Is Skinwalker Ranch Home to an Unearthly Dire Wolf?
Skinwalker Ranch History
The earliest mention of unexplainable phenomena in the region is from the late 1700s. Spanish explorers in search of the Spanish Trail passed through the Uintah Basin, site of the future ranch, and reported seeing a craft in the sky over their campfires at night.
Nearby Fort Duchesne was a 19th century U.S. Army fort but is now a town. This is reservation country — the ranch is surrounded on three sides by the Uintah-Ouray Ute Reservation. In the early 19th cen., the Navajo claimed the basin and future ranch site as their own — the plentiful freshwater and prime hunting grounds were paradises to the Dine (pronounced DIH-nay), as they called themselves.
But eventually, the aggressive Ute attacked, selling the Dine to the Spanish as slaves and claiming the sweetwater and game as their own. The Dine retaliated with a curse in the form of a spirit that could shapeshift from wolf to human to anything it wanted — a skinwalker. From that point on, native people deemed the Uintah Basin “unholy ground.”
What is a Skinwalker?
Indigenous people wouldn’t ask the question — they wouldn’t even say the word in fear of attracting one. A skinwalker (Dine: yee naaldlooshii) “is one of several varieties of Navajo witch,” according to Wikipedia. “Navajo witches represent the antithesis of Navajo culture…seen as evil and manipulating magic in a perversion of the good works that medicine men and women usually perform.” Legends say that a skinwalker is a medicine man or woman who commits a terrible act, such as killing a relative, to gain supernatural powers.
Skinwalkers are always related to an animal such as a wolf, owl, crow, or coyote, but they have the ability to shapeshift into any animal they choose. They are known to knock on doors, bang on walls, peer through windows, attack livestock, and harass unsuspecting humans by appearing and disappearing. Legends of skinwalkers can be found across the American Southwest in Navajo, Apache, Hopi, Santa Clara, Ute, and Zuni cultures.
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The Dire Wolf of Skinwalker Ranch
In the case of the Skinwalker Ranch skinwalker, an unusual wolfish canine seems to be the spirit’s preferred manifestation. Described as a “huge” wolf, the creature has traits that observers say are not “normal,” such as walking upright, running on all fours with an erratic, crooked gait, and brazenly approaching humans in broad daylight. Researchers who analyzed drawings and photos of the creature say it most closely resembles the extinct dire wolf.
Fearless, the massive wolf also seems bulletproof. In 1994, Gwen and Terry Sherman purchased the ranch and moved their family and livestock to the site. The day they took possession, as they were unpacking, they spotted an enormous coyote or wolf in one of their pastures. Strangely, the animal approached them and family members began to pet it — it had been a rainy day, and the Shermans said the creature smelled like a wet dog.
After a few minutes, the “wolf” sauntered over to a livestock pen and grabbed a calf by the nose, trying to drag it through the corral bars. Terry Sherman and his father beat the animal to make it release the calf.
When that failed, Sherman shot the animal with a .357 magnum at point-blank range — it kept its jaws on the calf. After another shot, it released the calf, but didn’t run; it stood watching the family. Sherman continued shooting, but there was no blood or sign of injury on the animal, although it began to back off.
Sherman grabbed a hunting rifle and shot again at point-blank range. Finally, a shot produced a piece of skin and hair from the wolf, but the animal was still calm. After a few more shots, it trotted off across a pasture into a wet brushy area. Sherman tracked it for more than a mile, but the trail vanished. Those who were there that day recall that the remaining hair and flesh had a foul smell, like rotting meat combined with a musky fox scent.
“A few weeks later, Gwen Sherman encountered a wolf so large its back was parallel with the top of her window as it stood beside her car. The wolf was accompanied by a dog-like animal that she couldn’t identify,” according to an online article.
Phantom Dogs and Hyenas
The canine theme is repeated in a story from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Two BIA officials were patrolling near the ranch when they saw a pair of “humanoid” figures standing together on the side of the road. Weirdly, the officers swore the canids were standing upright, wearing trench coats and smoking cigarettes. The patrol pulled over and got out of the car; they looked at each other, but when they looked again, the dogs were gone, leaving smoking cigarette butts on the ground. Researchers have found the story so unbelievable it has been excluded from published reports and articles.
Jim Sherman witnessed another type of canine creature, saying that one day, he noticed that the horses in a corral were upset, frantically jumping and struggling to evade something. When Sherman approached to investigate, he discovered a creature like a hyena among the horses, slashing at them with its claws. Sherman said the animal was about 200 lbs. with a big bushy tail like a fox. He yelled, and the thing jumped out of the corral and ran to Skinwalker Ridge above the ranch, where it disappeared in broad daylight.
Orbs Lure Ranch Dogs
The Shermans reported frequent sightings of colored orbs — specifically yellow, red, and blue orbs. The strangest was the luminous blue orbs — Terry said they gave off a “crackling” sound and provoked terror in nearby viewers.
On this night, Gwen and Terry saw one of the blue balls approach a horse, “spooking it mightily.” The orb then came near the Shermans, seeming to “inspect” them. Later, they said that is looked as if there were two blue fluids inside the baseball-shaped sphere. “That was the scaredest I’ve ever been in my life,” said Terry. The Shermans said the ball came and went throughout the evening, and at one point it hovered in the face of a cow. As it started to leave, the Shermans coaxed their three dogs to chase it.
The dogs chased the orb into a brushy area — the Shermans lost sight of the orb, and at that moment heard the dogs’ pained cries. They didn’t return. Terry didn’t want to investigate in the dark, but the next morning, he found three “greasy” spots on the ground in the wooded area. The dogs were never seen again.
The Shermans Depart the Ranch
The Shermans moved to the ranch with a herd of rare, expensive cattle, but when so many were mutilated and killed they realized they would be bankrupt if they didn’t move themselves and their livestock to a safer location — they had lost 20 percent of their herd to mutilations. According to writer David Perkins, the Shermans were conflicted; they didn’t want to pass the ranch’s strangeness to another unsuspecting buyer, but they had to sell. The loss of the beloved ranch dogs was the last straw.
The ranch had hosted researchers and military intelligence officers interested in the high numbers of UFO sightings — one of them had put the Shermans in touch with Robert Bigelow, the millionaire founder of Bigelow Aerospace in Nevada. Bigelow had invested part of his fortune in UFO research. He bought the ranch in Sept. 1996, also acquiring the Shermans’ cattle.
Bigelow had recently formed the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), and he turned the ranch into a paranormal research site. NIDS had focused on cattle mutilations and black triangle UFOs, but the ranch was too good to pass up, with its reported interdimensional portals, sasquatch sightings, light anomalies, occasional tropical birds in the trees, disembodied voices, and yes, a resident skinwalker. Retired Army Colonel John Alexander, with a “resume lifted from the X-files,” joined Bigelow. NIDS put a lid on reports of paranormal activity, but a December 2017 New York Times story reported that NIDS was funded up to $22 million by the Department of Defense at the behest of Senator Harry Reid.
Bigelow eventually shut the NIDS down when it could not provide explanations for the supernatural activity at the ranch; cameras failed and video camera setups were mysteriously vandalized. The ranch is now visited by so many sightseers that the dog and wolfmen have become scarce. Eventually, Bigelow sold the ranch to Adamantium Holdings, “a shell corporation of unknown origin.” One can only speculate whether the new owners are more harassed by supernatural activity or trespassers in search of the skinwalker wolf.