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Strange crop circles, mutilated cattle, UFO sightings, mystical creatures – what sounds like an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" is actually one of Utah's most famous – or maybe infamous – historical sites.
Skinwalker Ranch, also called Sherman Ranch, comprises 512 acres and sits just southeast of Ballard, Utah. And it's haunted – or at least that's what Utahns will tell you. Whether you believe the stories of shape-shifting skinwalkers or buy the inexplicable stories of cattle mutilations, there are a few things you should know about the most mystical property in the Beehive State.
It's gained national attention
After being shrouded in mystery and surrounded by literal barbed wire, Skinwalker Ranch came into the spotlight this year with History Channel's "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch." In the eight-part series, a team of scientists uses cutting-edge technology to get answers about the paranormal activity consistently occurring on and around the ranch. Check out all the discoveries – and some chilling new questions – on History Channel.
The history is troubling
Named Sherman Ranch by its first owners, Terry and Gwen Sherman, the couple, along with their two children, experienced bizarre happenings for as long as 15 months before telling their story – or, more appropriately, stories. According to a 1996 Deseret News article, the Shermans were reluctant even then to talk about the paranormal activity surrounding the ranch because, as Terry put it, "I don't know really what to think about it."
What the Shermans experienced was enough to make them sell the property after owning it less than two years. The buyer was Robert Bigelow, founder of Budget Suites of America and UFO enthusiast. He purchased the property as the headquarters of National Institute of Discovery Science, a research organization he founded.
Three years ago, the ranch was sold again, according to UBMedia, but this time to an owner who chose to remain anonymous. After blocking all roads to the ranch, securing the perimeter with cameras and fencing and trademarking the name "Skinwalker Ranch," a Utah real estate tycoon named Brandon Fugal came forward as the owner.
The claims are chilling
The Sherman's experiences, which were chronicled by Deseret News in the 1996 article, varied from seeing peculiar, inexplicable lights on the horizon, to finding perfect circles of flattened grass, arranged in intricate patterns, strange impressions in the dirt around their ranch and a series of terror-inducing animal disappearances and mutilations.
UFO sightings have been plentiful. The Sherman family categorized the flying objects into three types, varying in size from the size of a small box to the size of several football fields. Floating or flying lights were also commonplace. In fact, Gwen Sherman claimed a fiery light once followed her car home. Terry claimed to hear men speaking from unknown places in an unrecognizable language.
According to the Shermans, the sightings were usually linked to missing or mutilated cattle. Terry Sherman found a cow dead in the field, with a "peculiar hole in the center of its left eyeball but otherwise untouched with no trace of blood." With no footprints nearby or evidence of predators, Terry chalked the experience up to the supernatural.
It earned its name
According to Navajo legend, a skinwalker is a "type of harmful which who has the ability to tun into, possess or disguise themselves as an animal." This shape-shifting creature might seem like the stuff of oral legend, the Shermans – and other visitors or owners of Skinwalker ranch – are believers. Shortly after moving in, Shermans witnessed an animal that appeared to be a wolf – only it was three times the size of a normal wolf. According to The History Channel, Terry shot the animal at close range, but it didn't seem to harm it.
After selling the ranch to Bigelow, a researcher working at Skinwalker claimed to see a "large humanoid creature spying on the research team from a tree." Various sightings of shape-shifting creatures earned the ranch its name, even though it resides in Ute – not Navajo – territory.
Scientists have weighed in
Dr. Travis Taylor, an astrophysicist and data scientist, observed the goings-on of the infamous site as part of the History Channel's "The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch." And while Taylor does not like the word "paranormal," – in his opinion, anything that happens in the universe is normal for the universe – he admits that some strange and inexplicable happenings in fact happened at Skinwalker Ranch.
"Now what I will tell you is that absolutely without a doubt we have scientific instruments that detected and measured, multiple witnesses see, multiple cameras and multiple occasions, phenomena that cannot be explained by human technology," he said in an interview with Cinemablend.
It's not just the ranch
While it's exciting to chalk up paranormal and extraterrestrial happenings to a single locale, the paranormal happenings of Skinwalker Ranch don't simply cease once you leave the property. Believe it or not, Utah's Uintah Basin has been associated with "UFO-related activities and other odd happenings for over two centuries," according to Cinemablend.
Rumors of other-worldly happenings within the area continue to thrive, including one reported last year in DGO Weekly, in which Ryan Skinner and his girlfriend, Iryna, claimed to be followed by a hovering light, which then transformed into three indistinct alien figures. The event occurred 30 miles south of Skinwalker Ranch, in the heart of the Uintah Basin.
The experience was not an anomaly. According to Deseret News, Joseph "Junior" Hicks, a retired junior high school science teacher who died earlier this year, investigated more than 400 UFO sightings in the Uinta Basin since the early 1950s.
Whether the unusual activities at Skinwalker Ranch will continue is anybody's guess. But you can bet if they do, someone will want to document it and there might even be a second season of the History Channel's series.