From the Phoenix Lights to the Mogollon Monster, Arizona has long been known as a mecca for the strange. According to the Mutual UFO Network’s reporting archives, Arizona ranked as one of the top three states in the country for UFO sightings per capita in 2013. Arguably, one of the most concentrated areas of reported anomalous activity is centered in Yavapai and Coconino counties. This area was first inhabited by indigenous tribes including the Anasazi, Hohokam, and the Sinagua, all of whom were deeply rooted in the belief that their ancestors came from the stars. Petroglyphs dot the canyon walls, hinting that visitors from other worlds had wandered amongst them and many locals maintain the belief that otherworldly visitors remain attracted to this unique area.
Sedona, a small city located within this region, has roughly ten thousand residents and attracts more than four million tourists annually. Some come solely for the natural beauty of the unique red-colored sandstone formations while others come to explore the mystical and spiritual implications of the area. Known for its vortices (sites where the energy of an area is allegedly magnified), metaphysical bookstores, crystal shops, and aura readers, the city openly embraces its eclectic personality. In fact, these traits, combined with the abundance of UFO sightings, have prompted many paranormal researchers and enthusiasts to relocate here permanently.
Just outside of Sedona down a long, rough, dirt road winding through the desert lays an expansive ranch that currently sits quietly deserted. The weeds are overgrown and the ground is parched. In the distance you can hear the eerie squeak of the windmill slowly turning. The gate towards the main ranch house is closed and a small sign indicates that trespassing is illegal as the property is owned by the United States government, specifically the U.S. Forest Service. Hiking trails line the outside of the perimeter, though they seldom see many visitors. But the ranch wasn’t always this way and there are some who firmly believe that this serene piece of land isn’t as quiet as we’re led to believe.
In 1945, Bob Bradshaw, a budding photographer and actor, moved to Oak Creek Canyon to alleviate seasonal allergies. Soon after he opened a Kodak licensed photography shop and quickly established himself as a pillar in the community. It was during this time that Hollywood gained significant interest in using the majestic red rocks as a backdrop in Westerns, television programs, and commercials. Bradshaw became integral in their productions.
Part of a western set used in commercial shoots at the Bradshaw Ranch. (Credit: Sedona Monthly)
In 1960, Bradshaw acquired a large parcel of land covering 140-acres. At the time, the only remaining structure was an old adobe house. He quickly put to use his Hollywood contacts and utilized the ranch as a filming destination. According to ADayintheWest.com, the tour company operated by the Bradshaws, Bob worked on twenty-eight films, nineteen television shows, and seventy-seven commercials during his lifetime, and the ranch itself hosted five films, two television series, and numerous commercials. An old western town movie set was erected on the grounds during filming of the 1967 Elvis Presley film Stay Away Joe, and remained a fixture of the property until the 1986. Bitter Creek, as the town was known, was rebuilt in the mid 1990s. It was during this time when John Bradshaw took over management of the land and utilized it as a dude-ranch: a tourist destination for horseback rides, cookouts, and jeep tours. Bradshaw Ranch wasn’t all Hollywood glamour though; it hosts an obscure history that revealed itself suddenly, though for those involved, not unexpectedly.
Strange Anomalies Plague the Bradshaw Family:
Dirt road leading to the ranch.
It was in 1992 that Bob Bradshaw Jr.’s wife Linda, along with several of her sons, began to catalog unusual activity on the property. It began slowly with sightings of unusual lights in the clear desert sky and escalated into tales of Bigfoot, UFOs, extraterrestrial beings, dinosaurs, and strange creatures. The experiences she reported, along with other witnesses, border on the strange side, even for the UFO community.
Linda firmly believed that the ranch was home to what she referred to as a light portal. She inferred that whatever the anomalous and strange activity occurring was due to an inter-dimensional window to which creatures benign and benevolent could freely travel from one dimension to another. This is not a new notion however; in 1975 the interdimensional hypothesis (IDH) was presented as a favorable theory by Jacques Vallée in his collaboration with Dr. J. Allen Hynek, The Edge of Reality: A Progress Report on Unidentified Flying Objects. IDH states that UFOs and related paranormal phenomena are not visitations from other planets, but from other dimensions that coexist as separate entities alongside our own.
In 1995, Linda, along with her close friend and UFO researcher Tom Dongo, published a book filled with their alleged encounters and photographs they claim are otherworldly beings, strange flying craft, and unexplained light anomalies. Merging Dimensions: The Opening Portals of Sedona was a book they thought would change the world, but they were both disappointed and frustrated that it released to little fanfare.
One encounter Linda described was that of being woken by one of her sons, who was in the company of a woman and her daughter, in the early hours of the morning. She alleges that at approximately 2:45 a.m. her son and the woman not only spotted an unidentified craft but had an encounter with extraterrestrial beings as well. She describes:
Strolling past the window were four short-statured aliens wearing tight-fitting one-piece uniforms of a light tan color. They were what are typically called the Zeta Reticuli (also known as the Grays), only these appeared to be a bit more ashen-colored, almost white. Once the beings were out of sight and the witnesses recomposed themselves, the three of them jumped into their car and sped to the house where I was sleeping. I remember so vividly how my son vigorously shook my arm to wake me up. I can still hear the trepidation in his voice as he said, “Mom, wake up. They’re here!” I raised up and said, “Who’s here?” He exclaimed, “The aliens, Mom.”
The encounter further evolved when Linda saw one of the beings outside, and resolved to investigate further the following day. Small unexplained footprints were spotted in the dirt and the evidence was documented via her son’s video camera. If the story is to be believed, the strangest turn occurred when the witnesses spotted what they referred to as a dinosaur in one of the washes. Two of the witnesses described a dusty-colored, five foot, lizard-like dinosaur that stood erect, while the other two only made it in time to see a long tail vanishing into the bushes. In future encounters, they would discover large reptilian-like prints on a reoccurring basis.
The strange sightings persisted, and Linda continued to document to the best of her ability. She would take photographs in random areas to see if things would develop on film that she could sense but were invisible to the naked eye. The photos were taken on 35mm film and developed at a local photo processing center. She amassed a large collection of photos of light anomalies, what she believed to be alien beings, as well as various unidentified craft. She also captured and had interactions with a Bigfoot she referred to as “Big Girl” and believed that she was in the company of young offspring as well.
As a self-described animal lover, Linda became increasingly agitated that some of her dogs and horses were falling ill with tumors and other maladies the vet could not rationally explain. She was also disturbed to discover that someone or something had torn the manes off several of her horses. She was perplexed, stating, “Her lovely, long golden mane was missing. The mare’s mane was not cut off evenly. It looked as if it had been torn off, resulting in extremely jagged edges.” She surmised that it could not be the work of humans, but what ripped the hair and the purpose of the action remains a mystery to this day.
The unusual activity on the ranch continued to be an almost everyday occurrence until the late 1990s when it seemed to stall quite suddenly.
Rumors of a Cover-Up
On September 22, 2000 in a USDA Forest Service Release, Bill Kusner, spokesperson for Keep Sedona Beautiful, alluded to the government’s interest in the property. He stated,
These public purchases will serve to preserve the spectacular open landscape well known throughout the world, to provide opportunities for additional access for recreation, and to protect archaeological resources. Keep Sedona Beautiful is hopeful that a $3.5 million appropriation in FY 2001 will allow for the purchase of 90 acres in Yavapai County locally known as the Bradshaw Ranch.
US Forest Service sign at Bradshaw Ranch. (Credit: Cottonwood Hotel)
After years of property tax hikes and the government’s pressing interest in the property, the ranch became another parcel of federal land, acquired by the U.S. Forest Service. In May of 2003, the Bradshaw’s vacated the property.
Conspiracy theorists were quick to dismiss Kusner’s words, and insinuated that the ranch was really purchased in order to conceal the powerful inter-dimensional portal alleged to exist on the property. Others speculate that it was a tactical maneuver to conceal a top-secret military base and an even larger extraterrestrial cover-up.
There have been rumors for decades of the existence of top-secret underground bases and an elaborate tunnel system, which some suggest is used by both extraterrestrials and the U.S. military. They vary in location, and some believe there to be entrances at a large cement plant in Jerome, beneath Bradshaw Ranch, and in various canyon areas around Sedona. Numerous reports of hikers encountering and being threatened by heavily armed soldiers with no visible insignias on their uniforms have strengthened this opinion in believers. UFO researcher Tom Dongo expands on these ideas in his book Mysterious Sedona: Year 2000 edition:
A machine gun, usually an M-16 (or in some cases semi-automatic pistols) is then leveled at the hikers. By the tone of the voice of the “soldiers” the hiker(s) is left with no doubt that he will be shot on the spot if he does not turn around, retrace his steps, and rapidly leave the area . . . every single one of these gunpoint encounters has taken place along the route of the probable tunnel system.
Those looking for hard evidence of these claims won’t find it. There are plenty of stories of suspicious activity, missing persons, and aliens and UFOs spotted in conjunction with soldiers, but no substantiated evidence exists to prove these theories. Military activity in the area could very well be routine training exercises and those hikers asked to turn around may be done for their own safety.
The Ranch Today
There are a variety of researchers and authors who supplement their time by providing UFO and vortex tours in the area. Several of these tours include a visit to Bradshaw Ranch for those hoping to catch something out of the ordinary. Tourists can venture out with Sedona resident Jocelyn Buckner, who wrote a guide specifically focused on the ranch. She urges visitors to respect the fence-line and claims, “There’s no reason to trespass. Invite the ‘unseen others’ to visit you. You will hear, see, or feel them if you remain open.”
The most reported “sightings” during these tours are photos of “orbs.” The orbs are not visible to the eye, but show up on photographs often looking as if they are attracted to certain individuals. The orb phenomenon is an extremely controversial topic with proponents offering up the “it’s not dust” mantra. Opponents and many professional photo analysts surmise that the majority of objects referred to as orbs have very simple, terrestrial explanations. Objects appearing in the circle of confusion, or the point where the lens of a camera cannot focus, and dust, moisture, and other particles in the area can form this optical illusion.
The ranch continues to attract international recognition as a paranormal hotspot through various television programs, books, and websites. In April of 2013, Discovery Channel’s Uncovering Aliens filmed multiple segments at the ranch. During filming, self-described extraterrestrial contactee Steven Jones alleges that he experienced his own bout of the unknown. While an interview was being conducted with Dongo, Jones had wandered off on his own, past the properties windmill above the fence-line on the hill. Jones returned thirty-or-so minutes later, interrupting the crew, flustered, asking the time and yelling for everyone to look at his wristwatch. It had stopped. He recounted that he had heard unusual voices or odd whispers coming from somewhere around him, experienced a brief period of missing time, and visually pointed out the electrical disturbance of his watch. The experience was not aired on television, and we can only speculate as to what really happened when Jones was alone in the desert.
Bradshaw Ranch is set to remain an enigma. The likelihood that any serious investigation could take place, akin to the in-depth scientific endeavors of the National Institute for Discovery Sciences (NIDS) at Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, is slim. The U.S. Forest Service maintains a strict no trespassing policy in order to protect the historic and anthropological landmarks on the land.
This small piece, as well as the expansive canyons surrounding Sedona, will continue to be shroud in mystery and attract the curious and likeminded. Its residents will continue to defend their experiences and beliefs wholeheartedly and unapologetically. If you do take a trip out to Bradshaw, you may not see anything mysterious, but there is a calm quiet, an eerie breeze, and maybe, locals will tell you, something watching unseen in the distance.
This story originally appeared in the last issue of Open Minds Magazine.