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"Hunt For The Skinwalker" Comes To The Big Screen


A ranch in eastern Utah has been the subject of speculation and research for years.

It has been dubbed the Skinwalker Ranch because of the bizarre and downright scary stuff that people have reported happening there.

Skinwalkers are powerful witches from Navajo legend that could turn from a human form to animals.

Longtime Las Vegas reporter George Knapp co-wrote a book with Colm Kelleher about the ranch and the effort by scientific researchers to figure out what - if anything - is really going on.

The research was headed up by Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow. Bigelow bought the ranch in 1996. He has always been interested in the paranormal and stories from the ranch fit into that category.

Knapp told KNPR's State of Nevada that stories range from sightings of gigantic wolves that attack livestock but then disappear after being shot to mysterious portals that work as a pathway for flying saucers.

"It is much bigger than UFOs," he said, "It involves cattle mutilations, poltergeist activity, crop circles, bigfoot sightings. It's like a paranormal Disneyland. You pick a weird topic and it was all happening in this spot."

Bigelow sent a group of his scientists into the area. They were tasked with documenting activity. Knapp said after seven years of research they documented 100 incidents.

Knapp visited the ranch to see if he could see anything. He said at one point the researchers put him on a plastic chair at night on a sandstone ridge known for its activity. 

After 45 minutes, nothing had happened.

But Knapp has talked to a lot of people who have had experiences at the ranch, including a family who owned the ranch before Bigelow bought it. 

They had planned to raise cattle on the ranch but after nearly two years of bizarre incidents, including a run in with a gigantic wolf, they left.

Knapp said that family and other researchers continued to have strange things happen to them even after leaving the area. Some researchers said they saw a 'smiling or smirking' wolf outside their homes, which were on the other side of the country from the Utah ranch.

"No humans were physically harmed on the ranch itself but there is psychological harm. It was messed up," Knapp said. 

Now, a movie based on Knapp and Kelleher's book is about to be released.

Filmmaker Jeremy Corbell worked with Knapp on the film. Knapp had a lot of footage of the ranch and the researchers from over the years.

While the book came out in 2005, Corbell said it wasn't until now that the movie could be made. But when the opportunity did arise to finally make the documentary, he knew he had to do it because he said it is happening.

"For those listeners out there that think it's bunk or don't think its true, that is their problem," he said, "These events happened. They are well documented. It was documented by scientific teams both private and government. So, that is just something we're going to have to wrap our head around," he said.

While Corbell does have all kinds of footage of the ranch, he was not able to capture any paranormal activity on camera.

Knapp said the same thing is true of all the researchers that have gone to the ranch to investigate. He said the activity never occurs at the same place and is never the same type of activity.

"They had cameras that would be set up for a particular area where there had been a range of activity over a long period of time and as soon as they set the cameras up there, it would move somewhere else," he said.

Knapp said although it is preposterous to believe that some kind of intelligent entity is doing this to avoid detection, "that is what it was."

Despite the years of research by scientists, journalists and members of the military, there is no real answer about what is going on.

Corbell likes to quote Knapp when people ask him why the whole thing needs to be looked into in the first place, "It is our job to investigate the unexplained not explain the uninvestigated," Corbell said.

(Editor's Note: This discussion originally aired September 2018)

George Knapp, reporter, KLAS-TV; Jeremy Corbell, director, "Hunt for the Skinwalker"

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.