January 10, 1996
If someone told you there was a single geographic region with indigenous legends telling of doorways used by star people piloting flying seed-pods, hundreds of UFO sightings, the first publicized unusual animal death case, waves of cattle “mutilations,” bigfoot encounters, “alien abductions,” rumors of secret underground bases and the world’s most unusual sand-dune desert, would you believe them? And if they told you a large phantom fire was recently reported in this area to local sheriffs by N.O.R.A.D during a (still continuing) “UFO sighting flap,” or that it was a place where various localized spook lights lurk up the road from towns where a legendary devil makes occasional appearances, all within sight of privately owned 14,000-foot mountains, would you believe such a place existed?
Welcome to south-central Colorado and north-central New Mexico’s San Luis Valley.
Not well-known to the outside world, this roughly 150-mile-by-45-mile-wide wishbone-shaped area, running north to south, is considered to be the world’s largest alpine valley and may be one of America’s most anomalous regions. The semi-arid desert valley floor, perched at an elevation of 7,600 feet, averages less than 6 inches of rainfall a year and is completely ringed by majestic mountains, many of which are over 13,000 feet high. This mysterious valley is hidden from the outside world in many ways.
The San Luis Valley, like many other regions around the world, has always had its share of reported sightings and encounters going back as far as the early 1930s. Many of these alleged events were covered extensively by local and regional newspapers. Over the past 30 or so years there have been intense so-called “flap” periods of increased UFO sightings and of unusual animal deaths (“mutilations”), often with simultaneous periods reporting both phenomena.
Native American myths
Could some of the most intriguing clues we have in regards to aspects of the UFO and unusual animal death phenomena lie in the mythic tradition of this and possibly other unique bio-regions in the southwestern United States? We do know that 12 different Indian tribes used the San Luis Valley as a sacred hunting and vision-quest area. No Native American ventured into the valley during the winter months where it is not uncommon to find night-time temperatures at minus 20 degrees for weeks at a time. Although no Indians lived in the San Luis Valley full-time, the oldest known continuously inhabited dwellings in North America, the Taos Pueblo, are found at the extreme southern edge of the valley.
Several Southwestern Indian tribes consider the San Luis Valley, most specifically the San Luis Lakes area, to be the location of the Sipapu or place of emergence. The Indians believe that they were led underground to safety at this location just before a cleansing period of earth changes. The Navajo version mentions our current time period as being the end of the fifth world. According to their tradition, they were warned of the upcoming cataclysms by sky katchinas (fireballs?) signaling them the time to travel to the Sipapu was at hand. Once underground, it is said, they were cared for by ant people for several generations until it was safe to re-emerge and re-populate the new world.
Just southwest of the Sipapu stand the tallest collection of promontories in the valley, the Blanca Massif which is considered to be “the sacred mountain of the east” to most Southwestern tribes. This area is where Navajos say star people enter into our reality aboard flying seed-pods. This impressive group of mountains lies at the western edge of a maximum-intensity aeromagnetic zone. The Sipapu lies just to the west of the Blanca Massif and the Great Sand Dunes, at the eastern edge of a minimum-intensity aeromagnetic zone. The Great Sand Dunes National Monument (see Cyberwest’s Colorado’s mystifying sandbox) is the world’s highest (and probably strangest) dune field. Rising almost 700 feet above the valley floor, the age of this 50 square-mile pile of sand is still not precisely known. Official dating puts its age at less than 11,000 years, but it could be older. Some of the earliest traces of man in North America can be found within ten miles of this enigmatic wonder. Man may have visited here before the dunes were formed.
Who are the saucer pilots?
The modern (documented) history of unexplained occurrences in the San Luis Valley began in the early 1950s when green fireballs were seen and reported by thousands of people all across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. In mid-1960s, one San Luis Valley man reported and publicly insisted that he had experienced contact and interaction with “aliens.” Robert Whitting, an Episcopal minister in Alamosa, Colo., claimed he had telepathic contact with beings operating a craft that flew next to his car while traveling on U.S. 160 late one night. He alleged they warned him of a large animal in the road just ahead of him and was able to swerve around a “large black dog” lying dead in his lane. He claimed he then commenced to have the first of several extensive telepathic encounters with the pilots of the craft.
From the fall of 1966 through the spring of 1970 there were hundreds of unidentified flying object sightings and many of the first documented cases of unusual animal deaths (UADs) ever reported. During peak UFO sighting waves in the late ’60s dozens of cars would literally line the roads watching the amazing aerial displays of unknown lights/craft as they cavorted around in the sky above the Great Sand Dunes/Dry Lakes area. Several published photographs of these objects/lights were taken by witnesses in 1967.
Snippy the Horse
It was September, 1967, when the San Luis Valley first gained worldwide recognition with the celebrated case of “Snippy” (or Lady) the Horse. Snippy was found on the King Ranch, at the base of the Blanca Massif, missing all the tissue from the tip of her nose to its shoulders. The heart and brain were missing, and a strange medicine-like odor hung above the horse for several days. There were huge 18-inch “giant horse-like tracks” found near the carcass and the press claimed Snippy’s tracks ended 100 or so feet from where she was found. The horse’s owner, Nellie Lewis, told reporters, “Flying saucers killed my horse,” and later that “They would come out in force one day.”
Although Snippy is widely considered to be the first documented unusual animal death case, it is not a “classic mutilation” by definition. A classic mutilation generally refers to cattle found missing soft-tissue organs, i.e., genitalia, (and/or) tongue, exposed mandible(s), eye(s), ear(s), (and/or) the unfortunate animal is “drained” of blood and fluids. All excision areas look like “surgical” cuts and the surrounding crime scene is devoid of blood or any additional clues. The phenomenon may suggest some kind of experimentation.
After a lull of activity in the early ’70s, during a three-year period starting in August, 1975, local law enforcement officials at times were run ragged by the mysterious cattle surgeons. Dozens of ranchers reported finding livestock, mainly cattle, “mutilated,” and there is evidence suggesting the actual number of cases was much higher than what was officially reported. These reported cases (with a few exceptions) featured crime scenes with an apparent lack of physical evidence (i.e., tracks, blood, footprints, etc.). The ’75 through ’78 period in the San Luis Valley reflected what was going on throughout most of the United States and in parts of Canada: Unmarked helicopters buzzing mutilation sites, numerous UFO and anomalous light sightings, widespread press coverage, and a general indifference by federal authorities concerning these baffling crimes.
Photo by Joseph Falco
Christopher O’Brien lives in and has personally investigated and researched the San Luis Valley for five years. His book, “The Mysterious Valley,” St. Martins Press, will be published in mid-1996. He publishes a bi-monthly report concerning reports and analysis of anomalous activity reported in the San Luis Valley.