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Cryptid/Legend Casefile: Skinwalkers

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Type: Evil Witch / Shape shifter

Appearance: Variable animal appearances ie. wolf, coyote, fox, crow, owl

Location: American Southwest

Abilities: Therianthropy, curse inducement, face-stealing, magic, telepathy

The legends say that if you speak the word “Skinwalker” you might be opening up

a world of horror upon your life. In essence, saying this word marks you to be hunted. Delving into the stories behind Skinwalkers reveals a very complex web of information. Stemming from several Southwest Native American tribes, these similar legends can be viewed as teachings for people in society not to be tempted to gain power by resorting to pure evil acts. It is interesting to note the similarities that Skinwalkers have to other cryptids and entities such as Wendigos, Vampires and Werewolves, which I will touch upon later. Perhaps there is a grand connection to all things like this. However, it seems that the Skinwalker legend in modern times can sometimes be misunderstood. Largely in part due to native tribes not wanting outsiders to bring harmful consequences to themselves, and out of respect for their stories and traditions. What information is available is definitely fascinating.

The legend of the Skinwalker runs deep within the lore of the indigenous peoples of North America. stories of these beings with are rarely, if ever spoken of with outsiders and thus not well understood. it is said that those who speak of them invite the potential for a Skinwalker to hunt them down...

Legends from the Navajo

The Navajo tribe have rich lore about Skinwalkers and is where we derive most of our knowledge of them. In their culture, the Ánt’įįhnii (practitioners of witchery) are people who have gained otherworldly ability by breaking a cultural taboo and essentially destroying their humanity. When initiated, the Ánt’įįhnii become a Yee Naaldlooshii, which roughly translates in English to: "With it, he goes on all fours." These are only one type of witch the Navajo find volatile and dangerous and. their initiation is done by a ceremony used to bring a curse rather than a healing ceremony. It should be noted that not every witch is a Skinwalker, and that only those who seek out evil, unnatural abilities become Skinwalkers. It is worth noting the practice of magic, like with medicine men is the antithesis of what a Skinwalker represents. Witchcraft like this is taboo among Navajo cultural values and is not tolerated.

The Evil Witch

These powerful entities are known to have the ability of Theriantropy (shape shifting) where they can transform into different animals according to an ability they need, such as flight, speed or strength. Historically they would be required to wear the pelt of the animal they desired to transform. Because of this, the Navajo have a taboo of wearing the pelts of predatory animals. In modern times however, the pelt is seen as a giveaway of a Skinwalkers true self, so it is not used anymore. When in human-form, as far as how to tell one apart from a normal human; their eyes are said to glow like an animals while in human-form. When in an animal-form, their eyes are said to still look dull and human, but glow red when light is shined on them. Furthermore, it is believed that Skinwalkers typically appear as a white versions of the animal they shape shifted into. Skinwalkers are most commonly seen in a canine or bird form, like a wolf or crow.

Another terrifying ability that the Skinwalkers possess is face-stealing. The legend goes that if you find yourself face-to-face with one and you lock eyes, they have the ability can absorb themselves into your body, or alternatively their gaze will freeze your body and fill you with fear. It is said that fear is a source of energy for a Skinwalker and gives them great power. Additionally, it is also believed that if you utter the word "Skinwalker" aloud, this can mark you to be hunted by one. These entities truly have a sinister and scary collection of inhuman abilities.

Similar to a Wendigo, Skinwalkers also have the ability to use many voices ie. animals, crying infants, or family members to lure victims away from the safety of their homes. According to legend, Skinwalkers are unable to enter ones home unless invited in, similar to a Vampire. Drawing further comparisons with the mythical Werewolf, if a Skinwalker manages to get injured in animal-form, its human-form will retain that injury, which is helpful to identify them and get rid of them before they bring more terror. Additional stories have chronicles their ability to used mind reading techniques via to get into peoples heads and manipulate them. Finally, Skinwalkers also have a diverse knowledge of using charms and spells to poison, control, or cause fear in people to provide them the sustenance they need.

Skinwalker Ranch

There is a region in northern Utah known as the Uintah Basin. Within this basin lays the infamous Skinwalker Ranch. Throughout history, this area has become known as a hotbed of UFO and paranormal activity as well as cattle mutilations. However, it wasn’t until the 1970s when reports of UFOs and odd activity began to be publicized. The book, The Utah UFO Display, published in 1974 by Frank Salisbury and Joseph Hicks is the earliest known documented scientific investigation into this region.

From 1984-1992, the Sherman family owned the ranch and quickly began experiencing unnerving and downright terrifying phenomena. While the Skinwalker entity largely believed to be a hoax or simply a legend, the idea of such a being broke into public consciousness in 1996 when the Deseret News posted a chilling story. This was the story of the Sherman family from Utah who experienced traumatic, paranormal events on their ranch within the Uintah Basin. They recounted sightings of creatures that sound very similar to descriptions of the Skinwalker of legend, in addition to other high strangeness such as UFO sightings, crop circles, cattle mutilations & disappearances to name a few.

By the late 90s, investigative journalist, George Knapp wrote many articles for the Las Vegas Mercury, chronicling the frightening events the family experienced during their ownership of the property. Subsequently, Knapp along with Colm Kelleher co-authored the book, Hunt for the Skinwalker, which describes the acquisition of the ranch by Bigelow/N.I.D.S. and their investigations into anecdotes of UFOs, Bigfoot type creatures, crop circles, strange magnetic anomalies, poltergeists, as well as other cryptid wolf type / Skinwalker type animals that are impervious to bullets.

In 1996 billionaire, Robert Bigelow acquired the property and along with N.I.D.S. (National Institute for Discovery Sciences) conducted a 20 year study into the phenomena experienced on the Ranch. Unfortunately (or fortunately), their findings are sealed away from the public. Recently in 2016, ownership changed hands when Utah real estate tycoon, Brandon Fugel, via a shell corporation called Adamantium Holdings purchased the property from Bigelow. As some of you probably know, History Channel now has a TV show about new investigations into the property. It will be interesting to see what they find!

As far as what we know of the Sherman's experience, there are some compelling and frightening stories we have been told. One particular account occurred only a year and a half after the family purchased and moved to the property to begin their ranching lifestyle. Terry Sherman, the father of the family was taking his dogs out for a walk around the ranch at night when he encountered what appeared to be an unnaturally large wolf. Terry stated that this wolf appeared three times larger than a normal one. If you haven't seen a wolf in real life, they are quite large already. This wolf creature was said to have glowing red eyes. Terry, who was armed for safety, drew his firearm and emptied three shots into the animal at close range. Apparently this didn't phase the creature at all and it walked off as if nothing happened. Having had enough of the terrifying experiences they had endured for years on the ranch, the Shermans moved away from the property in 1992.

Since 2016, Brandon Fugel of Adamantium Holdings has taken the reigns to further the study of his apparent portal/window area to the supernatural and unexplained and shed new light on the Uintah Basin. It should be noted that the other phenomena at the ranch may not necessarily be connected with Skinwalkers, but is instead a deeper and more paranormal phenomena that the Skinwalker is only one small part of. Unlike some cryptids, or supernatural beings, Skinwalkers are one that are still documented and sighted today. The connection to Skinwalker Ranch is one of great interest and will hopefully yield some answers into the phenomena behind these beings and more!

Possible Explanations

• Hoax

• Human practicing evil magic & witchcraft

• Extra dimensional beings

• Misidentified animals


Thanks to my Amazon Affiliate partnership I'm able to provide links to great reads about fortean subjects. As mentioned above, The Hunter for the Skinwalker and The Utah UFO Display are great places to begin if you want to read more on the subject of the Skinwalker and high strangeness surrounding Utah. If you follow through my link it helps me out and keeps the lights on. Thanks for reading! (click on the books or the links above!)

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