My special guest tonight returning to the show is Linda Moulton Howe who's here again to discuss the ongoing mystery of cows found on ranches with organs and tissue removed without an ounce of blood spilled.



1973 mutilations

On December 4, 1973, law enforcement reported a wave of cattle mutilations in seven counties across Kansas and Nebraska.[11] Sexual organs were reported having been removed. Weeks later, it was reported 38 mysterious cattle deaths had occurred across 11 counties.[11][12] Multiple lab tests suggested many of the animals had died from "blackleg", a cattle disease.[13]

1974 mutilations and unidentified helicopters[edit]

By June 1974, mutilations were reported to have spread to Lancaster County, Nebraska. On August 20, 1974, the Lincoln Journal Star reported strange, unidentified helicopters shining spotlights into fields that would soon become mutilation sites.[14] One investigator claimed helicopter sightings had become a nightly occurrence, with both the FAA and the National Guard reportedly being unaware of any helicopter activity.[14]

After ranchers began forming night vigils, the National Guard warned its helicopter pilots to fly at higher than normal altitude to avoid fire from "jittery farmers".[15] State leaders called for an investigation.[16]

By October 1974, it was reported that UFO conspiracy theorists considered cattle mutilations might be related to flying saucers.[17]

Later developments[edit]

Senator Floyd K. Haskell contacted the FBI asking for help in 1975 due to public concern regarding the issue. He claimed there had been 130 mutilations in Colorado alone, and further reports across nine states.[18] A 1979 FBI report indicated that, according to investigations by the New Mexico State Police, there had been an estimated 8,000 mutilations in Colorado, causing approximately $1,000,000 damage.[19]

Many cases of mutilation have been reported worldwide since the 1967 Snippy incident, chiefly in the Americas and Australia. In South America, an estimated 3,500 incidents have occurred since 2002, when around 400 cases were reported.[20] Mutilation investigators assert that a large number of cases are never reported to authorities, perhaps no more than one in ten.[21]

In the summer of 2019, five bulls were mutilated at the Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon. It is estimated that each 2,000 pound bull was worth US$6,000. The FBI has made no comment on whether or not there is an investigation on this particular event but the Silvies Valley Ranch offered a $25,000 reward for information on the topic.[22]


Animal cruelty and human activity[edit]

It is alternatively hypothesised that cattle mutilations are the result of two unrelated deviant phenomena. The bulk of mutilations are the result of predation and other natural processes, and those with anomalies that cannot be explained in this way are the work of humans who derive pleasure or sexual stimulation from mutilating animals.

Human attacks against animals are a recognized phenomenon. There have been many recorded cases around the world, and many convictions. Typically the victims of such attacks are cats, dogs, and other family pets,[37] and the actions of humans are usually limited to acts of cruelty such as striking, burning, or beating animals. However, attacks have also been recorded against larger animals, including sheep, cows, and horses.[38] Humans, particularly those with sociopathic disorders, have been found to have mutilated animals in elaborate ways[37] using knives or surgical instruments.

On April 20, 1979, C Hibbs of the New Mexico State Veterinary diagnostics Laboratory spoke before a hearing chaired by Senator Harrison Schmitt. Hibbs testified that mutilation fell into three categories, one of which was animals mutilated by humans.[19]: 25 FBI records did not record the percentage of mutilated animals that fell into this category.


Closely related to the deviant hypothesis is the hypothesis that cattle mutilations are the result of cult activity.[39] However, contrary to the deviancy hypothesis, which holds that cattle are mutilated at random by individual deviants, the cult hypothesis holds that cattle mutilations are coordinated acts of ritual sacrifice carried out by organized groups.

Beliefs held by proponents of the cult hypothesis vary, but may include:

  • That the apparent absence of blood at mutilation sites may indicate cult members would harvest it[40]
  • That organs have been removed from cattle for use in rituals[34]
  • That unborn calves have been harvested from mutilated cattle.

The hypothesis that cults were responsible for cattle mutilation was developed in the U.S. during the 1970s and 1980s, a time of growing national concern over cults (such as the Peoples Temple and Jonestown) and ritual satanic abuse ("Satanic panic").[41][42]

In 1975, the US Treasury Department assigned Donald Flickinger to investigate the existence of connections between cults and the mutilation of cattle.[33][43]: 23 The operation came under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Flickinger recorded a number of 'unusual' incidents and circumstantial evidence, but was unable to find sufficient evidence of cult involvement for the ATF to take further action.[33][43] Media reports of the time reported his investigation was dropped when it was determined cattle deaths were not a prelude to a co-ordinated campaign against elected officials by cult members.[43]: 23 

However, there were various reports during the time of menacing groups prowling around mutilation sites. In September 1975, a forestry service employee in Blaine County, Idaho, reported seeing a group of people in black hooded robes. Several cattle were found mutilated in the area the following day. On October 9, 1975, a motorist on U.S. Highway 95 in northern Idaho, in an area of frequent cattle mutilation, reported to police that some 15 masked individuals formed a roadblock with linked arms, forcing him to turn around.[44]

Since the beginning of the cult hypothesis, law enforcement agents in several states and provinces, including Alberta, Idaho, Montana, and Iowa have reported evidence implicating cults in several instances of cattle mutilations.[45]

During their investigations, the FBI and the ATF were unable to find appropriate evidence, including signs of consistency between mutilations, to substantiate that the animals had been the victims of any form of ritual sacrifice or organized mutilation effort. They were also unable to determine how or why a cult would perform procedures that would result in the anomalies reported in some necropsies,[19]: 3 or to verify that the anomalies were 1) connected to the mutilations themselves 2) the result of human intervention.[28]

In most cases, mutilations were either ruled due to natural causes, or the cattle were too far decayed for any useful conclusions to be drawn. Some cases of cult hysteria were traced back to fabrication by individuals unrelated to the incident. In one case it was concluded that claims had been falsified by a convict seeking favorable terms on his sentence in exchange for information.[40]: 14–15 [43]: 23–24 In another case, claims were traced back to local high school students who had circulated rumors as a joke.[40]: 21 

Government or military experimentation[edit]

In his 1997 article “Dead Cows I've Known”,[46] cattle mutilation researcher Charles T. Oliphant speculates cattle mutilation to be the result of covert research into emerging cattle diseases, and the possibility they could be transmitted to humans.

Additionally, a 2002 National Institute for Discovery Science report[47] relates the eyewitness testimony of two Cache County, Utah, police officers. The area had seen many unusual cattle deaths, and ranchers had organized armed patrols to surveil the unmarked aircraft which they claimed were associated with the livestock deaths. The police witnesses claim to have encountered several men in an unmarked U.S. Army helicopter in 1976 at a small community airport in Cache County. The witnesses asserted that after this heated encounter, cattle mutilations in the region ceased for about five years.

Biochemist Colm Kelleher,[48] who has investigated several purported mutilations first-hand, argues that the mutilations are most likely a clandestine U.S. government effort to track the spread of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy ("mad cow disease") and related diseases, such as scrapie.

A brief sampling of cases: On April 8, 1979, three police officers in Dulce, New Mexico, reported a mysterious aircraft which resembled a U.S. military helicopter hovering around a site following a wave of alleged mutilation which claimed 16 cows. On July 15, 1974, two unregistered helicopters, a white helicopter and a black twin-engine aircraft were reported to have opened fire on Robert Smith Jr. while he was driving his tractor on his farm in Honey Creek, Iowa. This attack followed a rash of alleged mutilations in the area and across the nearby border in Nebraska.[49][50][51] The reports of "helicopter" involvement have been used to explain why some cattle appear to have been "dropped" from considerable heights.[citation needed]

Other explanations[edit]Aliens and UFOs[edit]

In 1974, a few months after the first spate of alleged mutilations in the US, multiple farmers in Nebraska claimed to witness UFOs on the nights their cattle were harmed. The sightings were hailed by UFO researchers as the first physical evidence of extraterrestrial life.[52]

Government interference[edit]

At the same time that UFO reports were being filed with law enforcement, larger number of ranchers claimed to see black helicopters around their fields, coinciding with the cattle mutilations. Although some initially thought these were used by cattle rustlers, suspicion soon pointed toward a military operation running out of Fort Riley, Kansas.

By 1975, the problem was so prevalent, that some ranchers formed armed vigilante groups to patrol their fields at night. Authorities ran ads in Colorado urging ranchers to not shoot at their survey helicopters.[53][52]

In July 1975, reporter Dane Edwards of the Brush Banner published a cattle mutilation story and began investigating a theory that a cult was responsible. When the origin of the cult theory was traced to a federal inmate and no cult members were ever identified, ranchers and law enforcement started looking for other explanations.

Edwards reported his theory that the government was testing cattle parts to develop biological weapons to use in Vietnam, going so far as to write to Colorado Senator Floyd K. Haskell during Haskell's investigation to accuse agents of threatening him into silence.[52]

In October, Edwards gave an interview to the Gazette (Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph), announcing a theory that a government project was behind the mutilations. He expressed frustration that the FBI would not get involved and said he would be writing a book explaining "how the project was conceived". Shortly after, he was fired by the Gazette and then disappeared. On December 5, 1975, Edwards' wife reported him as a missing person.[54]

Edwards reemerged in the 1990s. He had adopted a new name, Dr. David Ellsworth, and founded an English-language instruction program that was adopted by many federal universities in Mexico.[55]


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