Reality Checking—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, January 2023
The Mysterious San Luis Valley
by: Brent Raynes
I became acquainted with Tom Adams through correspondence back in 1970. He was then a student at East Texas State University, and was a resident of Paris, Texas. In March 1970, he and two other ETSU students, a Stan Ferguson and a Kye Kastrop, along with a Gary Massey who was attending North Texas State University, and a Ross Henderson who was an instructor with the department of Sociology and Anthropology at ETSU, took their Spring Break (March 20-28) to visit the San Luis Valley of Colorado. The reason was the unusual circumstances surrounding the death of a horse named Snippy that had made nationwide headlines back in September 1967. In a letter to me in February 1970, Tom shared how a friend of his, who taught at ETSU, had done two follow-up phone interviews with Mrs. Berle Lewis, the horse’s owner, in October 1967 and again in January 1970. Tom listened to a taped recording. “Mrs. Lewis mentions the sightings of several smaller-than-a-piper-cub ‘mystery airplanes’ in the area… Mrs. Lewis says that an almost continuous flap has been occurring in the area since and before the time of Snippy’s death. Several people, some of them relatives of hers, have collected various bits of material and such from the area where Snippy was found, and all of this material, kept in three separate private homes, has disappeared without a trace. Mrs. Lewis’ files and materials, which she kept in a candy store (apparently where she works) have also disappeared. On the night of Snippy’s disappearance, a steer and a calf belonging to her brother (who owns the ranch where Snippy was kept) were ‘blinded’. The calf developed some peculiar characteristics, including a ‘balloon-shaped’ bloating of the head and a few other discrepancies. Mr. Don Richmond, the Pueblo APRO representative, reportedly filmed the calf before Mrs. Lewis’ brother destroyed it. Her brother swore Mrs. Lewis to secrecy on this matter and apparently only Richmond (and probably the Lorenzen’s by now) had knowledge of this. Grass has grown in the area around the location of Snippy’s body except that it refuses to grow in an area approximating the outline of the horse’s body.”
Chris O’Brien, the author of Secrets of the Mysterious Valley and Stalking The herd, who came to live in the San Luis Valley and conducted extensive investigations and interviews regarding anomalous activities going on there, described to me in a 2009 interview, when we touched upon possible surveillance of researchers and citizens by possible government operatives, he said: “That’s a whole other interview. I mean, I could curl your toes with some stuff, including my own personal experiences. Most people haven’t a clue when it comes to state-of-the-art military and intelligence agency technology. I’ve had people walking into my house, sneaking around my house, stealing files and photographs, and following me. Some of it I didn’t even know was going on actually. Some of it I did. People who just happened to catch it were clueing me in saying, ‘By the way, when I was broken down on the road last night and I saw you fly by in your little truck, and right behind you was someone following you with their lights out.’ You hear that once or twice and you start to wonder, ‘Well, maybe I’m starting to get close to something.’”
Tom Adams wrote me in a letter dated June 21, 1971, of how he had planned to go with his friends to Colorado in May 1971 for another visit to the great valley, but the day before their scheduled departure his father suffered a rather severe heart attack. Naturally, Tom stayed behind to be with his dad, who fortunately was soon okay. However, his comrades would have an interesting time of it on the trip to the San Luis Valley.
“My three associates – Stan Ferguson, Gary Massey, Charles Cranston – did go to Colorado, arriving there on May 16th and returning to Texas on May 27th. I’m encouraging them to compile notes and data on the trip. We had had great expectations for the trip, but they actually came up with very little new info, being limited by factors such as the weather, which was a bit wintrier than had been anticipated.
“Stan, Gary, and Charles had one notable personal experience. Early on the morning of Monday, May 24th, the three were asleep alone in the Lewis cabin, which is perched on the slope of the Sangre de Cristos overlooking the San Luis Valley, about 12 miles south of the Great Sand Dunes. On several occasions, one or more of the group awakened to observe miscellaneous fleeting lights and shafts of light through the cabin windows and, once, a shadowy figure (upright, slender, 5-6 feet tall) that seemed to glide quickly past the large picture window which faces the valley to the west. Around 3 a.m. a great deal of commotion was heard at the rear of the cabin, and someone or something seemingly attempted to wrench the back door from its hinges. By the time the guys had reached the scene, nothing unusual was to be seen or heard, but in a small sandy area beyond the back door a series of 3-toed apparent footprints were found. The next day, more prints were found in another area of sand and soil 50 yards or so from the cabin. No photos were taken of the tracks (due to a ‘coincidental’ series of events which delayed the photo-taking effort) before wind and elements had sufficiently obliterated them. But, a sketch (approximate actual size) of one of the prints is enclosed. With this in mind, you might check some of the happenings in the Cabin area as noted in our March 1970 Colorado report.”
Stan Ferguson also wrote me on June 19, 1971, of his personal memories of the cabin experience. It was a handwritten message on official U.S. Coast Guard Training Center stationary as he was undergoing recruit training for the Coast Guard at Cape May, New Jersey.
“Nothing happened out of the ordinary until the Sunday night of our second week. Present in our party was Charles Cranston, a graduate student in photojournalism, Gary Massey, a former art student at North Texas State University, and myself. We were ‘encamped’ in the Berle Lewis cabin situated about two miles from the King Ranch, scene of the Snippy incident in 1967. Our interviews with residents of the Valley had produced only a smattering of scattered UFO reports. Other than our interviews, nothing of a paranormal nature had been brought to our attention. This was to change this particular Sunday night. That night we were very tired for having stayed up the previous night for a UFO watch and gab session with Don Richmond of APRO. Consequently, we were in our sleeping bags and lights out by 10:30 p.m. Not long after the lights were out a series of strange events began to occur. I was laying on a fold away couch in the front room of the cabin. Gary Massey and Charles Cranston were laying in sleeping bags on the floor beside me. Facing us was a large picture window which looks out into the valley. The curtains on the window were drawn except for a small space in the middle. To continue, about 10 minutes after retiring I saw a black figure moving effortlessly across the front porch. All I could see was a shadow or an object blocking out the existing night light. I immediately called this to the attention of my drowsy comrades, We all jumped with guns in hand, ran to the window, but did not venture outside. Gary Massey was insistent on going outside but Charles and I were just as opposed to the idea as Gary was in favor of it. Two to one, we won. Tired as we were, it was not long before we were settled down again – despite the excitement. Less than an hour later (we were unable to sleep) we all observed flashing lights entering the room through the large picture window. Later Charles was to tell us of an event he alone observed but failed to mention at the time. “We all jumped out of our comfortable sleeping bags again, looked outside, but could see nothing. Again, Gary wanted to investigate outside. Again, he was out voted. Somehow, we settled down to an attempted slumber, but our attempt was short lived. 45 minutes to an hour later, all heck broke loose. Something ran from the front of the cabin root to the rear and back again. Seconds later something grabbed the back door the cabin and shook it. It sounded like the whole building was falling down. We all grabbed rifles (whatever was out there didn’t appear too friendly) and leveled them at the back door. Gary yelled, ‘Who’s out there?’ The noise stopped immediately after Gary’s utterance. Rather than staying inside we all voted to go outside. [We were up there for the purpose of solving a mystery. Our goal would not be accomplished, we decided, by staying in the cabin] We cautiously opened the back door of the cabin. Nothing in sight. We looked around for footprints or tracks. Three feet beyond the back door in a pile of dirt we found one of the strangest tracks any of us had observed. It was a three ‘toed’ track and was triangular in shape. Similar tracks were found in an area below the cabin around a fishpond. We felt that the thing that raised the havoc might still be around. Photographs should have been made of the prints, but we didn’t want to take the chance of exposing ourselves to a potential unknown danger. Unfortunately, the tracks were pretty well obliterated the next morning by a high wind. Earlier, I stated that Charles failed to report an observation. He had seen a light coming through the chimney in the fireplace. The fire had burned down so we have no explanation.”
Other odd events at the Lewis cabin
In a 23-page summary that Tom Adams shared with me of their week in the San Luis Valley back in March 1970 I read the following intriguing paragraphs: “On one occasion, Mr. (Don S.) Richmond was in the Lewis cabin observing the San Luis Valley from the picture window. He heard a sound as though something had struck the roof of the cabin. He grabbed a flashlight and approached a door leading to the outside. He stopped at the door, and he feels that here he may have received some type of ‘contact.’ He felt that something had told him that a ‘surveying disc’ had accidentally struck the cabin roof and rapidly moved off. He also sensed that he was being told not to go outside to investigate. Mr. Richmond hesitated for 45 minutes before going outside, only to find nothing.
“On another occasion, Mr. Richmond saw a large white light from the cabin window and called it to the attention of Dr. Leo Sprinkle and others present. When the others left the cabin to observe it, the light had begun to fade rapidly from view. Mr. Richmond feels that this was his best sighting, personally.”
“Mr. Richmond said that, on the night when something struck the roof of the Lewis cabin, he felt that ‘something’ had told him to leave the cabin area, not to return until it would be indicated that it was safe to return. The Richmond’s left the cabin and did not return for three months. Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Berle Lewis also felt that refrain from staying at the cabin. They also remained away for the same three-month period. One night, the Richmond’s and the Lewis’s both decided independently that it was safe to visit the cabin, which they did.” “Mr. and Mrs. Lewis at one time had an extended stay in northern Colorado and were returning home to Alamosa, although they were both extremely tired. They left Walsenburg and began the approach to the eastern slope of La Veta Pass. Suddenly, and much to their amazement, they found themselves driving down the western slope of the pass. They could not recall having actually driven over the pass. They reached Alamosa, checked their watches, and noted that, to have made the trip from Walsenburg to Alamosa in the time indicated, they would have had to have traveled at a speed of well over 100 miles per hour.”
“Mr. (Kenneth) Wilson is a member of APRO. He stated that he and his wife had seen primarily ‘lights’ as opposed to ‘objects.’ However, on one occasion, Mr. Wilson did observe a ‘disc’ on a moonlit night. He went on to say that other persons had seen objects, and these were of various shapes. He said that, generally, more anomalies are seen up on and around the mountains rather than down in the San Luis Valley.
“On one occasion, Mr. Wilson was returning from the Great Sand Dunes with a lady who is a good friend of theirs. They were traveling south on the Sand Dunes Road when, after passing the Zapata Ranch area, the lady noticed something in the valley to the right of them, and commented that she didn’t think that there was a motel in that part of the valley (that portion of the Valley is uninhabited). Mr. Wilson glanced to his right and did indeed see what he described as ‘walls’ on a structure which appeared to be about two stories tall. They stopped their vehicle and backed up to the point from which they had seen the ’structure,’ but it was no longer to be seen.
“The Richmond’s allowed us to hear their taped testimony of witnesses to several other UFO sightings and we taped some of these for our own files. We were then shown the Richmond’s 8mm movies of several anomalous lights in different locations of the King Ranch at the time of the original ‘Snippy’ investigations, and of the deformed calf which Harry King said had been blinded, apparently on the night of Snippy’s death. …During his investigations at the King Ranch following Snippy’s demise, Mr. Richmond found that the roots of grass in an area near Snippy’s carcass had been singed. It was noted that similar findings had been made in the case of the Florida Scoutmaster Sonny Desvergers.
“The Richmond’s have investigated the report of Kenneth Flack, a college student who resides in Pueblo. One night Mr. Flack was driving along on a highway at the northern end of the San Luis Valley. He was about to pass two other vehicles, a Ford with a Texas license plate and a camper containing a family from Pueblo. As Flack was about to pass, the lights on all three vehicles went out and the motors stopped. Flack pulled over to the side of the highway and noticed a light in a field off to his right. The light seemed to be approximately 350 yards away. Flack left his car, crossed a fence which stood about 50 yards from the highway, and proceeded toward the light. Flack then noted that the light originated from a ‘football-shaped object.’ The object appeared to be suspended a short distance above a base of some sort which exhibited three tripod-like legs upon which it rested. As Flack approached the object, he noted that the ‘football’ seemed to ‘swivel’ such that one end pointed toward him. At this time Flack observed a ray or light which originated from the object. The light reached him and, as he began to throw up his hands in front of him, he blacked out. His next sensation was of extreme coldness, and he realized that someone was carrying him. The passengers had observed Flack from the highway as he approached the object. They saw the object turn toward him and, although they did not see a light or ray originating from the object, they noted that Flack was suddenly enveloped by an aura of light and he appeared to become paralyzed. The legs of the object’s base then appeared to fold under the base and the object rose into the air and took off at high speed toward the northeast. The passengers in the other two vehicles noted that the aura surrounding Flack remained for 5 minutes after the object had vanished from sight. The aura then disappeared, and they approached Flack, who at that time was regaining consciousness, noting when they touched him that he seemed very cold. The persons in one of the vehicles then took Flack to his college dormitory.
“Flack later testified that the people from Texas were named ‘Martin,’ and he did not get the name of the persons in the camper, although they were from Pueblo. Flack placed a want-ad in the local paper in an attempt to locate the camper, but to no avail. The “Martins” reportedly took one or more photographs at the time of the incident. Flack reported the incident to the Condon Committee and ‘Mrs. Martin’ supposedly reported the incident by letter to the Condon office.
“The Richmonds taped an interview with Kennth Flack, which they allowed us to hear.”
Two odd men stole Nellie Lewis’ journals with UFO entries from the Lewis Cabin.
“Roger Laborde is a world-famous coma specialist,” Chris O’Brien told me in an interview in 2009. “He travels around the world helping families and he either helps bring back coma patients or he gives them permission to pass over. I met him early on when I moved to the San Luis Valley.” A family man with two daughters Roger had a strange story about an odd incident at the King ranch back in 1988. Chris said: “They had told me this incredible story that they worked with the Universal Educational Foundation and the group had just bought the upper King ranch and they were up there cleaning it out and they found these loose-leaf journals, evidently written by Nellie Lewis, the owner of Snippy, and they put them down in the house on the counter in the kitchen. Two guys left, dressed in slacks with their shirts off and just their undershirts on, and they were like cleaning up and everybody thought that they were somebody else’s friend and nobody, in retrospect, knew who they were. They left and the journals were gone.” “This happened before I got involved in any of the investigation work. This was just friends telling me an unusual story. I was just a gigging musician who was working construction. So, they had no reason to tell me something like that unless it had really happened, and then checking with other people who were there at the work party I was able to verify that yes, they had found these unusual journals, and they ended up disappearing. These two guys that had been there nobody knew who they were. Everybody thought they were somebody else’s friends.” In his book Secrets of the Mysterious Valley (2007), Chris added how the clean-up crew all briefly examined the papers in which there were descriptions and drawings of alien looking craft and sketches of “strange beings in robes,” with a “triangle and snake emblem” displayed on the robes.
Chris describes in Mysterious Valley how Roger directed him to Berle Lewis, who then was working nearby as a maintenance man at the Great Sand Dunes Country Club. He asked Mr. Lewis who he could talk to in order to learn more about the animal deaths. “Call them Paris, Texas boys,” Chris was told. “Tom Adams and Gary Massey. They know more about these things than anyone, ‘cept maybe that TV lady” (referring to Linda Moulton Howe).
Chris became very involved in investigating UFOs (had some impressive sightings himself), paranormal phenomena (wasn’t a stranger to that either), and deeply involved in the “mute” cases (cattle mutilations) too. We discussed one really head scratcher of a case involving a bull found inside of an abandoned adobe shack. He said: “There’s no way that bull could have even gotten in through the door, let alone laid it on this huge construction table that was a foot and a half off the ground. It was an almost 2000-pound bull, so it was a real stout, sort of rustic table that they had built. I didn’t actually investigate that case. It happened in 1975. This was an early case in Costilla County. It made the front page of the local paper and there was a photograph of the animal and no one could figure it out. They couldn’t even have gotten it into the adobe shack if they had walked it in, let alone carried a dead animal in. They had to tear down a wall to get it out.” I told Chris that I had spoken at the UFO Watchtower in Hooper in August 2008, at their annual UFO conference, a location close to the Sand Dunes that is below Blanca Peak. “Well, Blanca and the Dunes,” Chris told me, “That’s ground zero, or sort of Grand Central Station for the Valley in terms of where most stuff goes on.” I then pressed a bit more about the Watchtower location. “Well, I’m not sure that I would have built it, but if I was going to do it that’s exactly where I would have put it.” He described the location as: “Perfect. A front row seat.” Chris and I touched upon the Trickster, Skinwalkers, witches, and shapeshifters. “The lore sort of where the Hispanic culture meets the Apache,” Chris said. “That sort of mid-16th century realm. Very, very difficult to really investigate. To research, yeah, you can find some things, but to actually investigate and find primary witnesses is very, very difficult. I was able to do it in a few cases and there is something I think there. I do believe that on some level there are dark adepts that are able to shape shift, that are able to fly. I had a woman who really impressed me. She claimed that when she was eight years old her grandmother was training her to be a bruja, to be a witch. One day she clutched her to her chest and together they flew through the mountains. This was back in the 1950s and it was so traumatic for her that she turned back on her family and became a born-again Christian. She never forgot how disconcerting it was to actually be exposed to a relative having these fantastic abilities.”
In Mysterious Valley Chris has a section about Priscilla Wolf, an Apache storyteller who lived near Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time my wife Joan and I spoke at Hooper’s UFO Watchtower Conference, Priscilla was also a speaker and had invited us to stay at her home and travel with her to Colorado and visit different sites, like a 17-mile long mesa composed of countless volcanic rocks (upon which there were thousands of ancient Native petroglyphs) near Albuquerque, an extinct volcano in Colorado where she said there was a portal, describing how as a young person she had seen “black disks flying around and just totally going into the volcano,” and a visit to the Great Sand Dunes. She was filled with lots of stories and local folklore about Skinwalkers, supernatural beings, and UFOs.
Sadly, Tom Adams and his friend and colleague Gary Massey have both passed on. They both spent many years devoted to investigating the anomalies of Colorado and elsewhere. Tom edited Stigmata, a newsletter devoted to the cattle mutilation phenomenon and controversy, which all began with the Snippy case of 1967. Sven Freller, a Fortean correspondent in Germany, recently sent me a link to a blog posting by Loren Coleman that contained details on their lives and contributions to the field. One reader of this post remarked on how tragic that both men seemingly died alone and with very little recognition given for their work and contributions in trying to solve these Fortean anomalies that they had devoted so much of their lives to. Massey’s passing was especially heartbreaking. Here’s that link: https://copycateffect.blogspot.com/2018/06/Adams-Massey-Obits.html
A good many emotional memories were stirred as I poured through my material to present this column. The year I became acquainted with Tom, which was 1970, I was just 18. We hit it off immediately. When I moved to Tennessee, we had always talked about one day meeting in person, but it never happened. He agreed that first year we met to be a consultant for my then mimeographed newsletter entitled the Scientific Sauceritis Review. For a teenage newcomer to ufology, I had connected with a good number of quality folks. Even Loren Coleman and Lucius Farish were my SSR consultants. This January I have been chasing anomalies for 56 years of my 70 years on this planet. As you can imagine, and fellow old-timers in this business will relate, you lose many great friends and colleagues over the years in this work, people with whom you shared similar drives, hopes and dreams of eventually solving some of this stuff. Looking for a breakthrough of some kind. It can take a bit of an emotional toll. The lack of real progress is frustrating. A good half century ago, Keel called ufology an infant belief ridden pseudoscience and I’m afraid it largely remains much the same. Of course, it’s always good and necessary to look back and re-examine the past, review where we’ve been, what we’ve come to understand, noted and accomplished up to this point, and strive to determine how that knowledge may best serve us in our future endeavors.
Today’s foot soldiers who also seek to tackle these mysteries will be standing on the shoulders of Tom and Gary, and many others who did their damnedest to move the needle forward, to separate the signal from the noise – the proverbial wheat from the chaff.
On to the next.