At the end of 2017, The New York Times broke the story of a secretive Pentagon program with a budget of $22 million to investigate UFOs called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). The man who exposed the existence of the program, Luis Elizondo, was the former head of the project. Elizondo’s ongoing efforts to investigate the UFO mystery with his new employer, the To the Stars Academy (TTSA), will be featured in a History Channel series premiering May 31 called Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation.
However, what The New York Times apparently did not know when they published their story is that the program went by a different name at its inception, and the scope of the program was much broader than just UFOs. In fact, according to a senior manager on the project, the investigations included “bizarre creatures, poltergeist activity, invisible entities, orbs of light, animal and human injuries and much more.”
It is unknown whether Unidentified will cover the paranormal aspects of the program. Although Elizondo did work with this paranormal project, he only worked in the UFO division. By the time he was the head of the entire program, the UFO division was all that was left. The rest of the program had been shut down, and you will never guess why. It wasn’t because people inside the Department of Defense (DoD) thought the program was too weird, although some did. It was shut down because of demonic forces.
Don’t worry, demons didn’t attack the Pentagon, but apparently, some people inside the government were afraid the potentially paranormal incidents being investigated could be demonic, especially scary occurrences taking place at a ranch in Utah, and they wanted no part of it. They didn’t want the government messing with demons either, so they lobbied for the program to be ended and it was.
This may sound extremely odd, but according to those involved, it’s true.
The New York Times story that broke the Pentagon UFO program began when an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) approached Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow “to visit Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted research.”
That sounds innocent enough, but what the article did not cover is what Bigelow researched at this ranch in Utah. Bigelow was known for his interest in the paranormal and UFOs, and by the time the DIA official had approached him, Bigelow had already spent decades and large sums of money researching the paranormal. Bigelow’s first significant foray into the unknown was an organization created in 1995 called the National Institute for Discovery Sciences (NIDS). Its purpose was to conduct scientific investigations of the paranormal.
The ranch the DIA official wanted to visit is nicknamed “Skinwalker Ranch,” and is the subject of the 2005 book Hunt for the Skinwalker: Science Confronts the Unexplained at a Remote Ranch in Utah. Las Vegas investigative journalist George Knapp co-wrote the book with biochemist Dr. Colm Kelleher, NIDS’ lead scientist.
After hearing rumors about paranormal phenomena occurring in the Uintah Basin in Utah, primarily focused on Skinwalker Ranch, Bigelow bought the ranch in 1996. It was the perfect place to conduct NIDS investigations. The ranchers who owned the property stayed for a while but left because they did not feel comfortable there. If their stories are to be believed, they had good reason to go.
The family, using the pseudonym Gorman, said they had several terrifying experiences. Among them was the sighting of a giant wolf-like creature that attacked cattle, could withstand multiple point-blank gunshots and seemed to disappear into thin air. The incident that caused them to leave for good, however, was when their beloved dogs chased glowing orbs of light into the forest at night never to be seen again.
The NIDS investigators had their share of experiences as well. As detailed in Knapp and Kelleher’s book, the strangest occurred in the middle of the night while two researchers were observing the ranch from the edge of a bluff. As they were packing up to leave at around 2:30 am, one of them noticed a light in the forest below. At first, they thought it might be a reflection. However, as they watched, the light began to grow. Once it became a couple of feet wide, they say it looked like a tunnel opening up, and they saw a creature within. It was large and black with no face. It crawled out of the light and into the dark forest. The light then began to disappear until it was gone.
Kelleher said years ago he felt whatever was going on at the Skinwalker Ranch outsmarted them and anticipated their actions.
John Alexander, a retired Colonel in U.S. Army Intelligence who also spent time working at Los Alamos Laboratories and still does some work as a defense consultant, helped organize NIDS investigations. In a YouTube interview for OpenMinds.tv in 2013, he describes what they encountered at the ranch as a “precognitive sentient phenomena.”
“What we learned was that the events were real and tangible, and definitely occurring,” Alexander explained. “These weren’t figments of someone’s imagination, or folklore or any of these sorts of things.”
“But, as for the etiology, nope,” says Alexander. ”We remained mystified.”
According to a recent interview with Knapp, Investigations into the ranch petered as the paranormal phenomena occurring on the ranch also waned. By the early 2000s, not much was going on. It was during this lull that Bigelow allowed Knapp to begin working on the book. Once the book was published, it brought a lot of attention to the ranch, but paranormal experiences were still rare.
So when the DIA official approached Bigelow in 2007 to visit the ranch, no one thought there would be anything to worry about. However, precognitive sentient forces on the ranch had other plans. Soon after arriving at the ranch, the DIA official had a paranormal encounter that Knapp described as “remarkable, and it made a very big impression on this guy.”
The New York Times says shortly after this visit, DIA officials met with Senator Harry Reid because they wanted to start a research program. It turns out Reid, a friend of Bigelow’s, was kept in the loop regarding Bigelow’s work researching the paranormal because he shared Bigelow’s interest in the topic.
Reid then found bipartisan support from a couple of fellow members of Congress, secured the funding, and got the project launched – all within 2007. Soon after, a requisition for a contractor to conduct research for the program was posted, and Bigelow’s Bigelow Aerospace won it. Bigelow created Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS), lead by Kelleher, to manage the contract.
However, the project was not called AATIP, as The New York Times reported. Per Knapp and documents he obtained, it was called the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System (AAWSAP), and it was set up to investigate not just UFOs, but primarily all of the weird stuff going on at the Skinwalker Ranch, including that list of weirdness at the beginning of this story.
Due to the nature of the project, it was kept as quiet as possible. Few in Congress knew it existed. However, it didn’t take long for religious factions within the government to raise concerns.
“They’re basically high-level people in different intelligence agencies who are fundamentalist Christians; who think that anything involving UFOs and the paranormal is satanic,” says Knapp.
“Certain senior government officials thought our collection of facts on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) was dangerous to their philosophical beliefs,” Elizondo wrote in a post on Medium. “They decided the data was a threat to their belief system.”
Elizondo explained to Den of Geek that by 2008, the negative attention their paranormal investigations received caused them to create a sub-group inside of AAWSAP that only focused on military UFO cases. This was AATIP. When Elizondo joined AAWSAP (the paranormal program), it was to work with AATIP (the UFO division). Eventually, the DIA closed AAWSAP, and only AATIP remained. Elizondo took over leadership of AATIP in 2010.
As for The New York Times, one of the authors of the article, Leslie Kean, told me via email “at the time, our focus was AATIP. This was the name on the documents that we had, and this is what Lue Elizondo had talked to us about in interviews with him, as did others associated with the program.” Elizondo says that since his involvement was primarily with AATIP and the UFO side of things, he did not feel at liberty to share AAWSAP information with them.
Filmmaker Jeremy Corbell has recently completed a documentary titled Hunt for the Skinwalker. He worked with Knapp, who intended to make a film when the book came out in 2005. The footage Knapp obtained back then is a large part of the new documentary.
“That $22 million that was created to study the phenomenon was really inspired wholly by Skinwalker Ranch and what Bigelow had been doing there privately with NIDS,” Corbell told this reporter in a recent podcast interview. “The public is going to see by watching this film that connection very clearly and yes, our Department of Defense, specifically the intelligence organization within the Department of Defense, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), they took this very seriously…Secrets have been kept, big secrets about this ranch for more than, I would say, two decades, and everybody wondered what has been going on there,” says Corbell. “This has been embargoed, this information. All of that has changed, and this story can now be told.”
These stories, although they sound fictional, are accounts from credible sources, and according to Corbell, Knapp, and Elizondo, there are still more shocking revelations to come. Elizondo recently told Den of Geek, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, baby!”
Those of us following this story have been wondering when the time will come for us to find out more. Elizondo says much of what we have been waiting for will be included in the History Channel series Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation premiering May 31.