Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Part 4 : Hunt for the Skinwalker...The Bulls...Encounters...Mystery...The Tunnel ...Monsters

 Hunt for the Skinwalker 

Science confronts the Unexplained at 

a Remote Ranch in Utah 

by Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp.

Chapter 16 
The Bulls 

After the events of March involving the uncanny mutilation of the calf followed by the equally bizarre appearance of the phantom “predators,” things were relatively calm at the ranch. But Tom mentioned at the very beginning of April that something just did not feel right. He felt this way whenever the phenomenon was close by. It manifested itself as an unaccountable feeling of oppression, a feeling that someone or something was watching, waiting to act. In short, he told us, it was a very uncomfortable sensation, like something bad was about to happen. And it did. 

On April 2, Tom called me to report that yet another calf had mysteriously disappeared from the well-fenced property. This was the fifth animal to “disappear” in 1997 without explanation. At the same time, Tom observed that the long-term ranch dog had disappeared and hadn’t been seen for a couple of days. Again, he found it unbelievable that five animals could disappear without any signs or tracks. His frustration level mounted. Animals were disappearing under his watch without explanation and without any physical clue that might assist the NIDS investigation. 

Tom’s bizarre story led me to organize an expedition to the ranch the following day. The team, which included a very accomplished and seasoned investigator from Canada, arrived the following afternoon. It appeared we had just missed another incident by a couple of hours. As soon as I set foot on the property, I could feel that the atmosphere was laden with a thick creepy miasma. I noticed the dogs huddled in their kennels, looking very intimidated. 

Tom and his wife were very shaken. This had been one of the very rare occasions when Ellen had ventured onto the ranch since leaving the previous August. We repaired to the central command post to hear his story. Two major episodes had occurred within less than twenty-four hours. 

On the afternoon of April 2, Tom and Ellen had set off toward the west end of the ranch on a routine mission to spot and count the animals. As they passed the bull enclosure, both of them looked fondly and proudly at the four burly bulls in the corral. They truly were magnificent beasts, two each of pure black Simmental and Black Angus, each weighing more than two thousand pounds. With muscles rippling healthily beneath the shiny black coats that perfectly reflected the setting afternoon sun, the animals made the Gormans proud. Ellen said wistfully, “I would go out of my mind if I lost any of those animals.” Tom nodded in agreement as they drove west on the narrow dirt track past the corral. 

Forty-five minutes later they drove back. All the animals seemed to be accounted for, yet they could not shake that nagging feeling of unease. An unnatural calm hung over the property, broken only by the sound of the truck engine. Abruptly Ellen screamed and pointed out the windshield. Tom hit the brakes, fearing he was about to run over something. He followed her finger and gasped. The corral was empty. Tom’s stomach knotted. Each of those four registered bulls was worth thousands of dollars. They were irreplaceable. Tom looked into Ellen’s tear-stained face. They stopped the truck by the empty corral, and he got out to search for some evidence that the four magnificent animals could have left behind. Tom’s knees felt weak. There was no sound as he walked around the corral. Tom walked around looking at the footprints in the corral. The animals had been there only forty-five minutes ago. Ellen was sobbing in the truck. His search meandered over to an old small white trailer located at the west end of the corral. There was no entrance to the trailer from the corral except a door that was tightly locked and hadn’t been opened in years. As he passed the trailer he glanced in. Tom froze. All four animals were standing silently, crammed into the tiny space. They seemed frozen hypnotically and appeared to be barely conscious. Tom, with relief flooding through his veins, yelled loudly for Ellen. At the same time he banged forcefully on the side of the metal trailer. The noise seemed to break the silent spell. Instantly, all four animals appeared to wake up. They began kicking and bellowing to get out of the narrow, confined space. Within seconds the four huge animals went berserk and devastated the interior of the trailer. Finally, a metal door was kicked out and instantly all four animals tumbled blindly out the broken door and began stampeding in a panic. 

It took Tom and Ellen several hours of cajoling and skillful cowboy tactics to get the four panicked animals safely back into their corral. Night had fallen by the time they were finished. Silently they drove the twenty-five miles to their home. Both were physically and emotionally drained. 

As soon as Tom had finished his story, we tumbled out of the command and control headquarters and, with cameras and instruments in hand, ran the twenty yards to the corral where the four huge bulls stood. The animals seemed wary, almost jumpy. I walked over to the tiny trailer and noticed the locked door, bolted with a piece of barbed wire through the bolt. Inside the devastated trailer I carefully examined the inside of the door. This door was the only possible entrance point from the corral to the cramped interior of the trailer. I noticed the extensive cobwebs on the inside of the door. There was no evidence that the door could have been opened without disturbing the layers of cobwebs. As Tom had said, the inside of the trailer was thoroughly trashed. Bull dung was everywhere. The stench was strong. I emerged quickly from the foul-smelling, cramped space and marveled that such huge animals could even fit inside such a small area. 

We then began a systematic sweep of the corral and surrounding area using the small portable instruments that were part of our tools of the trade. Right away we realized that the metal bars of the enclosure, especially in the region near the trailer, were highly magnetized. The needle of the magnetic field detector went off the scale when we applied the instruments to the bars of the corral nearest the trailer, but the magnetic field was absent on the other side of the enclosure. Something had apparently magnetized the bars of the corral nearest to where the four animals had been found. We repeated the measurements every few minutes. 

Our team also began taking multiple photographs and we videotaped the entire area including the wary bulls. They gazed suspiciously at us as we roamed the area, systematically checking for any additional unusual radiation. There was nothing apart from the strongly magnetized metal bars of the corral, which diminished as time went on. Forty-eight hours later, the magnetic field was barely detectable. We stopped our investigation as the sun was setting. On the way back to the command and control center, we noticed that the dogs were still hiding in their kennels. One blue heeler was whimpering softly. 

As we unpacked the instruments we had brought with us, Tom began relating the second incident that had happened only a few hours earlier. Tom and Ellen had gone to the west end of the property to check on the herd that was grazing. After the inexplicable incident the previous day in which their bulls had briefly disappeared, they were on the lookout for anything unusual. All seemed quiet as they parked their truck in the pasture. They watched dozens of well cared for animals grazing nearby. 

Fifty yards away, one of the cows wandered casually toward a bright blue salt lick that lay between two straight lines of poplar trees that jutted a hundred feet into the air. Tom watched as the animal suddenly stopped dead in its tracks and, head lowered, began to back away from the salt. Tom gently nudged Ellen and pointed. Ellen jumped nervously and turned her head toward the animal. She, too, watched as the cow, transfixed with fear, was literally backing away from something invisible as fast as its legs could move. Tom reached through the window of his truck and grabbed his compass. He had learned a long time ago that strange events caused the compasses to act strangely. The frightened cow had now backed thirty yards away and suddenly turned tail and stampeded toward the eastern end of the pasture. 

Tom then watched as the herd of cows suddenly split in two in Red Sea fashion, as if something invisible was now in the middle of the herd of cattle. Dozens of animals ran west, while the remainder stampeded east. Tom glanced briefly at his compass and saw that the needle was pointed to the invisible something in their midst. Whatever was dispersing the cows was invisible even in the noon sun, yet it was exuding a powerful magnetic field that was detectable on Tom’s compass. Tom and Ellen could follow the mysterious, invisible object as it made its way through the herd of animals, as the panicky animals were constantly stampeding away from it. Whatever it was, it was heading south, as did the needle of Tom’s compass. 

Sitting in his seat in the command and control center, Tom told us, “The needle of the compass stayed locked onto that thing for exactly eleven minutes.” So there had been two magnetic field effects at different ends of the ranch in less than twenty-four hours. “That is the first vague pattern that I have seen so far,” I commented. 

The next two days were uneventful as the team divided up and began systematically mapping the ranch for the magnetic and electric fields that appeared to be diagnostic of the presence of the phenomenon. But apart from the magnetic field that radiated from the bars of the western part of the corral near the small white trailer for a couple of days, we saw nothing. 

Mapping the south side of the ranch, with its acres of dense Russian olives and thick brush, was slow and tough going. Tom took us to a region in the brush where he had come across unusual tracks a few days previously. The tracks were perfectly round and appeared to be from some mechanical object rather than from a known animal. The team took plaster casts of the mysterious tracks. 

Then as we were quartering the ground about twenty yards away, an overpowering stench of musk assailed my nostrils. I had spent enough time on the ranch to know the difference among fox, skunk, and this particular odor. It was very strong and appeared localized. I carefully looked around. I could see another team member, the experienced Canadian investigator, about fifty yards away making noise as he searched the dense brush for tracks. 

Suddenly, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. A chill ran down my spine. Something was close by and watching me. The locus of the strong musk odor was coming from my right, and I slowly turned my head in that direction. But as my eyes quartered the area, I could see nothing. Since it was broad daylight, I could only conclude that I was either imagining things, or else there was something well camouflaged nearby. This was one of the very few times, in the hundreds of days that I spent on the property, that I ever felt physically threatened. I gritted my teeth and continued the mapping. Gradually, the intensity of the musklike stench began to recede, and at the same time I began to sense that whatever was close by had left. 

Later the Canadian investigator told me that he too had suddenly become aware of being watched. He could not explain it. He had also smelled the strong musk odor. Tom, who was a lifelong hunter and was familiar with the scent of all wildlife in the area, swore the smell was associated with the “phenomenon,” whatever it was. That smell came back to haunt us repeatedly throughout our research program on that ranch, appearing suddenly without warning, sometimes in a highly localized way, sometimes right inside our command and control center. Whatever it was, its invisibility sure gave it an advantage over us. 

At about this time we began to move around the ranch accompanied by dogs that served as biosensors. The dogs were much more adept than we were at picking up traces of the phenomenon. Throughout that period in early April, the dogs continued to act as if something was wrong. At the same time I noticed that eerie sensation of an unusual presence in the environment. It was nothing I could put my finger on, a sustained uneasiness and an inner expectation that all hell could break loose at any time. Was I imagining things? 

We were in the command and control center planning our midnight watch on April 7 when the phone rang. It was Julia Sanchez, our neighbor who lived a couple of hundred yards east of us in a trailer. Her excited voice told us to get outside now. Three UFOs were heading our way. Three of us stumbled quickly out of our trailer and searched frantically around the sky. An eerie silence hung over the property, but there was no sign of low-flying UFOs. 

Sanchez later told us that the family had seen UFOs on several occasions in the past few days and this was only the latest incident. We searched the night sky for half an hour with night-vision binoculars but saw nothing unusual. We spent hours out there looking at the occasional meteor. The dogs were beginning to act normally again. I began to wonder if the phenomenon, whatever it was, was moving on. The air itself seemed less threatening. 

A day and half later, the rain began. The downpour began on the afternoon of April 9 and seemed to intensify as the sun set. In northeastern Utah, a rain downpour can be pretty severe. Visibility drops significantly and the ground itself becomes an oily, dangerous quicksand where a car can slide quickly into a ditch and get stuck. At midnight, as we tried to prevent our fishtailing vehicle from sliding into the four-foot-deep canal, I spotted a dim light at about two hundred yards to the south. The team had been scanning the area for hours. Now, suddenly, this light had appeared out of nowhere. We knew that area comprised very thick brush, and as the rain hammered down on the vehicle roof, I decided to reconnoiter up to higher ground to see if we could get a fix on the object. 

We maneuvered the sliding vehicle away from the canal and drove a couple of miles off the property to a ridge where we could see the entire ranch from above. The rain appeared to be getting even heavier as we climbed out of the vehicle. Within minutes we were soaked as we scanned the terrain below for any sign of the mysterious light. I trained the generation-three night-vision binoculars, and instantly a large bright light on the ground became apparent. I moved the binoculars away from my eyes and I could see the dimly lit object only as a barely discernible faint dirty yellow light. Through the infrared night-vision binoculars, the object looked like a very bright, large white beacon resting on the ground about a mile below us. This curious discrepancy would become more meaningful later on in the summer. 

I knew we were insufficiently equipped to negotiate the dangerous terrain below in what was perhaps the heaviest rainstorm I had ever experienced, so we contented ourselves by mapping the location of the object so we could return there when the rain diminished slightly. At 3 A.M. we called it a day and returned to the command and control center. The next day, when the rain had subsided, we spent eight hours searching in the deep brush for evidence of the object but found nothing. 

The following morning we were awakened when Tom and Ellen arrived to take a look at the cattle. It had been a couple of days since they had visited. They needed a break after those disturbing early April experiences. As the Gormans took seats in the command and control center, one of the team members casually switched on the portable magnetic field detector to check for battery power. Instantly, the needle jumped off the screen. The disturbance centered on Ellen Gorman. We had previously carefully calibrated the inside of the command center to make sure we knew which appliances, instruments, and areas produced magnetic fields. We had a recognizable and consistent baseline magnetic field “footprint” for the inside of the command center. This dramatic surge in magnetic field intensity was inconsistent with anything we had previously seen. It was strongest about two feet from Ellen. 

When she left the trailer, the field had disappeared, and a few minutes later, when she re-entered, there was no field present. Although we repeatedly checked the same area of the command center for magnetic fields, no recurrence of the intense magnetic field ever happened. We checked the instrument itself and compared with other instruments. It was working normally. We ruled out instrument malfunction. 

Again, a mysterious magnetic anomaly had occurred that was strong but frustratingly brief. But we had still little or no data that was reproducible or robust, certainly nothing that would constitute strong evidence of anomalies or that could be reported to the Science Advisory Board. 

Following the magnetic surge, events appeared to return to normal on the ranch. The dogs began running and chasing around the property, as they had not done for ten days. The cattle settled down and were less likely to stampede in response to unseen stimuli. The previous ten days had seen multiple fleeting events that seemed to indicate something in the environment but nothing that we could measure or even see. By the end of April, it was becoming frustratingly clear that the well-laid NIDS phase-one plans to initially obtain robust personal sightings by the scientific team were not coming to fruition. Instead, the team was encountering tantalizingly brief anomalies, few of which were repeated and even fewer were measurable. It was more than six months since the NIDS team had initially deployed with the expectation that phase one would be complete within a few weeks. 

In May 1997, the NIDS team had a series of enclosures built on the ranch to house the dogs. The dogs had shown consistent patterns of being alert to whatever was in the environment and had always been able to warn us by their barking. We had learned to watch the dogs closely. In most cases, aberrations in their behavior signaled the beginning of some kind of unusual activity. 

The large wire enclosures measured about eighty feet by twenty feet by fifteen feet high, and at each end, a wooden viewing platform was constructed so that team members could see the area from a vantage point twenty to twenty-five feet away. They looked like large deer-hunting stands, only much more robust. Three structures were positioned at the east end, middle, and west end of the property. 

The enclosures were struck by either some very skilled intruders or by what seemed to be a torrent of “poltergeist like” activity. Persons unknown would routinely open the doors, padlocks would vanish, and the dogs would escape by unknown means. Even the strong wiring that secured the inner doors would vanish mysteriously. It would take considerable effort for someone to mount this kind of consistent interference and damage without leaving tracks or any signs of intrusion. 

Throughout this period we deployed teams on night watches to try to catch the perpetrators, but without success. The mysterious interference continued at a frenzied pace throughout the month, but nobody was ever caught, in spite of multiple stake-outs by trained investigators. We never found any direct evidence of intruders in the nine dozen instances of interference with the three enclosures. And throughout this period, the dogs were very jumpy. By the end of May, when the interference with the enclosures had finally died down and the dogs’ behavior began to return to normal, the activity on the ranch took a dramatic shift.

Chapter 17
It was darker than I can ever remember. The only light came from the stars and some very distant yard lights that you could see if you moved your head back and forth so the trees no longer blocked them. It was close to midnight and still warm. We were thankful there were no mosquitoes that night; sometimes in early June, they can start swarming. I remember watching a colleague get out of his vehicle in Utah when the mosquitoes were bad. Within minutes his blue jeans had turned a seething mass of gray. 

The two dogs we had brought along as biosensors were running around sampling the many smells of wildlife. Raccoons sauntered through frequently and coyotes could be heard regularly, though not on this night. 

We had just arrived in Utah from Las Vegas, and this was the first night of watching. “Position yourselves exactly in front of the left-hand window in the old homestead,” the Canadian investigator had advised us. The week before he had shot some beautiful infrared film of a very eerie bright light that had appeared from that vantage point. Though he never actually saw the light, it had shown up on infrared film. But only one Kodak Ektachrome frame showed the intense light in a sequence of four. So we knew if we were going to see anything in this location, it probably was going to be transient. 

The NIDS physicist and I gazed out on the field. Nothing moved. Even the dogs were silent. My colleague stood maybe ten feet to my right. He had night-vision binoculars. Down on the other end of the property stood two more intrepid investigators, also with night-vision binoculars. When you clicked them on, everything became very clear, though in a bizarre shade of green. 

Then it appeared without warning, no more than seventy-five yards to our left. A silent, brightly lit sphere of bluish-white light about the size of a basketball hovered, moving slightly as if swaying gently. The dogs, which were behind us, seemed to notice its abrupt appearance. The object was not more than fifteen feet off the ground. It appeared to be bobbing slightly and was bright enough that I could see the grass lit up below it. There were no obstructions in our line of sight. The thing was definitely within our same small pasture. I could not hear any wildlife sounds; it was as if a blanket of silence had descended on the area. We stared and, just as abruptly, it was gone—just as I had begun to train my camera on the object. It was as if somebody had thrown a switch. The dogs did not move. 

Immediately, we clicked on the powerful Maxa-Beam. According to the literature, you can read a newspaper at night from a mile away with the light of the Maxa-Beam. Shining it in somebody’s eyes would bleach their retinas, so we were always careful. The powerful instrument is a favorite of military and law enforcement personnel. 

Nothing moved as the entire pasture was lit up in bright white light. Slowly, we scanned the whole pasture. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. We walked over to the spot where the object had appeared and, just as suddenly, had disappeared. The dogs stuck close by our sides. They were not in the mood for playing. We searched the area quickly for a few minutes but could find nothing. Slowly and warily, we walked back to our original position. 

My colleague was scanning the perimeters of the lush, tree-lined pasture with a pair of generation three ITT night-vision binoculars. These binoculars amplify ambient light both in the visible and, to a large extent, in the infrared. I was readying the manual camera with black-and-white infrared film when he exclaimed, “Jesus!” He was looking through the night-vision binoculars, directly at the tree line no more than two hundred feet in front of us. All of a sudden he said, “There’s a huge black thing in the trees just in front of us and it is moving north.” 

That certainly got my attention—and the dogs’ as well. Both animals had taken up positions directly behind us, jammed into the backs of our legs and gazing fixedly ahead where my colleague was looking. I pointed my manual camera in the direction he was looking and began a series of long exposure shots. 

“It is big, and I’m not sure if it is in the trees or behind the trees,” he said. “It is blocking out the stars.” I kept the shutter open and began counting out about twenty seconds between opening and closing the shutter. The camera was mine, probably forty years old, but capable of taking excellent shots. 

Experience told us to avoid the high-tech “idiot-proof” cameras whose electronics had too often failed at the crucial moment. 

Every time I looked up to see what my colleague was reporting, I could see nothing except the dark shadows of the tree line directly in front of me. Without the advantage of the amplification of the low level ambient light afforded by the night-vision technology, I was looking for a black something against a black background. I decided to focus only on my camera work. 

“It’s still moving,” he was muttering. Then, all of a sudden, “It’s got me,” he yelled. “It’s saying, ‘We are watching you.’ ” Then there was silence. I kept taking increasingly longer exposures to try to catch whatever he was talking about. I could not see what was causing him such intense anxiety. My colleague’s frantic actions and tone of voice increased my adrenaline. I knew that if something out there in the dead of night wanted to harm us, we were sitting ducks. Then he said, “It’s getting smaller.” Then, “It’s gone.” Over and over, he kept muttering, “Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ.” 

I asked him what had happened. He was still shaken. “Something big was in the trees just in front of us, it blotted out all the stars through the binoculars,” he declared. “It took control of my mind. It told me it was watching us.” He sounded very confused and bewildered. I had worked closely with him on numerous occasions and knew he was not prone to sudden flights of imagination. His distinguished academic career had not prepared him for anything like this. 

We stayed in the area about another forty-five minutes. At one point he went inside the old homestead and almost instantly started hollering. He had disturbed a sleeping bird that had suddenly flapped its wings in his face. I realized he was probably more upset than he was admitting. So we began to pack up the equipment. It was time to call it a night. We were silent as we trudged back the mile to the sleeping quarters. I kept thinking about the weird experience. The dogs. The invisible thing. The infrared. I went to bed that night thoroughly puzzled. 

Throughout that summer, the NIDS team spent many long hours in the same area where the interaction had taken place with a telepathically hostile voice. We played cat-and-mouse games through the months of July and August with multiple different lights that appeared for a second or two, then vanished, then reappeared several hundred yards away. It was if something intelligent was leading us on a dance as we rushed silently from spot to spot, always just slightly behind the fleeting orbs of light. Sometimes, they appeared a few yards away in the middle of trees, or else they were a long way away. But we were never able to capture these nighttime game players on film. It was an exhilarating but ultimately frustrating summer. 

Then at the end of August 1997, on one of the few occasions when the NIDS team was not on the ranch, Tom encountered something truly bizarre. The cattle had been skittish and nervous for days. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, the cows were startled by something and panicked. They stampeded south, breaking through the fence line that bordered the property. Over the summer, Tom had become weary from the cattle destroying the barbed-wire fences. Of course an animal has to be quite panicked to break into barbed-wire fencing. The act usually draws a lot of blood and leaves lacerations, some of which may later become infected. 

Tom saddled up his horse and headed off after the cattle. They had broken into a neighbor’s alfalfa field and there was a danger that some of the animals would die from bloat. Eating growing alfalfa at this time of the year was very dangerous for cattle. The plants balloon in the rumen and cause such bloating that it sometimes kills the cow. Occasionally, a veterinarian may be called on to puncture the rumen with a sharp instrument so that the built-up gas can escape. This drastic action usually saves the cow’s life. 

Tom hurried back to the property and called his teenage son for help. There was no way he could herd the three dozen animals out of the juicy alfalfa without some help. Over the years, Tad had become familiar with the ritual of herding panicked cattle back through the broken fence lines. The setting sun cast a beautiful golden glow over the restless animals as they twisted and turned to evade Tom and Tad on horseback. Tom noticed that the animals seemed fearful about going back to the ranch. For two hours, he and his son gradually moved the animals a few hundred yards to the north. Then something would happen, a ripple of panic would run through the herd, and they would charge blindly back south for several hundred yards and stop, breathing heavily while looking fearfully back the way they had come. 

By midnight, Tom was becoming frustrated. In an act of desperation he tried a different tack. Instead of heading straight north, he and Tad drove the animals east first and then tried to take them north at a different point. He hoped to avoid the area that seemed to be driving the animals crazy with fear. The new path took them within fifty yards of a creek that bubbled noisily below a drop of about fifteen feet. 

As he rode in the direction of the creek, a golf-ball-sized blood-red ball abruptly flew into view and came directly at him from the creek. The object just missed the horse’s head as it flew past, and Tom felt a stab of fear. The horse reared up and began to run. Tom had to fight to calm her down. Off in the distance, where Tad rode among the milling cattle, several were bellowing loudly in a crazed way. Tom looked to his left and saw one of his prized bulls chasing its tail and bellowing. The animal was plainly mad with fear. Then Tom saw the small red ball darting around the bull’s head. Tom called Tad over and quietly asked him if he had seen anything. The boy responded by nodding dumbly. Tom could see the fear in his son’s eyes. 

“Let’s give it another try,” Tom muttered. Suddenly, out of nowhere, another blood-red golf ball came straight at his horse. Tom lost control and the horse took off in full flight, stampeding crazily toward a canyon. Tom knew the animal was not going to stop. Ten yards before the horse plunged over the edge of the canyon, Tom threw himself off the animal and landed heavily on the ground, only a few feet from the edge. Miraculously, the horse landed twenty feet below without obvious injury and began making the arduous climb back to the canyon lip. Tom, badly shaken, spent ten minutes trying to coax the sweating horse into allowing him to remount. 

Out of the corner of his eye, Tom noticed two of the small red objects moving among the stampeding cattle. They seemed to be herding the animals in the direction of the creek. Tom and Tad saw what was happening, but it was too late. They tried to intervene as the cows and their calves stampeded over the fifteen-foot drop into the creek below. When the melee had settled, Tom could see several cows and calves lying prone. They had been trampled, and a couple had been injured in the fall into the creek. 

There was no sign of the red balls. 

The other animals had clambered up the other side of the creek and were making their way, still bellowing but slightly less panicked, back toward the ranch. Tom called out to Tad and together they began to herd the now pliant animals toward safety. After they were safely back on the property, Tom returned to the creek to survey the devastation. 

One cow was obviously in deep distress, a couple of calves had broken legs, and a fourth cow lay on her side moaning and shivering. The loss was less than he had anticipated. In the distance, he saw the headlights of Ellen’s truck as she pulled onto the property. Wearily, Tom turned his horse back. He saw it was past 2 A.M. The high-intensity struggle with the blood-red objects had lasted about seven hours. Ellen parked the vehicle under one of the surveillance cameras and Tom wearily climbed in. He felt exhausted. The moon had climbed over the horizon and was bathing the pasture in a dim light. In the distance, Tom saw Tad climbing over the fence line from the adjacent pasture, having tried to help the stricken animals in the creek. 

Suddenly, Ellen nudged him and pointed. Tom rubbed his eyes and followed his wife’s outstretched arm. Hovering silently about ten feet over his son’s head was a blood-red ball. She screamed at Tad, but he was unaware of what was above him. Suddenly, the small red object took off toward them, flying low to the ground and directly into the glare of the truck’s headlamps. Passing only a few feet from the truck and accelerating as it gained height, the object quickly vanished into the westerly sky. Tad approached the truck, looking puzzled. He admitted that he had an eerie feeling that he was “being watched” just before his mother screamed at him. Otherwise, there were no ill effects. 

All three sat silently in the truck as the clock ticked past 2:30. Tom then climbed out to check some irrigation gates and said he would meet Ellen at the exit to the property. She nodded and gunned the engine. It took Tom about five minutes to change the irrigation ditch water flow, and he took the shortcut near the old ranch house. Just beyond the homestead, Ellen was waiting for him in the truck. 

As he climbed in, Ellen silently nudged him. Again he followed her trembling finger. Just adjacent to the old homestead, a bright blue ball hovered maybe a dozen feet above the ground. It was a familiar sight, but they had not seen one of these objects in several months. Larger than a baseball but smaller than a basketball, it emitted an intense electric blue light onto the nearby building as it hovered silently. It seemed to be watching them. Tom and Ellen watched back silently, wondering what other surprises were in store for them. Suddenly, the blue object darted behind the building, out of their sight. No one said anything during the twenty-five-mile journey back to their home. 

It had been another busy day at the ranch. One cow aborted, another calf died, and the others recovered slowly from the injuries inflicted that night. All the animals had been traumatized by the mysterious golf-ball-sized objects. Tom had never seen these objects before and hasn’t seen them since. 

That morning Tom called the NIDS team back to the ranch.

Chapter 18 
The late physicist Richard Feynman, one of the towering figures of twentieth-century science, was publicly skeptical about unidentified flying objects. During a lecture at the University of Washington in 1963, Feynman summed up his feelings in a few biting paragraphs about what he called “This Unscientific Age.” 

“If we come to the problem of flying saucers.. .we have the difficulty that almost everybody who observes flying saucers sees something different,” Feynman remarked. “Orange balls of light, blue spheres which bounce on the floor, gray fogs which disappear, gossamer-like streams which evaporate into the air. round flat things out of which objects come with funny shapes that are something like a human being. Just think a few minutes about the variety of life that there is. And then you see that the thing that comes out of the flying saucer isn’t going to be anything like what anybody describes.” 

Feynman didn’t know it at the time, but his brief description of assorted UFOs that had been reported by 1963 could almost qualify as a laundry list of the varied and mysterious objects seen three decades later on or near the Gorman ranch. Orange balls, blue spheres, disappearing fogs, round flat things from which human like forms emerge, and many other unusual aerial phenomena were witnessed by the Gormans, by their immediate neighbors, by much of the population of the Uinta Basin and, eventually, by the NIDS scientists. 

The most common UFOs seen on or near the Utah ranch were balls of light, of various sizes, colors, and intensity. Some were described as resembling yellow headlamps, others as glowing orbs that flitted across the pastures, through the trees, and over the ridge, operating under what seemed like intelligent control. A few of these incidents at the ranch were captured on videotape. Amorphous balls of light are probably the most commonly reported UFOs worldwide. Without question, such sightings are often the result of the misidentification of planets, meteors, and other natural phenomena. But as the Gormans learned all too well, natural phenomena cannot account for a lot of what they saw. 

Odd balls of light, similar to what the Gormans reported, were the first unidentified objects to be seen during the modern UFO era. In the latter years of World War II, Allied pilots frequently spotted and even photographed balls of light that trailed their planes. The Allies suspected that these objects, which came to be known as “foo fighters,” might be German secret weapons. But the Germans also saw the foo fighters and thought they were ours. 

In the decades that followed, secret military studies were conducted concerning the UFO mystery. 

These once-classified military files are filled with cases that sound nearly identical to the objects seen at the ranch. One witness was a military pilot named G. F. Gorman. While flying his F-51 near Fargo, North Dakota, in 1948, Lieutenant Gorman encountered an intense white light about a foot in diameter that made dramatic turns and maneuvers during a thirty-minute aerial dogfight of sorts before it finally disappeared with a burst of “stupendous speed.” Several witnesses on the ground watched the encounter. The balls of light the Gormans witnessed seemed capable of similar maneuvers. 

Balls of light figure prominently in some of the most famous and best-documented UFO cases. In 1951, thousands of witnesses in Lubbock, Texas, saw a formation of blue lights as they traversed the sky on several nights over a two-week period. Military radar tracked the lights and determined they were traveling nine hundred miles an hour at an elevation of thirteen thousand feet. Several photographs were taken of the lights. The most prominent UFO debunker of the day, astronomer Donald Menzel of Harvard, alternately explained the lights as being the reflection of streetlights, headlights, or house lights against an unseen “rippling layer of fine haze,” although Menzel was never able to explain how reflected headlights could be picked up on a military radar. Other theories suggested that the lights were caused by reflections of light from birds or moths. 

UFO skeptics have long relied on obscure atmospheric or weather phenomena to explain away otherwise inexplicable aerial mysteries, even when those explanations simply don’t fit. For example, in the summer of 1952, unidentified balls of light were seen flying over Washington, DC, on consecutive weekends. The lights were seen from the ground and the air, were detected on military and civilian radars, were photographed, and were repeatedly pursued by military jets. The explanation offered by the Air Force was that the false radar sightings had been prompted by a temperature inversion in the area, a theory that simply did not fit the facts surrounding the sightings and that was publicly disputed by the military’s own radar operators and pilots. 

Another oft-cited explanation for unidentified lights is that of plasmas or ball lightning, rare and little understood phenomena that have been known to generate small clouds of electrified air that could conceivably be mistaken for UFOs. Prominent UFO critic Phillip Klass, a well-known aviation writer, championed the plasma theory. Although the theory could theoretically account for some sightings of balls of light, it failed to gain much acceptance, even among plasma physicists who were generally hostile to the UFO topic. A pro-UFO atmospheric physicist named James McDonald systematically demolished the ball lightning explanation for the simple reason that plasmas can’t do the things that UFOs do. Ball lightning generally lasts only seconds or fractions of seconds, does not travel at high altitudes over long distances, and cannot possibly account for those balls of light that are seen in cloudless, stormfree skies. 

Yet another suggested explanation for unidentified balls of light is earthlights, which are electrical discharges in the atmosphere generated by geological forces in the earth. As with ball lightning, the earthlight phenomenon is real, but it cannot account for sightings of longer duration in which UFOs perform controlled maneuvers or interact with the observers. At the Utah ranch, the NIDS scientists persistently searched for natural explanations for the sightings. Their research included a detailed analysis of geological data and weather patterns for the area. But we found no natural explanation for the things seen by the many witnesses. 

The most intriguing incidents at the Gorman ranch most certainly could not be explained as the misidentification of amorphous, random bursts of natural light sources. The facts simply do not fit. By any stretch of the imagination, ball lightning and earthlights could not reasonably account for those UFOs that were described by eyewitnesses as structured, metallic craft, including saucers and discs, dozens of which have been seen in the vicinity of the ranch over the past several decades. 

Although the Gorman family saw many unidentified objects flying above their ranch, few would qualify as classic “flying saucers.” However, saucers and discs have been seen on the property and on neighboring ranches as well. Mr. Gonzalez, a neighbor, told us of seeing a UFO shaped “like a Mexican hat” that flew over his home. (Saucers and discs have often been compared to sombreros because of domes that are spotted on the tops of some discs.) Gonzalez and his family also saw a silvery disc that flew directly into the rocky crags of Skinwalker Ridge and seemingly was absorbed by the ridge itself. The craft merged with the earth with no noticeable disturbance or impact. 

Another sighting occurred fourteen years before the Gormans arrived in the area. Reporter Zack Van Eyck of the Deseret News interviewed Salt Lake City resident Dean Derhak, whose uncle owned one of the properties that border the ranch that would later be purchased by the Gormans. While riding a horse on his uncle’s land in 1980, Derhak says he saw a “silver sphere” sitting on the ground of the neighboring parcel. 

“It was fairly big, about 30 to 40 feet wide. It looked like a bowl upside down,” Derhak told Van Eyck. “It scared me and I took off.” 

These sightings by neighbors are consistent with the widespread belief among area residents that the family that owned the property prior to the Gormans was also very familiar with assorted unexplained phenomena. Some residents expressed the opinion that the prior owners even developed some sort of live-and-let-live relationship with whatever inhabits the property. 

Other objects seen at the ranch resemble some well-documented sightings of objects in other parts of the world. Tom Gorman says one of the objects he saw most frequently was something he described as round, orange, and elongated, like a setting sun, but it moved like no sunset he had ever seen before. Something large, round, and orange was seen in 1975 hovering above the Minuteman missile silos at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that when a security violation alert was issued, an elite Sabotage Alert Team (SAT) was dispatched to the scene. SAT members witnessed a large, glowing, orange disc floating over the top secret facility, so bright that it illuminated the missile silos below. Fighter jets were scrambled in response to the mysterious intrusion, but the orange ball flew straight up until it disappeared from radar at two hundred thousand feet. The fighters were understandably unable to follow it. A subsequent investigation revealed a more shocking development—the launch codes of the missiles had been inexplicably changed during this disturbing overflight. Equally troubling are the Pentagon documents that acknowledge that four other nuclear missile bases along the U.S.-Canadian border had similar intrusions by mystery lights within a few weeks of the appearance of an orange “sun” at Malmstrom. 

Tom and Ellen Gorman also reported separate sightings of a silent, hovering, triangular craft that projected multicolored lights from its black frame. They could discern no known propulsion system and wondered if the triangles might be something akin to a Stealth fighter or B-2, both of which are black and triangular. Tom said the triangle crept silently across the pasture as if it was searching for something. Ellen saw a black triangle that kept pace twenty feet above her car. Without overstating the obvious, it should be pointed out that both the F-117 and the B-2 produce a considerable amount of noise during flight, although rumors of classified silent versions of both aircraft abound. No known public versions of either aircraft are capable of simply floating in silence over a pasture or of staying aloft while matching the speed of a slow-moving automobile. If the U.S. military possesses an aircraft with these miraculous capabilities, it would seem useful to unleash it against our acknowledged enemies. A totally silent black triangle that can hover, float, search, zip away at incredible speeds, and disappear at will would come in handy, no? 

Similar mystery triangles have been seen with increasing frequency in recent years all over the world. A 2004 analysis by NIDS scientists and published on the institute’s website examined more than five hundred cases from across the United States, many of which contain details similar to the descriptions offered by the Gormans. The NIDS analysis of these incidents strongly suggests that while some of these craft could represent an unacknowledged deployment of classified military technology, or perhaps a behind-the-scenes, legally questionable surveillance effort over U.S. soil, a growing body of information points to other possible conclusions. It is conceivable that some mystery triangles, including those seen over the Gorman ranch, may belong to someone other than the U.S. military and are truly unidentified. 

While similarities exist among nearly all of the UFO events that occurred on or near the ranch and other well-documented cases from other locations around the world, there is one phenomenon for which there are few, if any, known precedents. Tom Gorman’s descriptions of the blue orbs filled with swirling liquid, electrically charged orbs that seemed to be under intelligent control, may be unique in the annals of UFO and paranormal research. And as such, these orbs may represent the best clue to what was really happening on the Gorman ranch.

Chapter 19 
The Tunnel 

August 25, 1997. The night was warm, clear, and beautiful. The NIDS team was sitting silently on the edge of a bluff and the scene one hundred feet below them was idyllic. Trees in full leaf edged the small pasture, and in the distance, two fields away, the ranch animals grazed peacefully. The scattered yard lights of the neighboring homestead punctuated the darkness. In the distance, some coyotes howled. Investigators Jim and Mike (not their real names) were on the bluff because it afforded them the best view to monitor the area where, in the previous few months, several strange events had taken place. 

Two colleagues were about a mile away on the far side of the property monitoring another hot spot. Mike and Jim had been in sporadic contact with them every couple of hours, but the agreement was to stay out of radio contact unless something really eventful began. But nothing stirred. 

Some four hours into the watch, Jim, the most experienced investigator, had quietly climbed down into the small pasture and had sat in the middle of the field to meditate. He had found over the years that meditation sometimes activated the “phenomenon,” whatever that was, although it happened too few times to be anything more than an anecdotal observation. Nothing happened. 

At 2:30 A.M. , after a six-hour watch, they decided to move their operation to a different part of the ranch. Quickly, they began to disassemble the camera from its tripod and pack up the two equipment carriers filled with the tools of the scientific investigator’s trade: cameras, portable magnetic field detectors, and night-vision binoculars. In 1997, their generation-three binoculars were considered state of the art. They worked by amplifying low-level ambient light through a series of hi-tech photomultiplier tubes. They were far superior to the usual Russian night-vision equipment that looked just in the infrared. Through these night-vision binoculars, the scene appeared to be in daylight with sharp crisp outlines, not the fuzzy, wavy images visible through the Russian equipment. 

Just as Jim was thinking that his meditation hadn’t produced a damn thing, his eye caught a very faint light on the track 150 feet below him. He watched it, mildly puzzled, thinking that it might be a small piece of glass on the track that was reflecting ambient light. It was a faint yellowish color, and as he watched, it appeared to be growing brighter. Twenty seconds later, he nudged Mike. It was definitely getting brighter and, as both of them watched, it seemed slowly to be getting bigger. 

“Hand me the camera,” Jim muttered. At the same time, Mike quietly and efficiently unpacked the night-vision binoculars he had just put away. Jim set up the tripod and positioned his camera loaded with infrared film in line with the light that had now grown to six inches in diameter. It was still a dull yellow but had definitely grown brighter. Carefully, Jim set the shutter to thirty seconds, reasoning that a long exposure might capture this mystery light on the freshly loaded roll of infrared film. He was ready to pop off all thirty-six shots if necessary. 

As Mike brought the binoculars to his eyes, Jim heard the sharp sucking in of breath. Jim could see that the light was now more than a foot wide and was still growing larger. This very obviously was not a reflection. The dirty yellow expanding light seemed to be positioned just above the ground, rather than directly on the ground, but Jim could not be sure. “It’s a tunnel, not just a light,” Mike whispered. Jim ignored his partner’s growing agitation as he increased the length of the time exposures to forty, then fifty seconds. Mike was now standing up. “Jesus Christ,” Mike said hoarsely. “Something’s in the tunnel!” 

Jim looked carefully at the light below. It had now expanded to more than two feet. Something that big should definitely register on his film. “Oh, my God,” Mike said suddenly, thoroughly frightened. “There is a black creature climbing out. I see his head.” Jim felt alarm. His companion was plainly bordering on panic. 

It has no face,” whispered Mike. “Oh, my God, it just climbed out.” Jim rubbed his eyes and shook his head. All he could see was a dirty yellow light, now about four feet in diameter, a hundred feet below him. Why couldn’t he see what Mike was seeing? Suddenly, it dawned on him. The binoculars. He motioned for Mike to hand them to him, but not before increasing the time exposure to ninety seconds. 

Mike ignored him. “It’s on the ground,” he said. “Oh, my God, it walked away.” As Mike danced on the ledge a few feet away, plainly in a panicky state, Jim could see the light decreasing in size. Within thirty seconds, the dull yellow circle had shrunk to about half its full diameter and was losing intensity. In the meantime, Jim pulled Mike over close to him and asked, “What happened?” 

“A big black creature just crawled through that tunnel, got onto the ground, and walked away,” Mike said. “That’s what happened. And it’s lurking around here somewhere.” 

Jim felt a chill. “I only saw that yellow light,” he said doubtfully. “Are you sure?” 

“Jesus Christ, of course I’m sure,” Mike replied. “The night vision turned the light into a three-D tunnel, and a large creature, I am thinking maybe four-hundred pounds, at least six feet tall, just crawled out of the damn tunnel.” Mike was sweating profusely and still breathing quickly, but he seemed to be regaining control over himself. Jim looked carefully around and motioned Mike to be quiet. Carefully, they listened for any noise of displaced stones that might indicate something climbing up the cliff in the darkness. By that time, the yellow light had gradually faded and was no longer visible. Only a deep silence remained. Nothing seemed to move. Even the distant coyotes had stopped howling. 

After fifteen minutes or so, they grabbed some detectors and clambered as quietly as possible down the steep, rock-filled gradient below them. It would be very easy to break an ankle coming down in the darkness, so they took it very slowly, stopping every few feet to listen for sounds of the creature. Nothing stirred. But once near the track, a strong, pungent odor assailed their nostrils. They were both familiar with this sulfur-laden odor. It seemed to be centered on the spot where the light or tunnel had been. 

Jim felt slightly nauseous from the pungent smell. Quickly, Mike scanned the ground in a twenty-foot diameter circle for any signs of radiation. The Nardalert counter could pick up alpha, beta, gamma, and X-rays, but after minutes of careful monitoring, only background levels were detectable. Meanwhile, Jim slowly scanned the area with a Trifield meter to detect any unusual magnetic spikes. Nothing registered. 

As the time passed, their confidence slowly returned. It had been almost thirty minutes since the creature had vanished, and nothing had come rushing out of the night to attack them. They were still watchful as they finished the monitoring and then climbed back up to the top of the bluff to retrieve their equipment. Again they scanned the area with night-vision equipment for anything out of the ordinary, and slowly they began the half-hour walk back to the observation trailer. 

Mike described to Jim what he had seen, the bizarre and creepy sight of a huge black humanoid form using its elbows to lever itself along a three-D tunnel that appeared to be suspended a couple of feet above the track on which they now stood. Jim believed him. He knew that Mike had spent long hours in the darkness tracking this stuff and was not given to flights of fancy—at least not until tonight. 

The team spent hours the following day searching for footprints. But the ground was hard and none were visible. Mike and Jim worked on a written report of the incident. Their instruments had failed to record anything unusual. The photos were disappointing, showing only a single very faint blurry light in one and nothing on the rest of the roll of film. What had Mike witnessed crawling through the strange three-dimensional tunnel? What was that large, featureless, bulky humanoid creature that stood up and walked away silently into the darkness?


Human beings have been terrorized, mystified, and fascinated with tales of mystery beings and unearthly creatures for as long as our species has existed. Monsters, demons, goblins, and ghosts have their roots in oral traditions that date back to cave-dwelling yarn spinners. Over the centuries, there have been innumerable other entries in this pantheon of the paranormal, from witches and werewolves to vampires and sea serpents, from blood-sucking ghouls to blood-suckingchupacabras, from trolls and leprechauns to bug-eyed space aliens who arrive in the night to snatch unsuspecting people from their beds. Godzilla, Freddie Krueger, and Frankenstein’s monster didn’t exist, so they had to be invented, the product of fertile imaginations and cinematic special effects artists. If they weren’t real before, they are now, imprinted forever on our collective psyche. 

There is a distinct difference between monsters that exist only on celluloid or the printed page, however, and those that occasionally make overt intrusions into our personal realities; one emerges from the supernatural, while the other, like Bigfoot, has distinct roots in our flesh-and-blood reality. Although Mike is certain that the creature he saw crawling through the tunnel lacked hair, there is no question that Gorman and members of his family witnessed some Bigfoot-like creatures on the ranch on more than one occasion, as have others in the area. 

Contrary to popular impression, however, Bigfoot wasn’t born in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He didn’t just spring up from nowhere alongside Starbucks Coffee, Microsoft, and the grunge rock of Nirvana. Long before Europeans arrived in North America, indigenous peoples throughout the continent knew of Sasquatch, which is the name used by the Salish tribe of the Northwest. Coastal tribes called him Bukwas or Dzunukwa and have featured his likeness in masks and on totems dating back to the 1700s. The Lakota Sioux of the northern plains referred to Bigfoot as Chiye-tanka, roughly translated as the big elder brother. Joe Flying By, a Hunkpapa Lakota, told Peter Matthiessen, the author of Thunderheart, that “the Big Man is a husband of the earth,” a being from ancient times who can take a hairy form or even change into a coyote. 

“There is your Big Man standing there, ever waiting, ever present, like the coming of a new day,” Joe Flying By was quoted as saying in an article in The Track Record. “He is both spirit and real being, but he can also glide through the forest, like a moose with big antlers, as if the trees weren’t there.” 

Canadian writer and Bigfoot researcher Ron Murdock asserts that the existence of Sasquatch is taken for granted throughout Native North America. The Athabaskan Indians of Alaska regard Sasquatch as a “big brother” who looks out for Native American peoples and brings signs or messages during troubled times. Hopi elders believe that Bigfoot delivers messages from the Creator, often messages about man’s disrespect for harmony and balance. “In Native culture, the entire natural world is seen as a family. Sasquatch is regarded as one of our closest relatives. In each tribal dialect, there is a word for Sasquatch,” Murdock writes. 

When white trappers, hunters, and explorers first made contact with native tribes in North America, they often heard the stories about a race of large, hairy humanoids. A few of these mountain men had their own encounters, some of which were reported in frontier newspapers of the day. In 1784, the London Times reported the capture of a “huge, manlike, hair-covered creature” in Lake of the Woods, Manitoba. In 1811, a fur trader named David Thompson told a journalist about his sighting of a “hairy giant” near what is now Jasper, Alberta. In 1840, a missionary named Elkanah Walker, who spent nine years living among the Spokane Indians, described the tribe’s belief in the “existence of a race of giants.. .which hunt and do all of their work by night” and leave behind a “track about a foot and a half long.” TheButte Record of northern California reported a sighting of a “male gorilla or wildman” in November 1870. The Victoria Colonist of British Columbia reported the capture of a “gorilla-type creature” in July 1884. 

Outdoorsman and future president Theodore Roosevelt reported his own Bigfoot story in his 1893 book Wilderness Hunter. Roosevelt met a trapper named Bauman, who told of a deadly encounter with a tall beast that invaded a campsite in British Columbia, smashed all of the gear in the camp, and haunted the vicinity with a sound described as a “long-drawn moan” that struck Bauman and his partner as “peculiarly sinister.” Roosevelt wrote that the beast killed Bauman’s partner while Bauman was away from the camp and that “the footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.” The mystery animal left four deep fang marks in the neck of the victim but did not eat the body. After rolling around in the dirt, the attacker “fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.” 

It is possible that at least some of these accounts represent mistaken identifications of bears or other large animals, except for the fact that the witnesses were all experienced hunters and lifelong outdoorsmen, people who were intimately familiar with the behavior, sounds, and physical features of bears and other species known to inhabit the forests and mountains. The Native American tribes that have lived and hunted for centuries in these same areas would presumably know the difference between a bear that stands on its hind legs and a “hairy man.” What’s more, as the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, and the western wilderness became more populated, the sightings and encounters continued. 

In 1924, a hunter named Albert Ostman had a dramatic encounter with what he said was a family of Bigfoot beings while on an outing near Vancouver Island. In the same year, the Portland Oregonian reported the story of Fred Beck’s hunting party on the slopes of Washington’s Mount Saint Helens. 

Beck and his companions claim they used their rifles to fend off an attack by a pack of rock throwing “mountain gorillas,” which they also described as mountain devils. A teacher named J. W. Burns, who spent many years living among the Chehalis tribe near Vancouver, wrote several regional newspaper articles in the late 1920s about encounters between his Indian friends and a race of hairy giants. In 1927, one of Burns’s accounts was printed in a national magazine but didn’t seem to make much of a lasting impression on the larger public. However, the Burns articles did introduce to readers a name for the beast. The name was Sasquatch. 

The Sasquatch story received only sporadic coverage in local newspapers around the country until 1958, when a road crew working in a remote area of northern California made a plaster cast of one of the huge, human like footprints that had been found in the mud around their work site over a period of several weeks. The site foreman took the cast to a local newspaper. The story was then picked up by wire services, and before long, the whole country was abuzz about “Bigfoot.” 

Although there have been few, if any, legitimate scientific inquiries into the Sasquatch legend, scientists decided long ago that the story was absurd on its face, that it is most likely the result of hoaxes or mass hallucinations, or has been promulgated by media coverage. But since the story has been around since the 1700s, and has thrived among indigenous tribes and remote populations, the explanation that it was created by mass media seems weak. Certainly there have been some attempted hoaxes over the years, but no single hoaxer or group of hoaxers could possibly account for all of the sightings over so much time and so much territory. And mass hallucinations do not easily cross from one culture to another. The Bigfoot story is not only multicultural, but also international in scope. 

What’s more, there is a body of evidence that suggests this mystery is worthy of serious inquiry. After all, the confirmation of the existence of a previously unknown primate species, especially a species whose adults are commonly described as being seven feet tall or taller, one that has been living for centuries under our noses in the forests of North America, would be one hell of a scientific news story. 

Thousands of eyewitness accounts have been recorded over the past three centuries. One Bigfoot, in particular, seems to have been spotted by three different groups of witnesses. In 1988, a father and son spotted what they described as a six-foot Sasquatch near a creek in Grays Harbor County, Washington. While most Sasquatch are said to be covered with dark hair, this one was white, with blue eyes and a pink complexion. The father and son were within twenty feet of the beast, and they noticed that it seemed to move with a limp. After the encounter, the two examined the large tracks that had been left behind and determined that the animal’s right foot was crippled. 

Then in July 1995, another father and son were on a camping trip at a reservoir in the same county. While on a hike overlooking the water, they saw two Sasquatch below. The beasts appeared to be playfully wrestling with each other. One was brown, the other white. The white one walked with a limp. The sighting lasted more than twenty minutes, and before the two Sasquatch walked off into the forest, six other hikers joined the father and son as they watched the creatures cavorting. 

Finally, in October 1996, a husband and wife were on a logging road in the woods of the Oregon Cascades. The husband was using a chain saw to cut up firewood while his wife sat in their truck. Two other men were cutting wood about one hundred yards away. The witnesses were startled when a Sasquatch “as white as a towel” emerged from the trees some twenty-five feet away from the two men, then walked back into the forest with a pronounced limp. The husband, Frank, didn’t see the Sasquatch but was told by the other two men that it had blue eyes and a pink complexion. When Frank went looking for any telltale tracks, he found them and later made plaster casts of two large prints, one from each foot. The cast of the right foot revealed that the Sasquatch was missing his large toe, which would explain the limp. 

What are the chances that three groups of multiple witnesses in different years and different places would see a white, pink-faced, blue-eyed Sasquatch that walks with a limp? Slim, it would seem. 

Private Bigfoot research organizations have accumulated huge volumes of sighting reports. Other types of physical evidence accompany some of the sightings. For example, in Alpine, California, a Sasquatch was seen eating apples from a tree in front of the house. Not only did it leave behind monstrous footprints, but the tree and a few others were found to have been stripped of fruit in their upper branches, at a height not reachable by a man. In Arizona, a mother and daughter watched as a seven-foot Sasquatch looted their garden of corn and turnips, and left behind characteristically large footprints and a decimated patch of ground. 

Sightings of hairy ape-men have been recorded in forty-nine of the fifty states and in every Canadian province, but the phenomenon is by no means unique to North America, or to modern times. Ancient Mesopotamians wrote of Enkidu, a wild man who could communicate with animals. The Bible mentions Esau, whose body was supposedly covered with animal hair and who emanated a strong, offensive odor. Early European writers recorded stories of “the wild men of the woods,” seen in Germany, France, and other countries. Hairy ape-men have been reported in China, Nepal, Russia, Ireland, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Guatemala, Kenya, and other countries. In Australia, the wild men are known as Yowies. In the Himalayas, of course, the more famous name is Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, which has been seen by mountain peoples for centuries. Tenzing Norgay, the famed Sherpa mountaineer who guided Edmund Hillary to the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, told writer John Keel many stories about Yeti encounters, as did the lamas, trackers, and villagers of the region. 

“To dismiss all of this as collective hallucination, the primitive need for the mythological, or simply as archetypal legends common to all of mankind,” writes anthropologist Helmut Loofs-Wissowa in theANU Reporter, “will not do anymore.” 

Other than the eyewitness sightings, the footprints left by these animals represent the most direct physical evidence of their existence. More than seven hundred plaster casts of Bigfoot prints have been collected over the years. The average length of the feet is 15.6 inches. The average width is 7.2 inches. (The foot of a 7'3? basketball player might be 16 inches long but only 5.5 inches wide.) Needless to say, these are very large feet. Clearly, something is leaving these prints in the deep forests. It boils down to either hoaxers or an unknown species. If hoaxers are responsible, they are incredibly diligent, since the tracks have been found in remote areas all over the world for many, many years. 

Have some of the collected prints been faked? Without question. But what about the rest of them? Oregon Regional Primate Center’s W. Henner Fahrenbach conducted a study of more than five hundred footprints collected over thirty-eight years from a wide swath of North America. Fahrenbach notes that many of the footprint records were obtained by tracking the animals for miles, not for a step or two.

Since most of the prints in the database were collected by individuals who don’t know each other and don’t know what the “normal” size of a footprint should be, Fahrenbach thinks it is unlikely that a few cases submitted by hoaxers could have much of an impact on the overall validity of the database. Using a Gaussian distribution of the footprints and the locations where they were found, Fahrenbach says the patterns are similar to those of known animals. In other words, the prints indicate that this is a real species of unknown animal that is living out there in the wilderness and is not the work of a few hoaxers. 

A latent-fingerprint expert named Jimmy Chilcutt, who works full time for the Conroe Police Department in Texas and who is highly regarded by the FBI and DEA for his expertise, decided to enter the Bigfoot debate a few years ago. His intention was to debunk the footprints that had been collected. Although he did find some prints that he believes to be fakes, Chilcutt’s views about Bigfoot changed the more he dug into the evidence, and he now believes that this unknown animal species really exists. 

Hair samples that have been collected in areas frequented by these creatures represent another intriguing form of evidence. Hair samples obtained in the Blue Mountains of Washington State have been analyzed by the Department of Molecular Genetics at Ohio State University. The DNA that was extracted was too fragmented to allow meaningful gene sequencing. Some of the hair samples were identified as being from known animals. A few were shown to be synthetic. But others are believed to be from a “non-human but unknown primate,” although, at best, the test results are still considered inconclusive. 

In 1988, a team of one hundred Chinese researchers associated with the China Wildman Research Center converged on a mountainous Hubei province where sightings of a mysterious man-ape date back almost three thousand years. The researchers found and analyzed numerous hair samples. They identified several hairs that do not belong to any known species in the area and concluded that the hairs prove the existence of a “rare and advanced primate that is similar to man.”

British scientists have supposedly analyzed hair samples found in the kingdom of Bhutan, where the locals refer to their own version of hairy biped as the Migyur, and concluded that the DNA isn’t from a human or a bear or any other known species. For the most part, however, mainstream scientists do not find the evidence compelling, nor have they been impressed with audio recordings of alleged Bigfoot cries or by the few film snippets that have largely been dismissed as staged fabrications. Scientists rightly ask where are the skeletons of dead Bigfoot. Why is there no fossil record of these creatures as they evolved through the ages? Bigfoot proponents note that there isn’t much of a fossil record for chimpanzees or gorillas either, yet we know both species exist. They also counter that no skeletal remains of gorillas were found until long after the species itself had been discovered. The pro-Bigfoot crowd believes, with some justification, that modern science hasn’t fairly evaluated the evidence and testimony. 

There is one other possible explanation for the lack of Bigfoot bones and a fossil record: What if the creatures are not flesh-and-blood but are of a paranormal nature? There are, in fact, scores of cases where witnesses have seen Bigfoot-type creatures in a paranormal context. There are cases in Australia and the United States where families have been plagued by what seems like prototypical poltergeist activity, and then they discover a Bigfoot creature on their property. Bigfoot animals have also been seen in the vicinity of animal mutilation cases. In 1974, when a wave of cattle mutilations occurred in Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, witnesses reported seeing strange lights in the sky and animals that resembled apes or bears on ranches where mutilations occurred. In Boise, Idaho, three separate witnesses saw hairy, manlike beasts in their yards in July 1975 during a wave of mutilations and UFO sightings. 

The apparent paranormal aspects of many Bigfoot accounts make many cryptozoologists uncomfortable. In fact, most Bigfoot researchers choose to downplay some of the more exotic aspects of their research. After all, they believe that Bigfoot, Yeti, and their assorted cousins are flesh-and-blood beings that just haven’t been found yet. Whenever witnesses discuss Bigfoot in connection with such topics as UFO sightings or psychic phenomena, cryptozoologists get understandably antsy. After all, mixing in a plethora of other weird topics could not only strengthen the hand of Sasquatch skeptics but also give scientists and journalists another reason to sidestep any serious examination of the Bigfoot mystery. 

However, it simply isn’t honest to discard pieces of information that might not fit a preconceived idea of “the truth.” Tony Healy, who has devoted twenty-five years of his life to pursuing the Australian Yowie, estimates that to exclude all Yowie stories that smack of the paranormal would mean the elimination of about 20 percent of the case files. Healy and other researchers suspect that these creatures have some sort of sixth sense that assists them in avoiding detection or capture. Healy says a hefty percentage of Yowie sightings involve the presence of UFOs, other unknown animals, even lake monsters. Healy, for one, has now concluded that the Yowie is some sort of shape-shifter, a phantom that may always remain beyond human comprehension. 

Many Native American tribes have long regarded Sasquatch as something more than a flesh-and-blood animal. Ray Owen, whose father was a prominent spiritual leader on the Prairie Island Reservation, offers the opinion that the Sasquatch “exist in another dimension from us, but can appear in this dimension whenever they have a reason to.” 

Owen explains, “It’s like there are many levels, many dimensions. When our time in this one is finished, we move on to the next. But the Big Man can go between. The Big Man comes from God. He’s our big brother, kind of looks out for us.” 

Joe Flying By has made a similar observation. “I think the Big Man is a kind of husband of Unk-ksa, the earth, who is wise in the way of anything with its own natural wisdom,” he says. “Sometimes we say that this One is kind of a reptile from ancient times who can take a big hairy form. I think he can also change into a coyote.” 

Certainly there are plenty of reports in the literature to bolster the idea that Bigfoot might be even stranger than he seems. One oft-repeated characteristic of Bigfoot encounters is the feeling of “nameless dread,” a pervasive, bone-chilling fear that seems entirely out of proportion for the nature of the encounter. Witnesses, even those with a healthy curiosity about the unknown, have told of being gripped by uncontrollable fear that causes some to faint. Even fierce hunting dogs have been known to cower and whine in the vicinity of these creatures. Some witnesses are overwhelmed with fear even before they see the Bigfoot. 

Witnesses on the Gorman ranch know this feeling of dread well.


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