Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hunt for the Skinwalker - a long-delayed review

Lo these many Moons ago, I promised to review Hunt for the Skinwalker by Colm Kelleher and George Knapp. After much lollygagging, I finally decided to set cursor to screen and write it.

The book looks at a ranch in Utah that has had all manner of bizarre goings-on. What I dig about this book, and which places it a cut (or more) above similar books on the paranormal and/or strange, is how well-structured it is. It's methodically written, and is well-sourced. It also reads like a damned good fiction piece, with tough ranchers confronting the unknown, Indian legends, and housing developments built on the graves of Masonic buffalo soldiers(!).

That last bit is pretty friggin' interesting; turns out a contingent of the 9th Cavalry was stationed there in the 1880s, led by one of Custer's officers who wasn't at the Little Big Horn. His troops were all black, and all Masons. There's the germ of a cool story there. It's too bad there isn't more about it, but it's tangential, at best, to the main focus of the book. If someone were to write a book about that unit, I'd definitely read it.

A scientific team financed by Bob Bigelow, who, among other things, is currently working on (via his company) reusable spacecraft modules, is dispatched to the Uintah Valley. A ranch family was plagued with giant invulnerable wolves, poltergeists, UFOs, and - inevitably - cattle mutilations. The scientific team set up shop, with Bigelow eventually buying the ranch for his National Institute for Discovery Science organization. The strangeness continued for a while - portals opening in the sky, dark creatures crawling from other portals in the ground, man-sized flying creatures roosting in trees, hunting dogs burned to cinders or disappearing, cattle somehow stuffed into house trailers...the place seemed to be the epicenter for just about every paranormal phenomenon one could think of. 

Then those phenomena stopped.

The book paints an intriguing picture of the entire region, which seems awash in what I've heard called "high strangeness," but ultimately leaves its questions unanswered. I mean, how could it not? We'd have heard about it long before the book hit publication had the team discovered the root cause of...well, any given occurrence. In the end, though, the book left me wanting more. That's not bad. Knapp is a well-known investigative journalist - including of the strange and paranormal - in Nevada, and has indicated he's interested in delving into similar subjects in a future book. Knapp is, in my opinion, a cut above most authors in the field of the paranormal, exercising journalistic rigor too often missing in the field. I could see his mark quite clearly upon this book, which makes it a must-read for anyone interested in these subjects. It's creepy and eerie, and there are no neat, tidy answers, which makes it ultimately unsettling. Fun stuff!


  1. I need to read this.

    I agree, too - what the hell? How has no one made a movie/ show / more of those 9th Cavalry soldiers? Fascinating.

    Sounds like a real-life hellmouth/ Poltergeist, right here. I look forward to reading it.

  2. You can read a bit about it all by looking up "Skinwalker Ranch" on Wikipedia. The article does a decent job of going over the basics.