April 11, 2014
Paranormal Witness, a Syfy network documentary television series made by a British production company, is described as featuring eyewitness testimony from everyday people who claim to have experienced paranormal activity.
The series premiered on September 7, 2011, was picked up for a second season with twelve new episodes in 2012, and is currently in its third season—scheduled for twenty episodes that began airing on June 5, 2013, and are ongoing as this book hits the press. The show is unique in the genre in that the cases are usually reported by reliable witnesses and supported with evidence that can be verified or dismissed through research.
One case in particular captured my attention because it encapsulates in one story multiple instances of paranormal and, indeed, supernatural phenomena. That episode was called “Haunted Highway” (season 1, episode 102), [i] and originally aired on September 14, 2011, to an audience of 1.36 million viewers. [ii]
Haunted Highway: The Amazing Rescue of Nick Skubish
Actually, the same case originally ran on the February 21, 1997, episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and its reuse by Paranormal Witness testifies to its utterly unique combination of events and phenomena. It is an amazing case. The story centers on twenty-four-year-old Christine Skubish and her three-year-old son, Nick, who went missing off Highway 50 in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California about fifteen miles outside of Placerville. A single mother, Christine had recently earned her paralegal certification and was moving to start a new career. She was also hopeful about marrying her son’s father, who lived in that area. When she left her family’s home near Sacramento on Sunday, June 5, 1994, her hopes were high.
“Christine and Nick Skubish” Source: Unsolved Mysteries [iii]
According to the show’s version of events, Dave Stautzenbach, Christine’s stepfather, received a telephone call on Wednesday, June 8, from one of her friends, who said she had expected Christine to arrive in town on Monday—but it was now Wednesday morning. Worried, Stautzenbach called the police to make a missing-persons report and started checking with hospitals along the route Christine would have traveled.
Regrettably, his effort was to no avail. Deputy Rich Strasser told viewers, “There’s people reported missing all the time, everyday, throughout this country. There was nothing out of the ordinary. I thought it was just another, I hate to say it, routine missing-persons report.” [iv]
Of course, the vast majority of cases do turn out to be nonevents when the missing person shows up after an unplanned excursion. However, this case was anything but routine, and it qualifies as one of the most diverse paranormal cases in history.
I contacted Christine Skubish’s aunt, Karen Nichols, whose story is also featured on “Haunted Highway.” According to her, the report isn’t very accurate. On the program, Karen calls Dave Stautzenbach and recounts a strange dream that included Christine and Nick, as well as the number sixteen repeated over and over. Karen told me that the TV version is mostly fiction, because the number sixteen was not part of her dream. Somehow, the details of her dream got mixed up with other details, and the show presented a falsehood. It is not clear whether the inaccuracy was intentional.
Perhaps this was because Karen refused to participate in either Unsolved Mysteries or Paranormal Witness, even though both programs offered her money. Why did Karen decline the monetary offer? She said she is a born-again Christian who felt it was wrong to sensationalize the tragedy. She wrote to me, “I declined their offer because I didn’t see how this could in any way glorify the church. I didn’t feel it in my spirit.” [v]
You might ask why Karen spoke to me; by the end of this chapter, the answer to that will be clear. She had several extrasensory dreams, and this is the first time they have ever been accurately described to the public. We will now set the record straight.
Karen Nichols’ “Extrasensory” Dreams
Despite the errors, however, “Haunted Highway” did report at least a few details about Karen’s dreams that were correct. For example, on the show, Stautzenbach commented concerning Karen’s dream: “She had premonitions before, but this was so real, she knew that she was going to find him.” [vi] This is absolutely true; Karen has written in detail about her lifelong experience with premonitions, visions, and precognitive dreams. In fact, she once warned a relative concerning cancer weeks before it was diagnosed and accurately predicted a close family member’s demise.
It is important to note that having these dreams and premonitions is not something Karen tries to do. They just happen to her unexpectedly. She states that she repented from occult involvement by dedicating her life to Christ many years ago.
This is Karen’s account of the first dream she had on the night of the accident:
Monday morning about 3 a.m., June 6, 1994, I had a dream of riding in the backseat of a car at night. I could see the silhouette of a child in the passenger seat and a girl driving. I could see the reflection of the headlights and the hood of the car. I could tell we were on a dark road because there were no streetlights, and outside it seemed to be mountainous.
That morning, I spoke to my mother and my sister and asked if they had heard from Chrissy. They said, “No,” but I knew she was going to stop by a friend’s house in Carson City, Nevada. So, even though I felt a bit uneasy, I continued to push it out of my mind and told myself everything was OK. [vii]
The above dream probably occurred at the time of the accident or shortly after. Interestingly, it seems to transport Karen into the car with her niece and young Nick. The setting is correct: It was a dark mountain road.
That morning, Karen called her sister, Brenda, and asked if she had heard from Christine—the answer was no. The following night and into Tuesday morning, Karen had a similar dream:
That night when I went to sleep, I had the same dream, exactly as the night before, and I repeated the same activities as the day before, calling to check on Christine, with the same disappointing result. It was now Tuesday, June 7, and my concern grew stronger, and I felt very anxious. My heart felt heavy, and I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew that something was very wrong.
With no word from Christine on Tuesday, Karen was distraught. The character of the third dream might reflect this mental state, but the content suggests the supernatural: The spirit of Christine Skubish was contacting Karen in her dreams in order to save Nick, who was still in the woods.
Karen’s third dream is much more disturbing (keep in mind that Karen calls Christine her “sister” because they were so close, but technically, she is Christine’s aunt):
That night I had another dream that was different than the other two. This dream was more of a catastrophic nature. I was in my sister’s house and there was a horrible wind. This wind had so much force that the trees were completely bent in half. I was standing in front of the window and looking out into the yard. It was a big yard, as my sister lived on sixteen acres with many tall pine trees. It was nighttime, and all of a sudden, the winds increased to hurricane-like winds. I could hear the sound of glass breaking and popping and metal scraping. I could see sparks.
I looked over in the yard and I could see Nicky standing in the middle of the yard. I also saw my sister trying to get to him. There was so much debris blowing around and glass shattering and metal that looked like it was curled up. I was trying to help my sister, but I couldn’t find my shoes. I was barefooted, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it to her because of all the glass that was on the ground. I finally found them, and when I opened the door, the wind stopped. I ran to her and she was just standing there with Nicky.
Nervously, I was laughing, and I turned her towards me and asked if she was all right. When I looked in her eyes, they were blank and there was no life in them. Her face was inexpressive. She looked like she was in a trance, because she didn’t look at me but through me.
I asked if she was okay, and she said, “No.”
I said, “Are you going to be okay?”
She looked at me with very haunting eyes and with a melancholy expression and again said, “No.”
This dream seems to meet the definition of what experts call an after-death communication (ADC), because Christine is telling Karen that she (Christine) is deceased, but that Nick needs help. This was early on Wednesday morning, June 8, 1994, and nobody had any evidence about a car accident. However, Karen was now absolutely sure that something was amiss.
At this point, I woke up to hear a loud screaming sound and a pounding like a loud bang. I sat up. My heart was racing; I could hear the sound of my heart beating. It was hard to breathe. It felt like someone hit me hard in the pit of my stomach. It felt like all the blood had rushed to my head. It was brutal. It was the kind of dream that shakes you to the very core, and it wasn’t going to go away. There was no shaking this dream. This was probably about the same time of night as the other two dreams I had previously.
Now this is Wednesday, June 8. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I got ready for work and still my gut hurt. My heart felt heavy. My chest felt tight. My head felt swollen. I felt completely out of sorts. When I got to work, it was really hard to concentrate on my work. I told my coworker about the dream and how I couldn’t shake it. I kept having a chill that ran down my back. I made it through the day, but I felt really tired.
When I got home, my daughter asked, “Mom, did you hear that Chrissy is missing?”
I said, “No,” I hadn’t heard, but I flippantly said, “Chris isn’t missing. How can you miss Chris? She was too loud to miss.”
As I said that, I took a couple of steps and stopped dead in my tracks. I knew that this was it. Chrissy was supposed to have arrived today, and I still hadn’t heard from her.
The dream occurred the morning of Wednesday, June 8, and it was that evening when Deputy Strasser got the missing-persons report. Thursday came and went with no new developments. Karen was convinced that her entire immediate family should be scouring the roadside, but she had no car. She asked her husband to rent one.
I was trying to convince my family that if she had been in a wreck, there was a good possibility that Nicky could have survived. I could feel him. I could feel that he was alive. I didn’t feel Chrissy, but I did feel Nick. But still, no one would help. My sister did make fliers and hand them out and post them with a picture of Chris.
Increasingly concerned, the family printed up fliers and began distributing the fliers along Highway 50. Karen, who lived five hundred miles away, was finally able to rent a car in order to start searching the roadside with her husband.
Karen described the search:
On Friday, June 10, I knew the window of opportunity was closing for Nicky. I was desperate. The car rental [company] called to tell me that the car we were to pick up had been returned vandalized and we would have to wait on another car to come in.
Well, it finally came in, and by the time we picked up the car, it [was] around 8 to 9 p.m. We had about a seven-hour drive ahead of us, so on our way, we stopped and bought a spotlight so that we would be able to see if we arrived before sunup.
As we left on our journey, I was praying, and continued to pray all the way. We were probably about two hours into our drive, and I just couldn’t find the words to pray. Then there was a groaning in my spirit, and I began to hear an utterance that I couldn’t understand. I believe it was the Holy Spirit. I began to hear a man’s voice; it was dynamic and forceful, and he was praying. He was demanding and he was rebuking. Even though it was strange, I understood every word.
He was covering Chrissy and Nicky with the blood of Jesus. He was sending God’s angels to surround them. It sounded like heaven was being called down with all the glory and love and protection. I do not believe I ever experienced such power before. I felt like I was enveloped in peace and warmth. I heard this for what seemed the entire trip, but then, at one point, I couldn’t feel Nicky any longer. I told my husband he could slow down…it was over. Nicky was gone. I could no longer feel him.
This sounds like a mystical experience of the spiritual warfare variety. Enveloped in power, Karen heard a male voice commanding angels to protect Christine and Nick. However, then something happened and Nick dropped off the radar. Did Nick lose his grip on this world for a brief time? The extrasensory mechanism assuring her that Nick was alive no longer detected his life force. Karen believes that Nick actually died at this time—and there is some startling confirmation of that from Nick himself after his rescue.
Meet Nick Skubish
The great miracle of this case is three-year-old Nick’s unlikely survival. The serpentine highway winds its way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Sacramento to Lake Tahoe. Because there were no skid marks, the police hypothesize that Christine fell asleep just prior to reaching the corner known as Bullion Bend. Running off the road with no guard rails, the car plunged forty feet down an embankment, making it invisible to passing motorists. Of course, no one really knows what happened. However, if a third party ran her off the road, or even if an animal ran onto the highway, one would expect to find skid marks.
I was able to locate, contact, and interview Nick, who will be twenty-three by the time the investigative book THE SUPERNATURAL WORLDVIEW hits the street. He actually remembers quite a bit, considering that he was only three at the time of the tragedy.
By the end of this segment, I hope it is clear that finding Nick was more from divine providence than my investigative journalism. Of course, this accident was an extremely traumatic and life-altering event that affects his life to this day. With that in mind, I endeavored to maintain a degree of sensitivity with the questions I asked.
Cris: Nick, do you actually remember the accident?
Nick: Oh, the accident? Absolutely…but I don’t remember anything before the accident, and I don’t even remember the hospital at all, like recovering. But I remember the accident quite a bit actually.
Cris: Tell me what you remember.
Nick: I remember almost every night; I don’t remember the days too much, but I remember the night we wrecked. I remember the car flipping. I remember hitting tree after tree after tree… And I remember when the roof of the car got ripped off. I remember seeing my mom. I remember getting out of the car. I remember climbing up that forty-foot embankment and sliding down on pine needles. I remember seeing the lights. I remember every night, pretty much. I just don’t remember the days at all. If anything, I feel like I was sleeping, but I don’t remember the days at all.
Cris: Did you have any water or anything?
Nick: Not that I remember. I know we wrecked at two o’clock in the morning, June sixth, and they found us sometime in the afternoon on June eleventh.
Cris: So, a little over five days and six nights counting the night of the accident.
Nick: That sounds right.
Cris: That’s a long time to go without food and water.
Nick: Yeah, I had a severe concussion; matter of fact, I still have a scar. I’d say a good three inches long on the side of my head, more of an indentation really, and I went through severe malnutrition and severe dehydration. [viii]
The Apparition by the Road
Paranormal Witness called this story “Haunted Highway” for a good reason. The second episode of the first season featured an interview with Deborah Hoyt, an unrelated traveler, who adds another paranormal element to the Skubish story. She describes awakening in the middle of night—the early morning hours of Saturday, June 11—with an overwhelming urgency to go home. Based on the vague but powerful premonition, she persuaded her husband to wake and drive up Highway 50. On the way home to Lake Tahoe, Deborah was astonished to see a naked, apparently deceased, young woman on the side of the road. She described the woman as young, dark-haired, attractive, and endowed with large breasts—features matching Christine Skubish. Because this was the age before cell phones, Deborah and her husband drove to the closest gas station to call 911. When an officer arrived, Deborah led him to Bullion Bend…but there was no sign of the ghostly white, nude woman.
Deborah related her disappointment: “[The police officer] had a big spotlight and he was looking, and then he came back down and told me they hadn’t found anything and that we should go home. I told my husband that I didn’t think they believed me and that they thought I was crazy and they would probably just stop the search.” [ix]
Apparently, the police were led back to Bullion Bend later that night, but that information has never been disclosed to the public—that is, until now. That will be explained shortly. For now, we return to Nick.
© 2014 Cris Putnam - All Rights Reserved
Cris D. Putnam is a bestselling co-author of Petrus Romanus the Final Pope is Here and Christian apologist. He holds a Masters in Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a a Certification in Christian Apologetics from BIOLA University as well as a B.S. in religion and mathematics. He is recognized for expertise in the area of Christian apologetics, biblical prophecy and other prophetic traditions. In that regard, he has been interviewed on Prophecy in the News, as an expert for the television show Countdown to Apocalypse on The History Channel and in Canada for I Prophesy: The Future Revealed. He has also appeared on many major radio programs and podcasts across the country. He is a member of the International Society of Christian Apologetics, the Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Tau Sigma National Honor Society.