As the vigil of All Hallows Eve ends and the sun rises on the Feast of All Saints, some of us will be attending mass today. There we will take the time to venerate those Christians who steadfastly lived out their faith, practiced the virtues and eventually died in our Lord’s friendship. They are an exemplar for us of fellow Christians who pursued holiness in their lives and in effect became visible signs of the same love, life, and light our Lord brought to this dark and disordered world.
Despite the presence of the Church and the work of the saints in Heaven and on earth, it is nonetheless a world that is fallen. A world where there are still many parts of it that are devoid of grace and where the presence of evil, death, and the demonic are essentially just part of the landscape. Some are places where the demonic returned to it seven times worse than it had been, when the Christian faith of the people in the land faded into unbelief. Some are hidden and remote like a far-off battlefield or some unseen corner of a crime-ridden metropolis. Others, are right out in the open, such as the modern temples of Moloch found in any Planned Parenthood clinic.
Then there are places where the saints of our Lord have never (or rarely) trodden, places where the presence of the old gods of pre-Christian times, the “powers and principalities” and the “elemental spirits” that St. Paul spoke of, still reign supreme. With the spookiness of All Hallows Eve still fresh in our minds, let us head out west to the Great Basin to one such place, one that is rife with legends and stories of some truly other worldly happenings.
A Cursed and Desolate Place
Long ago, in the late 1800’s, in the last battles of the West between the Native American tribes, the settlers and the American government, some of these tribes still fought among themselves. Once such conflict was between the Navajo and the Ute tribes, and at one time the Ute’s of of what is now Utah formed an alliance with the U.S. Army to help them drive the Navajo from their land. At the conclusion of one battle, the Navajo were defeated and driven away, but not before leaving something behind. According to one local legend the Navajo cursed the land by unleashing the Yee Naaldlooshii, a Navajo witch who was the polar opposite of the medicine man. Instead of helping people, the Yee Naaldlooshii were shape-shifters and could change “their skins” or transform themselves into the shape of animals and prowl the land for their own evil purposes.
The locus of this cursed land is a large valley in northern Utah that has always had an evil reputation among the Natives Americans. Recently this valley has come into prominence, and in particular, around a ranch that has gone through three owners in the last four decades and has been the hub of all manner of paranormal activity such as,
a. The sighting of wolves that are larger than any natural species (which are not native to Utah) that seemed impervious to gunfire. They also could not be caught since attempts to track them were fruitless and at times the tracks just stopped in the middle of a field. Almost as though the animal was lifted into the air.
b. Abundant poltergeist activity where tools and other items would disappear and reappear in strange locations, such as a posthole digging tool that somehow ended up in the higher branches of a tree.
c. Numerous UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) activity such as moving and stationary lights in the sky. On at least two occasions the owners of the ranch spotted what they thought was a RV driving across the land, only for them to see it rise into the sky and fly away.
d. A New Age hipster arrived at the ranch and asked if he could go to some spot on the ranch to “commune” with whatever powers he thought were present there. As the owners watch the hipster go into a trance, they witnessed a blurred figure (which they described as looking like the alien in the movie Predator when it was using its cloaking device) materialize and rush the hipster.
e. Numerous incidents of cattle mutilations where the blood was completely drained from the carcass and specific organs (like the reproductive ones) were removed with seemingly surgical precision.
f. In more recent times, researchers have attempted to study the paranormal activity on the ranch with scientific equipment. When they did, there were many times when cameras failed, GPS did not work correctly, star navigation software were unable to locate stars and laser lights were seen bending around certain areas. This has given rise to the theory that there is a wormhole or dimensional portal on the ranch, and as unbelievable as it sounds, witnesses have seen openings or tunnels in the sky. On one occasion, a black creature was seen scurrying from one side of the tunnel (from another dimension) and into our world before running off into the desert. The two witnesses who saw this said they smelled the rancid scent of sulphur afterwards.
g. One time the owner was digging a well on top of a butte and after reaching a certain depth, they drill bit began bringing up metal filings, as though there was some large metal structure buried deep within the butte. This of course has only fueled the UAP reports that some large metal craftis buried in the ground.
This ranch has gone by various names (usually the name of the owners), but because of its notoriety and the legend surrounding it, it now goes by a different (and more well-known) name. The Yee Naaldlooshiiis were sometimes referred to as a “skin-changer” or “skin-walker”, and that is the name that has been attach to this truly strange area: Skinwalker Ranch.
The ranch is famous in popular culture and has been the subject of numerous books and documentaries. Most of them are prone to sensationalism and hyperbole for entertainment purposes, but the fact remains that a lot of empirical studies have been done on the place. While many of the paranormal incidents have or can be accounted for by perfectly natural explanations, some of them cannot. The ranch has thus become a modern day battleground between atheistic/secular Scientism and the modern forms of superstition (such as all various conspiracy theories people peddle today) running rampant in our culture which are skeptical or even downright scornful of science.
Interestingly enough though, both viewpoints, despite being radically opposed to each other, are also materialist in their outlook. For at the heart of both of them is not the belief in a “helio” or even a “geo” centric universe, but an ego-centric one. A worldview that places the self and all of its vainglorious musings and sentiments as the beginning and the end of all knowledge and wisdom. Of course, what is generally left out of those two worldviews is the Western notion of a God that has established a well-ordered and hierarchical universe built according to a set of laws. More specifically, these ideological antinomes ignore the Christian narrative of a loving God that chose to become one of us to redeem us and the whole world from evil and death.
This is an option explored by an intriguing podcast called The Haunted Cosmos, where hosts Ben Garrett and Brian Sauvé try to look at the supernatural activity in our world (what they call “high strangeness”) from a Christian point of view. In a three-part series the show did on Skinwalker Ranch, the hosts came up with two conclusions about what they think is going on at the ranch.
One, Garrett’s opinion, is that all of the high strangeness witnessed at Skinwalker Ranch is the result of the conjunction of Native American spirituality (both traditional and the New Age variety) and Mormonism (as a belief system and separate from the institutional LDS church). The Navajo Skinwalker legend, the Mormon belief that the Native Americans are the descendants of the lost tribes of Israel and that God the father is an exalted man from another planet named Kolob (making Mormonism an extra-terrestrial faith) are somehow all connected with all of the ghostly, UAP and other bizarre activity occurring there.
As Garrett says, it is wrapped up with, “the story of the West apostatizing” and in the case of the ranch and Utah, it is a pre-Christian phenomenon where the pagan gods are attempting to maintain their hold on power. Which, is why Garrett says that “increasingly in North America, we have been seeing, and we will continue to see an explosion of demonic counterfeits that are imitating technological advancement to support a materialist and highly advanced extra-terrestrial story.”
Sauvé on the other hand is more blunt and says that some of what has happened at the ranch is plain and simply the activity of demonic forces. He sees Utah as “one of the dark corners of Christ’s world” which is not only pre-Christian “but the religions that have been practiced in this place, still are grossly pagan. It’s just not atheism...it’s this brazen high-handed rebellion against the order that God has placed into the world.” The key to this conclusion for Sauvé is in the reports of the apparent portals to “other worlds” seen at the ranch which he says are,
“a sort of thin place, a nexus place where for whatever reason, maybe it’s just the sheer amount of pagan practices that have occurred there, maybe it’s something else, maybe it’s the providence of God that we can’t see into. But this place is almost a nexus that allows, or gives the demonic entities the ability to have more freedom, where they’re able to express more, where they are able to start their attempt at deception and thwarting the plans of God.”
In short, the reason the ranch and the entire land around it is rife with all of this paranormal activity, is because it is haunted and accursed. And why not? Of all the states in the U.S. Utah is the one state that was never fully Christianized because of its founding by Mormons. A faith that, like the Yee Naaldlooshii, is a skin walker or shape-shifter that takes on the form of a Christian denomination with similar sounding terms and aspects of Christianity but which have entirely different meanings from what traditional Christianity means by them.
Driving the Evil from the Land
When it comes to places like Skinwalker Ranch, believe it or not, they are not as unique as you might think- it’s just the scale and concentration of the events that are responsible for its notoriety. However, there are pockets of these kinds of demonic activity all over the world, and if you ask around you will find that you know someone who has experienced such a place. The question is what should be done?
Simply stated, the ranch, the valley, and all other similar places (big or small) need to be exorcised. Our nation which was founded with the intent of being a shinning city on a hill, has turned into the ultimate infernal “safe space” where the demonic can act with impunity. A nation where every day the lives of thousands of people are “sacrificed” through murder, drug overdoses, and of course abortion all in order to maintain our lifestyle (or the illusion it). A lifestyle that scapegoats others for everything wrong in the world and where we are sedated or stimulated into ignoring or failing to do anything about those problems.
Thus in addition to recognizing the evil in our midst and driving it out, we must also like the saints we venerate today, pursue holiness and rededicate ourselves to the mission of the church and spread the gospel. Better yet, as Evan McClanahan has written, we need to return to the idea of building actual “missions” again, as in physical churches, school, or modern versions of medieval monasteries. Places that can act as both physical and spiritual strongholds in a hostile, haunted, and ever darkening world.
Lastly, we also need the intercession of the saints. A little while back, a relic of St. Jude came through my state and I was able to go see it. Now I realize that relics can be a touchy subject with many Christians, and I am fully aware that relics can be treated superstitiously by those who do not fully understand their proper place in the life of the church. Nevertheless, their significance is validated by Scripture in both the Old Testament (2 Kings 13:21) and the New (Acts 19:12), and is why every altar of every church has a relic within it (Rev 6:9).
Now I fully admit of the subjective nature of my encounter with St. Jude’s relic, but it was nonetheless a humbling experience to be in the presence of something holy, a visible sign of someone who was an apostle of our Lord. And herein lies, the reason we honor all the saints in Heaven on this feast day. Driving out evil requires the presence of holiness, and when we fall short of it in our own lives, we can rely on those saints who are still part of the body of Christ to intercede on our behalf. That is the true power of the saints, who can aid us as we faithfully preach the gospel, partake in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, engage in all the works of faith and mercy, and build up physical places of refugee, as well as the body of Christ in this world and the next.
Photo Credit- history. com