Over the course of history, there have been plenty of events classified as paranormal. Sightings of cryptids and UFOs, poltergeist activity, and other unexplainable things have been reported the world over.
But, usually, these happenings are somewhat separate from each other. The odds of a Sasquatch being sighted in the same place that a crop circle has appeared in are astronomical.
Unless you’re on Skinwalker Ranch, a 480-acre property in rural Utah that is home to a menagerie of paranormal activities. UFOs have been sighted flying above it. Strange creatures appear to live in and around its pastures. Glowing orbs are seen making rounds amongst the trees. It appears to be an epicentre of something paranormal, and it’s gotten a lot of attention over the years.
Including from us – let’s take a look.
What is a Skinwalker
The creature that most people think of as a “skinwalker” comes from the lore of the Native American Navajo tribe and is defined as a type of malevolent witch that can transform itself into any animal, or, alternately, possess living animals, and use them to do their bidding.
There is little known about the legend due to the Navajo and other tribes’ reluctance to share the legend with outsiders, but there is a little bit that we do know.
According to the legends, a skinwalker is someone who starts out learning magic to become a medicine man — or woman. However, traditional healers must learn about both good and evil magic in order to be able to practice, and some students become corrupted with the evil magic to end up as witches.
The skinwalker is just one type of witch, but they are said to be feared amongst Navajo communities. They are selfish and fundamentally evil, using their magic to sicken and even kill those around them.
In their animal forms – usually wolves or coyotes, though they can become any animal – they are said to be unnaturally large, vicious, and bloodthirsty.
Tales of the skinwalker that are told among Navajo children are often struggles between the creature and a Navajo warrior, and one or the other will be killed. The alternative stories are those that end in a stalemate, or in the skinwalker being scared away from a settlement. Navajo children will occasionally take other popular urban legends, such as the story of the Hook Man, and replace the antagonist with a skinwalker.
Most of the stories of the skinwalker today have hints of the modern world – often there are reports of huge, almost humanoid animals chasing cars on highways, and there is an ongoing debate about whether you can kill a skinwalker with bullets.
The Beginnings of Skinwalker Ranch
The property now known as “Skinwalker Ranch” has an unclear history, much like the creature that it gets its nickname from, but there are some things that we know for sure.
The earliest recorded happenings are from 1951, when a local science teacher named Joseph “Junior” Hicks began investigating Uintah County – the county in which the ranch is located – and its long history of UFO activity after seeing one fly overhead while he was with a class of elementary school students.
He began collecting unusual accounts from the area in and around Skinwalker Ranch, eventually gathering 400 accounts of separate events, some dating back to the 1900s. Though it’s unclear when the ranch was established, the land on which it rests appears to have been the site of paranormal activity for hundreds of years.
In addition to gathering accounts from citizens of Uintah County, Hicks investigated the lore of the Ute tribe of Native Americans that live in the area. He discovered that, due to a conflict with the Navajo, the Utes designated the property as cursed and refuse to set foot upon it. They refer to it as “the path of the skinwalker” and note that the land has been cursed for generations; the story likely predates the other paranormal accounts.
Hicks notes that the ranch stood empty for most of the period from the late 70s to 1994, when the Sherman family moved in. The reason for this has never been outwardly stated, but one can presume that the paranormal happenings that surround the ranch probably have a part to play in its vacancy.
The Sherman Family Moves In
In 1994, the Sherman family moved onto the property with the intention of raising cattle there. The family consisted of Terry Sherman, his wife Gwen, and their two children – these are their real names that have come out in previous media, and all others are pseudonyms.
Immediately after occupying the ranch, they began to experience frequent paranormal activity of all types.
The most common phenomena seen by the Shermans were floating spheres of light of different sizes and colors, though blue and orange seemed especially prevalent. In 1995-1996 alone, they reported 12 separate incidents with orange orbs alone.
In May 1996, Terry Sherman was out with his dogs when they saw a blue orb the size of a basketball moving in a perimeter around the yard. Terry encouraged his dogs to chase it, and it led them into the brush surrounding the nearby paddock.
He said that he heard three yelps, and then nothing. His dogs were nowhere to be found. When he searched for them, he found nothing but three circles of burnt, dry vegetation, as though the dogs had somehow been incinerated.
After their prized cattle dogs mysteriously disappeared, the Shermans began to consider leaving the ranch. They report that, in their last few months on the ranch, they found it difficult to sleep, and what sleep they did get was plagued by nightmares. They would take to sleeping on the floor in their living room, hoping that there was safety in numbers.
The National Institute for Discovery Science
Fortunately for the Shermans, there were others interested in purchasing the property. Joseph Hicks had told George Knapp, co-host of Coast to Coast AM, about the ranch and the huge number of paranormal happenings there. Knapp, then, publish a few articles in local Utah papers and in his own weekly column in the Las Vegas Mercury.
His work on the ranch caught the attention of hotel magnate Robert Bigelow, who was known for spending his fortune on paranormal research at the time. He purchased Skinwalker Ranch from the Sherman family for $200,000 in late 1996.
Shortly after, he hired molecular biologist Colm Kelleher to head up the scientific team he planned to station at the ranch. The team included a handful of PhDs in various useful disciplines, including Colonel John Alexander, a former NATO advisor. They then occupied Skinwalker Ranch for almost a decade.
They moved in a small portable building with a ton of remote cameras and other monitoring devices to observe the happenings around the ranch. Activity was reported to spike when they moved in, and they would observe many of the same phenomena that the Shermans had reported. But the activity would wane after a few years, and the project was finally shut down in 2004.
In their final reports, they concluded that many of the crafts seen were not consistent with military aircraft, but they had few comments on the other happenings surrounding the ranch.
Where are we now?
After the NIDS moved out of the ranch in 2004, it sat vacant for a period of 12 years before Bigelow sold it to a company called Adamantium Real Estate, LLC in 2016.
Many skeptics have analyzed the data collected by the NIDS and concluded that there is no real evidence for any of the phenomena described by the Shermans or anyone else.
However, Joseph Hicks, the Sherman family, and the residents of Uintah County maintain that what they’ve been seeing for generations is real. So there really is no way to tell.
There have been few reports of activity on the ranch since its abandonment, but that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened there. Just that no one has been there to see it.
Are there really UFOs that hover over the ranch? Are there actual skinwalkers living in the forest around it? We’ll leave that to you to decide.