MOSCA — On what has been described as a “blustery” morning in September of 1967, Harry King, the boss of his family’s ranch, discovered that his sister’s three-year-old Appaloosa filly, Lady, was missing. When she still wasn’t around the next morning, King went looking.
Just a quarter-mile north of the house, he found the filly’s mutilated corpse. Everything, from the tip of her nose to her withers, had been stripped. Hide, flesh, tendon, organs — even her brain — had been removed. There was not a drop of blood anywhere, and her skeleton was white as if bleached by the sun.
Although the horse’s body had been dead since the previous day, there was no smell of death. Instead, those first on the scene described an odor more like chemicals. Although the carcass past the withers was still intact, predators and scavengers had not touched it. The ground, still damp from a previous rain, showed no footprints except those on the scene.
Further examination discovered that the horse’s lungs, heart and thyroid had also been removed.
When the story of “Snippy the Horse” — the name she was given by the press that was used from that day forward — was picked up by press outside of the San Luis Valley, it got instant international coverage. The anomalous nature of her carcass defied explanation. But when it was paired with the sightings that had been reported in previous weeks of strange lights in the sky, the conclusion seemed obvious to those in the area.
Snippy the horse became the first documented case of animal mutilation by, it was surmised, alien beings.
In 1968, a local veterinarian boiled off the remaining tissue and organs and, mounted on a platform, rebuilt the skeleton using wires and screws.
When Judy Messoline and her husband moved to the San Luis Valley in the 1990s, they planned to raise cattle and horses. Almost from the moment they arrived, they heard stories from the locals about UFOs.
“I’d just giggle and say that we should build a watchtower,” she says, “but I never thought I’d really do it.”
After struggling for more than four years with raising livestock “who don’t do real well in sand,” they made the tough decision to sell off the herd, a decision Judy shared “with dismay” while speaking to a local farmer at the store where she was working in Hooper.
“You should open that watchtower you’ve talked about,” he told her.
Twenty-one years later, the UFO Watchtower sits in the middle of the Messoline’s 600-acre spread where cattle and horses used to roam. Surrounded by nothing but a few houses and a whole bunch of sky filled with a whole bunch of stars — and occasional other shiny things — at night, the elevated platform offers a better view of the area. With a gift shop and spaces for camping, the site has gained quite a reputation among those interested in UFOs. More than 10,000 visitors came to the area last summer.
“When we opened the place, we never expected much of a response,” Messoline says. “We thought we might get people stopping off the highway but not much more than that.”
Messoline was not particularly knowledgeable about UFOs prior to opening the Watchtower, but it did not take long to make her a believer.
“Once I started seeing what I’ve seen…well, it was a real eye-opener,” she says.
More than 280 documented sightings have been recorded since the place opened in 2000, including one sighting of a “cigar-shaped object between the tower and the mountain” that Messoline saw herself, along with eleven others.
For the past six to seven years, Messoline has been trying to obtain Snippy’s remains. John Heflin, the last man to be in possession of Snippy’s skeleton, had tried to sell her on eBay for $50,000 but was unsuccessful. When he died, his widow contacted Messoline and the two reached an agreement on a price.
Snippy is now being reassembled by Jay Young, a local who offered to get her back in condition to where she can be put in a glass case on display. Messoline expects her to be at the UFO Watchtower in the summer of 2022.
“This is where she should be,” Messoline says. “This is where she belongs.”
Anyone interested in contributing to Snippy’s restoration can make a donation on her GoFundMe site — Help Get Snippy on Display.