should be conducted at the site to gather if it would be indeed inconceivable to Odair to get up to where he was alone – as one firemen argued. Otherwise, for the lack of another plausible hypothesis, and being the orthodox dogmatic thinkers we are, I guess we may assume he managed his way.

For my part, I think it’s important to realize that Odair probably climbed the rock, sleepwalking (sleepclimbing? Ha ha) up until the point he could, through a path that he later couldn’t see or even use as his way back. It’s not very polite to make this comparison, but he may have found himself in the same situation as cats stuck up in trees are.

Odair Berti himself seems to be a simple and sane man, genuinely scared with the prospect that the event could happen again, and he might not be as lucky. I do hope this serves to alert him, so as to make him take the proper measures to deal with his condition.

Does these kinds of sleepwalking seem puzzling? Well, there’s another kind too.

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3 Comments so far

  1. […] The case has been solved (probably). Related PostsWaking up at a 1,000 feet: case (probably) solved Tonight’s ‘Fantástico’ TV […]

  2. alanborky November 24th, 2008 7:29 pm

    My sister was prone to sleepwalking while we were growing up. I’ve also known other people prone to it. One thing I can assure you of is even when they’ve only gotten up to relatively minor hijinks, the next day they always find they’ve got at least small scratches or bruises for which they can’t account, (unless an eyewitness is actually able to tell them what happened).

    I’m also aware of ‘inexplicable’ instances of the likes of broken limbs, ribs, or even cracked skulls, significant injuries which the people concerned only became aware of some time after the event.

    Observing sleepwalkers, even in environments they’re familiar with, one is struck by the lack of fluency in their movements – in novel environments they’re closer to zombies.

    In short, even if this IS a sleepwalking case, it’s no SIMPLE sleepwalking case – this guy’s apparently managed to perform as a terrain expert during his ascendt, in spite of the fact most of his senses and physical reactions would’ve been severely impaired.

  3. Carlos Magno November 29th, 2008 7:44 pm

    Few years ago people often told stories about kidnapping. I remember a special one, as per:

    “Once a couple were coming back home from a Brazilian mountain city. On a desert road they’ve suddenly seen in the dark sky something like a shining beam; a very bright, luminous and uncommon light. The beaming light came up and descended on and around the car that stopped at once. They too were unable to move or get rid of and that was their sole and remnant memory. Two or three days later they’ve been in Argentina, inside the car, trying to know what had happened to.

    No one could ever explain this strange incident but the couple had nightmares and submitted to inducing hypnosis they revealed they’ve been grabbed and put to the torture by aliens”.

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