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Hunt for the Skinwalker
A new challenge for the ET Hypothesis?

By Gildas Bourdais (with my thanks to Robert Durant for having corrected me)
(Third international UFO Conference, Ireland, 23/24 September 2006)


Introduction: an important and provocative book

The purpose of this talk is to present and discuss an important and provocative book, published at the end of 2005, with a bizarre title: Hunt for the Skinwalker (I will explain it later). The subtitle is more explicit: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah. It was written by a biologist, Dr Colm Kelleher, Ph.D, and a journalist, George Knapp, well known for his inquiries on UFOs. Kelleher holds a biochemistry doctorate from the University of Dublin.

Cover of the book

In a few words, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp reveal at last, in detail, the numerous strange phenomena which happened on a ranch in Utah, ranging from weird lights, poltergeist happenings in the farm house, to frightening, ghostly apparitions and cattle mutilations. These events were studied very discreetly, almost secretly, during several years by a scientific team of NIDS under the direction of Dr Kelleher. NIDS stands for "National Institute for Discovery Science". It is a private organization which was set up in 1995 by a rich businessman from Las Vegas, Robert Bigelow, who happened to be interested in UFOs and related phenomena. Although NIDS is a purely private organization, it is known to have some working relations with governmental services, so that everything NIDS has said and published has been listened to with great attention. And, although Kelleher and Knapp insist that they are independent authors (Kelleher no longer works with NIDS), their book stands somehow as the NIDS account of these strange events. Let's add that, after a decade of active studies by NIDS on UFOs and related subjects, such as cattle mutilations and abductions, Robert Bigelow has apparently closed inquiries on UFOs and has turned to space projects and studies, in relation with NASA, while keeping the NIDS web site freely accessible, with some very interesting reports. (Web site:

George Knapp

In their book, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp tell how the NIDS team and its scientific board discussed the possible explanations of all these strange events, including "paranormal" theories, even the most esoteric ones, as we are going to see. What links the story to UFOs is the fact that a lot of observations were made of luminous orbs and silent flying objets of different shapes, including some typical UFO shapes. But they appeared and disappeared very strangely, an aspect which opens the question of paranormal phenomena. Another link is that the whole area, the Uinta basin in Utah, is, in their own words, "a heavyweight contender for UFO capital of the world". Since the 1950s, thousands of UFO sightings have been reported in the area, and it is estimated that half of the residents have seen anomalous objects in the sky.

The Uintah valley, in Utah

At the heart to the debate lies the question of the nature of UFOs, which has long been debated. In the book Hunt for the Skinwalker, the classical "ET hypothesis" is put in doubt by the authors, not only as an explanation for the events on the ranch but, by extension, for UFOs and related phenomena in general. They compare the events at the Utah ranch with similar events which occurred in other places, such as a ranch in Colorado, and in the area of Dulce, New Mexico. They also compare them with Indian legends, such as otherwordly entities called "tricksters", and "skinwalkers", which have the reputation of being malevolent. The whole chapter five, entitled "The Curse", is devoted to these legends, and it explains the strange title of the book. We learn that the ranch has a bad reputation among the Ute Indians of the area. A local researcher, named Hicks, has told them that "they have stories about the place that go back fifteen generations". They say the ranch is "in the path of the skinwalker" (p. 16). The legend of the skinwalkers is present among several Indian tribes of the American southwest, such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Utes. For them, it is "a malevolent witch capable of being transformed into a wolf, coyote, bear, bird, or any other animal" (p. 35). The skinwalker would be, not only what we call now a "shape-shifter", but it would be also capable of mind control and other trickeries.

Navajo sculptures of skinwalkers

At the end of the book, the authors seem to be in favor of a rather esoteric point of view, refering notably to the ideas of Jacques Vallée (who is a member of the NIDS scientific board) as an explanation valid for the whole domain of ufology. Well, without denying the "paranormal" aspects of their story, as they used to be called, I don't agree with that global explanation and I propose to discuss it in this article. But let's start with the beginning of the story: the strange events which happened at that ranch in Utah.


I - Various strange phenomena

1) The frightening incidents experienced by the farmer and his family, from 1994 to 1996

In late 1994, the Gorman family, Tom, Ellen and their children, (not their real name) buys the ranch to raise cattle, and moves onto it. It is vacant since several years although it's a good land for cattle. They are surprised to find heavy locks at all doors and windows when they move in.

The farmer Tom Gorman

Entrance gate, and general view of the ranch

Within a few months, they begin to see balls of light of various colours, white, yellow and blue, moving around the cattle and their home. They frequently observe baseball-sized orbs, of bright blue color, "filled with swirling liquid, electrically charged" (p. 142), which dim the lights around when passing near the house. They see also strange clouds "filled with exploding silent lights".

Now here is one of the main aspects of the whole story. Several animals disappear without a trace. Others are found dead, mutilated. In all, Tom Gorman will lose 14 registered cattle out of a herd of eighty animals (p. 90), a severe financial loss. It is going to be one of the main subjects of study for NIDS.

One day, a frightening incident happens. A huge "wolf", actually much bigger than a wolf, comes quietly close to them across the field. When it is very close, it attacks a calf suddenly. They shoot it but it is very hard to stop it, even with a powerful gun. Although it has been hit by several bullets, enough to kill an elk, it just goes away quietly and disappears in the woods. They follow the tracks of the animal, in the mud close to a river, but suddenly they stop abruptly. It looks like an unreal happening but they are sure to have badly wounded a real animal, which has even lost a bit of flesh on the ground.

They experience poltergeist activity in their home: doors slam, objects disappear and are found later in another place, in or outside the house. Some incidents are just like bad tricks. For instance, they find the salt in the pepper shaker and vice versa. Another time, Ellen Gorman finds, back on the kitchen table, all the groceries she had carefull stacked in the cupboards (p. 239). Sometimes, they hear voices laughing and mocking them in an unknown language.

UFO-like objects

Tom and Ellen Gorman "reported separate sightings of a silent, hovering, triangular craft that projected multicolored lights from its black frame" (p.141). Gorman has also seen a "silent miniature version of the F-117 aircraft", moving slowly at less than 20 feet above the ground. On another evening, his wife Ellen Gorman, when driving home, is "shadowed by a huge black triangular craft" that paces 30 feet above the car.

Such silent UFO-like crafts have been observed in the area. One of their neighbours, Gonsalez, has observed a UFO shaped like a Mexican hat. Another time, he has seen a silvery disc which seemed to be "absorbed by the ridge" (p. 140). This is an interesting observation which suggests the passage of the UFO in "another dimension".

Several times, the Gormans have seen ghostly creatures, like the legendary "bigfoot", also called "sasquatch" by the Indians, prowling their property. They hear ominous growls, are nauseated by musk odors, and they see at the same time silent flying objects "shaped like a refrigerator", hovering around, causing panic among the cattle, and disappearing suddenly.
They seem to be similar to the "chupas" which attacked isolated people in the in the Northeast of Brazil.

Drawing of a "chupa", in Brazil: a similar phenomenon?

One of the most impressive and disturbing events was when they found four big bulls, each weighing more than two thousand pounds, locked, asleep, inside a trailer near the corral which had not been used in years. When they awakened, the bulls devastated the interior and it was a hell of a job to get them out of it.

Corral and trailer

Another time, Tom watches a herd of cows suddenly split as if something invisible is in the middle of them. However, that invisible thing produces a powerful magnetic field, detectable with his compass.

The "window"

Chapter 8 of the book, called "The Window", reveals a series of outstanding observations, which might be central to the whole story: the apparition of a sort of circular "window", floating in the sky. Let's quote exactly the first lines of the chapter:
"Of all the extraordinary things that occurred at the Gorman ranch, the most common involved the strange, unwordly orange structures that would appear in the western sky. All family members saw these structures dozens of times. They would appear in the sky and seemed to hover low over the cottonwood trees about a mile away".
They see it, after nightfall, always roughly at the same place. One night, Tom Gorman can see, inside the circle, what looks to him like "another sky": "Through the magnifying scope, he distinctly saw a blue sky. On this particular night, the orange object looked like it was a window into somewhere else where it was still daylight." (p. 63).

Another important point is that, one night, Gorman sees a fast moving black object, growing rapidly at the center of the orange "window". It seems to come out of the "hole" in the sky, and quickly vanishes in the night. This convinces him that it's a kind of "dimensional doorway" through which objects can enter and exit our reality. This is a central idea of the whole story, to which I will return later.

Here is another incident which gives a definite impression of hostile manipulation by whoever is behind it, pulling the strings. By June 1996, rumors were already spreading of strange events on the ranch, and a visitor came to inquire about them. A tall, quiet man, he engaged into a sort of meditation in the middle of a field, his eyes closed and his arms raised. Suddenly, something began moving rapidly in the nearby wood. Tom Gorman, who was there, could not make out the shape but knew it was big. Suddenly, a blurred shape came out of the wood and moved swiftly toward the man, stopped just in front of him and "let out a deep-throated animal roar", sounding half like a bear, half like a lion. The stranger was terrified and started screaming hysterically. He left the property in a state of panic and never came back.

In the summer of 1996, Tom Gorman and his family reach a breaking point. One day, Tom lets his three "favorite cattle dogs" pursue a "blue, baseball sized, flying orb". They follow it in a nearby wood, Gorman hears them yell, and hears them no more. Afraid, he will look for the dogs only in the morning in the wood, only to find them completely burned, incinerated.
At that point, the Gormans are so shocked and terrorized that they decide to sell the ranch. NIDS purchases the property in August of 1996 and decides to launch a scientific study there. The Gorman family moves 25 miles away but Tom agrees to come daily to take care of the ranch and the cattle, and to help the NIDS team.

2) Incidents observed in the presence of the NIDS team

From the end of 1996 to the summer of 2004, a NIDS team led by Dr Colm Kelleher, biochemist, installs a permanent laboratory with a lot of equipment. Their aim is to gather data in the electromagnetic and magnetic regions, and of any UFO lights in the visible and UV spectrum. They have portable equipment including a light gathering device with Fresnel lenses, a spectrometer linked to a laptop computer, night vision binoculars, video cameras with night vision attachments, radio frequency analysers, microwaves detectors, etc (p. 100).

NIDS surveillance cameras

They are going to observe many incidents, but will fail to make any decisive records of them, with the exception of cattle mutilations. As early as 1997, an independent article is published in the American UFO Magazine (January/February, signed by reporter Zack Van Eyck), but the NIDS team remains very discreet. They publish some information on the NIDS website, especially a report on the cattle mutilation of March 1997, but it is only in 2002 that they invite journalist George Knapp to come to the ranch, and authorize him to talk about these events. He writes a long, two-part article which is published in a Las Vegas newspaper, and reproduced in several magazines. For instance, the British UFO Magazine (January and February 2003), and the American UFO Magazine (April/May and June/July 2003). Together with the publication of their book at the beginning of this year, the authors have also written an article in the internet magazine Sub Rosa (No 4, March 2006).

The observations by NIDS

So, what did they find? Within a few months after the beginning of their study, they are confronted with strange, and often frightening incidents. Like the Gorman family, they observe the same mysterious flying orbs, but fail to record them clearly. They install a lot of surveillance and recording equipment but, every time they are to the point of succeeding, the phenomenon eludes the trap and it looks more and more like a game of cat and mouse. As they put it in their article of March 2006, it looks like an elusive trickster was "a couple of steps ahead at all times", leaving an "occasional calling card in the form of a brutally ripped up calf carcass, unusual tracks in the snow, tantalizing infrared images, or that could wantonly destroy surveillance equipment while leaving insufficient physical evidence behind that might constitute a smoking gun".

The "Tunnel"

On August 25, 1997, two members of NIDS, Jim and Mike (not their real names) are on a night watch, on the edge of a bluff, a hundred feet above the pasture, where some strange events have taken place before. Around 2:30 A.M., they begin to see a faint light just above the ground, invisible to the eyes but visible through powerful night vision binoculars, amplifying electronically low level ambient light. It's a dirty yellow light which expands to form a kind of "tunnel", about four feet in diameter. Suddenly, Mike perceives a dark creature, at least six feet tall, crawling out of it and walking away, whereupon the tunnel begins to shrink, and soon disappears. However, his companion Jim claims to have only seen the light. And although they have scientific equipment to measure radiation levels and magnetic spikes, they fail to record anything unusual. They have taken pictures, but "the photos were disappointing, showing only a single very faint blurry light in one and nothing on the rest of the roll of film."
So, they are left with no solid proof of that vision, but it does bring a clue, together with the the "openings" seen in the sky by the Gormans (not seen by the NIDS team), in favour of exciting speculations about so called "other dimensions", which are discussed at length at the end of the book. One of the main observations of the NIDS team, however, brings us back to a disturbing aspect of the whole story, the cattle mutilations.

Well studied cases of Cattle Mutilations

It is known that, since the end of the sixties, thousands of mutilation cases have been reported in many areas of the United States, Canada and other countries. In recent years, the phenomenon has spread extensively in South America. The state of Utah, and the area of the Uintah basin, where the NIDS ranch is located, have been plagued with many cases of cattle mutilations. Actually, it has been one of the main areas in the country, and NIDS has investigated a number of cases there, in addition to those at the ranch.

Map of mutilation cases studied by NIDS in Utah

At the Gorman ranch, the main event, directely witnessed and studied by NIDS, has been the killing and mutilation, on March 10, 1997, of a young calf, in broad daylight, during a brief absence of the team, gone on the other side of a hill, which lasted less than 45 minutes. It has been thorougly studied, kept under wraps for a while, but eventually published on the NIDS web site, and it is now exposed in detail in the book.

The mutilated calf of March 10, 1997

Close-up of ear

The book offers no explanation for these mysterious killings and mutilations. However, on the NIDS web site, Dr Kelleher has published an important study on the possible link of cattle mutilations with Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE, icluding the BSE, or "mad cow disease") in North America. According to the study, there is a curious coincidence between the areas of extension of the two phenomena. Kelleher speculates that the purpose of these mutilations might be a surveillance of the illness, and also to warn us about it. One thought comes to mind, though: why not more cattle mutilations in countries where mad cow disease has hit the most, such as England?

Ice circle, and subterranean sounds

In February 2002, as the various strange phenomena had "slowed to a mere trickle", a new incident took place: a perfect circle appeared overnight in a shallow, ice-covered pond, not far from the main house. By the way, there are other cases of formation of ice rings, in other places, which may be compared to crop circles as well. What is the meaning of all that? What is the "message"?

Ice circle found on the NIDS ranch in 2002

Other examples of ice rings: Sweden, 1992; Ontario, 2000

In another chapter, discussing possible military involvement, the authors mention, curiously, that "a local psychic who walked the property declared that the circle had been produced by a technology that was located underground" (p. 224).

This is the moment to mention another curious aspect of the story. The Gormans said that they often heard sounds of heavy machinery or metal equipment coming from under the earth. And the previous owners had warned them to avoid any digging! (p. 224). In retrospect, it is curious that the book does not give more information about these mysterious previous owners. They seemed to know a lot about the ranch, and might have helped the NIDS study.

By the way, such bizarre sounds have been heard, allegedly, in other places, like the San Luis Valley and the "Four Corners" area. The San Luis Valley, located in the south of Colorado, has been another prominent area for many strange phenomena: especially UFOs, odd balls of light, and cattle mutilations. This is where the first publicized case of mutilation happened, the one of the little horse Snippy (in fact, named Lady) in 1967. Christopher O'Brien, who has written a book of these events, The Mysterious Valley (1996), reports a testimony of strange noises, loud humming and deep rumbling, heard close to the ground, in the area of the Great Sand Dunes (p. 185).

Book The Mysterious Valley, and map

Credibility of the story, and the question of secrecy

The fact that the NIDS team observed many strange incidents like those reported by the Gorman family gives a high credibility to the whole story. There are also testimonies from neighbours of the ranch. On the other hand, it would have been also interesting to find the previous owners of the ranch and learn their own story. Some neighbors who knew them felt that they had somehow learned to accept these phenomena and live with them.
We may regret, however, that the book does not give any precise, scientific data collected on the ranch, such as magnetic recordings, or even pictures of the lights balls and orbs. For instance, there are many pictures, stills and videos, of light balls in connection with crop circles. So, why not at the NIDS ranch, with all their sophisticated equipment? Perhaps because, according to Tom Gorman, as soon as the NIDS team arrived at the ranch, the phenomena became much more elusive, as if the "intelligence" behind them had become much more cautious. However, Colm Kelleher admits that they do have recorded material, so the question arises: why don't they publish them? Are they classified material? During all these years, the NIDS investigation at the ranch remained quite confidential, fueling accusations of secrecy.
The book, because of the lack of precise documentation, does not put an end completely to these rumors. It is a matter of public knowledge that NIDS had close links with the military. This is demonstrated, notably, by the presence of Colonel Alexander in the scientific board, a man with a long career in secret military studies.


II - Theories, and speculations: parallel universes? paranormal phenomena?

In their book, Colm Kelleher and George Knapp address a lot of ideas and speculations which might explain, according to them, the strange events at the NIDS ranch. Two main lines are discussed:
- first, the idea of "other dimensions", and the concepts of "parallel" universes, which have been proposed in several theories of advanced physics;
- second, the nature of the beings, or "entities", who are behind these strange phenomena.

1) Parallel universes and other "dimensions"

Colm Kelleher and George Knapp have devoted a significant and interesting part of their book to the question of parallel universes and "other dimensions". They refer to several scientific theories which have been developed over many years about the existence of one, or several, so called "parallel" universes. Let's recall briefly the main ones, and see how they are viewed in the book.

"Wormholes", based on the General Theory of Relativity

The best known theory is the one of "traversable wormholes", imagined in 1985 by the American physicist Kip Thorne, of Cal Tech, at the request of his friend Carl Sagan, who used it in his famous novel Contact. It is based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, and it is a real scientific speculation by a reputable physicist. In a few words, there may exist a way to go from one part of the universe to another, or from one universe to another, parallel one, through a "hole" made in in the fabric of space-time, dubbed "wormhole", and passing through a "hyperspace", or four dimensional space, such as in these figures taken from the famous book of physicist Michio Kaku Hyperspace:

Figures of "wormholes" (Michio Kaku, Hyperspace)

It is a fascinating concept but everyone admits that, at best, we are a very long way from being able to engineer one. It would require, to begin with, a colossal amount of "exotic" or "negative" energy, just to keep it open, and nobody knows how that could be done, although it has become a standard way for space travel in science-fiction movies! It would also require our universe to be "curved" (the curvature of space in Einstein's theory), but all astronomical observations suggest that, apparently, it is flat, actually!

Wormhole and curved space (Scientific American)

It's worth noting here, however, that physicist Eric Davis, who worked for NIDS, has written a paper, delivered at the MUFON symposium of 2001, entitled "Wormhole-Stargates: tunneling through the cosmic neighborhood" (it is also on the NIDS website). In it, Davis boldly describes what such a wormhole could be and seems confident that we may achieve that someday, by tapping into a fantastic source of power, the so-called "zero point energy". He notes that, "of the more than 650 cases investigated by NIDS, several dozen clearly portend wormhole manifestations", and he includes in the list, unsurprisingly, the phenomena observed at the Utah ranch.

Let's mention here that there are other testimonies of similar phenomena, suggesting the opening of "holes", or "gates" to other dimensions. Here are three exemples, very briefly.
According to Linda Howe, in her book Glimpses of Other Realities (volume I , p. 299), "some people report seeing translucent beings, balls of light, and shadow beings who emerge through "tears" or "holes" in the air of their bedroom, or come through walls, windows and other solid objects". Here is a drawing of such an observation, made in California by Linda Porter.

Drawing of a "hole" in Linda Howe's book Glimpses of Other Realities, Vol.1

Here is another exemple, of a "gate" which opened in the sky, above meditating witnesses. One of them actually travelled briefly in the hole and had a glimpse of an unknown landscape on the other side.

Testimony on the formation of a "hole", and a glimpse of the other side

And here is a third testimony, this one in relation with crop circles in Wiltshire.
According to Michael Hesemann, in his book Messages, in the evening of July 9, 1998, several witnesses saw helicopters going after a ball of light, at West Woods. Another witness, the farmer Terry Butcher, of Alton Barnes, saw a kind of tunnel opening in the clouds, as if something big was passing through it, and then the tunnel disappeared. The next day, a pictogram was discovered near Alton Barnes (pp. 77 to 80, French edition).

"Polarizable-vacuum" theory

Eric Davis also mentions an "alternative theory of gravity" proposed by the American physicist Harold Puthoff, known as the "polarizable-vacuum (PV) representation of general relativity, which treats the vacuum as a polarizable medium". According to Davis, Puthoff's PV model is "the only alternative theory of gravity which has been successfully applied to explain the physical, anti-physical and physiological characteristics and performances" which have been reported in UFO cases.

These theories are also mentioned in the book of Kelleher and Knapp, but they seem to favour another concept, the so-called "many worlds theory", or "multiverse", which derives from the second pillar of physics, the Quantum physics. By the way, this idea of "multiverse" has also been promoted by Jacques Vallée, member of the scientific board of NIDS, in his books and articles.

Quantum Physics and the model of parallel universes

Colm Kelleher and George Knapp present that theory, first in their chapter 29 "Other Worlds", and they insist on it in their epilogue. To make it short, let's say that it is probably the strangest theory, and the hardest to swallow, ever conceived in the history of modern physics. It was first proposed by Hugh Everett and John Wheeler in 1957 and it postulates that, according to quantum mechanics, quoting one of the present promoters of the theory, Max Tegmark, in Scientific American (May 2003): "random quantum processes cause the universe to branch into multiple copies, one for each possible outcome". The result, would be that there exist an infinite number of parallel universes, some of which could differ from ours by minute details, like in science-fiction stories such as the TV series Sliders and Stargate! One of the many questions raised by this fantastic theory is whether it is possible to go from one parallel universe to another. Again, through "wormholes", presumably!

Multiverse with wormholes (Kaku, Hyperspace); cover of Scientific American with Tegmark's article

In their epilogue, Kelleher and Knapp claim that this theory, which was at first highly controversial, is now approved by a majority of physicists: "This concept is known as the multiverse or many worlds theory, and it has gained widespread acceptance in scientific circles" (p. 276). They cite the above mentioned article of Max Tegmark in Scientific American, and other reputed physicists such as David Deutsch (in his book The Fabric of Reality), and Michio Kaku. True enough, Kaku seems to approve it in his book Visions: How Science will revolutionize the 21st Century (1997).

But, actually, a number of other scientists seem reticent about it, notably the promoters of the famous "superstrings theory", which attemps to reunite the two pilars of physics. One of them is the young physicist Brian Greene, who has written two brillant books on these theories, The Elegant Universe in 1999, and The Fabric of Cosmos (2004). To him, there may be other solutions, more "economical", so to speak, to this paradox of quantum physics. For, instance the theory of the British physicist David Bohm, of "non local physics". To him, there is no theory favored by a majority of scientists today, and the problem remains unsolved (p. 254 of the French edition). In addition to that, there is also a place for parallel worlds in the string theories!

Covers of the two books of Brian Greene

String theories, "M" theory, and and the model of parallel "Brane worlds"

That theory of "strings", or superstrings", is actually a family of several theories, with an already long history since the sixties. To make it short again, lets's mention the most recent stage of its evolution, which has been formulated mainly by Edward Witten, at Princeton, and is called the "M", theory. According to it, the universe is made of eleven dimensions, but we do live in a three dimensional space (four dimensions with time), called a "Brane" which is a diminutive of "membrane". However, there may be another Brane, or parallel world, which would never touch us but could be very close to us! It would manifest itself only by gravitanional effects. It might explain the mystery of missing matter, or "dark energy", which is one of the big mysteries of today's astronomy. And, here we go again, according to some, it might be posible to go from one membrane to another, passing by an hyperspace of ten dimensions, called this time the "bulk". Note that, in this theory, the two parallel membranes are flat. Incidentally, it would allow for time travelling as well, according to Heinrich Päs, quoted in the New Scientist (20 may 2006).

Travelling in hyperspace between two Branes (New Scientist, 20 may 2006)

According to Brian Greene and others, there are still other developments to expect for these theories, for instance the "Quantum Loop gravity", and maybe new ones that we have not heard yet about, so that the situation seems to be very open. As for our nagging question of interdimensional UFOs and related phenomena, the bottom line seems to be, for the time being, that we don't know yet, really, how they come and go!…
That being said, the other nagging question is: "who are the authors of these strange phenomena, and what is their "agenda"? As I said, Kelleher and Knapp present some ideas which all tend to put aside the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

2) Who is there? Aliens, otherwordly beings, or what else?

Colm Kelleher and George Knapp think, like many other authors, that the classical ETH hypothesis falls short of explaining things, and they favour "paranormal" theories, about so called "otherwordly" beings and entities coming from other "dimensions". So, we are back to the old question: "ET or not ET?". Let's see what their arguments are.

The ETH questioned

In their chapter 25, entitled "Hypotheses", the authors start with this question: "Were UFOs flying over the Utah ranch, or was the ranch haunted?", and they review various hypotheses. They quickly discard hoaxes, delusions, and unexplained natural phenomena such as the "tectonic strain theory" of Michael Persinger. They mention the idea of an ancient, very advanced, terrestrial civilization (human, presumably), but they don't insist, and I won't either. Then comes the big question of Extraterrestrials, which they present as "the best known, but not necessarily the most credible, model for multiple anomalous phenomena" (p. 215). It seems very difficult for them to conceive of an agenda for a group of extraterrestrial visitors, choosing such a remote and out-of-the-way location. They refer to the "standard model" of the ET hypothesis, the aliens flying "nuts-and-bolts" spacecraft, and consider that "the events at the ranch yielded insufficent data to support or eliminate this hypothesis", although some of the events "very much fit the standard description of UFOs". Colm Kelleher admits that he has seen one himself with a colleague: "a silent, extremely fast moving object coming from the north and rapidly executing a perfect loop over the command and control center before returning north". (p. 216).
They consider the idea of "smart probes", supposedly sent from interstellar distances, but they discard it on the basis of a test proposed in the 1990s by aerospace enginer Roy Dutton who claimed to be able to specify the exact spot and date of the appearance of such anomalous aerial phenomena. And guess what? The Utah ranch failed that test! Another argument of the authors against the ETH is that, to this day, nobody has found any artifacts - physical or biological - of proven extraterrestrial origin. They also discard rapidly the hypothesis of "ancient astronauts", which is, for them, "not supported by any physical data".

Arguments in favor of the ETH

Well, I am sorry to say that I find this argumentation very weak. In my opinion, it fails to consider seriously the vast amount of information gathered over the last sixty years on UFOs, on which has been built a strong and convincing case for the presence of, not one, but more probably several alien civilizations, some of them present, arguably, for a long time on our planet. In France, a group of senior scientists and military experts have said that, very clearly, in the COMETA Report, in 1999.

There are strong indications about the reality of physical crafts of alien origin, made by non-human, scientifically advanced, civilizations. Whether they come from a planet of this world or from a "parallel" world, does not change their nature of real, physical alien beings who have come to Earth, for some purpose.
There are strong testimonies, for instance, about the UFO crash near Roswell, and possibly others, such as the Ubatuba case in Brazil. Fragments of a UFO were collected and studied. A first analysis revealed very pure magnesium with a specific weight above normal, but the matter was later confused with other analyses in the United States. The story has been told by physicist Paul Hill in his remarkable book Unconventional Flying Objects. I have told the story in this article:

Paul Hill

There are many testimonies about secret studies on retrieved crafts and bodies, and even about contacts with live aliens, etc. There are even credible testimonies about the existence of alien bases on Earth, or close to Earth, about abductions by alien beings (including, for instance, implants such as those retrieved by Dr Roger Leir, some of which were studied with the help of NIDS!). And there are many cases of cattle mutilations linked with observations of UFOs.
It is ironic that the NIDS team has made very convincing studies on mutilations, at the Utah ranch and elsewhere. A simple question is: who could have done that, if not aliens? Ghosts? Demons? Otherwordly beings? Supernatural entities?
And, if we go to the heart of the matter, we must be aware that there are many convincing testimonies and documents proving the existence of a strict policy of secrecy on UFOs, led mainly by the American government since the first wave of 1947, and followed, more or less, by many other countries. It is impossible, of course, to go into more detail, here, about all these huge UFO files. However, at this point, Kelleher and Knapp open the door to various, so called "paranormal" theories, excluding ETs.

"Paranormal" theories favoured by the authors

The idea that the strange phenomena at the Utah ranch are of a "paranormal" nature runs continuously through the whole book. The authors refer to many aspects, beginning with old indian legends such a the mysterious "skinwalker", as we have seen already. For the Ute Indians, the ranch is clearly a haunted place, filled with dark, evil energies. For them, it is "in the path of the Skinwalker", a malevolent force, to be avoided. These are quasi-religious, "supernatural" beliefs, and similar interpretations are found among religious, fundamentalist believers, for whom such manifestations have to be the work of demons.
But the authors don't stop here, and they turn to some more sophisticated, "paranormal" theories. In their chapter 28, called "Other Dimensions", they discuss the ideas of several authors, the main ones being:
- Jacques Vallée and his hypothesis of a mysterious "control system" pulling the strings for a long time, with an obscure agenda;
- John Keel and his no less mysterious theory of "ultraterrestrials", whatever that means;
- Patrick Harpur and his intriguing concept of "Daimonic reality", which is derived from the belief in "Daimons" of the ancient Greeks;
- and also Michael Grosso and his concept of "imaginal realm".

All these ideas present variations around the concept of "interdimensional beings", of creatures who are not necessarily physical, and who have inscrutable agendas (p. 238). Let's remark here that there is a long history of thinking along such lines, in esoterical traditions. And they were present since the very beginning of ufology, after World War II, with authors such as Meade Layne, of San Francisco, who believed in "etheric realms" and saw UFOs as "ether ships".
In addition to that, in their chapter 30, called "Inner Worlds", the authors explore possible connections of these phenomena with human consciousness, citing again Harpur, Grosso, Kenneth Ring and his study of near death experiments, and they also turn toward meditation and shamanism. They mention an advice of the NIDS science Advisory Board about the possible existence of a "sentient, precognitive, non-human intelligence". They also introduce here the ideas of Dr John Mack about "other realms or dimensions", "alternate realities", "doorways to spiritual evolution", and the "innerworld nature of the experiencers".
Toward the end of the book, they refer again to Jacques Vallée and his hypothesis of a technologically advanced "control system" which may reside on this planet, be responsible for the display of UFOs, and which seems to operate for reasons that are opaque, and mysterious. It may have "an agenda to educate human societies over an extended period of time" (p. 255). The appearances of the Virgin Mary at Fatima and Lourdes might be examples of this control system's productions. Kelleher and Knapp raise this question: "Were the events at the Utah ranch another one of its productions?". And they admit at the end their confusion: "It's as if some cosmic puppet master had written a laundry list of every spooky phenomenon of modern times and then unleashed them all in a single location, resulting in a supernatural smogasborg that no one could possibly believe, even less understand." (p 270).

These are interesting pages of the book, which remind us of the writings of Jacques Vallée, who has obviously influenced them. However, even though I would subscribe to some of these ideas, I remain perplexed by this general line of thinking which seems bent on the rejection of the ETH. My basic question remains: Why not aliens, extraterrestrial beings? If such beings can master other dimensions and travel through them, does that mean that they are no longer physical beings, of extraterrestrial origin? And, why could not there be a coexistence of both kinds of entities and phenomena, real and physical, or "supernatural"? Jerome Clark suggests that, more or less, in an article of the International UFO Reporter, called "The core phenomenon and the secondary phenomenon" (IUR, Vol 30, Number 4). In his view, we should probably avoid mixing these two kinds of "anomalies". On the other hand, I would add that many UFO events comprise aspects of "high strangeness", of which the case of the Utah ranch gives us a good example. So, the distinction between real-physical and supernatural phenomena is not an easy one. My personal feeling is that they all pertain to one and same world.

To conclude my critique of the book, I propose a glimpse at the events which happened on another ranch, this one in Colorado in 1975. They were studied by APRO and several scientists, and they may point to another perspective. The story is told at length in the book of Timothy Good Alien Contact (1993, chapter "Colorado Breakthrough"). Kelleher and Knapp also tell that curious story in their book.

Book Alien Contact, of Timothy Good

Very briefly, the owners of that ranch went through many frightening experiences, akin to those of the Utah ranch, such as Bigfoot creatures, strange noises, disc-shaped objects flying slowly in front of the house, etc. And cattle mutilations. The local police did not want to hear any more about that. A policeman told them that they knew what it was: the work of extraterrestrials, and that they could do nothing about it! One evening, a voice was heard, in their home, through their TV speakers, saying: "Attention! We have allowed you to remain", and recommending them to keep quiet about the events. Another evening, having noticed lights in the woods, they went to see what it was. They found two beings, of human appearance, waiting for them in the light. These beings spoke to the main witness by his name and told him: "How nice of you to come!" At a short distance, there was a disc on the ground. They apologized for the inconvenience they had caused and promised some "more equitable arrangement", which actually never came. They did not really give any information on themselves and their role, except maybe this one, as the main witness said: "The only thing I found out for sure is that this big fuzzy thing, "Bigfoot", obeys the commands". So, that "Bigfoot" would just be a kind of creature of the aliens!
According to Timothy Good, the opinion of the owner of the ranch in Colorado is that there is some kind of permanent alien installation located on the ranch. He points out that it offers a perfect view on a nearby military installation, and he feels that they are watching our military potential. (p. 70).
I find that story very interesting, when you consider the big UFO file of surveillance of military installations, especially of nuclear bases. As for the Utah ranch studied by NIDS, let's recall that the Gormans heard several times strange noises of big machinery which seemed to come from underground. Was it just another trick of the "skinwalker" kind, or was there more to it? What was really going on, at and under the NIDS ranch? As a conclusion, I would like to say that Hunt for The Skinwalker is a very interesting book, but which leaves the reader perplexed, with a lot of unanswered questions.

Sources of the illustrations

Photos of George Knapp, and of the NIDS ranch, in UFO Magazine (GB) of January and February 2003, and in UFO Magazine (US) of January-February 1887, of April-May 2003, and of June-July 2003.
Navajo sculptures of skinwalkers, in the book Navajo Folk Art. The people Speak, by Chuck and Jan Rosenak (1994).
Drawing of a chupa, in Brazil, in the review UFO of A.-J. Gevaerd.
Photos of mutilations on the NIDS ranch, and map of cases studied by NIDS, in the study on the NIDS web site: "Unexplained Cattle Deaths and the Emergence of a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) Epidemic in North America".
Drawing of Linda Porter, in Linda Howe, Glimpses of Other Realities, Vol. 1.
Drawings of "wormholes": in the book of Michio Kaku Hyperspace (1994, in Scientific American, vol 1" N° 1 (2003), and May 2003 ( Tegmark article). Article of Marcus Chown with the drawing "Time travelling in hyperspace", in The New Scientist of May 20, 2006.