Part one of this series can be found here.
According to the 1976 book Mystery Stalks the Prairie, Cascade County, MT Sheriff’s Capt. Keith Wolverton initially thought he could unlock the cattle mutilation case within three weeks. But three weeks came and went, and he found himself still devoted more or less full-time to the investigation.
Wolverton was given a loose rein by Sheriff John Krsul during the course of the investigation. As stated in Mystery Stalks the Prairie, “No idea was too weird to merit careful consideration.” His research led him from a prison in Minnesota to an alleged bomb plot to a supposed ceremonial cult site outside Butte, Montana. He consulted with remote viewers and veterinarians. He and his team experimented with donated calves — later returned, unharmed, to their owners — to try to determine the effects of different drugs on the cattle. He tried to cut pieces of cow-hide with all manner of pinking shears, pizza cutters, and other instruments to attempt to replicate the mysterious serrated marks often found on the mutilated cows. And the mutilations continued to occur with disturbing frequency, with over 100 individual cases reported over just a nine-month period in 1975-76.
Along the way, UFO reports flooded the sheriff’s office. UFOs of all shapes and sizes were reported, from egg-shaped to saucer-shaped to one that resembled, in the witness’ words, a “two-story hotel sitting out there in the field” that slowly lifted off and drifted away.
In one case, a helicopter-like UFO was seen flying during a storm in 40-mile-an-hour winds — an unlikely feat for any common pilot to attempt. In another report, a UFO was seen deliberately keeping pace with an Air Force plane. Although Cascade County is the site of Malmstrom air base (and at the time, of several missile silos), officials there publicly denied any responsibility for, or knowledge of, the UFO reports.
It was only a matter of time before bigfoot showed up to take part in the hullaballoo — although the creatures do not appear to have been directly implicated in the mutilations. Several unknown creature (and footprint) reports came into the sheriff’s office, with witnesses typically describing red eyes and a pungent odor going along with the hairy bipeds. Oddly, when the bigfoot reports started coming in, the UFO sightings slowed. Were the two phenomena somehow linked?
“There was overlapping,” write co-authors Wolverton and Roberta Donovan in Mystery Stalks the Prairie, “but one type of activity seemed to decline as another started. Was it a piece of the puzzle, or purely coincidence? Speculation seemed futile.”
From a report in the Helena Independent Record, entitled “What’s going on in Cascade County?,” February 11, 1976:
Reports of screams in the night, pulsating airborne lights and hair-covered creatures have officials here wondering just what is going on in Cascade County — and they’re asking for help.
“With a little help from citizens, we might be able to get to the bottom of this mystery,” Sheriff’s Captain Keith Wolverton said.
Wolverton himself watched one of the hovering lights for about two hours last Thursday night, but was unable to get near it because of the terrain.
Today he was continuing his investigation into a report by two young women who said they saw three hair-covered, human-like creatures near Great Falls on Dec. 26.
Wolverton scheduled a polygraph test for one of the two women, but said it was a routine investigative step.
“We don’t think it’s a hoax by any means. We’re still investigating.”
Several county residents have reported being awakened at night by a sound “like a man screaming in terror or pain,” Wolverton said, but when they investigated they found nothing but frightened farm animals or pets.
Wolverton is treating the whole matter cautiously and will release few details — and no names.
“We figure there are quite a few people who have stories (of similar sightings) to tell and won’t because of fear of ridicule,” Wolverton said. “We would like to have those reports.”
He guaranteed anonymity to anyone who requests it in connection with the investigation.
(Both women later submitted to, and passed, polygraph examinations.)
What if the mutilations had a more, let’s say, earthly explanation? In the wake of the Manson Family, cults were all the rage in the 1970s. Wolverton, according to Mystery Stalks, had been told by a fellow law officer that “the cattle were being injected with PCP, a hallucinogenic drug. The blood was then removed from the animal and given to the witches of (a) cult to drink, which caused them to trip out.” (Yes, the italics appear in the original text.) The cult theory led Wolverton to Minnesota to speak with a convict imprisoned there. The man supposedly had inside information relating not only to cattle mutilations, but also to a plot to bomb Helena, Montana; and furthermore, that a cult was planning to mutilate human beings, mostly Hollywood celebrities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this lead turned out to be dead on arrival.
Wolverton did not discount the cult theory altogether, however. In April 1976, he traveled south to Butte, MT to reconnoiter a suspected “devil-worshiping” cult’s ceremonial stomping grounds. This lead also proved futile: nothing of import to the investigation was uncovered at the site.
This is part two of a three-part series. Part three will drop shortly; in the meantime, here is a Youtube interview of both Capt. Wolverton and Sheriff Pete Howard of neighboring Teton County, Montana.