I had thought that the interest in cattle mutilations had waned in recent years. I thought that the evidence had suggested terrestrial explanations for those mutilations. In fact, I had thought that those terrestrial explanations dealt mostly with nature at work with an occasional intervention by a human agency.
I would be wrong.
Tucker Carlson is revitalizing the mutilation controversy without understanding the years of investigation that had solved the mystery, contrary to what he might think. His interest is that of a novice who believes that he had discovered something that the rest of us have missed.
My problem here, which I freely admit, is that I haven’t seen his whole documentary. I have seen the promos for it and I have seen an interview with him, but the documentary is hidden behind a paywall known as Fox Nation and I refuse to add money to their coffers.
The first thing that I noticed in the promo was the claim that more than 10,000 cattle had been mutilated. It seemed that this was a current figure, but those of us who had been around this aspect of the UFO phenomenon for very long, recognized it. I believe it was Tom Adams who created that number in the 1970s. At the time it was admitted to be an estimate based on the numbers of cases that were being reported then, but not on any recognized statistical analysis.
That number was reinforced when Jack Hitt reported in GQ (February 1997), “Since 1967, 10,000 cows have inexplicably turned up dead, their ‘soft tissues’ removed.”
That Carlson was using that 25-year-old quote seems to suggest that no animals had been mutilated in the last two and a half decades. Sure, I’m playing something of a semantics game here, but seriously, isn’t that number suggestive of superficial research into a topic that has been around for a lot longer.
I got involved in this in the mid-1970s when Jim Lorenzen of APRO called to ask if I could look into a series of mysterious cattle deaths in Minnesota. Let’s think about that for a minute. In the mid-1970s, the news media was worried about cattle dying in the field. I even remember the CBS Evening News reporting on it. Dead cows taking up part of their 22-minute broadcast of the important news of the day.
But I digress…
Lorenzen told me of reports of cattle slaughtered, circles melted in the snow that were reminiscent of UFO landing cases, landing marks in the ice on a nearby lake, and, of course, dead animals. The was also a mention of Satanic Rituals that were somehow involved. I called Bob Cornett and we made plans to travel to Minnesota as quickly as possible.
Bob and I spent a week in Minnesota. We learned that the landing traces talked about had mundane explanations. The farmer told us that the circles melted in the snow were the result of decomposition of silage left behind when silos were moved, creating the illusion that something round had landed. The landing gear marks were the result of a farmer chopping holes in the ice to get water for his livestock.
In fact, working with Michael J. Douglas, the news director at a local radio station, we were not able to find any evidence that UFOs were involved. It seemed, based on our work there, that misinterpretation of the evidence was the problem rather than some agency, meaning human or alien, was responsible. Everything we saw there related to the mundane.
We weren’t the only ones who had found little in the way of a mystery. Dane Edwards, publisher of the Brush, Colorado Banner, said that the mutilations were not a recent development. He first heard about them in 1963, when he lived in Texas. He said that he had traced the history back to 1961. He didn’t follow up until 1969 when eight cows were killed along the Texas-Mexico border. Again, there wasn’t any coverage and he thought nothing of it until the mutilations began in Colorado. He said that there had been six cows killed in one night.
Edwards was now interested in the phenomenon but he didn’t like the theories proposed by the local authorities. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation said that the cattle were dying of natural causes. Predators and scavengers were attacking the carcasses. According to them, the areas most vulnerable to animals were the very parts that were “removed” by the mutilators, whoever or whatever they might be. Carl Whiteside of the CBI, released a report that there had only been a single mutilation in Colorado that couldn’t be explained as something natural.
That sort of idea wasn’t confined to Colorado. Craig Beek of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation said that he didn’t think there had been a single mutilation in Iowa. At the height of the mutilation scare in the fall of 1975, there had been a rumor that Satanic cultists had used a gas grenade to kill six cows in Dubuque, Iowa. Vets who examined the cows reported that all six had died of Blackleg.
Roy Kebech, assistant director of the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Investigations said that about ninety percent of the mutilations they investigated happened after the animals had died. Kebech was quick to point out that the mutilations he was talking about had been caused by scavengers.
Back in Iowa, I think I might have solved another part of the mystery after talking with men who worked at a local packing house. They had found the remains of several cows and had cut them up as a joke. They laughed at veterinarians’ claims of surgical expertise of the mutilators, though I’m not certain that it was veterinarians who had originally made the surgical precision claim.
CBS News reported that in one case, a blue plastic valise containing a cow’s tongue, ear and a scalpel had found at a mutilation site in Colorado. They didn’t know how it had gotten there, but believed it had been dropped by humans rather than aliens.
Robert Lounsberry, the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture claimed in 1977, that he might have accidentally solved the mutilation problem. He thought that insurance companies should investigation some of the reports. He noted that farmers with policies that didn’t pay for the natural caused deaths of the animals, might be inclined to mutilate the body for the insurance money.
I found some evidence of that in Wisconsin. Percy Stitch, the Grant County Sheriff told me that a cow found mutilated on a Grant County farm had died of respiratory failure. A local vet, Dr. Jeff Davis, told me that he knew of a mutilation in which an ear had been raggedly hacked off a dead animal. He said mutilation had happened after death. Davis said that the animal had been sickly from birth and the death would not be compensated by the insurance company, unless there was another cause of death.
According to Whiteside, Beek, and Kebech, there was another factor in play here. Ranchers and farmers never really looked at the dead animals before the hysteria about cattle mutilations swept the country. Now, any cow found with any sort of mutilation damage, whether it fit into a pattern or not, was another victim of the mysterious mutilators.
In fact, there was article published in an obscure and now defunct magazine, The Zetetic, which evolved into The Skeptical Inquirer. A sociologist, Dr. James R. Stewart, studied two groups of mutilation reports, one from Nebraska and another from South Dakota in 1974 in an article entitled “Collective Delusion: A Comparison of Believers and Skeptic.” He suggested that the mutilations began as an expression of concern for the herd. The death is seen as unusual when the rancher is anxious as outside forces, such as the prices of feed, climb wiping out any profit. He noted that it seemed the mutilations didn’t affect dairy herds because of government subsidies, which meant the farmer was not concerned about some of those outside influences.
Stewart showed there was a positive correlation between the number of reported incidents in a prescribed area and the number of news inches devoted to livestock mutilations by the media.
Steward also wrote, “Local law enforcement personnel have little, if any, experiences in determining the causes of cattle deaths. Consequently, they were inclined to adopt the farmer’s explanations in the absence of any solid refuting evidence of their own. The same was true of some local veterinarians. Rarely do they examine dead cattle; instead they are usually asked to treat living animals.”
This sort of thing has been seen in the past. In 1954, there was the great windshield pitting epidemic in Washington state. It seems that after there were stories about the H-bomb tests in the Pacific, a few people living north of Seattle noticed small, pinhead-sized nicks in their windshields. There were a few reports from a Naval base not that far from Seattle and then, in one two-day period, there were more than 3,000 reports of damage to the windshields in cars in Seattle.
And then the hysteria faded. The explanation was not damage caused by radioactive fall out but by asphalt kicked up from the roads. It wasn’t something new. The damage had always been there, it was just that most people didn’t notice it. They never really looked at the windshields as opposed to looking through them.
To try to determine what was happening in the world of cattle mutilations, retired FBI agent Ken Rommel was commissioned to make an independent study. His report, which ran to 297 pages, was an investigation of the mutilations in New Mexico. I corresponded with Rommel a number of years ago and he provided me with a copy of his lengthy report.
One point that Rommel made, and something that I heard in either the promo for Carlson’s documentary, or in the interview of him, was the term surgical precision. Rommel suggested that you have sheriff “Numnutz [his term, not mine] saying it looks like laser surgery.” The reporters love the quotes like that but never ask about the sheriff’s experience with laser surgery or bother to get some sort of confirmation from a real expert.
In keeping with those thoughts from Rommel, I noticed that one of the comments made back then and repeated today is that the mutilation phenomenon goes back hundreds of years. Supposedly, there was an unexplained death of dozens of sheep in 1606. It was claimed that “nothing was taken from the sheep but their tallow and some inward parts, the whole carcasses, and fleece remaining behind. Of this sundry conjectures but most agree that it tendeth towards some fireworks.”
I confess that I have no real idea what the last part of the entry means. The idea that what was taken was tallow, makes some sense, since tallow was used for a number of things including making soap and candles. The inner parts, which I suspect were the “offal meats,” would be the nutritional value.
There is additional information about these mutilations. The Washington County Sheriff Herb Marshall, in 1979 kept a recently dead cow under observations for two full days. Over that time, bacteria caused the skin to tear in a manner consistent with the cuts described by ranchers and farmers. Expanding gas split the stomach to expose the internal organs. Blowflies laid eggs in the soft tissues of the eyes, lips and anuses. The maggots, hatched in as little as ten hours, then would eat the soft tissues to the bone. For Sheriff Marshall, that ended the controversy and explained the mutilations.
These observations were duplicated in Alberta, Canada, in 1989, when researchers there published the results of their investigation. They concluded, “The parts reported missing from mutilated cattle are the same as those known to be removed by scavengers, primarily coyotes and birds, in the early stages of scavenging a carcass… the mutilations are the work of scavenger animals, mainly coyotes and birds; the mutilations occur after the animal has died; and any investigation of bizarre gross findings in dead cattle must rule out scavenging beyond any reasonable doubt before proceeding to investigation of other possibilities.”
I have heard these precision incisions, these surgical cuts as a reason we can rule out natural causes. I don’t know how they came up with this idea and I have never seen anything to suggest it is true. The Arkansas observations argues against this idea. It’s just one of those statements that is repeated without any sort of documentation or evidence. I had to wonder where the idea originated and what evidence produced the theory, but I have never found a satisfactory answer. Maybe Tucker Carlson has one.
I also noticed that in one of the photographs used during the promo there was a New Mexico State Trooper near the body of a cow. We are told that there are no footprints around it and by extension, there is no evidence of scavengers. But a look at the cow shows bird droppings all over it.
|Mutilated animal with bird droppings suggesting a mundane cause for the mutilations.|
Yes, I have looked at the other side of the debate. Criticism has been directed at Ken Rommel, suggesting that during his investigation he didn’t see a “classic” mutilation. I read where he didn’t personal inspect the dead animal but sat, upwind, in the car while someone else gathered the evidence. An examination of his report that is now backed up by these other observations in Arkansas and Canada and additional conclusions drawn by experts rather than ranchers and farmers, and my own investigations that revealed a profit motive (I’ll freely admit, a rather limited explanation) and copycat mutilations, reduces the overall mystery to virtually nothing.
This is now much longer than I intended. Of course, had I paid to see Carlson’s report, it might have been much longer. It was the promo and the interview that suggested the direction of his documentary. I would assume that someone on his staff found a copy of Rommel’s report, and I would hope some would read Mute Evidence by Daniel Kagan and Ian Summer. And, yes, I have read the books by Christopher O’Brien and Linda Moulton Howe, the reports written by Tom Adams and others.
But, based on my investigations and my research, I believe that the solution to the cattle mutilation phenomenon has been discovered. It is not aliens with a taste for cow anus. It is not a government program of either searching for evidence of biological contamination or test of biological weapons. The rather mundane solution is simple scavenging and predation by animals and insects. I don’t know what Tucker Carlson has decided to bring this back into the limelight but he had done a real disservice by doing so.
Coming up on September 28, I’ll talk with Chris O’Brien who has written several books about cattle mutilations including Stalking the Herd to provide, well, a different perspective on the topic. Chris has worked with sheriffs and others during his years long investigation.
Next week, I’ll be talking with Tom Carey about his investigation into the Roswell case and other aspects of the UFO phenomena. Since he had been around UFO research for decades, it will provide and interesting commentary on the state of UFO research.
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