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The Land Before Time—PART 31: Shapeshifters, Skinwalkers, Sky People

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The history of elemental beings is often closely associated with a variety of shapeshifting monsters and “cryptids” (from the Greek “κρύπτω,” krypto, meaning “hide”), whose existence is difficult to prove by means of their ability to apparently move in and out of earth’s dimension or man’s visible spectrum—the human range of sight. Examples of these would include the Yeti in the Himalayas, the famous Bigfoot or Sasquatch of mainly the Pacific Northwest region of North America and Canada, and the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland. Hoaxes aside, literally tens of thousands of people throughout history and around the world (including reputable individuals such as clergy, professionals, military, law enforcement personnel, and even anthropologists) have seen, found biological samples of such in hair and footprint evidence, and even filmed and recorded the creatures’ unidentifiable language vocalizations, but have up until now failed to capture a single physical specimen. Witness testimonies often include reports of fantastic sizes—from enormous dragons in the sea to giant bipeds ranging in height from eight to twelve feet, with footprints up to twenty-four inches. And then there are the phenomena frequently connected with the appearance of cryptids that are typical of occult activity—a retching or sulfuric odor, mysterious rapping on walls and windows, shadows and ghostly lights inside or outside homes, disembodied voices, the levitation or disappearance of furniture and other household items, etc.

Possibly the earliest account of a Bigfoot sighting in the U.S. was published more than 125 years ago in a historical pamphlet that told of frontiersmen coming across a “wild man” in the Siskiyou Mountains of Northern California. “The thing was of gigantic size—about seven feet tall—with a bulldog head, short ears, and long hair; it was also furnished with a beard, and was free from hair on such parts of its body as is common among men.”[i] Another barely known confrontation with a large, hairy biped was actually reported by President Theodore Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman. My friend, the late Noah Hutchings, writes of this event:

The story appeared in The Wilderness Hunter published in 1893. The account given by Roosevelt related that some kind of a wild beast had killed a man and had eaten half his body in a mountain range between the Salmon and Windom rivers. The following year, two hunters were camping in the same area when they became aware that they were being watched by a strange creature walking on two legs. The next day, the hunters separated. One of the hunters arrived at camp to find the other hunter dead with his neck broken and severe wounds to the throat area. In the article, Mr. Roosevelt reported his belief that the hunter was killed by “something either half-human or half-devil, some great goblin-beast.”[ii]

There are even reports of ape-like creatures shot and killed, followed by similar creatures coming to retrieve the corpse. One such story tells of a Bigfoot being put down, and afterwards, similar large, hairy beings coming out of the woods to recover the body. The same creatures returned again later to attack the cabin of the miners who had killed the beast. An account of this event states:

At night the apes counterattacked, opening the assault by knocking a heavy strip of wood out from between two logs of the miners’ cabin. After that there were assorted poundings on the walls, door, and roof, but the building was built to withstand heavy mountain snows and the apes failed to break in.… There was…the sound of rocks hitting the roof and rolling off, and [the miners] did brace the heavy door from the inside.

They heard creatures thumping around on top of the cabin as well as battering the walls, and they fired shots through the walls and roof without driving them away. The noise went on from shortly after dark till near dawn.… The cabin had no windows and of course no one opened the door, so in fact the men inside did not see what was causing the commotion outside.

Nor could Mr. Beck say for sure…that there were more than two creatures outside. There were [at least] that many because there had been one on the roof and one pounding the wall simultaneously. However many there were, it was enough for the miners, who packed up and abandoned their mine the next day.[iii]




As time moves forward, those paying attention are waking up to the realization that modern stories and ancient myths about demonic creatures taking form were never really myth at all. In the ancient world when these beings were believed a part of the natural order, these myths were as real as our technology is to us today. The existence of skinwalkers, Sky People, and giants were common knowledge across the world. Now, however, in our majorly materialistic American society, knowledge of these creatures has been shrugged off and filed away in the same category as the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. We tell these types of stories to our children at night to inspire and instill a good moral compass, yet it would seem utterly ridiculous if an adult were to believe them.

The people of the past were different. Instead of being rooted in material things such as iPhones and tablets, they were rooted in the stories of their forefathers. They would live by what they considered as true accounts of the history of their people from their tribal elders. Knowledge of creatures, gods, and giants was considered sacred. Shrugging them off as fairy tales for children would have been considered incredibly foolish and ignorant.

Today, there seems to be a growing number of people who are beginning to believe in these ancient accounts once again—including those of the Cloudeaters. Some groups, largely untouched by modern civilization and innovation, have never lost beliefs in their ancient sacred knowledge. Many of these groups are unwilling to share their knowledge unless a strong pattern of trust has been built over a long period of time. Others, however, are more willing, sometimes even to the point of excitement, to share their history with those who ask. How and from whom the accounts and evidences are gathered, they all tell the same story. Not only were skinwalkers, Sky People, and giants once upon the earth, they also have never left and are still active today.


The most famous type of shapeshifter in our American culture is undoubtedly the werewolf. Another cryptid sometimes associated with werewolves and Bigfoot, which was first reported in the 1980s on a quiet country road outside of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, is called the “Beast of Bray Road.” A rash of sightings between the ’80s and ’90s prompted a local newspaper (Walworth County Week) to assign one of its reporters named Linda Godfrey to cover the story. Godfrey started out skeptical, but because of the sincerity of the eyewitnesses, she became convinced of the creature’s existence. In fact, she was so impressed with the consistency of the reports from disparate observers (whom the History Channel’s TV series MonsterQuest subjected to lie detector tests in which the polygraph administrator could find no indication of falsehoods) that she wrote not only a series of articles for the newspaper but later a book, titled Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America. In her book, she claims that “the U.S. has been invaded by upright, canine creatures that look like traditional werewolves and act as if they own our woods, fields, and highways. Sightings from coast to coast dating back to the 1930s compel us to ask exactly what these beasts are, and what they want.”[iv] Her book presents a catalog of investigative reports and first-person accounts of modern sightings of anomalous, upright canids. From Godfrey’s witnesses, we learn of fleeting, as well as face-to-face, encounters with literal werewolves—canine beings that walk upright, eat food with their front paws, interact fearlessly with humans, and suddenly and mysteriously disappear. While Godfrey tries to separate her research from Hollywood depictions of shapeshifting humans played by actors like Michael Landon or Lon Chaney Jr., she is convinced there really are extremely large, fur-covered, anthropomorphic, wolf-like creatures that chase victims on their hind legs.

Werewolves, like other cryptids, are deeply connected in history not only with occultic lore but with the alien-similar fauns and incubi that sought and obtained coitus from women. In the ancient Bohemian Lexicon of Vacerad (A.D. 1202), the werewolf is vilkodlak, on whom the debauched woman sat and was impregnated with beastly seed.[v] Saint Patrick was said to have battled with werewolf soldiers and even to have transformed Welsh King Vereticus into a wolf. (The strange belief that saints could turn people into such creatures was also held by Saint Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that angels could metamorphose the human form, saying, “All angels, good and bad have the power of transmutating our bodies.”[vi]) Long before the Catholic saints believed in such things, the god Apollo was worshiped in Lycia as Lykeios or Lykos, the “wolf” god. The trance-induced utterances of his priestesses known as Pythoness or Pythia prophesied in an unfamiliar voice thought to be that of Apollo himself. During the Pythian trance, the medium’s personality often changed, becoming melancholic, defiant, or even animal-like, exhibiting a psychosis that may have been the original source of the werewolf myth, or lycanthropy, as the Pythia reacted to an encounter with Apollo/Lykeios—the wolf god. Pausanias, the second-century Greek traveler and geographer, agreed with the concept of Apollo as the original wolf man who, he said, derived his name from the pre-Dynastic Apu-At, an Egyptian god of war. But Virgil, one of Rome’s greatest poets, held that “the first werewolf was Moeris, wife of the fate-goddess Moera, who taught him how to bring the dead back to life.”[vii] Romans of that era referred to the werewolf as versipellis, or the “turn-skin,” reminiscent of later indigenous peoples of America who still believe in “skinwalkers,” or humans with the supernatural ability to turn into a wolf or other animal.

According to local legend, a ranch located on approximately 480 acres southeast of Ballard, Utah, in the United States is (or at least once was) allegedly the site of substantial skinwalker activity. The farm is actually called “Skinwalker Ranch” by local Indians who believe it lies in “the path of the skinwalker,” taking its name from the Native American legend. It was made famous during the ’90s and early 2000s when claims about the ranch first appeared in the Utah Deseret News and later in the Las Vegas Mercury during a series of riveting articles by journalist George Knapp. Subsequently, a book titled Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah described how the ranch was acquired by the now-defunct National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS), which had purchased the property to study “anecdotal sightings of UFOs, bigfoot-like creatures, crop circles, glowing orbs and poltergeist activity reported by its former owners.”[viii] A two-part article by Knapp for the Las Vegas Mercury was published November 21 and 29, 2002, titled, “Is a Utah Ranch the Strangest Place on Earth?” It told of frightening events that had left the owners of the ranch befuddled and broke—from bizarre, bulletproof wolf-things to mutilated prize cattle and other instances in which animals and property simply disappeared or were obliterated overnight. As elsewhere, these events were accompanied by strong odors, ghostly rapping, strange lights, violent nightmares, and other paranormal phenomena. Besides the owners of the Skinwalker Ranch, other residents throughout the county made similar reports over the years. Junior Hicks, a retired local school teacher, catalogued more than four hundred anomalies in nearby communities before the year 2000. He and others said that, for as long as anyone could remember, this part of Utah had been the site of unexplained activity—from UFO sightings to Sasquatch manifestations. It was as if a gateway to the world of the beyond existed within this basin. Some of the Skinwalker Ranch descriptions seemed to indicate as much. For example, in one event repeated by Knapp, an investigator named Chad Deetken and the ranch owner saw a mysterious light:

Both men watched intently as the light grew brighter. It was as if someone had opened a window or doorway. [The ranch owner] 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.[ix]

In 1996, Skinwalker Ranch was purchased by real-estate developer and aerospace entrepreneur Robert T. Bigelow, a wealthy Las Vegas businessman who founded NIDS in 1995 to research and serve as a central clearinghouse for scientific investigations into various fringe science, paranormal topics, and ufology. Bigelow planned an intense but very private scientific study of events at the farm. He was joined by high-ranking military officials, including retired U.S. Army Colonel John B. Alexander, who had worked to develop “Jedi” remote viewing and psychic experiments for the military as described in Jon Ronson’s book, The Men Who Stare at Goats, former police detectives, and scientists including Eric W. Davis, who has worked for NASA. In the years before, Bigelow had donated $3.7 million to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas “for the creation and continuation of a program that would attract to the university renowned experts on aspects of human consciousness.”[x] Bigelow’s chair for the university program was parapsychologist Charles Tart, a man “famous for extended research on altered states of consciousness, near-death experiences and extrasensory perception.”[xi] But what Bigelow’s team found at the Skinwalker Ranch was more than they could have hoped for, at least for a while, including “an invisible force moving through the ranch and through the animals.”[xii] On this, the Las Vegas Mercury reported in November of 2002: “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 [ranch owners] say there were several instances where something invisible moved through their cattle, splitting the herd. Their neighbor reported the same thing.”[xiii]

Yet of all the anomalous incidents at the ranch, one took the prize. On the evening of March 12, 1997, barking dogs alerted the NIDS team that something strange was in a tree near the ranch house. The ranch owner grabbed a hunting rifle and jumped in his pickup, racing toward the tree. Two of the NIDS staffers followed in a second truck. Knapp tells what happened next:

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.[xiv]

Stories of anomalous cryptids moving in and out of man’s reality, the opening of portals or spirit gateways such as reported at Skinwalker Ranch, and the idea that through these openings could come the sudden appearance of unknown intelligence can be found in the oldest forms of totemism and shamanism and even in the Iliad and the Epic of Gilgamesh.[xv] It is a worldwide belief that spans the vast majority, if not all, of human history.

When it comes to shapeshifters themselves, there are two basic types. The first is a being who naturally has this ability. In ancient legends, this type of being is usually seen as a god, demon, or something else completely supernatural. Today, however, these are most often recognized as alien beings from other planets. The second type is a human being who has been given the ability to shapeshift. This is usually due to a curse or infection of some kind. The infection, such as with werewolves, comes from another shapeshifter while curses can come from normal humans who are believed to be in touch with the spirit world, such as shamans or mystics.[xvi]




The Yee Naaldlooshii Skinwalker

Specific to Native American legends, a skinwalker is a person with shapeshifting capabilities. A skinwalker can transform into any animal of their choosing. According to Navajo belief, a skinwalker is called yee naaldlooshii, which means “with it, he goes on all fours” in the Navajo language.[xvii] The yee naaldlooshii is considered to be a type of Navajo witch called the ’ánt’įįhnii, a human who acquires supernatural power by breaking certain cultural taboos.

The yee naaldlooshii are said to have the ability to take on any form they choose, yet most are reported to take on the appearance of more common animals, such as coyotes, wolves, owls, foxes, and crows. Some Navajos also believe the skinwalker can take on the face of another person. They will say if eye contact is made with a skinwalker, the skinwalker can absorb itself into its victim’s body. The body of the victim will freeze from terror and the skinwalker will use that fear to gain energy and power. Strangely enough, while most demonic creatures are said to inhabit the dark, skinwalkers are said to love the light and possess glowing eyes. They are said to be able to read human thoughts. According to legend, skinwalkers also have the ability to mimic any animal cry or human voice they choose. It is said that skinwalkers will often use the voice of a family member or the cry of an infant to lure victims out of their homes.

The Nanabozho

Among Ojibway tribes, in traditional stories called Anishinaabe aadizookaanan, Nanabozho (sometimes spelled “Manabozho”) is a shapeshifting cultural hero. Nanabozho usually appears in the form of a rabbit and is regarded as a trickster spirit. In rabbit form, Nanbozho is known as “Mishaabooz,” which means “great rabbit” or “hare.”[xviii] Stories about Nanbozho vary from community to community, but he is generally regarded as a benevolent entity. He is said to be a child of either the west wind or the sun. Some traditions say Nanabozho was an only child, while others say he has a twin brother or is the oldest of as many as four brothers. Of the brother figures, the most well-regarded is Chibiabos, a close companion of Nanabozho who is often portrayed as a wolf.[xix]

Though said to be a shapeshifter, Nanabozho is different than a skinwalker. Skinwalkers are generally seen as evil entities, either as a human being under a curse or as a demonic entity taking on the form of a human being. Nanabozho, while being a trickster figure, is moral and doesn’t exhibit inappropriate or destructive behavior. He is considered as a virtuous hero and a teacher of humanity. In fact, it is even said Nanabohzo “killed the ancient monsters whose bones we now see under the earth,” in an obvious reference to ancient evil giants.[xx] Because of this and other attributes, Nanabozho is viewed with great respect among the Anishinabe people.

UP NEXT: Nahuals and Cattle Mutilations

[i] Thomas G. Aylesworth, Science Looks at Mysterious Monsters (New York, NY: Julian Messner, 1982), 30.

[ii] Noah Hutchings, Marginal Mysteries (Crane, MO: Defender Publishing, 2011), 141.

[iii] Thomas G. Aylesworth, Science Looks at Mysterious Monsters, 32–33.

[iv] Linda S. Godfrey, Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America (New York, NY: Tarcher/Penguin, 2012). See quote and learn more about the book here: “Summary of Real Wolfmen,” Penguin, last accessed January 14, 2013,,,9781585429080,00.html?Real_Wolfmen_Linda_S._Godfrey.

[v] “The Book of Were-Wolves,”, last accessed January 14, 2013,

[vi] “Werewolf,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, last modified January 12, 2013,

[vii] Frank Joseph, The Lost Worlds of Ancient America (Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books, 2012), 252.

[viii] “Skinwalker Ranch,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, last modified January 4, 2013,

[ix] George Knapp, “Is a Utah Ranch the Strangest Place on Earth? (Part 2),” Las Vegas Mercury, November, 29, 2002.

[x] Natalie Patton, “UNLV Unplugs Program on Human Consciousness: Donor Behind its ’97 Birth Decides to Fund Scholarships Instead,” Review Journal, November 8, 2002,

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] George Knapp, “Is a Utah Ranch the Strangest Place on Earth?”

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid.






[xx] “Genesis 6 Giants” by Stephen Quayle, 2015 Revised, Updated, and Expanded edition, p.263.

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