HOOPER — Mysteriously mutilated at King Ranch near the foot of Mt. Blanca in 1967, the body of Snippy the horse has had a long journey over the decades, ultimately landing at the UFO Watchtower north of Hooper in 2021.
“I said all along that she belonged here because she was UFO-related,” noted UFO Watchtower founder Judy Messoline. “And the families who owned the horse and ranch said that too.”
Messoline spent the last eight years trying to corral Snippy, but tracking the Appaloosa was a challenge. The full mystery began on Sept. 7, 1967, when the 3-year-old did not show up for food and water. Two days later, Snippy’s owner and the King Ranch operator discovered what they said was “a murder by forces not of this world.”
“She was totally stripped from the nose to the shoulder,” Messonline said of the discovery. “All that was left were bones. There were no organs in the body cavity. They cut the skull open to get to the brain, but there was no brain.”
Investigators found no blood either. Snippy’s nearest footprints were 100 feet away. According to Messoline, “The entire area around her was radioactive.”
During the investigation, United States Forest Service ranger Duane Martin checked the area with a Geiger counter, registering unusually high counts for a few hundred yards surrounding the corpse.
According to Snippy’s owner Nellie Lewis at the time, when she touched a piece of horse flesh caught on a bush, it burned her hand. More than a dozen burn marks suggested landing spots for some kind of equipment not far from Snippy’s body.
Following the investigation in 1967, Snippy’s bones jumped between eight locations until 2021. First, she was on display at a museum in Alamosa.
Then Adams State College displayed her until staff put her in a boxcar for storage. Years later, when the school auctioned off the boxcar, Snippy was still in it. The man with the highest bid ran a motel on Highway 285, and she stayed in that boxcar for another 20 years.
When the motel owner died, Dells Insurance displayed Snippy before putting her on eBay for $50,000. No one bought her.
Next, Snippy went to a storage unit in Alamosa for a few years. When the building owners put the facility up for sale, they transferred the horse skeleton to a small storage unit across the street. This was when the widow of the heir who had Snippy contacted Messoline with an offer.
“She and I came to an agreement on the price,” Messonline remembered. “So, I bought her. Snippy will never leave this place, period.”
Messoline grew up in Wheat Ridge and moved from Golden to her property north of Hooper in 1995. She and her husband had cattle and horses, but they had to sell them eventually. More than 20 years later, she now has nine cows and calves that stress her budget.
Messoline’s 600 acres don’t offer much for cattle to eat. Although summer rains have helped douse the San Luis Valley this year, “The weeds only started to show up three weeks ago,” Messonline said.
“From the time I moved here, all I heard were UFO stories from the locals. I just giggled and said, ‘we need a UFO watchtower,’ never thinking I would ever do it. I was working at the gas station in Hooper,” Messoline recounted, “and one of the local farmers told me, ‘We need a UFO watchtower, and you would have fun doing it,’ So I did. And I have had a lot of fun.”
For the most part, the 77-year-old Messoline runs the attraction by herself. But after she broke her leg in 2016, a woman named Annie has been returning to help during the summer months when the facility is open seven days a week. When winter hits, it’s only open on weekends between October and the end of March.
“I’ve had all these psychics come in, and they’ve said that there are two large vortexes out front. They described a vortex as a portal to a parallel universe. The other thing they said is that there are two large beings here to protect the entrances to the vortex, but they are also here to help. We had one girl who had been trying for like eight years to get pregnant,” Messoline said. “She came to the garden here and asked for help. Then she showed up a year later to show me her baby.”
Messoline maintains a guest book and reported more than 10,000 visitors a year in 2020 and 2021. As of August, the numbers indicate fewer visits this year, perhaps 5,000.
Messoline has confirmed 29 UFO visits over the Valley herself, and reports of strange light in the skies over the Valley date back to the 1500s. As of August 2022, she has 290 documented sightings from the UFO Watchtower.
Messoline hosted an annual conference for years, drawing UFO enthusiasts from around the world. Although she hasn’t had an official gathering for a long time, the Watchtower is a safe haven for people who want to share their observations free of ridicule.
The museum housing Snippy at the Watchtower today is filling up with more artifacts and improvements. As part of the agreement, Messoline will install a plexiglass enclosure to protect Snippy’s fragile bone structure. As history passes, she will add more information and continue to provide a venue for sharing UFO observations.