A skeptical look at History Channel’s “Skinwalker Ranch” episodes – – microwaves, dead cows and light pillars

by Robert Sheaffer, April 2, 2020



So, the “HistoryChannel has now allowed free streaming of the first episode of “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch,” in which the new owner of the Ranch, Brandon Fugal, participates to sing the wonders of the property he has purchased, the Skinwalker Ranch.  The show jumps right into presenting its evidence, starting off with a dead cow.  The participants were warned not to touch it “until we see if it’s radioactive or not.”

One theory set forth to explain the supposed “phenomenon” is that the Ranch  (and indeed, all of the state of Utah)  was downwind from the atomic testing near Las Vegas in the 1950s, and so supposedly there is lots of radioactivity remaining in the landscape.  (Except that there obviously isn’t, or else the whole state would need to be evacuated.)

Another theory set forth is that because the Ute tribe supposedly used to hold Navajos as slaves, the Navajos cursed the Utes, and loosed Skinwalkers and other shape-shifting supernatural beings upon them.  But this does not appear to be historically correct.  According to one tribal history, the Utes “Stole women and children from Paiutes and Goshutes and sold them to the Spanish and Mexicans for slaves.”

Mr. Fugal thinks that his “light pillar” is something paranormal.  In fact, it’s a well-known meteorological phenomenon.

In the above screen shot from the program, we obviously see a photo of a Light Pillar, a well-known if uncommon phenomenon in meteorological optics.  It’s clear that not only does Fugal know nothing about such optical phenomena, but like his counterparts in Tom DeLonge’s TO THE STARS ACADEMY, he failed to consult anyone who does.  This does not inspire confidence in the quality of his “experts,” or his “investigations.”

Speaking of Fugal’s “experts,” the one receiving top billing is Travis Taylor, PhD, billed as a “physicist” and “Astrophysicist.”

However, as Jason Colavito has noted:

“We cut back to May 2019 to introduce our investigators, starting with Travis Taylor, who identifies himself as a scientist with decades of scientific and engineering experience.  The show omits the fact that he is also a talking head from ANCIENT ALIENS who has spouted inane drivel about aliens’ secret lunar colonies and other nonsense, or that he is a former CURSE OF OAK ISLAND guest looney who imagined the island to be a representation of the constellation Taurus.”

Like good little Ghost Hunters, Taylor and the others use electronic devices to look for spooky stuff.  Using a Trifield EMF meter, he not only detects strong microwave energy, but proclaims it to be at “dangerous levels.”

Perhaps the most surprising development was Fugal’s directive to his staff, “No digging!”

He said, “Once we commence digging, it opens up a whole Pandora’s Box.”  Apparently, digging “triggers the phenomenon,” and probably releases demons or something from the Underworld.  (New people arriving on the ranch also seems to trigger the phenomenon, we are told.) 

After digging a hole, ranch supervisor Tom Winterton reportedly suffered a strange, unexplained “goose egg” swelling on his head that required hospitalization, although no medical records were released to substantiate this claim.  If someone is going to claim medical effects resulting from a ‘paranormal’ cause (Cash-Landrum, anybody?), it’s just hearsay until the full medical records are released.

More mysterious stuff is promised in subsequent episodes.  My first impression after seeing this show is that Fugal is setting up an organization that is in many ways similar to Tom DeLonge’s “TO THE STARS ACADEMY“:

He gathers a team of supposed “experts” (who seem surprisingly unprepared to carry out serious investigations) to eagerly charge off and investigate supposed “mysteries.”

But nothing is ever really resolved.  Fugal and DeLonge now have dueling “mystery” series on the “History” Channel.  May the best man win.



“The myth of Skinwalker Ranch was created in the mid-1990s when Las Vegas journalist George Knapp, famous for his credulous reports about aliens in Area 51, began crafting it from stories told by the then-owners of the ranch.  He grafted those stories onto local UFO/paranormal folklore from the 1974 book “The Utah UFO Display” to create a longer history for the ranch’s supernatural events.

(In 1978, the “Uintah lights,” as they were then known, and their associated humming sounds were attributed to St. Elmo’s fire surrounding nighttime swarms of budworms “flying into high electric fields caused by thunderheads and high density particulate matter in the air.”)

Nothing recorded in the 1990s, however, was particularly unusual by the standards of supernatural folklore until Robert Bigelow began to pour money into “investigating” and Knapp amplified the mystery with a book sensationalizing the ranch as the world’s preeminent paranormal hotspot.

People tell stories.  A lot.  Money and publicity turn stories into legends.” – – Jason Colavito

ABOVE – – George Knapp, a credulous promoter of the Skinwalker Ranch story.


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The late great talk show host Art Bell was an exceptional humanitarian – – a fact unknown to many

While working for KSBK station in Okinawa, Japan, Art Bell raised money in Alaska that allowed him to charter a DC 8, fly to Vietnam and rescue 130 Vietnamese Orphans stranded in Saigon at the war’s end.

They were eventually all brought to America and adopted by American families.

Art’s no-nonsense demeanor didn’t fool his listeners who sensed he was more complex underneath.

Art Bell’s political views were complex as well.

He spent years on the island of Okinawa, living a Japanese lifestyle and working for KSBK, the only English speaking station in Asia.

It gave him a Pacific Rim perspective and a grasp of international affairs that few talk show hosts really have.

That plus his military background and his love of the news, made Art Bell a natural talk show host, a man who understood how politics, human nature, and cultural dynamics can affect national and international stability for better or for worse.

Everybody knows that Art Bell had passed away on April 13, 2018 at his home in Pahrump, Nevada.  Everybody knows who Art Bell was.

His earlier background:

Art Bell became an FCC-licensed radio technician at age 13 and once set a Guinness World Record for broadcasting solo for 116 straight hours while working as a DJ at KSBK in Okinawa, Japan:

By the age of 13, Art was an FCC licensed radio technician.

A few years later, as a young airman, Bell and an equally foolhardy buddy built their own pirate radio station right on Amarillo Air Force base, secretly broadcasting rock ‘n’ roll to appreciative locals. 

These kinds of antics were not limited to bootleg military radio. 

As a civilian DJ, Art Bell landed in the Guinness Book of Records for a 116 hour (and 15 minutes) solo broadcast marathon “playing the hits” on KSBK on Okinawa, Japan. 

Even though I never met him in person, I spent two hours with him on his show “Dreamland” in 1995 – – I will never forget him – – here is just a short clip from that show:



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States’ rights versus the Federal Government – – we must all work together !!

Does the federal government have power over the states?

States’ rights refer to the political rights and powers granted to the states of the United States by the U.S. Constitution.

Under the doctrine of states’ rights, the federal government is not allowed to interfere with the powers of the states reserved or implied to them by the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

However, concurrent powers are powers shared by the federal government and the states.

Only the federal government can coin money, regulate the mail, declare war, or conduct foreign affairs.

However, both the states and the federal government have the power to tax, make and enforce laws, charter banks, and borrow money.

The Federalists believed a strong central government was necessary to make sure that the states would follow laws and work together.

States viewed themselves as independent and wanted to get rid of a strong central government.

The states feared that a strong central government would take power and autonomy away from the states.


The Constitution limits national authority – – the 10th Amendment of the US Constitution.

When in doubt, power goes to states.

National government has gotten too big.

State government are closer to people and may be more democratic.



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