Jul 01, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Skinwalkers: What Do We Really Know About Them?

Today, we come to one of the most dangerous and terrifying of all monsters: the Skinwalker of Native American lore and legend.  And, to those who dare to investigate such phenomena they should tread carefully. Very carefully. Indeed, one only has to ask George Knapp, Colm A. Kelleher and James T. Lacatski, the authors of the recently published book, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon. Accounts of the deadly, shapeshifting Skinwalkers date back a very long time. Indeed, they have been provoking mayhem, chaos, and even death, in their collective paths for absolute centuries. Skinwalkers are often portrayed in Native American history as classic crones – wizened, old witches, in other words. The fact is, however, that the Skinwalkers can transform themselves into multiple forms; one of them being that of a wolf. Or, perhaps more correctly, something that superficially resembles a wolf. I say all of the above because in the last few years there has been a growing amount of interest in the subject. But, what, exactly, what are they? There is no doubt that is the key question to be asked. And to be answered, too.

Some might suggest – and have suggested – that the creatures take on forms that are far less like regular wolves and far more akin to classic werewolves: large and powerful beasts that can walk and run on both two limbs and four. Others, today, refer to them as the Dog-Men. Other forms that the Skinwalkers can mutate into include coyotes, birds, and bears. Indeed, they are supernatural masters of camouflage and subterfuge. The process by which a witch can take on a completely new form is very complicated, to say the very least. Magical rites and rituals can allow a person to morph into an animal – by seeking to emulate the beast that he or she desire to become. In the bulk of such shape-changing, however, a witch will wrap around their body the hide of the very animal they wish to become. The more the witch wears the hide, the more she or he is likely to successfully transform. It’s important to note that it's not just the form that changes: a person who becomes a Skinwalker also takes on the keen senses of smell and sight that so many animals have and that we don't. The same goes for their senses of hearing. And, there are their incredibly fast speeds, too. In other words, these undeniably, deadly creatures are nothing less than lethal killing machines.    

(Nick Redfern) Beware of the wolfish Skinwalker

Without doubt the most dangerous aspect of the Skinwalker is its ability to supernaturally infect people with deadly diseases and life-threatening illnesses. Strangely, on more than a few occasions, those who have found themselves in the direct, close presence of a Skinwalker have – no less in than mere days - succumbed to very rare medical conditions. Precisely how the Skinwalker can perform such a hostile thing still remains unknown. It is, however, worth noting that the Skinwalker is said to have an expert knowledge of medicine, and both ancient and modern. The answer, somewhere, just might be found in that issue of those medicines. It’s no wonder that many Native Americans avoid these malevolent things at all costs. Who can blame them? Hardly anyone. Of course, there is one critical issue we that have yet to touch upon: namely, why on Earth would anyone even want to become a Skinwalker in the very first place, at all? The answer, as you may have already deduced, is not a good one. Adopting the guise of an animal can, quite literally, allow a person to get away with cold-hearted murder. After all, if the target of the Skinwalker is violently slaughtered by a rampaging bear or a savage wolf, then who would even – or ever - dream of the possibility that the beast was actually a transformed human? Almost certainly not many, that is to be sure! 

Although the phenomenon of the Skinwalker has been with us for a very long time, there is absolutely no doubt, at all, that much of the modern day knowledge and understanding of the creatures comes from the publicity that was given to it by Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp in their hugely popular book of 2005, Hunt for the Skinwalker - a definitive classic of its time. It tells of an absolute myriad of paranormal phenomena at a certain ranch located in Utah. As the description for the Knapp-Kelleher book states: “For more than fifty years, the bizarre events at that remote Utah ranch have ranged from the perplexing to the wholly terrifying. Vanishing and mutilated cattle. Unidentified Flying Objects. The appearance of huge, otherworldly creatures. Invisible objects emitting magnetic fields with the power to spark a cattle stampede. Flying orbs of light with dazzling maneuverability and lethal consequences. For one family, life on the Skinwalker Ranch had become a life under siege by an unknown enemy or enemies. Nothing else could explain the horrors that surrounded them – perhaps science could.” And, as George Knapp noted in Hunt for the Skinwalker, with regard to the many and varied phenomena that caused chaos and mayhem on the ranch:  “…reality isn’t what it used to be.” You can say that again!

Now, we come to my very own experiences. I cannot say that I am someone who has come face-to-face with a Skinwalker. I haven't. I have, though, had experiences that could be termed as on the fringe of the phenomenon.  As someone who spends a lot of time in the field – so to speak – investigating reports of strange creatures, UFOs, M.I.B., and more, I was very excited when in August 2010 I had the opportunity to head out to the site of a spate of Skinwalker sightings - and for a full week, no less . The location was the desert of California, specifically in Joshua Tree. I was there to be filmed for a new TV show on VH1 that was called Real and Chance: The Legend Hunters. The stars were brothers Kamal and Ahmad Givens. It was a fun, excited, well-executed show that saw the two guys heading around the United States – in road-trip style – and investigating a myriad of mysteries; one of them being the Skinwalker controversy. But, you probably guessed that, right?

(Nick Redfern) The site of the filming where a huge wolf appeared in the dead of night

On the second day of the shooting, the film crew and I headed out to a local animal sanctuary – that specialized in caring for, and rehabilitating, nothing less than wolves. In doing so, I quickly learned just how much the Skinwalker phenomenon was feared in and around Joshua Tree - and in Utah, too. And, in all likelihood, it still is feared. I also saw for myself a deep reluctance on the part of the staff of the sanctuary to ever utter that dreaded “S word.” By now, you know the word I mean. Then, on the third night – around 1:00 a.m. – we encountered nothing less than a huge wolf staring down at us - from a hilly area - as the film-crew captured us on camera. No, I am not joking. In fact, no-one was. The wolf was only in view for a minute or two, but it was an undeniably bone-chilling situation. Here we were looking for Skinwalkers and we almost walked into a huge wolf that, I suspect, seemed to be waiting for us. And no-one else. Was the whole thing just a really bizarre coincidence? I have to say that I seriously doubted it. More than a decade later, my views have not really changed. I still think that something very strange happened on that night - in the California desert - when the skies went dark and a huge wolf loomed out of the darkness. Sadly, in 2015 Ahmad died at the very young age of thirty-three from cancer. 

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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