Was it UFOs? Mystery haunts eastern plains

ISGP section: UFO press reports index

December 25, 2005
(also appeared in The Jackson Hole Star Gazette - Saturday, January 07, 2006 - 'I've got to think it's UFOs')

Cattle rancher Clyde Chess never learned who — or what —killed his heifer 11 years ago, removing its lips, tongue, ears, heart and reproductive organs with laserlike precision.

But he has a theory.

“I suspect, and I know it sounds far-fetched, it was government testing,” said Chess, who has a ranch in Rush. “They’re the only ones that have that kind of technology.”

This is eastern El Paso County, where stories of mysterious black aircraft, unexplained lights in the sky and bizarre cattle experimentation aren’t considered too farfetched. Many remember the string of cattle mutilations that oc- curred in the 1970s and happen to this day.

Of course, it’s been a long time since Colorado ranchers sat on their porches at night with shotguns, scanning the sky, but there’s a new mystery on the eastern plains, one involving the unexplained deaths of six horses and a burro in Calhan.

The case has UFO investigators talking about aliens and mysterious black helicopters. Several have launched their own investigations into the deaths.

The truth, they say, is out there.

“Is this a mystery? It’s a huge mystery,” said Linda Moulton Howe of Albuquerque, N.M., author of “An Alien Harvest,” a book about the cattle mutilation phenomenon. “What it all means I don’t know. But do I think humans did that? Absolutely not.”

The facts are sparse:

Oct. 11, six horses and a burro — all healthy — were found dead in a field near Calhan.

The veterinarian who examined them, Dr. John Heikkila, ruled out a winter storm, disease, toxic plants and lightning. Officials remain puzzled by the quarter-inch puncture holes in the animals’ hides, originally thought to be gunshot wounds, but no evidence of bullets was found.

Toxicology tests for common poisons came up negative, and expensive testing for “unusual possibilities” was not done, because of cost, Heikkila wrote in his Nov. 20 autopsy report. He concluded that an unusual toxin, delivered through a dart or pellet, caused the deaths.

The horses’ owner, Bonny Blasingame, also thinks they were poisoned. She doesn’t know who would do it, but others have an idea.

“I’ve talked to several of my friends who think that it’s aliens,” Blasingame said. She said she didn’t laugh.

Fears were heightened by the deaths of 16 more horses, found near Calhan on Oct. 22, though investigators determined lightning caused the deaths.

Howe, who has written several books and produced television documentaries on strange phenomena, wrote an extensive report on the deaths on her Web site, www. earthfiles.com. She has seen similar puncture holes in dead livestock elsewhere.

“Unusual animal deaths have long been associated with odd, silent black helicopters that have dissolved into misty clouds and unidentified lights and beams in the sky and pastures,” she wrote.

Leslie Varnicle, state director of the Mutual UFO Network, has also looked into the deaths. She said a teenager spotted a strange aircraft in the Calhan area Oct. 21. She thinks it’s no coincidence.

“You had the animal deaths and, in the same time and area, an observation of this V-shaped craft,” Varnicle said. “In the back of my mind, I think there is a connection.”

Eastern El Paso County is fertile ground for such theories.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the area was among many parts of the West to see a string of cattle mutilations. Typically, soft tissue such as the lips, rectum and sexual organs were removed, with little blood or signs of a struggle evident.

There was an FBI investigation, and in 1979 a summit attended by scientists, law enforcement officials from several states, UFO investigators and a U.S. senator. The wave died out around the mid-1980s. In New Mexico, National Guard helicopters patrolled pastures.

But mysterious livestock deaths never stopped here. According to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, there have been 26 unusual or unexplained livestock deaths since 1989. No arrests have been made.

The presence of two Air Force bases and NORAD only fuels the speculation.

Said Varnicle, “We jokingly say, ‘Yeah, they moved Area 51 over to Peterson’” Air Force Base.

Some cases have been truly bizarre. In January 1996, Trucktonarea rancher James Richard White found one of his cows dead, with an entire eye socket surgically removed.

According to a Sheriff’s Office report, White told a deputy he had seen black helicopters in the area before, hovering a couple hundred feet above the ground, not making a sound. And on the night his cow was killed, his television flickered.

“I really couldn’t tell you exactly what it was. I know what I saw and what I reported,” said White, who still owns a ranch.

In 1994, Simla rancher Ted Hasenbalg found one of his bulls mutilated, the third to die strangely since the 1970s.

“I’ve got to think it’s UFOs. That’s the only thing logical,” Hasenbalg said. “I think anything’s possible, because we don’t know if we’re the only life in the universe.”

UFO investigators say the recent Calhan incident, although it differs from classic mutilations in several ways, could be connected.

“You have a minimum of information here on these animals to connect them to anything nonterrestrial, like we can with the cattle,” said Richard Sigismund, a Boulder social scientist who spoke at the 1979 summit. “But on the other hand, that same minimum of information prevents you from connecting it to anything.”

Varnicle, of the Mutual UFO Network, said she continues to ask questions about the deaths.

“I would love to catch someone doing it, whether it’s the military, E.T. or Joe Joker,” she said.

Sheriff’s Office investigators have also heard plenty of theories, among them top-secret military lasers and ice bullets. They believe the answer is more mundane, probably some sort of toxin that didn’t show up in the tests.

“We believe there’s a logical explanation. We just haven’t found it yet,” sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Clif Northam said. The investigation remains open.

Some ranchers have expressed concern about the killings, but Jim Brewer, president of the El Paso County Farm Bureau, dismisses talk of UFOs and secret experiments. He thinks the deaths were weather-related.

“It was a bad thing, but it wasn’t somebody out trying to kill livestock,” Brewer said.

For Blasingame, the horses’ owner, the case is more than a story worthy of “The X-Files.” She loved the horses that were killed.

One horse survived the incident, a 6-month-old filly named Santanna, whose mother was among those killed. The horse remains skittish, jumping at the slightest sound.

“I wish she could talk. I’d give anything if she could talk,” Blasingame said. “She’d have a story to tell.”