Frances didn't know what was happening, but one hand instinctively reached over and held down the button for the door lock, and the other tightly grabbed the the door handle. She braced her back against her small brother and held firmly onto the door, still not knowing quite why.
Her brother was now yelling, "What is it? What is it?" Her father immediately flipped on the interior cab light, and Frances could see that he was petrified. "I have never, ever seen my father that scared in my whole life," Frances says. "Not when he came home from his tours in Vietnam, not when he came home from 'special assignments,' not even when someone tried to firebomb our house."
Frances's father was as white as a ghost. She could see the hair on the back of his neck standing straight out, like a cat's, and so was the hair on his arms. She could even see the goose bumps on his skin. Panic was filling the small cab. Frances's mother was so frightened that she began shouting in her native Japanese in a high, squeaky voice as she frantically wrung her hands. The little boy just kept saying, "Oh my God!"
From out of the ditch
As the pickup sped around the bend in the road, Frances could see that the shoulder dropped off deeply into a ditch. Her father slammed on the brakes to prevent the truck from swerving into the ditch. As the pickup was slowing to a stop, something leapt out of the ditch at the side of the truck. And now Frances could clearly see what had started the panic.
It was black and hairy and was eye level with the passengers in the cab. If this was a man, it was like no man Frances had ever seen. Yet despite its monstrous appearance, whatever this thing was, it wore a man's clothes. "It had on a white and blue checked shirt and long pants - I think jeans," Frances testifies. "Its arms were raised over its head, almost touching the top of the cab."
This creature remained there for a few seconds, looking into the pickup... and then the pickup was past it. Frances could not believe what she had seen. "It looked like a hairy man, or a hairy animal in man's clothing," she says. "But it didn't look like an ape or anything like that. Its eyes were yellow and its mouth was open."
Although time seemed frozen and distorted in this moment of fantastic horror, it was all over within a few minutes - the headlights, her little brother coming into the cab and the "thing."
By the time the family reached Kayenta for gas, they had finally calmed down. Frances and her father climbed out of the pickup and checked the side of the truck to see if the creature had done any damage. They were surprised to see that the dust on the side of the truck was undisturbed, and so was the dust on the hood and roof of the truck. In fact, they found nothing out of the ordinary. No blood, no hair... nothing. The family stretched their legs and rested at Kayenta for about 20 minutes. The car that had been following them never did show up. It's as if the car simply vanished. They drove home to Flagstaff with the cab light on and the doors securely locked.
"I wish I could say this was the end of the story," Frances says, "but it's not."
The "men" at the fence
A few nights later, around 11:00 p.m., Frances and her brother were awakened by the sounds of drumming. They looked out his bedroom window into the backyard, which was surrounded by a fence. At first, they saw nothing but the forest beyond the fence. Then the drumming grew louder, and three or four "men" appeared behind the wooden fence. "It looked like they were trying to climb the fence, but couldn't quite manage to bring their legs up high enough and swing over," Frances says.
Unable to get into the yard, the "men" began to chant. Frances was so scared, she slept with her little brother that night.
Sometime later, Frances sought out her Navajo friend, hoping she could offer some explanation for these strange incidents. She told Frances that it was a Skinwalker that had tried to attack her family. Skinwalkers are creatures of Navajo legend - witches that can shape-shift into animals.
That a Skinwalker attacked them was quite unusual, Frances's friend told her, as it had been a long time since she has heard of any activity about Skinwalkers, and that they normally don't bother non-natives. Frances took her friend back by the fence where she had seen the strange men trying to climb in. The Navajo woman considered the scene for a moment, then revealed that three or four Skinwalkers had visited the house. She said that they wanted the family, but could not gain access because something was protecting the family.
Frances was astonished. Why, she asked. Why would the Skinwalkers want her family? "Your family has a lot of power," the Navajo woman said, "and that they wanted it." Again she said that Skinwalkers usually don't bother non-natives, but she believed that they wanted the family enough to expose themselves. Later that day, she blessed the perimeter of the property, the house, the vehicles and the family.
"We haven't been bothered by Skinwalkers since then," Frances says. "Then again, I haven't been back to Kayenta. I have gone through other towns on the reservation - yes, at night. But I'm not alone; I carry a weapon. And I carry protective amulets."
Paranormal Poll: Do you believe Frances's family encountered a Skinwalker?