The events of The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch seem impossible, but the area has a crazy history – here’s the true story behind it, explained.
The paranormal documentaries, which recently began its second season, follows a team of scientists and experts brought together by wealthy businessman and ranch owner Brandon Fugal.
Their goal is to investigate the mysteries of the ranch and the surrounding area, using scientific experiments and data in an attempt to determine the source of the strange phenomena and paranormal activity that have plagued the region for literally centuries.
The first season was a crash course in the lore surrounding the area. Astrophysicist and aerospace engineer Travis Taylor joined the team, his scientific background meant to lend a skeptical and data-driven approach to their investigations.
At first, his skepticism abounded, with Taylor not completely ruling out the possibility of strange phenomena, but also doubting it happened as often as local legends said.
However, upon meeting the team and hearing their stories, interviewing local witnesses who had experienced bizarre things on and around the ranch, and finally having his own strange experiences, Taylor came around to the Skinwalker Ranch is a truly strange place.
Here’s the creepy history of Skinwalker Ranch and the surrounding Uinta Basin explained.
The Uinta Basin, where Skinwalker Ranch is located, covers a large area in northwest Utah. Hundreds of years ago, the Ute and Navajo were the two major tribes that populated the land.
They’d had an uneasy relationship for years, sometimes allying with each other, sometimes conducting raiding parties on each other and taking slaves.
The relationship between the two tribes deteriorated completely during the Civil War when the Ute betrayed the Navajo by allying with Kit Carson, a U.S. Army soldier tasked with leading a brutal campaign to oust the Navajo from their lands.
With the help of the Ute and other tribes, the occupation was successful; the Navajo surrendered and were forced to march to a reservation in Fort Sumner. The Ute eventually moved to the reservation in the Uinta Basin.
The Ute have been convinced ever since the Navajo had laid a curse on the land in retaliation for their betrayal. Since that time, the land and Ute tribe been haunted by what they call “skinwalkers,” malevolent, shapeshifting witches of Navajo lore, who, in the Uinta Basin, take the form of giant wolves and other creatures.
The Ute believe Skinwalker Ranch, named for those skin walkers, is right in the path of the monsters and largely avoid going to the ranch or entering its territory. Interestingly, however, ancient rock art of the tribes of the region have depicted strange animal-human hybrid creatures since well before the Civil War.
It’s not just members of the Ute tribe who have claimed to have seen skin walkers in and around the ranch, however. Numerous reports of enormous, intelligent-seeming, humanoid creatures have abounded for over a century.
In 1994, then-owner Terry Sherman related a story in which he saw something approaching his cattle in their pen. He ran toward it to find a wolf three times the size of a normal wolf attacking a calf and biting its head through the bars.
Sherman shot the giant creature three times at point-blank range. It didn’t even flinch, merely slowly turned its head and stared at him for a few minutes, sizing him up. Then it calmly turned and walked away.
Terry and his wife, Gwen, recounted it left a stench like rotting flesh in the air. Multiple other sightings of these giant, wolf-like creatures and other humanoid beings abound, with the descriptions sometimes describing them as walking on four legs, sometimes upright like a human.
Other people have insisted they’ve tracked the creatures through the snow only to see their wolf-like footprints turn into human footprints and disappear.
One night in March 1997, after the ranch had been sold to Robert Bigelow and his National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) to lead an investigation of Skinwalker Ranch sponsored by the Pentagon, scientist Colm Kelleher looked up into a tree to see a large, humanoid figure with yellow eyes watching the research team.
He shot at it and it disappeared, but Kelleher spotted a strange print that looked almost like a giant raptor footprint in the snow under the tree. The local native population knows the reason, however: the land is cursed.
It’s not just the skin walkers that make Skinwalker Ranch and surrounding land so strange, however. Stories of strange lights in the sky have been recorded for centuries, first by the native tribes of the area in folklore and rock art, then by European settlers.
In 1776, for example, Franciscan missionary Silvestre Vélez de Escalante described seeing fiery lights in the sky above his campfire.
In the 1950’s, UFO sightings in the area really picked up, with people all over the Uintah Basis reporting everything from glowing orbs darting around in the sky or emerging from bodies of water in the region to actual metallic aircraft suspended overhead.
Along with humanoid creatures, UFOs and strange lights, cattle mutilations, and other paranormal activity, Skinwalker Ranch is also known for the way it messes with electronic equipment.
Along with that, normal measurements of things like electromagnetic and radio frequencies, even radiation, tend to spike wildly out of normal range in the area.
Sherman had reported the phenomena, but even after NIDS took over and started their scientific study of the ranch, it continued. Electronic equipment completely malfunctioned, and some equipment they even found with insides shredded and ripped out.
It has continued with the Secret of Skinwalker Ranch team. Their equipment regularly shorts out, or they arrive at a spot on the ranch to find batteries that had been full a few minutes before totally drained. Phones regularly go haywire, with something bypassing the lock screen and flipping through apps with lightning speed or scrambling the phone’s screen.
Strange radiation spikes have affected both Travis Taylor and ranch superintendent Thomas Winterton. Taylor was looking into a cistern in one of the spots on the ranch with the highest rate of paranormal activity when he suddenly started feeling dizzy.
Shortly thereafter, he started developing a few lesions on his hands and face; when he went to the hospital, the doctor said he had radiation burns. Winterton experienced something even worse, twice suddenly getting pain at the back of his skull intense enough to send him to the hospital.
When doctors examined him, they were baffled to find his scalp had actually started to pull away from his skull in one spot, something that is only ever seen after intensive radiation therapy and is still extremely rare, at that.
Those are a few of the most notable strange phenomena that regularly happen at Skinwalker Ranch and the surrounding Uintah Basin but are by no means the only paranormal activity.
People have also reported seeing portals opening and shutting on the ranch, alien creatures observing them from the ridge of the mesa or through their windows, finding odd, three-toed tracks on the ground near UFO sightings, pets and other animals being incinerated as if by a laser or caught in a blast from a jet, and disembodied, unidentifiable language coming from somewhere in the air overhead.
The paranormal activity continues just as frequently as ever. Whatever the case, it seems the team of The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch has its work cut out for it to investigate and get to the bottom of the mystery.
Screen Rant / Crickey Conservation News 2023.