May 16, 2022 I Jazz Shaw

The "Lost Years" at Skinwalker Ranch, 2008 to 2016

By this point, everyone who has even a passing interest in UFOs or paranormal phenomena, in general, is aware of the saga that's been playing out at Skinwalker Ranch in Utah. (An intro to the Skinwalker Ranch can be viewed here.) In the 1990s, the ranch was purchased by billionaire entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, after the previous owners, Terry Sherman and his wife reported a succession of bizarre experiences and sightings. These ranged from UFOs to strange cryptids and apparitions. The inexplicable mutilation of livestock was regularly reported. As part of the conditions of the sale, the Shermans agreed to come back during the day and assist the team of scientists Bigelow was bringing to attempt to engage in a modern, scientific study of the phenomena being observed. The new owner established Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) as a subsidiary of Bigelow Aerospace and established the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDSci) to explore what was happening.

Those studies continued on and off for roughly a decade, almost entirely in secret. To this day, little is known of the results of the studies by the public and the data collected has not been released. By 2008, however, the research had mostly been discontinued. That changed yet again after another billionaire, real estate magnate Brandon Fugal, purchased the ranch from Bigelow, installing his own science team to probe the ranch's mysteries. This eventually led to a highly popular docuseries which is now in its third season. 

What was happening in those "lost years" between the departure of most of Bigelow's team and the arrival of Fugal and company? Reportedly, the number of people on the ranch plummeted, with a skeleton crew of security personnel keeping intruders away from the property and a few workers assisting the ranch managers with normal chores and caring for some of the livestock that still occupied parts of the 512-acre territory. 

But what of the various phenomena? Did all of the ufos, werewolves, shadow creatures, and portal dwellers grow bored without a team of scientists to torment and simply move on? Did they go to sleep awaiting new intruders on their turf? Over the past month or so I had the opportunity to interview two people who should know because they worked on the ranch during various portions of that period. Initially under contract with BAASS and later Bigelow Aerospace, Phil (who remains pseudonymous by request) primarily worked security, while Maria (who similarly insisted on anonymity as a condition of being interviewed) dealt more with ranch chores and livestock.

Phil confirmed that the science teams from NIDSci was almost entirely gone, at least during the periods when he was stationed on the ranch. There were nights when he was the only person on the property and he only recalls ever seeing Robert Bigelow on the property once. Maria never saw the owner to her recollection and she generally never went on the property at night unless there was an emergency situation.

But that doesn't mean that all testing had ended. There were nights when Phil said that he and other security personnel were told to sit in one of the abandoned homestead buildings well past midnight and attempt to engage in remote viewing involving various sealed envelopes, presumably with pictures or coordinates inside. He reported his impressions to superiors as requested, but was never informed of the results of these tests. Maria never engaged in that sort of direct testing but did file reports of any strange or anomalous sightings she observed.

As for inexplicable phenomena, that traffic similarly declined from the reported levels rumored to have been observed during the full NIDSci investigations which would later resume when Fugal arrived and began installing complex monitoring systems. Phil described uneasy feelings and seeing some things that were not easily explained. But he also said that he "only had a few of what would be considered ghostly encounters because I did and I documented it. My wife also had a very traumatic experience with the hitchhiker effect." Further, when I asked about the cattle mutilations, Phil said that he neither saw nor heard from others about any such incidents during his time there. Two cattle that he knew of had died, but one had obviously fallen off of a cliff on the ridge and the other had died in a field and had been the subject of predation by coyotes and other animals. Neither seemed in any way unusual.

Maria described similar senses of dread at times and saw onerous shadows near the edges of the treeline or along cliffs where they shouldn't have been.  She described what she believed was a case of it (whatever "it" is or was) not seeming to be that interested in you if you weren't engaging with it. But if you started poking, it would start poking back. This is similar to the descriptions given in the recent book by James Lacatski, Colm Kelleher, and George Knapp. Whatever this phenomenon or intelligence may or may not be, those on the ground get the definite impression that it knows when intruders are interested and has the ability to stay "one step ahead of them." Could that lack of "poking" also explain the pause in cattle mutilations, which seemed to resume after Fugal's team arrived?

There were other unsettling experiences involved with working at the ranch during this period, however, and not all of them would directly involve paranormal activity. Multiple accounts now strongly suggest that the NIDSci team encountered instances where potentially threatening levels of radiation of some sort were detected on the ranch during the early days. Anyone watching the current seasons of the docuseries covering the work of Brandon Fugal's team will know that they have reported the same. But during the periods when our witnesses were on the ranch, no mention was ever made to either of them of any possible radiation hazard. Nor were either ever provided any sort of dosimeters or other radiation monitoring equipment. Phil mentioned that some of the security personnel he has remained in touch with have suspected that the real testing during this period may have been done on them and not the phenomenon. Also, the security personnel had collected a number of artifacts and reports of experiences involving the Indigenous American history in the region and how it might have related to reported sightings of the Skinwalkers as the local tribes knew them. The NIDSci people were reportedly almost entirely uninterested in any such reports during the time Phil was on the site.

So what is really causing all of the disturbances that have been reported at Skinwalker Ranch? As yet, nobody seems to have a definitive answer. But even those who were there during "the lost years" seem to feel that there's certainly something going on. Some of it may be directly related to the care (or lack of care) of the human interlopers on the range. The rest will clearly remain the subject of further study.

Jazz Shaw
Jazz Shaw is a U.S. military veteran and journalist who has written for and appeared on multiple outlets including Salem Media, National Review, and MSNBC, along with many American radio outlets. His quest for the truth revolves around both the paranormal and the perfect martini.

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