In the ranching heartland of America, a mysterious plot of land has been dubbed “the strangest place of earth.”
If tales are to be believed, Skinwalker Ranch is an epicenter of extraterrestrial activity, surrounded for decades by disproportionate amounts of UFO sightings and paranormal phenomena.
Sky-watchers celebrating World UFO Day on Thursday should train their telescopes on the alleged alien landing zone of northeastern Utah.
In 1994, Terry and Gwen Sherman and their children moved themselves and their cattle into the 480-acre ranch south of Fort Duchesne, Utah.
Within two years, they had sold the ranch, desperate to leave behind the paranormal torment they claim they’d been bombarded with.
“For a long time we wondered what we were seeing, if it was something to do with a top-secret project,” Terry told the Deseret News in 1996. “I don’t know really what to think about it.”
The family described a ship the size of multiple football fields and strange blinking lights. The soil on their fields had large impressions flattened into the grass.
There were voices speaking in strange languages that seemed to emanate from thin air.
Terry spotted a figure “over seven feet tall” standing next to an object.
Cows would disappear into thin air and others would be found killed and mutilated. In total, 14 expensive cattle were taken from the 80-head herd. After chasing a bouncing ball of light, three of their dogs were never seen again.
Local retired high school teacher Joseph Hicks had been researching the area’s paranormal sightings since observing a flying object with his students in 1951.
The piece of land hosting the Shermans’ ranch was already notorious for mysterious sightings and over the years he had chronicled hundreds of sightings.
In 1978, a Deseret News article detailed one with multiple witnesses who identified a flying saucer floating over the village, around 10 miles from the ranch.
In his studies, Hicks found that the Native American Ute tribe who had called the area home for thousands of years had folklore of mysterious “skinwalker” creatures. The particular patch of ranchland had long been deemed cursed and forbidden. It earned the name Skinwalker Ranch.
In 2002, Hicks told journalist George Knapp—who wrote the definitive ranch history for the Las Vegas Mercury—that the Uintah Basin region was so rife with extraterrestrial occurences that an estimated half of the population had witnessed UFO activity.
A few weeks after the 1996 Deseret News article came out about the ranch’s mysterious occurrences, a reclusive Las Vegas hotelier flew to meet the Shermans and struck a deal to buy the property for $200,000.
Robert T. Bigelow had made his fortune in the Budget Suites of America hotel chain and was well known for the interest and money he had spent to legitimize paranormal investigation.
The year before he purchased the ranch, he had poured millions of dollars of his own money into founding the National Institute of Discovery Science as a scientifically strict research lab to investigate extraterrestrial activity.
Moving the team to the Skinwalker Ranch, NIDS quickly built an observation post, strung the property with video cameras and hired researchers to observe it 24 hours a day, turning it into a scientific research laboratory.
It chronicled multiple bizarre events, including otherworldly animals.
As Bigelow described to Wired in a rare interview, he came from a family of believers. His grandparents first saw a UFO in 1947, when driving across the Nevada desert.
Through his childhood and later in life, he was fascinated by the paranormal, interviewing people who said they had spotted extraterrestrials and digging into government information.
“I have an enormous amount of data from a lot of different sources that give me some pretty strong convictions about the authenticity of the existence of anomalous phenomena, such as UFOs,” he told Wired.
In founding NIDS, he pulled in a high-caliber staff, including Colonel John Alexander, a NATO adviser who previously headed the non-lethal weapons testing at the Los Alamos National Library.
But with strained funding and a slowdown of paranormal sightings at the ranch, NIDS shut down in 2004.
In its final findings, it concluded the type of objects spotted flying over Utah and elsewhere were not consistent with covert American military aircraft.
Bigelow then transitioned his focus into space tourism, starting Bigelow Aerospace, a company that has struck deals with NASA.
A spokesperson for Bigelow Aerospace said the company had “no comment relative to Skinwalker Ranch.” The project may have been dismantled, but it’s said that Bigelow still owns Skinwalker Ranch, leaving the aliens in peace.