TALES FROM THE SKINWALKER RANCH
We have had many shows in the past about haunted locations across the country. We have spoken of towns that harbor a secret about their past and everyone knows about haunted landmarks wherever they live. However what many people don’t realize is that a lot of these so called haunted areas of the country are far away from any big city. Many of them are remote areas that most people would never want travel to to start with.
In 1995, when Ground Zero first started airing in Salt Lake City, our first big paranormal story was kind of in our own back yard. Mildred Beasley, who was the chairwoman of the Utah chapter of MUFON, and UFO investigator Ryan Layton had given me a news tip about a ranch off the beaten path in the Uintah Basin that was being attacked by forces that could not be explained. The story was at first a UFO story. That was just a small part of it, however.
There were also a number of reports that the ranch was also being plagued with werewolf encounters, poltergeist activity, strange voices and other encounters that were unheard of in any paranormal circle.
This ranch, owned by Terry Sherman and his wife Gwen, was literally a ranch of terror with stories that would make the 'Amityville Horror' sound like a children’s Halloween Party.
At the time, Sherman talked to very few reporters and wanted to get rid of the ranch without any attention from the press, but word traveled fast in the small community near Fort Duchesne, Utah and soon reporters and paranormal investigators settled in at the overlook near the mesa where the strange activity was occurring.
Very little information was released about the ranch in 1995, only that a strange force was playing games with the Sherman’s. There were strange, shadowy figures inside the house, objects would move on their own, disembodied voices could be heard speaking in unintelligible languages and many head of cattle were found mutilated on the ranch.
It was also reported that UFO’s, in the form of large balls of light, could be seen in the sky, coming down to the ground and strange humanoid figures stepping out of them some even appearing to be like upright, walking wolves.
The area was first called 'UFO Hill' because of the stories that the tribal police would tell about UFO’s and abduction in the area. It was later called Skinwalker Ranch because the locals called the upright walking wolves “skinwalkers.”
In 1995, the ranch came to the attention of NIDS, the National Institute for Discovery Science based in Las Vegas and owned by millionaire Robert Bigelow. NIDS bought the property and began an unprecedented scientific study of all of these paranormal claims. Observation platforms were built with CCTV cameras. The ranch was under heavy guard with personnel and former lawmen were on the property 24-7 for 8 years.
Not much is known about the Ranch thanks to the successful sanitizing of the story on many talk shows. However, when Ground Zero first got the news from then Deseret News reporter Zack Van Eyk about the ranch, the story sounded as if it were ripped out of the 'Poltergeist' movies. At the time, I was in contact with Rene Barnett who is a top television and documentary producer. Barnett, who has been producer for shows such as 'Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura', the acclaimed mysterious investigation into Rennes le Chateau in the movie 'Bloodline', and the television show 'Strange Universe'. The story of the Sherman Ranch was a difficult story to get on the air because it was in such a remote area and, with it being under heavy guard like Area 51, people were afraid to get near it.
In 2003, I teamed up with a video crew that was doing work for a paranormal television pilot called 'Unknown Zone' and we ventured out to the ranch with UFO investigator Dave Rosenfeld to see if we could find anything out of the ordinary. The truth is, we really did not see anything that would be considered terrifying only the blue lights chasing through the fields. The lights appeared to be arcing balls of electricity.
I speculated that, perhaps, the conditions were right for the tall grass to be creating some sort of static charge. The balls were remarkably bright and we wondered what they could have been as they looked nothing like typical orbs. There was also a moment where we recorded the sounds of some wild animal that we thought sounded like a human being screaming in agony. There was no proof that this sound was that of the skinwalker, but we figured that in the thick of an investigation about skinwalkers, the sound of some growling or moaning animal gave us the creeps and so we kept it pretty close to our vests.
The raised observation platforms were still at the ranch when we arrived and it was actually said that the ranch had been vacated because NIDS reported very little activity at the ranch.
However, the information that we gathered about the folklore in the area raised the attention of the tribal police and I had to explain why I was poking around the area looking for the skinwalker.
Skinwalkers are believed to be shapeshifters.
In the movie 'The 13th Warrior', an adaptation of the book 'Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922' by Michael Crichton, the Persian Ambassador is captured by a group of Vikings. He is then forced to do battle with the “mist monsters.” They appear to be beasts on horseback and they are quite menacing as they kill the women and children. It is then realized that they are a clan of “skinwalkers.”
Men who wear the skins of bears, by all appearances, become 'werebears'. Wikipedia says, "In some Native American legends, a skinwalker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires." The ability to be a shapeshifter is usually given to the shaman or medicine man and is done through rituals and ceremonies where the skins of wolves or bears are worn and the individual changes into the beast. There have also been accounts of shaman creating a salves consisting of peyote and other natural substances that they can rub on their bodies which give them the ability to fly in this condition. The shaman usually chooses the skin of a coyote or wolf in order to make the desired change.
The skinwalker also is known as the Lucan or the Wendigo. The Wendigo has also been known to eat the flesh of the dead. This of course can be all connected to legends of the Latin American chupacabra, or “goat sucker,” a creature that resembles a wild dog and, of course, the werewolf.
Robert Bigelow decided to pull out of the ranch and no one knows why. All of the data that he collected with his science team has now been locked up and kept secret. Bigelow made the claim that there was no data to support the paranormal activity however they were investigating the ranch for eight years.
There was a report that was actually submitted to the show 'Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura' that two of the workers at the ranch were killed either by skinwalkers or extra-terrestrials.
It was also later revealed that Ret. Colonel John B. Alexander worked for Bigelow and there was also a report that he officiated over the ranch for an undetermined amount of time.
John B. Alexander was the subject of the book “The Men Who Stare At Goats” by John Ronson linking Alexander to the 'First Earth Battalion', a group of remote viewers and men trained to communicate with extra'terrestrials.
Alexander’s affiliation with the 'First Earth Battalion' was quite literally to create a psy-op group that was formed in the U.S. military to allegedly handle extra-terrestrial affairs such as abductions, contact through telepathy, remote viewing and ESP and even possible simulated extra-terrestrial “drills” using holographic technology. 'First Earth Battalion' eventually became the 'Jedi Project'. All of these secretive psy-op groups are, or were, well skilled in spreading information and disinformation about the occult, the Heaven’s Gate cult, the attacks of 9/11, remote viewing and UFO’s.
Much of what is known about the Skinwalker Ranch can be found in a book that was written by KLAS reporter, George Knapp. In “The Hunt for the Skinwalker,” Knapp provides a horrific narrative that is a page turner about the ranch. However, after the book was launched and a buzz was created about it, Bigelow and his NIDS organization decided to call it quits. This brought into question the validity of the entire story because the data that was collected was classified as a 'company secret' through the auspices of Bigelow Aerospace.
Now the ranch is a matter of legend and the subject of at least one film. The new film “Skinwalker Ranch” has been getting great reviews even though the film itself is loosely based on the Terry Sherman narrative. It is a piece of superior paranormal fiction and brings a sense of dread and terror to the screen as all of the elements come together to create an unbelievable and entertaining story.
The motif of the film is the “found footage” genre, made famous by the 'Blair Witch Project'. Some critics are saying that it is one of the best films of the genre since aliens are really not used in “found footage” films.
The film deals with cattle mutilation, the huge blue lights that I saw when I was at the ranch, the idea that it could be in the middle of a magnetic vortex, and a monstrous wolf-like “skinwalker.”
The film does not ignore the alien/UFO angle and it is remarkable how we see the aliens in the film and rather than having them look like hokey CGI creatures, they most certainly look as if someone conjured them just for an appearance in the film.
Their movements and their appearance are enough to make one’s blood turn to ice water. The film will probably set the standard for the legend of the events that took place there.
The question is: Have the events that were the basis for all of the interest stopped?
No one really has mounted an investigation since Jesse Ventura’s outing last year and even in that episode many of those interviewed were very careful not to confirm anything that happened there in the first place.
One thing that is sure, my experience there was very real to me and all of the journalists and associates that I worked with at the time were most certainly taking their journalistic integrity seriously and reporting the reality of a very traumatic event in the Uintah Basin.
The Skinwalker Ranch is still out there in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone to uncover other secrets that may be prowling in the shadows.