Nov 02, 2022 I Nick Redfern

Cattle Mutilations: How Many Theories Can There Be?

The controversy surrounding cattle mutilations has been around since the 1960s, but no-one has really solved the mystery. Or, mysteries. That's right: there might not be just one reason for the mutes. With that said, let's have a look at the grisly riddle. Since at least 1967, reports have surfaced throughout the United States of animals – but, chiefly, cattle – slaughtered in disturbing and bizarre ways. Organs are taken and significant amounts of blood are found to be missing. In some cases, the limbs of the poor cattle are broken, suggesting they have been dropped to the ground from a significant height. Evidence of extreme heat, to slice into the skin of the animals, has been found at mutilation sites. Eyes are removed, tongues are sliced off, and, typically, the sexual organs are gone. While the answers to the puzzle remain frustratingly outside of the public arena, theories abound. They include extraterrestrials, engaged in nightmarish experimentation of the genetic kind; military programs involving the testing of new bio-warfare weapons; and government agencies secretly monitoring the food-chain, fearful that something worse than "Mad Cow Disease" may have infected the U.S. cattle herd – and, possibly, as a result, the human population, too.  

In August 1975, Senator Floyd K. Haskell, of Colorado, made his voice known to the FBI, on the growing cattle mutilation controversy: "For several months my office has been receiving reports of cattle mutilations throughout Colorado and other western states. At least 130 cases in Colorado alone have been reported to local officials and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI); the CBI has verified that the incidents have occurred for the last two years in nine states. The ranchers and rural residents of Colorado are concerned and frightened by these incidents. The bizarre mutilations are frightening in themselves: in virtually all the cases, the left ear, rectum and sex organ of each animal has been cut away and the blood drained from the carcass, but with no traces of blood left on the ground and no footprints."  The senator had much more to say, too: "In Colorado’s Morgan County area there has also been reports that a helicopter was used by those who mutilated the carcasses of the cattle [italics mine], and several persons have reported being chased by a similar helicopter. Because I am gravely concerned by this situation, I am asking that the Federal Bureau of Investigation enter the case." That's pretty much when the black helicopter phenomenon in the area began.

(Nick Redfern) Black and near-silent helicopters have been seen frequently at mutilation sites

Moving on, there is the matter of the Sons of Satan; a secret cult that engaged in the sacrifice of cattle to their lord and master, the Devil himself. The story dates back to 1974 and an inmate of the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. The year had barely begun when one of the prisoners at Leavenworth – a man named A. Kenneth Bankston - penned a letter to a well-known UFO investigator, Jerome Clark. Bankston’s reasoning for contacting Clark was simple enough: one year earlier, in 1973, Clark wrote an article on the cattle mutilation puzzle for Fate magazine. So, Bankston was looking for someone with whom he could share his story – a story focused on the aforementioned Sons of Satan. Given that the cattle mutilation hysteria was at its height in the mid-1970s, it’s not at all surprising that others, besides Clark, were also writing about the grisly mystery. One of them was Kevin D. Randle, a noted UFO authority. Randle’s article, “The Killer Cult Terrorizing Mid-America,” appeared in Saga, just shortly after Clark’s was published. Both men discussed the "cult" angle, which was gaining more and more interest.

Among those who was interested in the cattle mutilation problem – but who was not overly convinced that it had a connection to the UFO issue – was Dr. J. Allen Hynek, of the Center for UFO Studies. Hynek, at the time, was liaising with an agent of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms – Donald E. Flickinger – who had a personal interest in UFOs. Flickinger, when approached by Hynek, agreed to undertake an investigation into the cattle mutilation controversy. While Flickinger did not find any evidence suggestive of a UFO connection to the cattle killings, he did note that “a certain pattern existed” when it came to the nature of the attacks, the removal of organs, and the significant blood loss. When Jerome Clark heard of Flickinger’s studies, he provided the BATF agent with copies of A. Kenneth Bankston’s correspondence. Bankston’s story was as eye-opening as it was controversial. The Sons of Satan was a powerful, very well hidden group that had seemingly endless funding and manpower and was led by a mysterious character, only referred to as “Howard.” The secret group was determined to provoke “hell on earth.” And the sacrificial rites were a way to ensure that Satan would aid in the group’s efforts to create hellish mayhem.

U.S. authorities did not dismiss Bankston’s story. In fact, the exact opposite was the order of the day. Flickinger wasted no time in calling the Minneapolis U.S. Attorney’s Office. When the facts were outlined, the office agreed that an investigation should proceed – and proceed quickly. As a result, Bankston and another inmate, a man named Dan Dugan, who asserted he was a member of the Sons of Satan, were moved from Leavenworth to another prison. Whereas Leavenworth was a high-security facility, the situation at the new jail was far more relaxed. Of course, one could make a very good case that Bankston and Dugan made the whole thing up, primarily as a means to make it appear they were trying to help clear up a very disturbing mystery – a mystery that the government dearly wanted clearing up. In other words, by helping the authorities, the pair hoped that as a “thank-you” they would be moved from the oppressive environment at Leavenworth – which is exactly what happened. It must be said, however, that this does not mean the story of Bankston and Dugan was without merit. The story was detailed, plausible, and – as far as the police were concerned – was viewed as being far more likely than the sensationalized UFO explanation. Indeed, acting on the words of the two prisoners, law-enforcement officials approached numerous "Satanic cults" in the United States. Despite such approaches, the secret order of the Sons of Satan were never found or exposed. Today, the cattle mutilation mystery continues – and also remains steadfastly unresolved.

(Nick Redfern) An extract from the FBI's cattle mutilation file (available at the FBI's website at this link)

Now, let's go down a paranormal / cryptozoological angle. I'm talking about the sinister Skinwalker. In the Middle Ages, the most feared of all the many and varied shapeshifters was the werewolf, and particularly so throughout much of Europe. Today, however, a very good, solid case can be made that the Skinwalker is one of the most dangerous transformer of all. It is a creature that dominates the culture and the folklore of certain Native Americans – and to the extent that some will not even utter its name, for fear of it creating a backlash against the person who dared to speak the deadly S–word. But what, exactly, are these things that instill such fear in countless numbers of people? Let us take a look. The answers are many, but you might not be happy with what you are about to learn. For certain Native American people, the Skinwalker – tales of which date back centuries - is a definitive witch, a crone-like thing that has the ability to change its form, and radically so, too. And it is not just one specific type of beast into which the witch can change, but multiple ones. While a shapeshifting Native American witch can take on, quite literally, hundreds of forms, the most often reported guises are bears, coyotes, various types of birds, and – at the top of the list – wolves or wolf-like animals. This latter issue, of course, emphasizes that the Skinwalker is not that dissimilar at all to the traditional European werewolf, despite being separated by distances of thousands of miles.   

There can be no doubt that, in recent times, at least, interest in the Skinwalker mystery soared in 2005. That was when Colm A. Kelleher and George Knapp penned their best-selling book, Hunt for the Skinwalker. It was a book which detailed strange and terrifying activity on a remote ranch in Utah – activity which suggested manipulative Skinwalkers had descended on the ranch and who quickly began wreaking havoc – maybe, simply, because they could. As well as experiencing countless UFO encounters, and sightings of large and hairy Bigfoot-type beasts, the family also had confrontations with a huge, malevolent wolf; a monster-size animal upon which bullets had absolutely no effect at all. 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.” For the Native Americans, however, reality hasn’t been what it appears to be for a very long time. 

The process by which a witch can become a Skinwalker is a highly complex one, and one which involves several different processes. For example, witches who are both learned and skilled in magical arts can transform themselves into a wide variety of creatures, and all by focusing on its image in their minds – very often in the confines of their teepee. In most cases, however, a witch will secure the hide of the animal they wish to become and wrap it around their shoulders and back. By effectively wearing the hide, the witch - slowly and step by step – becomes the very beast it specifically seeks to emulate. And, so Native American teachings maintain, that includes adopting its keen senses of smell and sight, its agility and speed, and even its complete, physical form. Perhaps the most sinister aspect of the Skinwalker is that it has the 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 –in mere days - succumbed to very rare medical conditions. Precisely how the Skinwalker can perform such a hostile thing remains unknown. It is, however, worth noting that the Skinwalker is said to have an expert knowledge of medicine, both ancient and modern. No wonder Native Americans avoid them at all costs. And it is not just people who can fall victim to this dangerous beast. Animals – very often, farm animals – have also become the targets of these multi-formed creatures. 

(Nick Redfern) Could Skinwalkers be the culprits of the cattle mutilations?

For example, so-called cattle-mutilations, which reached their peak in the 1970s – but which are still occasionally reported to this very day – are believed by some, certain Native Americans to be the work of crazed Skinwalkers. The approach of the creatures is to remove organs and blood from cattle, specifically to use it in yet further rites and rituals designed to enhance its paranormal powers to even greater degrees. This may not be quite as strange, or as unlikely, as it might seem: between 1975 and 1978, police officers investigating dozens of cattle mutilation events in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona found that many such attacks had specifically occurred on Native American reservations – something which is most assuredly food for thought. Now, how about an element of the U.S. government creating the mutes - and for a nightmarish reason, as you'll see now: There is the matter of foreign agents being the culprits. “Bacteriological Warfare in the United States” is a fascinating FBI document that was declassified into the public domain in 2006, via the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, and covers the years 1941 to 1950.

Notably, of the file’s original 1,783 pages, no less than 1,074 have been firmly withheld from declassification by the FBI. The file reveals a wealth of illuminating and disturbing data on animal disease and death, and their potential, theoretical links to bacteriological warfare and sabotage by enemy nations and individuals. In a strange and winding way, the story the file tells has a bearing on the theme of this book. Much of the dossier is focused on a series of mysterious and suspicious outbreaks of disease – and attendant death – in Lincoln County, New Mexico in the 1940s, which is the very same county where the Roswell event occurred. In late 1950, the New Mexico State Public Health Laboratory sent a memo to the FBI which read as follows:

“Possibly some of you saw headlines in newspapers published in the States during August, such as ‘Black Death Stirs Albuquerque,’ ‘Black Plague Hits Two in New Mexico,’ and ‘Dark Age Plague Found in Two.’ It is unfortunate that we must still seriously discuss plague, for we already know so much about its cause and mode of spread; but as long as such headlines do occur, it is necessary that we who are interested in Public Health and Preventive Medicine do seriously consider plague and acquaint ourselves with the plague of today, its prevalence, and its potentialities.” The FBI was particularly worried about the New Mexico outbreaks and recorded the following: “The New Mexico Public Health Authority has been on the alert for cases of plague since 1938 when the U.S. Public Health Service first reported plague in the wild rodents of one of our counties. There was no suggestion of human infection until August 1, 1949, when the Laboratory received a request for aid in the diagnosis of two cases. A slide made from material aspirated from an axillary bubo [swelling of the lymph nodes] of a ten-year-old boy of Taos County was first received.

“Late on August 1, 1949, the pathologist at the Veteran’s Hospital in Albuquerque called stating that a man from Placitas, Sandoval County, had been admitted to the hospital and his clinical symptoms resembled plague. The cases were from areas 200 miles apart with no connection. The little boy of Taos probably received his infection from a bit of a flea escaped from the body of a prairie dog which he killed by throwing a stone. The man from Sandoval probably received his infection from fleas from ground squirrels that he had killed while working on his farm. These two New Mexico cases of human plague are good examples of what might be expected considering the reservoir of plague infection in the wild rodents of the western states. Very possibly there are undiagnosed human cases in New Mexico and other states with widely scattered population.” These revelations led many people in the FBI and other agencies - at the time - that dangerous enemies might have been trying to infect the food chain of the United States. Could such a thing still being done today?

What all of this tells us is that there might be more than one source for the cattle mutilations. In fact, there could be several sources for the mutes. That makes things even more grim and concerning.

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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