Fastwalkers or Shit-Talkers?
An idiot’s take on the confounding nature of the phenomenon and hope for a new way forward.
The fact that DOD had an interest in Skinwalker ranch is a well-established fact. George Knapp — while lecturing at UFO Megacon in 2019–explained how a DIA agent became curious about the ranch after reading his definitive book on the subject Hunt for the Skinwalker, co authored with former NIDS/BAASS member Colm Kelleher. Allegedly he was put into contact with Bob Bigelow — who owned the ranch at the time — and was granted a request for a visit. Within 15 minutes he had what has been described as a “personalized” experience. No one else in the room admitted to seeing it.
The agent was so affected by his experience that he reached out to senator Harry Reid to recount the story. As a result, Reid — along with senators Daniel Inouye and Ted Stevens — decided to fund AAWSAP (Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Applications Program) to study paranormal phenomena, including the high-strangeness events allegedly occurring on a semi-regular basis at Skinwalker Ranch. Joe Murgia (aka UFOJoe) published a thorough synopsis of these events on his blog last year. I highly recommend you read it if you’re unfamiliar with this story.
I have included some relevant statements here (as transcribed by Joe Murgia) from George Knapp, documentarian Jeremy Corbell and Eric Davis (a well-connected scientist and former BAASS member with experience on the ranch).
From Knapp’s Interview with Phenomenon Radio on October 11, 2018:
“It was something that appeared in the air, ten feet away from him, inside a house while he was having a conversation. And it was at such an angle that it was only viewable, of the group that was sitting there, within his line of sight. The thing appeared to him. He was trying to play it cool and not let everybody else know it was there. This guy. He’s a very serious, rock solid, brilliant guy, who had read the book and thought there might be something there of interest to the DIA and the Pentagon and national security. He’s in the main ranch house, hearing some stories from the caretakers who live there and this thing appeared inside the house, in broad daylight. And I’m not gonna get into details but it was pretty distinct and remarkable and it made a very big impression on this guy…
…And that ranch, whatever is there, had in essence given that guy from the DIA an engraved invitation to come back. And he did.”
From Jeremy Corbell’s Phenomenon Radio interview on September 27th, 2018:
“There was an agent, in particular, who went there and as he’s interviewing the people that lived at the ranch, he looks over their shoulder and he sees what looks like a metal, Möbius loop, just presenting itself. Physically, right there. He can see it with his eyes. He doesn’t mention it to the current people who lived at the ranch. And he sees it and it presents itself, even with, I believe some hieroglyphics on them.”
From Joe Murgia’s correspondence with Eric Davis in 2019:
“JL was in the living room of the former NIDS double wide observation trailer/staff quarters. A 3D object appeared in mid-air in front of him and changed shape like a changing topological figure. It went from pretzel-shaped to Möbius strip shaped. It was 3D and multi-colored. Then it disappeared.”
UFO Joe’s article sent me down a rabbit hole. I naturally wanted to know more about Mobius strips and what sort of significance they may have had to “JL” (the not yet publicly known DIA agent who allegedly had the experience). It seems like a fairly distinct shape to display, so surely there was a reason behind it. German mathematicians August Mobius and Johann Listing “discovered” the Mobius strip contemporaneously in 1858. But examples of Mobius strips have been found in ancient Roman mosaics..
Researchers have noted the similarity between some representations and the sideways figure-8 symbol for infinity. But that symbol wasn’t officially used to signify infinity until English mathematician John Wallis did it in 1655. Any relation between these ancient shapes and the concept of infinity is speculative. Perhaps this stems from examples like the one in Figure 2. It was unearthed in a Roman villa in Sentinum and is estimated to have been created around 200–250 CE. The figure standing within the ecliptic depicts Aion, god of eternal time. The symbols on the ecliptic are the signs of the zodiac, but researchers note that the symbols aren’t in their natural positions within the band.
It should be obvious by now I have no expertise in mathematics, archaeology, symbology or any “ology” for that matter. But it seems to me that if you wanted to create an aesthetically pleasing shape on which to display the zodiac, you would pick one which would allow you to display the symbols in the proper positions. This leads me to speculate that perhaps the artists were depicting something they saw and knew was significant, but couldn’t understand why.
Maybe the zodiac symbols were used to imbue meaning to the shape, rather than the other way around.
I’m not sure it’s productive to speculate about symbology from an ancient perspective. It seems unlikely an advanced intelligence would communicate using ancient symbols with vague origins and contested significance (if indeed communication was the intention). Even if we could find reliable scholarship on the meaning, we could never know exactly what the artists’ intentions were when they used these shapes. The possibility remains that these are just instances of art being art. It may just be a coincidence.
But if the story is to be believed — and an intelligence did create a personalized display for a visiting DIA agent — then presumably it did so for a reason. If it could display a Möbius strip, it stands to reason it could display literally anything (especially when you factor in the other phenomena reported at the ranch). So what does the Möbius strip represent to the people familiar with it today? How would someone who knows what a Möbius strip is without looking it up on the internet interpret the shape? The only way for me to find out, was to look it up on the internet. According to wikipedia:
The Mobius strip is the simplest non-orientable surface.
When I read that, it stopped me in my tracks. Did it mean what I thought it meant? Was I interpreting this correctly? I clicked on the word “non-orientable” and found this:
I won’t lie. That definition on it’s own wouldn’t help me to fully understand the concept of orientability. But when you do a google image search for mobius strips, it sort of makes sense:
What is there to notice? None of them look the same. There isn’t a common/regular/normal/right way to orient a Möbius strip. It’s non-orientable. I think I get it. But if I’m wrong feel free to dunk on me in the comments.
I can’t say for sure how “JL” might have interpreted the display he witnessed that day on Skinwalker Ranch. Perhaps it had some sort of deeper meaning for him personally. Maybe one day he’ll give a public statement providing more insight.
But to me — wholly uninformed and overconfident guy on the internet — this seems a lot like shit-talk.
I think this thing — whatever it is — was conveying to “JL” that he couldn’t hope to understand it. It can’t be oriented. It can’t be categorized according to a set of observed characteristics. There isn’t a common/regular/normal/right way to conceive of… whatever this is.
Maybe Knapp was right. Perhaps this was an invitation. But maybe it was also a challenge — a challenge it knew “JL” would understand and accept. I have serious doubts it was simply providing a helpful hint. I don’t think it wanted to give the DIA more clarity. What purportedly goes on at Skinwalker Ranch can be described as many things. Clear and helpful don’t make the list. But maybe this wasn’t bluster. You can issue challenges with true statements. Maybe there’s something we can take away from this mathematical, metaphysical shit-talk.
Labels are generally helpful. As children, we learn to label before we learn to describe. I believe our brains do a similar thing when we think about the phenomenon today. In a certain sense, the characteristics we expect to observe, come from the label, rather than the other way around.
When our primary objective is to determine a label, we are more likely to ignore or dismiss observations which make labeling more difficult.
It is extremely tempting to commit to a narrative which will give us ultimate understanding of the phenomenon. We may find clues in occult rituals, ancient books, forgotten religions, and cave drawings. But it is unlikely that focusing on any one framework will lead to more clarity. If we want to properly describe a mobius strip, we need to look at it from as many angles as possible.
Patterns shouldn’t be dismissed, but they also shouldn’t serve as criteria by which we determine legitimacy.
These aren’t new thoughts. Jacques Vallee spent an enormous amount of time collecting and analyzing data from a wide range of sources. He has been (politely and constructively) critical of those researchers who dismiss “high-strangeness” cases as mere noise. This doesn’t mean he’s been unable to find patterns. By taking a “high” view of the phenomenon he’s formed a rather interesting hypothesis: The Control System.
“I propose the hypothesis that there is a control system for human consciousness. I have not determined whether it is natural or spontaneous; whether it is explainable in terms of genetics, of social psychology, or of ordinary phenomena — or if it is artificial in nature, and under the power of some superhuman will. It may be entirely determined by laws that we have not yet discovered. I am led to this hypothesis by the fact that in every instance of the UFO phenomenon I have been able to study in depth I have found as many rational elements as I have absurd ones, and many that I could interpret as friendly and many that seemed hostile. No matter what approach I take, I can never explain more than half of the facts.
This is what tells me that I am working on the wrong level. And so do all the believers, and this definitely includes the skeptics, because they believe they can explain the facts as strongly as the most enthusiastic convert to Ms. Dixon’s vision of Jupiterian Amazons! I would argue they are all wrong, even Puharich with his disappearing tapes, and Uri voicing from Rhombus 4-D.
There are ways to gain access to the reference level of every control system I know. Even a child, if smart or daring enough, can climb on a chair, change the dial of a thermostat and elicit a response. (The response in question might be a sound spanking from his father, of course. The road to higher knowledge has such accidents.) It must be possible to gain access to the control of the UFO phenomenon, to forget the spirits and the pranks of Rhombus 4-D, and do some real science. But it will take a very smart approach — or a very daring one.” Jacques Vallee , The Invisible College pg. 196
The thing I love about Jacques is that he didn’t come to this determination out of sheer frustration. He didn’t allow the non-orientability of the phenomenon to dissuade him from taking a serious look at the data… all of the data.
I got my BS in applied behavior analysis so I’m fairly familiar with the concepts Jacques uses to undergird his hypothesis. He does a great job of explaining how various schedules of reinforcement can impact the relative strength of the behaviors they’re meant to modify. The stronger the behavior, the less likely it is to extinguish (disappear in the absence of further reinforcement). If you wanted to train a strong behavior in any organism (and thoughts count as a type of internal behavior) you wouldn’t want to reinforce every single instance of the target behavior. You would only reinforce after an unpredictable number of repetitions (ratio schedule). This is how slot machines work. Once you win once you are more likely to continue playing… even if it takes considerably more plays than the last time you won.
Imagine if a slot machine paid out 20 times in a row (fixed ratio schedule) before stopping all together. You might play a total of 5 extra times before moving on to another machine. In other words, the behavior wasn’t very strong. Now, imagine the machine paid out 5 times within 20 plays (variable ratio schedule). It is much more likely that you would continue playing beyond 5 extra plays. In fact, slowly increasing the ratio required for reinforcement within this schedule makes the behavior stronger (which seems counterintuitive).
Something that Jacques didn’t touch on is how you can easily produce “superstitious” behaviors in organisms by switching from a ratio schedule to an interval schedule:
We like to think we’re different from pigeons but our behaviors are more influenced by our environment than we might admit. The same rules that apply to the pigeon’s behavior apply to ours. Behaviorism is generally something that’s meant to apply to the behavior of specific individuals. It isn’t as tried and true with different groups of people over long periods of time. Vallee’s data doesn’t work as a schedule of reinforcement on an individual level. This is global data over a period of 15 years.
There are of course mechanisms by which global consciousness changes over time. It may not seem like it, but we are slowly but surely moving in a given direction as a species. A cursory study of spiral dynamics shows this to be true (especially if your goal is to understand human consciousness rather than optimizing corporate culture). Our thoughts, our behaviors, our way of being as a species has changed and will continue to change over time.
Even if this all sounds like hippie new-age bullshit to you, I highly encourage you to learn more — if only to win arguments against the people who disagree with you about it online. For more in-depth information I recommend reading up on the works of philosopher, Jesuit priest, paleontologist, geologist, and all-around badass Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. I find that a lot of people who are interested in UFOs reference some of his concepts like the noosphere while not really knowing where it comes from or having a broader understanding of the undergirding philosophy.
I am a big believer in the concept that we as a planet are headed somewhere. Even if it’s not true, I think it’s an ideal worthy of hope.
I do not subscribe to a one-size-fits-all solution to the phenomenon. I think it’s very possible that in fact we have been visited by non-human biological entities in nuts-and-bolts craft. And perhaps what happens on Skinwalker Ranch is something different… something that mimics and manifests to thwart and confound. I’m not entirely convinced a “trickster” is responsible for crashed saucers in the desert, landings that leave physical traces, and close encounters with harmful (sometimes long-lasting) physiological effects for those who get too close. But perhaps the distinction isn’t as obvious as it seems. Maybe the two are connected.
Perhaps the lines between the physical and the metaphysical — the real and the imagined — are thinner than we think.
Jacques Vallee’s control theory hypothesis has quite a bit of merit in my (meaningless) opinion. It is undeniable that the phenomenon has an effect on the people who experience it. And perhaps they have an effect on greater society and on it goes. Vallee’s suggestion that there must be a way to “adjust the thermostat” isn’t blind optimism. In fact, such an effect is ever present within the behavioral framework he relies on to build his case.
Behavior change goes both ways. When you train a dog to sit by giving him treats or praise… did you shape your behavior or did he shape yours? If a police officer pulls you over for speeding… did the officer shape your behavior or did you shape his? This is an obvious observation but one that we may be able to leverage to our advantage. Perhaps we don’t need to completely understand the phenomenon to modify its behavior. Can we shape our experiences? Can we alter the display?
This is part one of an ongoing series on the mysterious and confounding phenomena occurring at Skinwalker Ranch. If you enjoyed this piece and want to learn more — I encourage you to read part two, “The Rabbit Hole That Never Ends”.