MYSTERY WIRE — Skinwalker Ranch in Utah has been the focus of many Mystery Wire stories for years. George Knapp has visited and reported on the strange incidents on the ranch several times. Just this past month, we told you about the new owner of the ranch, real estate investor Brandon Fugal. Fugal purchased the property from North Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow.

The Navajo believe Skinwalkers were once benevolent medicine men who achieved the highest level of priesthood, but chose to use his power to inflict pain. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

So we know much about the property, but what about the legend of the skinwalker, for which the ranch is named after? According to Navajo culture, a skinwalker (Navajo: yee naaldlooshii) is a type of harmful witch who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as an animal.

The skinwalker is also called a shape-shifter. In a new article on How Stuff Works, archaeological discoveries in modern-day Germany date the contemplation of therianthropes (shapeshifting or half-animal beings) back to between 35,000 and 40,000 years in the past. More recent findings in Sulawesi, Indonesia, may push the date back even more, to at least 43,900 years ago. 

In the Navajo language, yee naaldlooshii translates to “by means of it, it goes on all fours”. On Wikipedia, the legend of the skinwalkers is not well understood outside of Navajo culture, mostly due to reluctance to discuss the subject with outsiders. Navajo people are reluctant to reveal skin-walker lore to non-Navajos, or to discuss it at all among those they do not trust.

Skinwalker, a Navajo Witch (Source:

In an extensive examination of the Navajo skinwalker, Legends of America writes, In order to become a Skinwalker, he or she must be initiated by a secret society that requires the evilest of deeds – the killing of a close family member, most often a sibling. After this task has been completed, the individual then acquires supernatural powers, which gives them the ability to shape-shift into animals. Most often, they are seen in the form of coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, dogs, and bears, but can take the shape of any animal. They then wear the skins of the animals they transform into, hence, the name Skinwalker. Sometimes, they also wore animal skulls or antlers atop their heads, which brought them more power. They choose what animal they wanted to turn into, depending on the abilities needed for a particular task, such as speed, strength, endurance, stealth, claws, and teeth, etc. They may transform again if trying to escape from pursuers.

The research goes on to show native American lore that skinwalkers are able to take possession of humans if a person locks eyes with them. After taking control, the witch can make its victims do and say things that they wouldn’t otherwise.

History is currently airing a series of episodes about Skinwalker Ranch.


Drive through Skinwalker Ranch in Utah with George Knapp.