You will recall from Part 1 of the Skinwalker Ranch story, that by 1996, the family that owned the Ranch — the Shermans — were worn down and terrified by the constant stream of paranormal events at the Ranch, from huge wolves, to mutilated cattle, to coloured orbs and even ghastly empty-faced intruders into the Ranch homestead itself.
Perhaps by coincidence, the local paper, The Desert Times, ran an article on them just as they were at breaking-point. But that article was seen by a billionaire real estate developer, Robert Bigelow.
Bigelow was born in Las Vegas in 1944. Throughout the 1960s up through the 1990s, Bigelow was involved in real estate. They estimated his net worth in 2011 at $700 million. Though he was clearly motivated in the real estate business, his heart was in space. As young as 12 years old, he had said that his future was in space and in 2013 Bigelow said the only reason he went into real estate was to build the fortune that would allow him to pursue his interests off-world. In 2017, he said he planned to build a space hotel.
But he was not just interested in normal space travel: the idea of UFOs and visitors from space also fascinated him. In 1995, the year before he became involved at the Skinwalker Ranch, he founded the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) which focused on ‘fringe’ science, including the study of UFOs.
The NIDS investigated cattle mutilations and also black-triangle UFOs. Black-triangle UFOs are said to be triangular, dark, large, silent and hovering, displaying pulsating, coloured lights, much like some of the UFOs seen by Gary Sherman at the Skinwalker Ranch.
The NIDS eventually concluded that the black-triangle UFOs were earth military. The British Ministry of Defence also analysed black-triangle sightings in their Project Condign and concluded they were due to electrically charged plasmas in the air and were wholly natural. They would say that though, wouldn’t they?
But back to 1996. Bigelow saw the article on the Sherman Ranch in the Desert Times and, unsurprisingly given his interests and his wealth, purchased it. His NIDS team was installed at the Ranch and given his resources, Bigelow equipped his team with state-of-the-art gear to investigate the weird goings on at Skinwalker Ranch.
Not only was the equipment state-of-the-art, so was the staff. Bigelow hired people qualified to PhD level in psychology, astrophysics and veterinary science.
Bigelow insisted that his staff be skeptical and look for scientific, everyday explanations first before turning to the paranormal. As well as the day-to-day field staff, there was a board of advisors whose personnel included highly qualified scientists and ranking military officers.
Two significant members of the team were Eric Davis and Colm Kellerher.
Eric W. Davis was a PhD physicist who worked on NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Project from 1996 to 2002. His primary interest is in the propulsion capabilities of UFOs. You will remember that Terry Sherman reported seeing what seemed to be a portal to another dimension through which various craft entered this world. Dr Davis entertained the idea that this was a description of wormholes that link different parts of the universe. Mainstream physicists accepted wormholes as a genuine phenomenon in astrophysics. The idea that UFOs travel through them, they are not so supportive of.
Dr Davis also explored the idea of UFOs’ use of anti-gravity. Anti-gravity is not controversial either, it’s just alien craft using it to fly, that is.
Colm Kellerher was the leader of the NIDS team at Skinwalker Ranch between 1996 and 2004 when Bigelow disbanded the team. Kellerher co-authored a book on what he saw at Skinwalker Ranch with a journalist named George Knapp. Dr Kellerher was a biochemist. Like Dr Eric Davis above, Colm Kellerher seems to be convinced that something weird was going on at the Skinwalker Ranch.
In 1996, after Bigelow purchased the Ranch and installed his team there, Terry Sherman remained there as Ranch Manager, though his family moved and he didn’t live there anymore. Terry Sherman’s own belief was that much of what he saw was not down to Native American Skinwalkers or alien UFOs, but to the US Military.
Terry’s job was to manage the cattle and hopefully turn a profit from the Ranch. He was the only one there who knew how to ranch cattle. Terry suspected, however, that the new stock of cattle were actually there for bait for the creatures that visited. He had his own cattle there too.
The NIDS had an observation trailer parked on the ranch land and ran shifts, so there was someone there 24 hours a day. The team consisted of four scientists plus assistants.
One of the issues was that the nature of the phenomena was so varied. There were UFOs, and cattle mutilations, circles in the ground reminiscent of crop-circle phenomena, ancient Native American legends and enormous wolves.
The psychologist on the team investigated ideas that the Shermans might have been subject to psychoactive substances from the plant life there, such as the ergot fungus was found to cause hallucinations in other times and places. Or was there electromagnetic interference from the geology, or radiation or infrasound or ultrasound, all having effects on the brains and perceptions of those on the ranch land?
As well as the observation trailer, the NIDS team set up three towers on the land from which to look out and had dogs stationed at each of the towers in kennels beneath them.
The first significant event was in March 1997, several months after the NIDS team arrived. Terry and Gwen Sherman were working on the ranch and they found the body of an Angus calf. The weird thing was only minutes ago the calf had been alive and well when they tagged it. They remembered that when they walked about three hundred yards to attend to the rest of the herd, the dog with them growled and its hair stood up.
They saw the mother of the calf behaving oddly and when they went to investigate, found the beast was dead. Not only that, but its whole abdomen, including all of its organs, had been scooped out. The only parts left were its head, legs, spine, and ribcage. And this had happened in a few minutes when they were out of sight, merely three hundred yards away. The head remained, but something had cleanly sliced one ear off. And this was the ear they had tagged less than an hour before.
They reported the incident to the NIDS veterinarian, who investigated and confirmed in his opinion that no natural predator could have done this. Once again, an odd scent hung over the carcass. The team fanned out to look for tracks and found all the farm dogs huddled inside their kennels, not daring to come out. They refused to come out for days and then, four days after they found the Angus calf mutilated, the dogs started up snarling and barking at something they had sensed across the pasture. It seemed that something was lurking on the ranch.
The NIDS team got into their truck and went to investigate the place the dogs were barking at. As they came to a stand of trees, the investigators saw two yellow gleams in a tree about twenty feet up. They appeared to be the eyes of some bipedal creature. Terry looked at it through the telescopic sights of his rifle and, thinking this was the predator that had taken his animals, he fired. He heard an impact and then a thud on the ground as if the thing had been hit and had fallen. The NIDS team drove to the tree and got out to search. There was no wounded creature on the ground, nor any blood, nor any sign of anything being hit and crawling away.
The team spread out along the tree line and entered. They heard something moving through the trees ahead of them. They fired again, but apparently missed. Terry was the only one who saw it, and he said it was like a huge wolf standing on two feet. The team did actually find footprints, and these were big-clawed marks, like an enormous dog.
Nothing much happened for the rest of March 1997. Then another calf went missing on April 1st. Later on in April, four prize Angus bulls, each worth many thousands of dollars, were involved in another incident. As they passed the four bulls that morning, Gwen, who, now out of work, stuck with Terry a lot these days, remarked that these were their bulls and their loss would be a financial devastation.
They drove on to the west of the ranch where they repaired a broken fence and tagged some newly born calves. This took about an hour. On their way back, they turned the corner and saw the corral where the four bulls had been. They were not there. Panicking, they screeched to a halt by the corral, leaped out, and checked the fences and gates. Everything was in perfect order. There was no obvious way the bulls could have got out and gone missing. They certainly didn’t appear to have escaped.
Desperately looking around, Terry glanced into an old trailer through a window. The trailer was not very big and, to his amazement, Terry saw all four bulls alive and crammed into that small space. The trailer door was latched closed. There was no way four bulls could get in there, and no way they would tolerate being crammed together in such a tiny enclosure.
How had the bulls got in there? Who had put them there? This looked like the work of a Trickster. Furthermore, the bulls had their heads hanging low like they were in a trance. As Terry called them, they seemed to wake up and then panicked and kicked their way out, running out into the daylight.
When the NIDS team investigated, they found the trailer door was old and rusty and hadn’t been opened in a long while. Another weird thing was that the metal bars of the corral where the bulls had been kept were now highly magnetic, though that wore off over time. Again, that odd smell was present.
Later that month, Dr. Colm Kellerher was following some tracks on the south side of the ranch when he became aware of that powerful chemical smell. Dr Kellerher was separated from his colleagues, and the nearest one was about fifty years away in the Russian Olive trees. Dr Kellerher looked around and suddenly thought that something else was lurking nearby. The hairs on his head stood up, and he became hypervigilant. The chemical smell grew longer. He told himself he was imagining things and tried to keep on task. His magnetic compass started wheeling around. He got really freaked out, but tried to keep calm, and then the smell waned, the compass settled and things went back to normal.
Later, he conferred with his teammate and this man also had felt that something was watching him and he also had smelled the bizarre chemical odour.
The year went on. It was now June 1997. Dr Kelleher and Dr Eric Davis, the physicist, were on a regular stakeout duty in front of the middle homestead, which was derelict. This was a known place for phenomena and it was past sundown and Dr Davis was wearing night-vision goggles. Dr Kelleher was taking photographs of the sky. They always had with them for the benefit of the dogs’ keen sense of smell, sight, hearing and a general canine sixth sense.
The dogs began to yelp. There was something there, but instead of challenging it, the dogs cowered behind the men’s legs. Dr. Davis checked the area and saw a black object in the trees. He was convinced it was a creature. At first, Dr Kellerher didn’t see it. Dr Davis told him it had started moving through the trees in a northerly direction. Dr Kellerher kept taking pictures, though he couldn’t clearly see anything.
Then Dr Davis said that the thing was speaking directly into his mind. Dr Kellerher could hear nothing, but Davis said, ‘It’s saying “We are watching You.” Davis was freaked out. Kellerher tried to comfort him and bring him back to his senses, but Davis appeared to be mentally overpowered by what he was experiencing.
During the summer of 1997, odd orbs of light flew over the ranch area. Sometimes they would appear, lead the investigators on, then flicker out as if they were just amusing themselves with the investigators. Again, this is Trickster type behaviour.
Then in August 1997, while photographing these orbs, the NIDS team had a terrifying experience. It was about 3:30 am and two team members were on the ridge above the middle homestead.
One of the guys had infra-red binoculars, and the other was monitoring electronic detection equipment and sensors. The job could be very tedious, and they had been on the ridge for three hours and were about to move off to the next point when Mike, who had the binoculars announced that a light had blinked on in the pasture below about a hundred and fifty feet away. It hovered above the ground. Mike could see it clearly through the infra-red binoculars, but his colleague only saw the vaguest of lights with his eyes.
Mike said that the light was growing in size, and they he said that in the middle of the light was a door leading to a tunnel. Then, terrified, he said, “There’s something in the tunnel, and it’s crawling out.”
When asked to describe the thing, he said it was a huge, black, featureless creature, crawling on hands and knees. It came out of the tunnel, dropped to the dirt, and ran up the side of the ridge at a superhuman speed. It was running towards them.
Inside their vehicle, the two investigators froze in fear as the creature ran up the ridge towards them. The dark shape came close; they heard its feet on the gravel. Then it ran past them and vanished into the night. Once again, the unusual chemical odour hung in the air.
There were many further experiences, though not usually as scary. But the NIDS team saw the lights, had experiences of the creatures that the Sherman family had reported. They even captured some of this on film. But it is fair to say that the scientific community did not accept their evidence as conclusive.
In 2004, the NIDS project was closed down. Robert Bigelow sold the ranch to Adamantium Real Estate, who continued with the paranormal investigation.
On the one hand, the Shermans were conservative and successful cattle ranchers. They had no reason to make this up. Even if their business was failing, as it wasn’t, why resort to such a bizarre story? Furthermore, none of the Shermans have capitalized on this story. They have not attempted to make money out of it and indeed, lost money on the sale of the ranch and on the loss of their livestock. The Shermans eventually moved to Idaho to start a new life.
Also, Dr. Colm Kellerher and Dr Eric Davis are reputable scientists who, before any of this, went through the normal scientific training and were employed by mainstream scientific bodies. Both of them are convinced they were party to extraordinary events that push the boundaries of our scientific knowledge. Though they have gone public with this story, they have not made a fortune and would probably have done better financially by keeping their mouths shut and taking the next respectable and lucrative Government scientific job.
And did Robert Bigelow buy the Ranch to set up as a tourist attraction? He didn’t do this. In fact, he fenced off the ranch area and visitors were not allowed. Nor has he capitalized on the story after his involvement finished. And he doesn’t need the money anyway and has not courted publicity or written books about it.
On the other hand, the phenomena are so varied and almost incoherent. There is still no accepted evidence of what the Shermans and the NIDs team said they observed.
And there is also the evidence of the family who owned the farm before the Shermans, the Meyers.
I will look at that in a further article.