Award-winning investigative journalist George Knapp was a recent guest on Open Minds UFO Radio. His interview was so full of important unreleased information that we are providing a transcript of the interview here. Visit this page to listen to the interview.
Alejandro Rojas: I am here with George Knapp. Thank you so much for joining us.
George Knapp: Always good to talk to you, Alejandro Rojas and it was great to see you in our little secret soiree in Las Vegas last weekend; you’re a traveling guy.
Rojas: I am. I am all over the place, but when Jeremy let me know that you all were going to be screening the film, there was no way I was going to miss that, and especially to see you all who were there which was a lot of fun.
Knapp: Well, it was an interesting crowd. You’ll have to admit there was some interesting faces in the mix.
Rojas: Yeah, definitely. Some of the names we can’t share, but that makes it even more fun and intriguing for the audience, I think.
Knapp: That’s okay, you can say it. Oh, there is one you can’t say, but we’ll get at that, we’ll get at that.
Rojas: Yeah, yeah, we’ll talk about that. I guess to begin with is the fact that really this documentary was the format you wanted to share information about the ranch with in the first place.
Knapp: That’s true. I mean, I started shooting video at the ranch late ’90’s, of course, I’de learned about the ranch around the time the rest of the world did in 1996. There were a couple of newspaper articles that came out about the weird happenings of the property; mostly focused on UFO activity and of course the Uintah Basin already had a reputation well-earned of, has been a UFO hotspot for as long as people have lived there. So, when Bob Bigelow and his team went to the ranch, bought the place, set up shop, installed detection equipment and cameras and the team of scientists this on the property, I got to learn little bits and pieces about what was going on under the condition that I not talk about it until they gave the okay to go forward. In 1999, I finally got my first visit to the property, and then, started going back periodically with photographers. Matt Adams has been my most frequent collaborator on the property, and we were shooting video for what I hope would one day be a documentary project, maybe more than one. After a couple of years of making this business though, Bob Bigelow was concerned, he sort of changed his mind about the direction I was taking. He was concerned that if we came out with the film, the place might be overrun by UFO enthusiasts and other kinds of paranormal researchers. And in fact, it turned out he was right.
So, I put the documentary on hold, at least plans of any kind of distribution, but I continued to visit the property over the years, a couple of times a year, at least once a year, and would always bring a photographer and record what I could. And when we couldn’t go on the ranch itself which in particular during the vast of period which we’ll talk about, I would interview other people in the basin, talk to the witnesses, I got to know some of the Utes and some of the long-time residents, and continued to collect information. And I didn’t know if it would ever come out. I really didn’t if it would ever bear fruit because once Bob Bigelow gave me the okay, Colm and I to come up with a book, there was no turning back. I mean, we did our best, we used different names for the rancher family because NIDS had made that promise to him. We didn’t identify the location, we didn’t use any photos, but of course, people figured it out and started blocking to the property anyway; and it caused a lot of problems.
I think, Mr. Bigelow regretted ever allowing the book to go forward. In fact, I know he did. And again, I still made the promise to him that I wouldn’t go forward with the footage, and so, I didn’t. There were tiny, little bits of it that I used in public presentations a couple of times, but that was it; little tiny slivers. And then, when the property was sold in 2016, it occurred to me, maybe I don’t want to cause problems for the owner, but maybe there’s a chance that I could go forward with this and the new owner said yes, and Jeremy Corbell had been bugging me about it, I see you Skinwalker stuff. And so, that’s how it came together.
Rojas: When it came to the book, the book was a pretty big hit. I mean, it sold well, it got the word about Skinwalker out there. Were you all, including Bigelow, maybe not expecting the book to be as popular as it was?
Knapp: No. I thought it would be pretty popular because it carved a new niche in the field. There was no place quite like it and certainly has never been a study quite like that. I mean, it is the most intensively studied paranormal hotspot ever. You never had seen a scientist on the ground, boots on the ground doing that kind of research. Now, I know there are a lot of criticisms of the study and justifiably so, but there is no template for it; there is no sort of a guide book to follow for something like this because there just aren’t any places like it. Hessdalen is a long-standing study, but it’s mostly looking at lights in the sky, not the kinds of things that the NIDS team had to deal with.
So, I think that Mr. Bigelow probably regrets ever allowing it to go forward, but I knew it would be a hit. And a hit is a relative term because that book, although it’s sold well compared to other paranormal books, it never really pierced the veil into the larger public. And that’s we’re hoping to do with the film, is to attract a larger audience beyond the UFO paranormal field to even if it seems sort of rudimentary to bring people along step by step on how the story unfolded. We want to try to appeal to a much broader audience.
Rojas: I wonder, it sounds like you really sympathize with Bob Bigelow’s concerns with people coming to their ranch. However, you’re a journalist and I’m sure that you’re also, you have this compulsion to share information. So, how did you feel about it? You probably understood his concern that between the time of course you wanted to share information.
Knapp: Well, first and foremost, I made a promise to him. I know there are other journalists who operate differently, but look, this was a long-term study; there was no hurry, there was no reason to sprint. Of course, I wanted to tell the story and I would bug him and bug Colm about it periodically since I started learning what was going on there, and saying, “Look, we need to tell the world about this.” Eventually, Bob came to the conclusion himself and I think at the urging of Colm that after a period where this activity went underground, the Skinwalker, whatever you want to call it, this intelligence that’s there, it didn’t want to be hunted, and it made its intentions very clear in very dramatic ways. And it took his ball and wanted to go home, and when that happened, my arguments that maybe the world should know about it became more persuasive.
And Bob Bigelow figured, “Look, if I let you tell some of the story, maybe people will come forward with other hotspots that we could go study.” So, I wrote a series of newspaper articles in 2003 which means I kept my word for those seven years, didn’t say anything to anyone about Skinwalker. And I did a couple of newspaper articles and bam! they went all over the world. And after that, it became a little easier the cat was out of the bag. It became easier to convince Bob to let us do the book; again, without any photos and specific information about the location and without really identifying the Ranch family either.
And so, the book came out. And of course, he was right. I mean, as soon as the book came out, the place was overrun. I mean, not just the locals who would go out there in Friday night and take their girlfriend and have a little scare fest, or the UFO hunters who would really get obnoxious and go up to the property in the middle of the night, flash bulbs into the windows of the house, or the vandals who would rip off the fence post and steal things, or others who would go out there and have beer parties or whatever really caused some problems.
I remember being with Bob and having a conversation about that and I said, “Look, I’ll volunteer. I’ll go there, I’ll camp out, I’ll chase people away, I’ll be a security.” And he said, “No. We’ll do something else.” So, we flew on his jet, we took his chief of security and went out there on a particular weekend. And he had a bunch of equipment on me and I was in this camo gear and had like a million candle-powered spotlight and I was stationed at the front gate, and his security guy was positioned at the back gate, and we were chasing people off. And I wasn’t there 10 minutes at the front gate when the first truck full of people came up, and I thought they saw me sitting in the bushes in this lawn chair, but they have noticed me, so I jumped up and they were coasting down the road, they turned off their lights, and turned off the engine, just coasted right up to the gate. I jumped out with this million candle-powered spotlight and turned it on and man you could hear them shriek, they fire up this truck and peel it backwards down the road. And I figured by the time that story gets told online, it will be a nine foot tall bigfoot with a laser beam attacking me off the back.
Rojas: Right. It will be Gort, like the big alien.
Rojas: That’s really funny.
Knapp: But after that, Bob could see he had a problem, so that was when he started to have round-the-clock security and he had teams from Bigelow Aerospace who would rotate in and out for 10-day shifts. And a lot of those guys, if not most of those guys had their own dramatic experiences, and some of them, as tough as they are, ex-cops, ex-commando, ex-military police, those kind of people, they wouldn’t go back.
Rojas: And one of the reason I’m curious about this is because I kind of put myself into his shoes. If I was in that situation, would I feel guilty. I wonder if you did at all? Now, personally, I feel like getting the information out is so important that it would justify it in my mind. Did you have a tinge of guilt?
Knapp: A little bit, but I’ll have to admit that something even worse is that I got a little quite curious thrill out of being able to know stuff that nobody else knew.
Rojas: Oh, yeah.
Knapp: And of course, you’ve had, I’m sure you’ve had this mental conversation with yourself Alejandro, what if somebody came to you and said, “We’ll let you in, but you can’t tell anybody.” That’s a tough decision to make. Now, I didn’t have that kind of agreement. My agreement was I couldn’t tell anybody until they gave the green light. These were people that I have known for a long time that I trusted and I wanted them to trust me, and I wanted to get around with other people who can trust people. I’m in an information business. I want people in that particular field and others who work on those topics and in sensitive positions to feel they can trust me; and it’s worked out pretty well. I mean, it worked out pretty well.
Rojas: Yeah. I mean, I am the same, and I think that is why I get in a lot of things, because I’m, of course, very careful about sharing information when they ask me not to, but I think you’ll find this interesting, is that the only time I’ve been in this situation was with MUFON with the Bigelow Project because they asked us to sign non-disclosures and at that time I was representing MUFON on PR, so I said no, I said it’s better, I feel for myself, if I don’t know because then if you don’t tell me what I’m not supposed to share, I won’t accidentally share it, if somebody’s asking questions, and little did I know, this was during the time that Bigelow was working with the government doing investigations.
Knapp: Yeah. I know how you feel. I mean, as journalists, we have to sort of figure out whether we’re crossing a line. I never felt I crossed the line because the promise I had made, I kept and I never revealed information. I knew someday I’d be able to record it and I wasn’t in a hurry because this was a long-term study, a long term project. And because they didn’t have any conclusions, there was no impending timeline, a critical point at which we needed to go forward with something. And Bigelow kept his word. When he finally gave me the green light, I was allowed to report it all. There was no restriction that I couldn’t report anything about NIDS. Now, there were–it becomes more complicated a little bit later, but I’m sure we’re going to get into that.
Rojas: Yes, we will. Before we get into that though, another fun story that you told us the other day was how you were used as bait; that you didn’t have your own experiences, but you were in the situation where you possibly could have, so I was wondering if you could share that story.
Knapp: That would have been 1991, I think. So, it was the first time I went to the ranch with a photographer to start shooting on the documentary. And so, I’ve been hearing about the property for over six years at that point, about the kinds of experiences that it happened both to the rancher family and to the NIDS personnel who’ve been on the ranch for a long time by that point, and there were some spooky stuff. The UFOs, wow, I’de love to see a UFO, orbs that they were talking about, yup, would love to see those, I’m not really crazy about seeing a cattle mutilated in front of me. There was a story about a giant cloud, a dark cloud that sort of step over the mind of businesses, but we can get into that a little bit later; that was kind of spooky. The 8-ft tall, 9-ft tall creature that crawls out of the worm-hole looking tunnel; that was kind of spooky. And then, in the middle homestead, which is where most of the really weirdest and most disturbing stuff happen, there had been a visitors to the property when the rancher family, the Gormans I’ll call them, had still been there before NIDS was there.
And he was, said he was drawn to the property, big Grizzly Adams type dude, drawn to the property, didn’t know what it was, he wanted to meditate and the rancher let him out into the pasture. He and his son said, “Alright, fine. You can spend a couple of minutes, we’ll take out in the middle homestead.” And they went off to the side and kind of kept an eye on the guy chuckling to themselves. And he was there in the field for a couple of minutes, his head to the sky, his eyes closed, his arms lifted up, and his palms on the skies as well. And they hear that cowbell off in the distance and the rancher realizes, “Hey, you know what, I don’t have any cowbells on my cows.”
And then, they see this thing moving through the trees, it’s like a predator, like in the movie Predator; a camouflage opaque sort of a critter, large, moving through the trees, it comes out of the trees, it goes right at this Grizzly Adams dude, the rancher was just about to warn him that something was happening and this creature gets right up to the guy and roars, and it’s a roar like a lion roar, you can hear it a mile away. This guy just about crapped his pants, he jumps backwards, falls on the ground, this thing, whatever it was in camo mode goes back into the trees and disappears. And the rancher comes rushing over and the guy was petrified, the rancher had to pry himself off this guy. They let him off at the front gate and he left screaming, yelling, “This is Satan, it’s the devil, it’s evil.” And they kind of laughed about it because they didn’t know what that creature was. Well, that is the spot where they stopped me to be used as bait.
So, we’re out there the first night that I spent on the property and we tried to do all the things that had historically attracted the attention of whatever it is. The arrival of strangers would be one thing that would do it. We made ourselves, our presence known in multiple ways. We built a fire out in the middle homestead, and did interviews, and made a bunch of noise, made our presence obvious. And then, we dug in the ground. We got an earthmover and dug in the ground just to move things around because that had been the most effective way to get the attention of whatever is there, at least, during the time that NIDS was there.
So, we did all that stuff, and then, Colm says, “I got an idea. Let’s put you on a chair in the middle homestead and we’ll leave you there and see what happens.” So, they hooked up like a couple of microphone, and a Geiger counter, and a couple of other things, put me on this little white plastic chair in the middle homestead where the predator thing had come out where the black cloud had come out, and they left me there and went a couple of 100 yards away with the cameras and the telephoto lenses to watch to see if something came to get me. And I told that story in the film. I was trying to be brave and everything, but I couldn’t quite get it out of my head. There were some bad stuff that had happened out there and I don’t mind seeing UFOs and couple of other things, but I really didn’t want to run into predator and have it roar like that. But nothing came to get me other than mosquitoes.
A lot of people haven’t been so lucky, I think it is an interactive quality, we can get into this later if you want, but whatever it is that’s there, it kind of sizes you up. The people who’ve had the worst experiences are those who’ve had a cavalier attitude or defiant attitude or confrontational. The people who bring guns, for example, and are going to take this on, I’m not afraid of anything, like commando, a gung-ho kind of attitude; those are the ones who’ve had really, really had some bad experiences that extend beyond the ranch. So, yeah, I was bait, I didn’t like it, and I don’t really want to do it again.
Rojas: That’s interesting what you said just there, about how the attitude has–it may have an effect. What was your attitude, I guess, what was your mindset as you went through this? Do you think you’ve, maybe, had more of a respect for what happens at this place?
Knapp: Absolutely. I mean, Colm had prepared me. He had told me that he always makes mental preparations when he’s going to the ranch. He would always do it even though when he was going there all the time, is that he sort of girds his loins in a mental sense, but it is a respectful attitude; we’re hear to learn kind of a thing, you show us what you’ve got if you want to show it to us, but I’m not going to push the idea. Now, the result for me has been I’ve never seen anything. I mean, I never see anything dramatic anyway. I’ve seen some lights on one of the trips that Jeremy and Matt Adams, and I made in the middle homestead that we couldn’t really explain. They weren’t natural source that we know of and not electronic in any way, it’s not gear that was there. And there’s some other tiny, little things that have happened during my business, but nothing anywhere close to the kinds of things that we described in the book.
So, I don’t know why that is. It frustrated me greatly because I don’t know of anyone else, who’s gone as many times as I have who has not seen something for, who has not have experience, but I hope that I have conveyed to whatever it is that I am respectful and maybe it’ll show me, at some point, when I’m worthy. but I’m kind of glad that some of the things that have happened to other people have not happened to me. And yeah, the people who have gone in with a bad attitude are the ones who’ve had the worst experiences.
Rojas: Yeah. I do want to get into it, because like you said, we’re all interested in this field, and want to experience something or see that what we’re looking into is a real phenomena. So, like you said, some of this is kind of scary and I was wondering if you could share the story of the black cloud that affected the researcher.
Knapp: I don’t have the exact dates in front of me, I think it was ’97 when Colm Kelleher and another of the NIDS staffers, a PhD guy, a brilliant guy are walking, again the middle homestead. They had two dogs with them; they would use dogs as sort of biosensors. The dogs would often give them advance warning when something weird was going on, that they either smelled, or sensed, or can see in the dark. And they’re walking in the middle homestead and suddenly both of the dogs go behind the legs of the two researchers who are walking through the field. And they’re huddling, they were kind of shaking, they’re scared of something. And these two scientists look up in the trees and one of them notices what looks like a black cloud moving; at the tree’s not level. And it starts getting bigger and bigger, and it gets into the middle of the trees right in front of them. And suddenly, the one scientist, the second scientist is frozen. And out of him, comes a voice and it’s not his voice, and it’s speaking–I’m trying to remember the exact words because there were a couple of experiences similar to this that happened to other people, but it’s something to the effect of “We are watching you.”
Knapp: “We’re watching you and you’re not really welcome here.” And this guy is speaking this stuff, and within a couple of minutes, he sort of bounces out of it; he was in the trance. It had taken over his brain, and he bounces out of it, he was disoriented for a while. When they went back to the trailer to spend the night, he had terrible nightmares and dreams, and it stuck with him, I guess for a couple of days. But that really happened and if you can make guesses about who it happened to, I’m not going to say it either way, but I mean, that’s a guy who’s worked for major think tanks, and labs, and the U.S. Military, and he’s a brilliant guy and he didn’t make it up. That was one disturbing experience, but some of the other ones that happened later were worse. I mentioned about these commando types; it happened during the BAASS period. I don’t know if it is too soon to get into that or you want to wait?
Rojas: Yeah, we’ve got a couple of minutes before the break, so I think we have time to introduce that in that there were several stages of the investigation. So, if I’m wrong and you can correct me, but it began with Bigelow and his National Institute of Discovery Sciences, correct?
Knapp: Yes. Bob Bigelow funded that study, created NIDS, he paid for the scientists, he hired them, he hired vets and trackers, and physicist, and biologist, and a lot of other folks. And then, he had people like Dr. John Alexander who were part of the team, visited the property, and then, a science advisory board as well. They would fly up, they’d stay for days other times, fly back, and they had hired local people as well, former cops, they had connections with the Ute tribe; that was all funded by Bob Bigelow and that continued through about 2003 when I was allowed to write the first article. So, the activity had gone underground, there wasn’t enough for the team to do, there weren’t enough paranormal incidents, so basically, they gave up. I mean, the phenomena had made it clear that it was not going to cooperate; it destroyed some cameras, it was just not playing ball.
So, that’s when they stopped, basically, with the study. And then, after that, after the book came out in ’05, then, they had personnel on the property, security personal, but not scientists anymore. There just wasn’t enough to do and NIDS went away. So for a couple of years, it was basically fallow. And then, in 2007, a guy from the DIA reached out to Bob Bigelow and said, “I just read this book about The Skinwalker Ranch, I’m really interested in it, can I go?” And Bob Bigelow said, “Yeah. Fly to Las Vegas, I’ll take you out there.” They did. The guy sort of got the idea that what is associated with UFOs might actually be a much broader perspective of paranormal phenomena, that UFOs are not an end to themselves, that it represents the tip of the iceberg, and he wanted to take a look. And he wasn’t there for five minutes, then he had an experience.
Knapp: And it was meant to be tailored just for him. It was in an angle inside a building, inside the home there that this thing appeared to him. And he was trying to play it cool and not let everybody else know it was there–
Rojas: Well, let’s hold this for a second. We’ve got to go to break, so we’ll be right back. For those of you listening on KGRA with your commercial break, for the rest of you we’ll share a short musical interlude, and then, we’ll be right back into this incredible story from George Knapp.
Rojas: Welcome back. You’re listening to Open Minds UFO Radio, I’m your host Alejandro Rojas and we are here with George Knapp. And I mean, what you shared just now I was not aware of and this is really fascinating, is that this guys from the DIA in 2007 came to visit the ranch, and you were explaining he had his own kind of customized paranormal experience.
Knapp: Yeah. This guy had–he’s a very serious, rock solid, brilliant guy who had read the book and thought that there might be something there of interest to the DIA, and The Pentagon and national security, so he arranged, he called up Bigelow, said, “Can we go?” Bigelow had him fly up to Las Vegas, they flew to the ranch, and this guy had his experience within 5 minutes of getting on the property, in the main ranch house hearing some stories from the caretakers who live there. And this thing appeared inside the house, in broad daylight, and I’m not going to get into details about what it was, but it was pretty distinct and remarkable and it made a very big impression on this guy.
So, he leaves, he tells Bigelow about it later, and he goes back to Washington, and he looks up Harry Reid, who at the time was the senate majority leader. They had some interactions on national security issues already, told him about that experience, and said, “We need to study this. That place is unique.” And Reid went to some of his colleagues, the story that I’ve told on air a couple of times, some of his colleagues in the senate. He made the argument that UFOs deserve to be studied and there could be direct national security implications, that by ignoring them it didn’t go make them go away, it just made them more enigmatic and they agreed.
So, they set up a program that, initially, was AWSAP. It was separate from AATIP, the program that Lue Elizondo was involved with. He wasn’t involved with actually for another year, but AATIP was the study, the occasional encounters that military personnel had with UFOs; that was an informal organization that existed within The Pentagon, different departments and different divisions of the military. And they would exchange information, videos would come in, they do analysis, and create files, and try to figure the stuff out. AWSAP was created to be something else entirely. It was to look at a broader range of paranormal activity. The DIA guy, and Bob Bigelow, and Colm Kelleher, and everyone associated with NIDS knew that UFOs do in fact occur in connection with other strange stuff; that as much as ufologists don’t like to admit it, there is a Bigfoot connection, and there is a crop circle connection, and there is a connection to animal mutilations. It’s not clear what the connections were other than proximity in the same time in place of all those different phenomena. And here, you had a ranch where all of this stuff was going on, and in that ranch, whatever is there, had in essence, given that guy from the DIA an engraved invitation to come back and he did.
And so, the study was launched. Harry Reid secured the funding. They put out bids on the military websites where other contractors to submit bids. I only know of one other entity that tried to compete for the contract. Bigelow created BAASS, that’s Bigelow Advanced Aerospace Systems; and that was a separate organization within Bigelow Aerospace that got the contract and launched the study, and it’s an amazing study. A big part of the focus was the ranch; that’s not the only part of the focus, I mean, they cast a very wide net and teams collecting information from all over the world; from foreign government. They had teams that were zipping around, as you mentioned earlier in the program, they arranged to have an arrangement with MUFON, and I’m sure they’ve had arrangements with other UFO organizations and researchers as well.
Bob Bigelow, a week after he signed the contract for BAASS to deal with AWSAP, he came on coast to coast with me. And he drop some really big hands to anyone who was paying attention. He basically said it, he drew great, big, glowing breadcrumbs about what he was up to, he said, “I launched this new organization, it’s going to cast a very wide net, study UFOs and related phenomena, and I have an unnamed partner, I have a partner in this. I can’t tell you who it is, but they’re providing financial support” and everybody just kind of ignored that, but there it was.
Rojas: That’s really funny. And that’s what’s really weird about this is reflecting upon that time and you’ve had me on coast when we talked about this before, but now that you mentioned it, I remember that interview and I knew, because I didn’t sign the NDA, but I knew there was some sort of partnership that I was not going to be able to disclose, and that’s why I didn’t want to know. But I was like “I don’t want to know,” so that was my attitude at the time, but you’re right. Nobody caught on–and that’s an interesting thing about all this is that all of us are looking for the government program that’s looking into UFOs out there, and none of us knew. I mean, at least in the UFO community, even some of the people who work with Bigelow, nobody knew about this relationship.
Knapp: Well, I did. And again, it’s the same thing, the same deal, is that I’m allowed to know about it, I just can’t talk about it. And I supposed if AWSAP still existed, if somebody hadn’t sabotaged it and taken the money away, it would still be ongoing, I wish it were because they did some amazing things. And the world isn’t going to know about it for a while and I don’t know when or if that information will come out, but it did some really amazing things and it was definitely making progress. And it’s a terrible shame that it went away, but if they were continuing to do the work that they were doing during that time period, I wouldn’t be here talking about it, I would still be keeping my word. And I kept my word for almost 10 years until the story came out. And as I have mentioned before, when the New York Times, when I’m told late last year. the New York Times is on this, if they’re going to break the story, I will sort of miffed about it, so why don’t I get the break of the story? I’m the guy who’s kept this secret for nine or 10 years. I’m not a paid employee of Bigelow, I have no financial relationship with Bigelow, I know people snipe at that all the time, but that is not the case. I didn’t work for him and I didn’t sign an NDA. But my word was my bond, and so, I kept it and I wanted to do the story, I don’t want The New York Times to break it, I want to break it. And they had this sort of, kind of gently let me know in a non-offensive way that I am not The New York Times, well, of course I know that. I knew that The New York Times was a much better idea. There was some risk, they had told people, if anybody else leaks the story, it breaks somewhere else. We’re not going to go with it, we’ll bury it; and that would have been a bad thing because The New York Times covering it, the front page story changes the whole media environment. It meant that the Washington Post then covered it and Fox News has been doing ongoing coverage and many other news outlets who, otherwise, wouldn’t come near it. Suddenly, took it seriously and suddenly it’s not as crazy to be considering that UFOs deserve to be studied.
And so, I’m glad I made the decision, that I figured well, New York Times will have some of it, but they’re not going to have all of it because I’m not saying I know more about UFOs than any journalist, and I certainly do not believe that, but I knew more than any journalist about this particular program, and I knew that I’d be able to have plenty of stories that I break on my own, and I did.
Rojas: Right. You have been and I’m sure you will continue to. One of the stories that you broke was along the lines of what you had just explained, but I just wanted to kind of get back to for a second is you broke the story that Harry Reid had heard from this third party about all of these things and that what inspired him to fund and champion this AWSAP program. But there’s been a lot of assumption that Reid and Bigelow were friends and that Bigelow had relayed what he was up to. Did Bigelow tell him as far as you know anything about the ranch before Reid heard from this other person in the DIA?
Knapp: Yes. Yes, but it wasn’t lobbying. Bigelow was not lobbying Harry Reid for a program. And Harry Reid actually represented Robert Bigelow when they were both young men in a legal matter involving the death of Bob’s grandparents. But they lost contact, they didn’t stay in contact until NIDS was created. And I had remained in contact with Harry Reid, I always had a good relationship with him even though I did stories that whacked him around now and then because I’m a journalist and he was Nevada’s senior senator. So, I knew he had an interest in UFOs because in 1989, after I first met with Bob Lazar and starting digging into Area 51, Harry Reid was the first person I went to tell about it outside of our newsroom.
Knapp: I thought somebody’s got to know about this, I want to see if he’s aware of this because he had been a supporter of Nellis Air Force Base, I knew we had an interest in Area 51, not UFOs so much, but national security programs out there. And I told him about it, we were in a limo on the way to the airport as he was flying back to Washington. He says, “That’s really interesting.” He didn’t kick me out of the car, so after that, we maintained a dialogue, a sort of secret back channel dialogue about UFOs. I would send him things from time to time that I thought would interest him and he would send me stuff. The Congressional Research Service had prepared a report for Members of Congress on the UFO issue, I’d never seen it and it never been made public, it has since been made public, but he shared that with me. And then, I would fly back to Washington or he would come out to Las Vegas, and whenever I would see him, whatever the topic was, the official topic and the reason for it, we would go off to the side and have a separate conversation about UFO matters, and it drove his staff crazy because he wouldn’t tell them what we’re talking about and it alarmed them, and I wouldn’t tell them what we’re talking about, and they used to ask too. And then, in ’95, after Bigelow had set up NIDS, I told Harry Reid about it. I said, “This Science Advisory Board is pretty amazing. I had been allowed to sit in on a couple of meetings, I interacted with the staff, I even made a presentation to them one time about the Russian UFO files that I brought back. It’s an amazing group of people; PhDs all around, brilliant people, many of which whom did not want their names used. There were two astronauts, I mean, you can guess who one of them was, Edgar Mitchell, Hal Putthoff, and Kit Green, and John Alexander, the people like that who were willing to put their reputations and their careers on the line to investigate this stuff.
So, I told Reid about it. He said, “You think I could get in to sit in on some of those?” I said, “Sure, you could.” So, he did. I don’t know how many of those meetings he sat in on, but there were a couple. And then, it sort of went away. I mean, NIDS went on its way, Harry Reid’s back to Washington, and there was no real ongoing contact between them. Occasionally, Bob Bigelow would donate to Harry Reid’s reelection campaigns which now, people looking to nit pick and to somehow destroy the credibility of the story, I can tell you they’re full of baloney.
Bob Bigelow was a businessman operating in Las Vegas. Harry Reid was the senior senator and the most powerful Nevadan ever elected and sent to Washington. Yes, Bob Bigelow did donate money to Harry Reid’s campaigns; small, tiny amounts compared to the size of the modern election campaigns, but still is enough that somebody that wants to denigrate the whole relationship, they can point to it and say aha, it’s a quid pro quo. Well that’s baloney, it wasn’t. That was in 2007. So, there had been period of contacts and Bigelow and Reid both respected each other and both understood their mutual interest, but Reid had read the Skinwalker book, he was intrigued by it, I think he had some conversations with Bob about it. So, he was aware of the ranch, but until that DIA guy came to him, there had been no proposal from anyone for any kind of federally-funded, Pentagon-funded research program involving Bigelow Aerospace.
Rojas: Now, when it comes to AWSAP another thing that you’ve broke, a story you’ve broke, and I always tell people, “You know if you want the latest breaking breaking on all of this, you got to go KLAS and the I-Team.” But how and why it ended because I think that’s a really interesting story as well.
Knapp: Well, it is. And the full thing has not been told, and I’m not sure–I can tell part of it because I already have shared with you some of the details, but it’s a multilevel bit of intrigue, and how the Pentagon works and how contracts work. In essence though, opposition grew to the AWSAP program. It was interacting with Elizondo and AATIP, there was exchange of information back and forth, and those two programs were separate for awhile, but they were cooperative. And it alarmed some people in the Pentagon who, in particular, there’s a cabal in there.
Nick Redfern had written about them, I figured out what his name for him was, I don’t think that’s the real name, but 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, that by studying it we invite Satan into this world, and they wanted it killed for those reasons. I know how that sounds, I’m not belittling anybody’s religious beliefs, but man, that kind of a decision-making, deciding to kill a program that’s doing good work because Satan might be involved, I don’t feel better about the Pentagon when I hear that, but it’s true. Now, there were other factors involved, there was political intrigue there at the Pentagon, somebody sees a pile of money that they consider vulnerable, they will go after it just for other reasons. And so, the money was pulled out from under it. I’ll say this, Bob Bigelow continued to fund it for a year on his own, out of his own pocket. He had, I think it was 50, it might have been as many as 90 employees at one time, but at least 50 of these were curious staff member, investigator types who were boots on the ground collecting files, investigating reports, really doing solid research. In addition to that, you had Hal Putthoff sort of overseeing the creation writing of scientific papers, and several of those have now gone public, I made the list public early this year at the full list and their authors, and it was some solid work; it was well-received in aerospace circles, in industry circles, and at the Pentagon. People with all those papers thought wow this is great it’s looking down the road 50 years to what science and engineering and aerospace could be, and space travel. Exciting stuff, but it got yanked. Bigelow continued to fund it for a year, fought his damndest to keep it alive, but in the end it got sunk, and it’s a shame, it’s a shame. And then, whatever was left of AWSAP, sort of merged back into AATIP.
So, when The New York Times breaks the story in December, they are true. There was a program called AATIP. It did study UFOs, but the $22 million didn’t go to AATIP, it went to AWSAP, it went to Bigelow Aerospace.
Rojas: And some other intrigue which I think I find interesting, there’s so much–because it is complicated about this story that people don’t seem to get, but I have confirmed this with Lrslie Kean and she did, I mean, it was okay to say, but The New York Times had other sources than Elizondo, or To The Stars, or some of the other BAASS people. And I don’t think people–I think everybody assumes that it was Bigelow and his group that gave her that information for the New York Times story, but there’s more political intrigue in that there’s other sources we’re not aware of.
Knapp: That’s true. I mean, the primary instigator of that whole thing, the New York Times story is Tom DeLonge. I know that drives some people crazy, but the fact is he deserves credit for what he did. He put together this group of people and they developed the plan and he sold it, and one way to get it off the ground–I mean, by creating the organization To The Stars, he gave Lue Elizondo a place to go. If Lue Elizondo didn’t have a place to go, he might have stayed in the Pentagon and wallow there, we would never have seen this stuff. Now, Lue did start the process forward on a number of videos being released and he went by the book. There’s a paper trail and I’ve seen it, at least, for the first three.
I remember the first time I met Luis, two days after he stepped on stage with Tom in Seattle, and then, after that, he came to Las Vegas. And I had dinner with him and Tom and Mr. B and he had those videos.
Are there more? Oh, yeah, there’s more; it’s in the process. So, I think after he left, whoever was left over, it was ticked off and he had made this stuff public, and he had a lot of people who were really mad at him, who were surprised when he made that announcement, I think they may have turned off the spigot. So, I don’t know if we’ll ever see more videos, but he, at least, started the process. But the fact is TTSA, DeLonge and his crew are the ones who got the attention, then New York Times showed them enough information to verify what they had heard from other sources. And I think they probably would have shared those videos except the New York Times got them on their own, they got them from somewhere else.
Knapp: And that is why to the consternation, I think, of Tom and his crew, New York Times breaks the story and they don’t even give Tom DeLonge or TTSA a mention, they don’t give them any credit at all. But at the time they were launching their organization, they wanted to raise money, they wanted a higher profile and they kind of got burned by it. I think it created some bad feelings. Leslie Kean did amazing work. I mean, she was the rock on that story in shepherding it because she’s not a staff member at New York Times, but she knew more about UFOs than anyone who was there. And I think if she had had her way, they would have written more stories, but after they made the big splash, they didn’t, they stopped.
Rojas: Yeah, yeah. And I still agree with Tom DeLonge getting, needing to be recognized and I have certainly spun that angle with everything that I’ve done, including my talk out here. But we’re running of time, so I guess I have to pull back and to get intrigue into this documentary which is–I mean, I feel that this documentary is very important and I’m sure you do too because finally the information is getting out in a format which you had hoped it would out at the beginning, and it seems to be doing well.
Knapp: Yeah, it was doing really well. I didn’t check today, but I know when the first day that it went public, it was, for a time, the number one documentary on iTunes, number one in the world. And I think the last word I heard Jeremy Corbell, the director, it was on iTunes number 18, not the documentaries, all films on iTunes.
Knapp: The top 200 films in the world, it was number 18 which is a pretty amazing thing, and it’s just getting started, it’s only been out for two days. So, it’s a bigger audience than the UFO people and the paranormal people who have been waiting to see it for a long time, so they are the ones who jumped on it, but there’s a whole big audience out there that is wondering what the heck is this Skinwalker thing that’s popped up on this list. And I think there’s a chance we could finally reach the broader audience that needs to be aware of this.
It may be too rudimentary and too basic for some UFO poobahs, but the fact is, this is not meant for them, it’s meant for a much bigger audience that wanted to engage and to realize these issues involve all of us. I’m not talking about some alien invasion or something, but the nature of reality and understanding our place in the universe and our spot in the food chain, we need to think about this stuff. And I think we made a breakthrough.
I am frustrated because after 18 years or so of trips out there, there’s a lot of stuff to report, and we had to leave so much out. The original material as well as new things that we’ve shot that Jeremy and Matt and I have collected and witnesses we’ve interviewed fairly recent phenomena including the new owner and his team; there’s a lot to tell. So, I’m hoping that it is successful enough that we can tell it more and I’d like to include the stories of some of the individual researchers who have been drawn to that place on their own and have had their own adventures. And I know we’re taking a lot of shots from ufologists who, for one reason or another, are ticked off to be on the outside looking in, but too bad that’s the way it goes.
Rojas: Right. I feel that way too. You can be excited about information coming out, or you can be upset because you’re not involved, which, I don’t know. It is frustrating to hear these people have these issues. My last question will be, to that larger population that seems to be out there – larger than I think many of us suspect. What I mean is the religious faction, the people who have concerns that we’re dealing with demons, what would you say to people who say “Maybe they should have shut that down. I kind of agree with those people.” How would you argue your point with them?
Knapp: Here are the facts. People can dispute lights in the sky or mistaken identification of different phenomena. We know that 95% of UFO cases, for example, are probably explainable. But the fact is our government has now confirmed there is no question about it. These are real. They are for somewhere else. They are not ours. And if we don’t figure it out, somebody else can figure it out. So even if you are not interested in the cosmic questions of who are they and how do they relate to us, what’s their interest, why are they here, how do we fit into this. Even if you don’t relate to that, and I can’t imagine any human being who would not, there is national security issues to consider. There is sometimes direct personal safety issues to consider. These things are physical. They have demonstrated a physical reality. They take different forms, different shapes at different times, It is real and we need to figure it out. If the Russians or the Chinese figure it out, they will exploit it. And I think that maybe they have made progress. Harry Reid thinks they’ve made progress, and Lue Elizondo believes that there are programs. I believe and have been told that during the BAASS study there were foreign governments in the Uintah Basin that were sniffing around and wanted to know what was going on out there. Now that’s seriously. When somebody uses mumbo jumbo and spooky stories and religious beliefs to put the kibosh on a scientific study or a legitimate inquiry, that is troublesome. You know what, maybe it is Satan. Maybe it’s demons. I don’t know what it is. Inter-dimensional travel, dimensional people, time travelers, all of the above, or crypto-terrestrials, or ultra-terrestrials, I don’t know. But we need to figure it out. If not for national security or personal safety, just for the sheer joy of discovery. It is very bad national security policy to say we don’t want to know about something. That makes no sense at all.