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Interview: Travis Taylor tries to answer life’s big questions on The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch

dr travis taylor on the secret of skinwalker ranch
Dr. Travis Taylor as featured on HISTORY’S new series “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” premiering March 31 at 10/9c Pic Credit: HISTORY

Meet Dr. Travis Taylor, an astrophysicist with PhDs in quantum physics and aerospace engineering and designing. He works for the Department of Defense and has written 23 science fiction novels.

He’s also your ticket into the Skinwalker Ranch and just one of the handful of folks you’ll meet in newest nonfiction series HISTORY’S The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch, which premieres tonight at 10/9c.

In our first preview of the new series, we detailed some of the history of the site, a few of its past and present owners, and how it’s a major hotspot for UFO sightings and unexplained phenomena. After recently speaking with Dr. Taylor, we’re going to go into more of what to expect from the series.

In this first season, eight episodes will cover the highlights of Taylor’s four-month stay on the ranch as he hopes to find the answers to many questions, with modern technology. Using scientific method, experimentation, and instrumentation, Taylor joined the Skinwalker Ranch’s staff of workers and investigators that have already begun to study the grounds for the past two years. There’s some sophisticated technology and surveillance that monitor several areas around the clock, along with sensors in the ground to monitor for seismic activity. 

Erik Bard is a mechanical engineer, physicist, and the principal investigator, doing mostly observational studies without disturbing the area. Other members of the team include ranch manager Tom Winterton and head of security Bryant “Dragon” Arnold. There’s also Dr. Jim Segala, a physicist with a background in biophysics and radiology. Jim Morse serves as the liaison to the natives, and there’s Caleb, another member of the security team. Taylor maps out experiments while various members of the team assist him and give him background on the ranch when needed. 

Taylor arrived debriefed and well-read on the history of Skinwalker Ranch, but was skeptical of the stories, especially stories about the poltergeist activity and portals opening. He agreed to do the study, with the mindset that perhaps there was a classified defense project or some kind of unnatural explanation for the lights in the sky, but he remained open-minded for the unexplainable. One word that Taylor does not like is “paranormal” because it suggests that if it exists within the universe that it’s not supposed to be there. 

“What I saw was within our universe, so to me, I’d say it’s normal. I’d say something that we just don’t understand and don’t know what it is. Absolutely without a doubt, we have scientific instruments that detected and measured, multiple witnesses see, multiple cameras, and multiple occasions phenomena that cannot be explained by human technology, they were beyond the physics of mankind. It doesn’t mean it can’t be explained by a better or future understanding of physics, but it does mean we can’t explain it with human technology.”

Skinwalker Ridge

Upon his arrival and initial tour of the ranch, one major point of interest is the northern boundary of the ranch called Skinwalker Ridge. It’s a spot where a great deal of activity has been monitored and captured on surveillance, including some strange lights and various radiation and energies given off in that area.

“There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t walk up on the ridge or do something on the ridge the entire time I was there,” shared Taylor. “I don’t believe there was a single day I didn’t go up there.”

“In fact, on filming days when the crew would break for lunch, I would take the time to work out. I had a trail that I ran up the mesa and over the top and so every day I was on the mesa in some form or fashion. Every night, it’s so beautiful especially when the moon came up, Dragon and I would, and Erik in a lot of cases Erik would spend the night there a lot to we would stay outside and watch it because it’s amazing. It’s just beautiful.”

On the show though, every visit to that ridge brings about a new oddity. I won’t give spoilers, but the Ridge produced some unexpected findings, even on Taylor’s first day.

Throughout the series, Taylor said that as you watch the show, “You’ll see the evidence we acquired that is scientifically verifiable you’re going to be blown away because I was. I’m still amazed to this day and still have a hard time believing what I saw.”

the secret of skinwalker ranch staff on history series
The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch Staff from L to R: Jim Segala, Caleb, Erik Bard, Bryant “Dragon” Arnold, Thomas Winterton, Dr. Travis Taylor, Jim Morse. Pic Credit: HISTORY

Danger at Skinwalker Ranch

There has been a variety of strange phenomena that has occurred at the ranch that includes UFO sightings or strange lights in the skies. But there’s also chatter about cattle mutilations, staff workers being physically harmed, and electronics acting faulty.

You’ll have to tune into to see if any of that happens on camera, but from the barren homesteads left in ruins to a creepy river that runs through it, Skinwalker Ranch has as many points of interest as the island on Lost.

Despite the findings or the experiences, Taylor never felt like his life was at risk, but he would not allow his family to visit him while he was staying at the ranch. In the last six months, Taylor admits to having more terrifying nightmares than he had in the previous 50 years of his life combined. 

“I can’t really explain that, but there’s something [that is just] a mental thing of being there or there’s actually an exposure that causes it. I can’t tell you why, but the nightmares that I’ve had since then were horrifying and I woke up some nights screaming. Especially while I was on the ranch there was several times where I would wake up from horrible nightmares and I can’t explain that but that’s what happened.”

UFO enthusiasts and viewers will be tempted to come out to Skinwalker Ranch, but it would be wise to heed Taylor’s warnings to stay far away as many experiments and tests are continuously collecting information.

“Number one you could create false data and lead us down a rabbit hole, or damage very expensive equipment or worst-case be exposed to a phenomenon that could cause some sort of physical harm to yourself and there’s nothing we could do to help you in that regard. So nobody try and sneak on to the ranch. It’s extremely dangerous!

We might not know what you’re doing or even that you’re a person and could be perceived as a threat. There are armed guards on the ranch to protect the ranch from, you know, protect the cattle from predators, to protect us from, you know, crazy people for some reason tried to come into the ranch and do harm or from whatever if there are harmful phenomena.

I never felt in fear of my life while I was there except in a time when I did come away with radiation poisoning and sickness at one point, and I won’t say more about it than that. I’m perfectly fine now. But I will only take students out there officially through the channels with the owner knowing, with the team knowing and the fact that we’re doing everything as safely and was safety protocols in place as possible because I don’t want just random people being out there.” 

Leap of Faith

Currently, the 512-acre ranch is owned by real estate mogul Brandon Fugal, who has long been a man of faith. Fugal’s brother is a helicopter pilot for the ranch who brings Taylor on site in the first episode but not before a prayer. I always found believers of hard science who also happened to be deeply religious to be interesting, which is why I asked Taylor what he thought about that mix and the motivation to try and go to such great lengths to explain what is going on at Skinwalker Ranch.

“Brandon is – has been his whole life – devoted to his faith,” Taylor shared. “And big Jim (Morse) who also is a friend, a longtime friend of Brandon’s, every time before he comes on to the ranch, he says a prayer. And I know that Brandon has told me in conversations that it’s his goal in life to find out the answers to the big questions.”

“That was one of the reasons he was interested in the ranch because these are unknown phenomena that could be occurring. What he wonders, you know, is this – are they – is it God, is it angels, is it aliens, is it demons? What could be causing these strange phenomena or is it just something that is, you know, a serendipitous piece of nature? I think Brandon hopes that we may find some big answers – from a religious standpoint if not certainly from a more big-picture standpoint – to the question are we alone in this universe?

Honestly, that drives me every day to understand and find the answers to the big questions like that. And I don’t see where religion and/or science are a lot different in that regard, except from the science standpoint we have to have much more rigorous experiments and results than evidence. We can’t take anything on faith.” 

He would go on to explain that a friend of his, Rabbi Ariel Tzadok, from the show Ancient Aliens, told him that “angels and demons are by definition extraterrestrial.” 

“They’re not from this earth. They’re an unknown entity phenomenon from somewhere else, whether they’re from another dimension or another planet, it doesn’t really make a difference. They’re still extraterrestrial or maybe you could add make some other crazy word up like ultra-terrestrial, I don’t know. But the point is if there’s something that isn’t man-made and isn’t Mother Nature happening out there then it is coming from an extraterrestrial source with that big broad definition that I just mentioned.”

One of the reasons locals think the area is cursed runs back to a long-standing feud between the Navajo and Ute tribes in the area. To this day, there is political friction. It led to a curse that the Navajo put on the Ute tribe and the land, haunted by Skinwalkers or shape-shifting witches.

skinwalker ranch from history series
A shot of Skinwalker Ridge from Secrets of Skinwalker Ranch. Pic credit: HISTORY

According to Navajo legend, Skinwalkers take many deadly forms, including a wolf that some believe to have performed some of the animal mutilations on the ranch. Ask the Utes the same questions, and they believe the Skinwalker is their protector. When asked if neighboring Indian tribes were consulted and spoken to, Taylor said they were.

“We had visitors from both tribes on several occasions come and talk with us, go around and observe with us and tell us their metaphysics, religion, theology whatever you would want to call it. They call it history; they don’t call it religion, and they tell us about what they believe or know, as they would put it is happening there and what happened there in the past.

So while I wouldn’t say it was completely thorough yet, because time limits you to do everything. We are doing our best to be thorough in talking to everybody we can talk to and not judging anybody on how crazy or wild any of their stories might seem.”

With shows like Project Blue Book, the question of whether or not we are alone in this universe remains a white-hot discussion that HISTORY is leaning into. In fact, Project Blue Book told a story about Skinwalker Ranch in this past season and dismissed it as hallucinations. However, the bad luck of the land and the owners are not just tales of fiction.

Viewers of Skinwalker Ranch will get to decide for themselves and exercise their own faith in their belief that there’s something genuinely worth the investigation or if there’s a way to explain it. Taylor is doing his best to do it all. The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the plans for what should be a second extended stay for Taylor at the Skinwalker Ranch, but he is excited to go back. 

“The research needs to be taken seriously. It needs to be done by the people who have the permissions to be there safely and legally, and the experts can offer ideas and control the experiments. When the data is released and published, and so on, anybody can then propose experiments and do analysis and so on that data. That’s the typical scientific approach for big science.”

“That’s the approach that we plan to follow. We’re going to publish whatever the owner allows us to publish, and everything is going to be available to the public. Then people can do an analysis on our research because we’re going to follow the scientific method. And that’s the way we’re going to do this.” 

The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on HISTORY.


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