It’s a cold, crisp night in the Uintah basin. It’s pitch black, except for a few dim lights from neighboring farmsteads in the distance. But, within the harsh silhouette of the landscape, an eerie silence takes over. The wild cries of coyotes in the distance abruptly stop; the orchestra of crickets suddenly becomes dead silent. In one particular ranch located in the center of the basin, the Sherman family huddle inside their homestead, apprehensive of the strange activity looming outside their barely protective walls.
Outside in the darkness, a dim light slowly materializes out of thin air. The orange glow expands until it forms a small tunnel and a black object appears in its center. The object takes on the shape of a figureless humanoid; its long, grotesque limbs reach out as it creeps from within the impossible chasm. Eventually, it makes its way out, dropping onto the ground and dashing off into the hills of the ranch. Multiple featureless figures appear and surround the house, stalking around and even peering inside the windows to watch the family.
These shadow people ultimately didn’t stay outside. As the hauntings continued on the ranch, they appeared inside the home, standing in front of beds as the family members slept. They were also just one of the numerous entities that haunted the property. The Sherman family regularly witnessed phenomena ranging from UFOs to poltergeists to dire wolves that many speculate to be skinwalkers. Soon, word got out about the hotbed of paranormal activity, and the property became known by the public as Skinwalker Ranch.
The Legend of the Skinwalker
Skinwalkers are essentially shapeshifters and are associated with Native American folklore. They are malevolent witches able to transform into any animal, typically a predatory one such as a bear or wolf. Legends state medicine men and women become skinwalkers when they choose to use their powers for evil; their physical nature takes on a form that is as perverse as their bad deeds. Natives don’t treat this as simply a story. They rarely discuss the subject with nonnatives, since simply uttering the word “skinwalker” will make the person a target of this creature. The legend usually fills outsiders with a sense of fascination, but always fills natives with a sense of dread.
However, this age-old mythology didn’t start making the rounds into mainstream American culture until the Sherman family came out to local news media in Utah about the strange events occurring on their ranch. It turns out that their property sat in the “path of the skinwalker.” The land, where the Utes had once resided for generations, became cursed by the Navajo after the former tribe allied with the U.S. Army during the Civil War to drive them off their lands. In modern times, natives still will not enter this territory because of the curse.
In the Beginning
The ranch had been unoccupied for some time before the Sherman family moved in during the mid-90s. It was supposed to be a godsend. It was nearly 500 acres of spacious badlands, there was plenty of room for the Shermans to expand their cattle-breeding business. Best of all, the family bought the property for below market value. To the north of the ranch, a large red rock ridge imposes itself against the skyline. Somewhere below the structure, a canal flows across. The idyllic landscape of the property seemed to promise the beginning of a bright new chapter in the family’s life.
The buildings on the property themselves were a different story. Decrepit and rundown, the family made many necessary renovations to bring out the full livability of the ranch stead. When the family first toured inside the main house, they were disconcerted to find all the windows bolted down. All the doors had numerous heavy-duty locks as if to keep something extremely dangerous from barging inside. Chains were attached to the wall besides exits where the previous owners supposedly kept large dogs tied up to guard the doors.
As foreboding as that was, their troubles really began when an enormous wolf appeared to them while they were moving into their new home. The animal was unusually friendly as it approached the family, getting so close that one family member felt comfortable enough to reach his hand out to pet it. The affable behavior it displayed continued until it began attacking a calf that had stuck its head out of its corral. In a furious attempt to rescue the calf, Terry Sherman, the then new owner of the ranch, shot bullets into the wolf with his magnum. Strangely, it had no effect. No blood appeared on its fur, and the wolf didn’t react in pain. After the third shot, it hesitated, then nonchalantly backed away as Terry kept firing. Every so often, the creature would stop and gaze at Terry while as he shot. Its stare was unnerving. Eventually, it scampered off, but the bizarre encounter set up what the family might consider the most tumultuous period of their lives.
After that initial event, the Shermans would see other wolves on the property. Gwen Sherman, the wife of Terry Sherman, came home one night from work and found herself confronted by two large wolves watching her nearby as she sat in her car. The family would also see other wolves off in the distance a few times before the sightings finally ended.
Although the wolves didn’t return, other more malicious and inexplicable phenomena stepped in to take their place. Strange lights appeared at night on the property, and cattle began to go missing. Some of them returned, but in mutilated states. The carcasses were always somehow bloodless, and the cuts performed on the poor cattle were extremely precise.
These incidents began happening so often that Terry started scoping out the property every night in hopes of catching whoever was committing the mutilations. One night as he was doing this, he witnessed in disbelief a silent aircraft hovering over his field. Its form was sharp and geometric, similar to that of a military stealth fighter. It beamed kaleidoscopic lights over the pasture as if scanning for something. The presence of this UFO was disquieting. Its movements were oddly methodical, and the matte-black aircraft didn’t make a sound as it made its journey. When Terry moved slightly to stretch his body, his bones cracked, and the lights of the aircraft immediately turned off. It then turned directly towards Terry as if to look at him. After a few excruciating moments, the aircraft moved away and slowly disappeared over the ridge.
On other nights, Terry and the rest of his family often witnessed a large orange object in the sky that appeared a mile away. On one particular night, Terry pointed a scope directly at the object to get a better look at it. What he saw looked like “another sky,” or a portal that opened up to another world where it was currently daytime instead of night. During the other times when he witnessed this event, he often noted seeing black objects darting out of the ‘other sky’. At this point, Terry Sherman began to believe that the “high strangeness” occurring on his ranch may indeed be paranormal in nature.
High Strangeness: When Science Entered the Picture
With the multitude of supernatural entities that plagued the ranch, the Shermans soon had enough. The numerous cattle mutilations threatened their financial livelihoods. The lack of sleep all family members experienced led to them suffering in other areas of their lives, especially in school or work. Reluctantly, Terry Sherman spoke to a local newspaper about his experience. The publication of his story soon led to the purchase of the property by Robert Bigelow, the founder of Bigelow Aerospace.
Once Bigelow purchased the ranch, he assembled an all-star team of scientists under the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS). They began an investigation in the area. Skinwalker Ranch seemed to present the perfect opportunity to gather tangible data behind various supernatural phenomena. This is especially true pertaining to UFOs and the possibility of extraterrestrial life. The field research team went all out. They brought instrumentations to measure the electromagnetic regions of the ranch, radio frequencies, light on the visible UV spectrum, as well as video cameras, night vision equipment, and a variety of other field gear.
Despite all of the nights they spent monitoring the hotspots around the property and the months spent conducting the overall investigation, the evidence that the team sought remained ever-elusive. Many of them did, however, witness the strange lights and UFOs in the sky. With this, others saw shadow people coming out of portals that appeared in thin air. Many recounted the cattle mutilations and so much more. Personal testimonials aren’t enough to conduct research, so the investigation eventually tapered off and reached a dead end. A decade after the initial investigation, Bigelow sold the ranch to Brandon Fugal of Adamantium Real Estate.
“The Greatest Science Project of Our Time”
Fugal has picked up where NIDS had left off and established his own team of scientific investigators to try and explain the unexplainable. Although he was initially a skeptic, he was intrigued by the mysterious happenings at the ranch. He is determined to uncover the enigma that has haunted the region for a long time. Where Bigelow had kept the investigations and research under wraps, Fugal has decided to take a more publicized approach with a show on the History Channel and a dedicated website that documents his team’s investigations.
Only time will tell if they reach any major breakthrough this time around. With the ranch equipped with more state-of-the-art technology, their investigation could produce something more tangible. Although for legitimate data to be collected, most of the events would need to be recorded multiple times for analysis to begin hypothesizing the cause of events. However, with paranormal activity, events are hard to prepare for and capture, and they always seem to be just out of reach.