Crownpoint howler makes 'Navajo Cops'

By Cindy Yurth
Tséyi' Bureau

CHINLE, Dec. 5, 2011

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The director/producer of the NatGeo television show "Navajo Cops," along with his film crew and several Navajo police officers heard the eerie noise that has been plaguing Crownpoint residents since July and were able to record it, he confirmed Monday.

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"Navajo Cops" Producer/Director Sam Dolan didn't play the recording for the Navajo Times, noting he was saving it to air as part of the TV show next spring, but Navajo Nation Police Lt. Calvin Begay of the Crownpoint station said he had heard the recording and it's quite distinct.

"They definitely got something," he said.

Dolan said his crew arrived on the Navajo Nation in mid-summer and began filming episodes of "Navajo Cops," a reality show in which they accompany Navajo Nation Police officers on their rounds.

While here, they started to hear about a strange moaning or howling noise being heard by the residents of Crownpoint, and asked the police stationed there if they could go along with them to investigate.

The first investigation happened Sept. 22, about two months after police logged the first report of what they have come to refer to as "The Howler."

"I went out with Capt. (Steve) Nelson, Lt. Begay and two other officers," Dolan recalled. "We set up three listening posts: one on the mesa overlooking the cemetery, one near the school and one in the canyon to the southeast of town."

But alas, no howling was heard.

The police decided to launch a similar hunt on Nov. 2 and invited "Navajo Cops" back.

"I hastily put a crew together and we headed back out there," Dolan said.

This time the officers decided to launch the effort in the daytime when they could see tracks or other sign of the beastie. They headed up a horseshoe-shaped canyon that wraps around the low mesa above the cemetery - the place some residents insisted the noise was coming from.



"I really didn't think we were going to hear anything," Dolan said, "because all the reports were coming in at night, and we were up there in broad daylight."

Nevertheless, he headed up the canyon with the six police officers, a cameraman and a sound technician.

The police, he noticed, were well armed.

"There had been reports of a couple of dogs killed, and nobody knew what killed them, so they were taking precautions," he said.

It was a cold, windy day and Dolan was starting to wonder what he was doing out there when, a little before 1 p.m., "I heard it," he said. "We all heard it."

Dolan says he was raised in northern Arizona and has heard his fair share of local wildlife, but nothing like this.

"If I had to describe it," he said, "I would put it at a cross between a wounded elk and a sick coyote. But anything wounded or sick out in that country would have died a long time ago, and people have been hearing this thing since July."

According to Dolan, all nine people in the canyon heard the howl, and it was recorded both on the separate sound track and Dolan's video camera.

"Nobody said anything for a while," he said. "Then a female officer said over the radio, 'Did anyone hear that noise?' We had all heard it."

The hunting party headed west in the direction of the howl. Eventually they located a cave in the cliff face with a dank, animal smell, but no signs of occupancy. There were no unusual tracks - in fact, the tracks were surprisingly few.

"There was a noticeable absence of wildlife," Nolan said. "You couldn't even hear birds singing."

Farther down the canyon, however, there were unusually deep and scattered cattle tracks.

"Something scared those cows," Dolan said.

Eventually, the search crew decided to call it a day.

"There was the usual banter on the way back," Dolan said, "but people weren't really talking about the sound. I had an uneasy feeling."

Dolan said he's not easily scared and when it comes to the supernatural, "I'm an agnostic." But he does not believe, as some have suggested, that the sound is made by a person playing an elaborate prank.

"Nobody knew we were going in that day," he said. "There's no way someone could have gotten in there ahead of us. I suppose you could have gotten a four-wheel-drive in there a ways, but we would have seen the tracks."

Since the expedition, Begay reported, there have been no more calls on The Howler.

"That's about when it started getting cold, so whether it's an animal or a person playing a joke, maybe they took cover for the winter," he theorized.

As for Dolan, "I haven't really told too many people about it," he said. "You tell people you went out in the woods and heard a noise, they think you're crazy. But I remember it clear as can be. I've spent the better part of this month wondering what it was I heard."

Dolan said the experience was definitely the "most unusual thing we've done" on "Navajo Cops."

"It will be one of the six episodes coming next spring," he promised.

Viewers will get to hear The Howler and decide for themselves what they think it is.

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