- This is the second of two reports about persistent stories
of anomalous phenomena in a section of northeastern Utah. The activity,
as reported by hundreds of witnesses over several decades, includes UFOs,
unusual balls of light, animal mutilations and disappearances, poltergeist
events, sightings of Bigfoot-like creatures and other unidentified animals,
physical effects on plants, soil, animals and humans, and a vast array
of other unexplained incidents.
- The activities seem most concentrated on a 480-acre cattle
ranch owned by the family of Tom Gorman. (Gorman isn't his real name.)
In 1996, the ranch was purchased by Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow,
who arranged for an intense, ongoing scientific study of events at the
ranch. By agreement with Bigelow, and at the request of many of the witnesses,
a few names have been changed or omitted to protect those who don't want
to be hassled by media outlets or UFO enthusiasts.
- It began as a dull white light, appearing out of nowhere
in the darkness of the middle homestead of the Gorman ranch. Tom Gorman
saw it. So did a researcher named Chad Deetken. It was nearly 2 a.m. on
Aug. 28, 1997. Gorman and Deetken were out in the pasture as part of an
ongoing effort to document unusual activity on the property.
- Both men watched intently as the light grew brighter.
It was as if someone had opened a window or doorway. Gorman grabbed his
night vision binoculars to get a better look but could hardly believe what
he was seeing. The dull light began to resemble a bright portal, and at
one end of the portal, a large, black humanoid figure seemed to be struggling
to crawl through the tunnel of light.
- After a few minutes, the humanoid figure wriggled out
of the light and took off into the darkness. As it did, the window of light
snapped shut, as if someone had flicked the "off" switch. Deetken
had the presence of mind to snap a few photos of the event, but would later
learn that his film had recorded little of what the two men had witnessed.
- Tom Gorman, his wife, two teenage kids and several extended
family members had grown accustomed to weird things happening at the ranch.
They had seen numerous UFO-type craft, as well as balls of light that seemed
to be intelligently controlled. Their neighbors had seen them too. Residents
of this basin have been reporting similar phenomena since the '50s. Native
Americans say the sightings extend back even further. But aerial anomalies
weren't the strangest occurrences on or near the ranch, not by a longshot.
- In his two years on the property, Tom Gorman had lost
14 head of cattle from his hybrid herd. Some animals simply disappeared,
as if plucked from the sky. Others were carved up with surgical precision.
Family members and neighbors had also seen Bigfoot-like creatures, oversized
wolves, animals and birds that no one could identify. Their horses had
been attacked, their dogs incinerated, their cats abducted.
- The Gormans themselves were bedeviled, almost daily,
by odd little household incidents that, separately, wouldn't amount to
much, but when considered together, were hard to dismiss. Windows and doors
in their home would rip open or slam shut, seemingly on their own. Frequently,
when Mrs. Gorman would take a shower, she'd emerge from the tub to find
that her towel and personal items had been removed from inside the locked
bathroom. On one occasion, she returned from town with a large haul of
groceries and other supplies. She carefully put the provisions away in
various cabinets, walked into another room for a few minutes, and returned
to find all the supplies back out on the kitchen table.
- Clothing, tools and appliances seemed to develop lives
of their own. But this wasn't the equivalent of socks disappearing in the
laundry. For example, Gorman's son worked up a considerable sweat to meticulously
stack a one-ton pile of cord wood on the south side of a treeline in the
middle homestead. He took a 30-minute water break and returned to find
that the ton of wood had been moved 100 yards to the north side of the
tree line. Tools often disappeared, then reappeared on the range. In one
instance, a heavy post hole digger vanished. It was finally discovered,
days later, high up in the branches of a cottonwood tree, as if placed
there by a crane. The uneasy feeling grew among family members that they
were constantly being watched, but they had no idea who, or what, was doing
- Enter Robert Bigelow
- and NIDS
- Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow first heard about
the Gorman ranch in the summer of 1996. A small newspaper article about
mysterious events at the property prompted Bigelow and his team to fly
to Utah. Bigelow bought the ranch and convinced Tom Gorman to stay on as
caretaker, against the wishes of his family.
- Bigelow is the founder of NIDS, the National Institute
for Discovery Science, a Las Vegas research organization dedicated to the
study of unexplained phenomena. NIDS staff members include highly trained
and educated scientists, engineers and former law enforcement personnel
with solid credentials, degrees and experience. Although the organization
investigates seemingly bizarre events, it has no preconceived ideas about
the true nature of the subject matter and is primarily interested in getting
to the truth, wherever that truth leads. (This observation is a personal
one, based on more than six years of interaction with the NIDS organization.)
- NIDS staffers emphasize that they are constantly drilled
by Bigelow and by his Science Advisory Board to rigidly adhere to the scientific
method. ("The Science Board really holds our feet to the fire,"
one staff member confides.) Because the subject matter itself is so controversial
in science circles, NIDS realizes that any deviation from the scientific
method would mean a loss of credibility. If they were deemed a crackpot
organization, their findings, no matter how profound or well-documented,
would be dismissed out of hand.
- The Gorman ranch presented a unique opportunity to study
a rich tapestry of strange stuff. It was as if someone had ordered up the
Weirdness Pizza With Everything on It. UFOs and Sasquatch, balls of light
and cattle mutilations, poltergeists and crop circles, psychic manifestations
and Native American legends--the ranch sounded like a unique place in all
the world. NIDS staffers knew they had to be careful but also knew they
couldn't merely dismiss the stories told by locals.
- "We had no preconceived ideas about what was going
on, but we decided to use an 'open-filter' approach to gathering information,"
says one senior NIDS staffer. "We had a lot of reservations about
the legends of skinwalkers, Bigfoot sightings, all the things the family
claimed to have seen, but we decided to collect all the data we could get,
without dismissing it outright, and figured we could evaluate it all later."
- The NIDS team set up shop. They installed a command post,
positioned video and other monitoring equipment around the ranch, built
new fencing around the perimeter of the property to better control access
to the site, constructed observation posts in the pastures and staffed
the property with trained observers. The effort constitutes the most intense
and thorough surveillance of a UFO hot spot ever undertaken.
- UFO researchers were incensed at being excluded from
the study. They floated rumors that Bigelow was working for the CIA, that
he and NIDS were already in contact with E.T., and that whatever information
was gleaned from the ranch probably would be locked away in dark vaults
under the Pentagon. The constant criticism prompted the publicity-shy Bigelow
to grant a rare interview. He told a Utah newspaper that NIDS was not communicating
with either extraterrestrials or lizard people. He appealed, perhaps in
vain, for a reasonable amount of time, free from outside interference,
so a legitimate study might be undertaken.
- "We know so little in terms of what the overall
scope of the phenomena are that it's just embarrassing to try and make
some conclusions at this point," Bigelow said. He admitted that the
activity at the ranch seemed to be "selective in how it exposes itself
and to whom," suggesting that a tailgate-party atmosphere where people
sit around outside the ranch, barbecueing hot dogs while awaiting flying
saucers, would not be conducive to a scientific study. Not surprisingly,
this plea for sanity fell on deaf ears among the UFO faithful. They were
so busy expressing their outrage over being barred from private property
that they failed to grasp the major clue dropped by Bigelow during his
- A pre-cognitive
- Contrary to some predictions, the odd phenomena at the
ranch didn't evaporate under the glare of scientific scrutiny. Activity
continued, but grew even harder to comprehend. NIDS staffers saw the same
balls of light, even UFO-type craft that the Gormans had seen. But their
attempts to photograph or videotape the sightings were largely futile.
Team members, accompanied by Gorman and former lawmen who were hired for
the study, often saw anomalous aerial phenomena, with their eyes, their
binoculars and with night vision equipment. With few exceptions, though,
the images inexplicably could not be recorded on film or video.
- A confidential report prepared for NIDS board members
and obtained by this reporter documents dozens of encounters involving
NIDS staffers, the Gormans and other witnesses. After several months of
round-the-clock surveillance, a mind-boggling pattern began to emerge.
The phenomena, whatever they represent, seemed capable of anticipating
the moves of the scientists. If they placed extra cameras and personnel
in the southern field, the activity would pop up in the northern pasture.
If they concentrated their observations in the center homestead, the activity
might move to the ridge overlooking the ranch.
- Skeptics might suggest that such an explanation for a
lack of photographic evidence sounds a little too convenient. But something
happened on July 19, 1998, that sheds further light on the challenge faced
by the research team. Soon after arriving at the ranch, NIDS had installed
three telephone poles in one of the pastures. Atop each pole was a sophisticated
package of sensoring equipment, including multiple video cameras. The cameras
had a full view of that section of the ranch and were connected to video
recorders back in the command post. At exactly 8:30 p.m., the three cameras
on the westernmost telephone pole were suddenly disabled. When NIDS staffers
went to check out the problem, they saw that something had shredded their
electronic equipment. Wires had been ripped out of the cameras with considerable
force. Plastic brackets were snapped in two. Thick layers of duct tape
that had been used to secure the equipment had been ripped away. A foot-long
piece of TV cable was missing. Analysis of the remaining cable showed it
had been slashed with a knife.
- Team members excitedly returned to the command center,
knowing that the telephone pole that had been assaulted was in full view
of cameras positioned atop the second pole, located about 200 feet away.
The assumption was that, whatever had ripped the guts out of the first
camera would be clearly visible on video recorded by the second. But when
they rolled the tape back, they saw nothing. At the exact moment the first
camera package was being vandalized, nothing visible could be seen anywhere
near the second telephone pole. This incident set a pattern for what was
- "I came up with a term for it," says Col. John
Alexander, a retired Army intelligence officer who still works on classified
projects with Los Alamos National Laboratory and remains an adviser to
NATO organizations. "I called it a pre-cognitive sentient intelligence.
It certainly seemed to be intelligent, and it seemed to know what we were
going to do even before we did it."
- Alexander is a former adviser to NIDS who made the trip
to the ranch to see what was going on. As a scientist and military insider,
he is reluctant to jump to any conclusions about the nature of what has
happened there. But he suspects, after exploring the property and reading
the witness reports, that there is an intelligence behind the assorted
phenomena and that it almost seems to be playing a game with those who
are trying to observe it.
- Another NIDS staffer arrived at a similar conclusion.
He has a doctorate in physics, a long list of peer-reviewed papers about
cutting-edge scientific concepts, and a lengthy employment history with
prominent think tanks and classified military programs. He asked that his
name not be used in the belief that he would never again be hired for sensitive
scientific work if his involvement with the ranch were made public.
- "It's a very messy affair. Nothing is clear cut.
It isn't as simple as saying that E.T.s or flying saucers are doing it,"
the scientist said. "It's some kind of consciousness, but it's always
something new and different, something non-repeatable. It's reactive to
people and equipment, and we set up the ranch to be a proving ground for
the scientific method, but science doesn't seem amenable to the solution
of these kinds of problems."
- Ice and dinosaurs
- As if to punctuate the point, the phenomena at the ranch
seemed to constantly evolve. One of the most recent incidents occurred
on a cold morning in February. The caretaker for the property was patrolling
the grounds early in the morning. As he walked past a watering hole, he
noticed an odd circular impression in the thin ice that had formed overnight.
Something had carved a perfect circle in the ice. The circle was just under
six feet in diameter and seemed oddly reminiscent of the crop formations
seen in English wheat fields.
- The cuts extended only a quarter-inch into the ice and
the ice itself was perhaps another quarter-inch thick. The question arises,
how could this have been done? Someone standing on the muddy bank would
have left footprints. The only prints were cattle tracks. The ice itself
was so thin that it could support almost no weight and certainly would
have cracked and broken if someone stood on it. Could someone have suspended
themselves above the ice patch and then somehow carved a perfect circle?
How, and more importantly, why? NIDS staffers, following the scientific
method, collected and analyzed ice shavings from the spot, took readings
for magnetic fields and EM radiation, checked for tracks throughout the
area but found no clues. There is no natural explanation for such a subtle
event, and it has never been reported again.
- NIDS employees compiled a confidential report containing
information about all the assorted incidents on the ranch. Reading this
report will make the hair stand up on your neck. To date, the researchers
have recorded seven distinct incidents involving magnetic abnormalities.
Simply put, their compasses went nuts while out on the range. The needles
of the compasses either spun out of control, or pointed straight down at
the ground. No one has a reasonable explanation.
- There were several instances involving some sort of invisible
force moving through the ranch and through the animals. One witness reported
a path of displaced water in the canal, as if a large unseen animal was
briskly moving through the water. There were distinct splashing noises,
and there was a foul pungent odor that filled the air but nothing could
be seen. A neighboring rancher reported the same phenomena two months later.
The Gormans say there were several instances where something invisible
moved through their cattle, splitting the herd. Their neighbor reported
the same thing.
- Of all the strange incidents at the ranch, this one may
take the prize. It occurred on the night of March 12, 1997. Barking dogs
alerted the team to something lurking in a tree near the ranch house. Tom
Gorman grabbed a hunting rifle and took off in his truck toward the tree.
Two NIDS staffers followed in another vehicle. Up in the tree branches,
they could make out a huge set of yellowish, reptilian eyes. The head of
this animal had to be three feet wide, they guessed. At the bottom of the
tree was something else. Gorman described it as huge and hairy, with massively
muscled front legs and a doglike head.
- Gorman, who is a crack shot, fired at both figures from
a distance of 40 yards. The creature on the ground seemed to vanish. The
thing in the tree apparently fell to the ground because Gorman heard it
as it landed heavily in the patches of snow below. All three men ran through
the pasture and scrub brush, chasing what they thought was a wounded animal,
but they never found the animal and saw no blood either. A professional
tracker was brought in the next day to scour the area. Nothing.
- But there was a physical clue left behind. At the bottom
of the tree, they found and photographed a weird footprint, or rather,
claw print. The print left in the snow was from something large. It had
three digits with what they guessed were sharp claws on the end. Later
analysis and comparison of the print led them to find a chilling similarity--the
print from the ranch closely resembled that of a velociraptor, an extinct
dinosaur made famous in the Jurassic Park films. (For the record, no one
at NIDS is saying he shot a velociraptor. They don't know what it was.)
- More cattle deaths
- Two days before the above incident, another animal was
found mutilated on the ranch, and it is the only case from the ranch that
NIDS has publicly confirmed before this article. Gorman and his wife spent
a bright Sunday morning tagging the ears of newborn calves. They put a
tag on the ear of a calf born near the ranch house, then wandered out into
the pasture for a period of 45 minutes. In that interim period, with the
Gormans only 200 yards away in the pasture, the calf was completely stripped
of flesh. The Gormans were alerted by a wail from the mother of the calf.
The calf's entrails had been placed, almost ritualistically, on the ground,
but all of its flesh was simply gone, leaving only bone and hide behind.
There was no blood on the ground or on the animal.
- A NIDS team was at the ranch and quickly scoured the
area for evidence. The remains were sent to two pathology labs. Both pathologists
concluded the calf had been butchered by two distinct instruments, something
like a heavy machete and something like sharp scissors. How this was done
in broad daylight, in an open pasture and in clear sight of the ranchers
remains a mystery. (A second calf disappeared that same morning after being
tagged and was never found. In all, 12 cattle have met a similar end since
NIDS has been on the ranch. A full report on the calf incident can be found
on the NIDS website.)
- So, what's going on?
- Capt. Keith Wolverton spent more than 20 years as an
investigator with the Cascade County Sheriff's Department in Great Falls,
Mont. In the mid-'70s, that area experienced a similar wave of UFO sightings
and cattle mutilations, as well as Bigfoot sightings, and Wolverton investigated
- "I asked my boss back then to give me six weeks
to solve the mystery," Wolverton says. "It's 30 years later and
I'm still left with a lot of questions but no answers."
- Wolverton wrote a book about his Montana experiences.
He came to the ranch to share his expertise with NIDS, and while there
are similarities between the things that happened near Great Falls and
at the Utah ranch, Wolverton says he's never heard of any place with such
a concentration of weird activity as the Gorman ranch. Microbiologist Colm
Kelleher has reached a similar conclusion.
- "I thought that if we threw enough personnel and
equipment at this one, pull out all the stops, adhere to the scientific
method, that we would probably get answers," Kelleher says. "We
have all of these strange cases, close to 100, many of them well-documented,
but if you try to call that scientific evidence of anything, you'd be laughed
- The main reason NIDS has been unwilling to go public
with information about the ranch is there isn't much that can be said.
For a scientific organization to merely toss out a lot of scary stories
would be counterproductive, especially if it resulted in hordes of UFO
nuts flooding the property and interfering with whatever goes on there.
Make no mistake, the activity at the ranch certainly seems to have an interactive
component. It responds to people, events and disturbances. In many instances,
it seems capable of anticipating things that were about to happen.
- "The only thing that jumps out of the data is how
unreproduceable these things are," Kelleher notes. "No two events
ever repeated themselves in the same fashion. It's almost as if it's a
learning curve and we were being led along. It's the only thing consistent
- What could possibly explain all that has happened at
the ranch? Natural predators, rustlers or pranksters might conceivably
be responsible for some of the events, but certainly not all of them. NIDS
staffers considered the possibility that Indian shaman or black magic practitioners
might have been carrying out some sort of ritualist campaign at the ranch.
They note that the Ute people consider the ranch to be an unholy place,
a forbidden place, but that explanation falls far short on many levels.
- Hardcore UFO believers have proposed an E.T. connection
to events at the ranch, but NIDS staffers say there isn't an iota of evidence
to prove such a hypothesis. The possibility exists that unknown military
units might be capable of producing nearly all of the events that have
been reported in the area, perhaps as an experiment in psychological warfare.
(Tom Gorman was convinced of this for a long time, but came to realize
the theory was more than a stretch. Someone, somewhere would have seen
these military men operating in such a rural area.)
- That doesn't leave much. There is one possibility that's
worth considering. Cutting-edge physicists have proposed the existence
of alternate dimensions or parallel universes. Quantum physicists believe
that portals may exist between our world and other worlds. The concept
of wormholes is no longer considered to be the stuff of science fiction.
New York physicist and author Michio Kaku theorizes that there are 11 dimensions
in our universe, although humans have only identified four. Might a wormhole
resemble the portal of light that was seen on the ranch? And if such portals
do exist, could they allow beings on the other side to travel into our
world? As wacky as it all sounds, leading scientists believe that wormholes
and alternate dimensions are perfectly consistent with known laws of physics.
If so, then it isn't much of a leap to suggest that UFOs, aliens, Bigfoot
beings or other creatures, even poltergeists or spirits, could come and
go and never be detected by puzzled, mystified humans.
- "Aliens may be here now," says Kaku, "here
in another dimension, a millimeter away from our own world."
- Admittedly, it all sounds farfetched. But if anyone has
a better explanation, let's hear it.
- A final note
- For further discussion of the Gorman Ranch mystery, along
with a few personal observations, check out the Knappster column elsewhere
in this issue. Also, the website of the National Institute for Discovery
Science is packed with information and research papers concerning these
and other issues. Anyone with information or insight about the ranch, UFOs
or mutilations is welcome to contact NIDS through the website. All such
contacts will remain confidential.
- Another word of warning to UFO diehards: It is probably
futile to ask for restraint on the part of the faithful, but here goes
anyway. Visitors are not welcome at the Gorman ranch. The ranch is patrolled
24 hours a day, seven days a week, and NIDS emphatically declares that
trespassers will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the
law. One of the principal caretakers of the property is a 20-year veteran
of Utah law enforcement and will not hesitate to bust people who mess with
the property, the animals or the staff. The people who live in the area
do not want to be hassled. So leave them alone. Don't be a jerk.
- Furthermore, anyone expecting to find the ranch and see
UFOs or Bigfoot will be deeply disappointed. Paranormal activity on the
property has all but disappeared over the past year, which is a primary
reason that access was obtained from NIDS for this article.
- The NIDS website is at www.nidsci.org. The NIDS online
report form, where people can electronically report UFO sightings, animal
mutilations, etc., is at www.nidsci.org/reportform.html. The NIDS UFO hotline
number is 702-798-1700.
- Copyright © Las Vegas Mercury, 2001 - 2002 Stephens