April 22, 2014
In the meantime, deep down the precipitous embankment, three-year-old Nick was in the car next to his deceased mother’s broken body. After talking to the officer who responded to Deborah Hoyt, Deputy Strasser was increasingly convinced that the apparition and the Skubish disappearance were connected. But there’s more. While thirsty and starving, Nick was strangely not alone.
Cris: Do you believe you saw angels at the scene of the accident?
Nick: Yes, only at night.
Cris: Can you describe them for me?
Nick: Sure. Take the silhouette of a person, just the form, if you will. And make that form an essence of light, just light radiating from the form, but no physical features, no hands, no clothes…just light.
Cris: So just a shape of a body glowing light?
Nick: Yes, exactly.
A Supernatural Worldview allows one to postulate that the spirit of Christine Skubish was desperately trying to save her child. In contrast, skeptics have suggested that perhaps the body on the side of the road was actually Nick. While it’s hard to imagine a three-year-old boy being misidentified as a busty adult female, it offers a nonparanormal possibility. As a matter of fact, Nick remembers climbing up to the road, but after no cars came, not knowing what to do, he returned to the car and his mom.
Cris: You remember making it to the road?
Nick: Yes. I definitely got up to the road a couple times.
Cris: Is it possible the naked body people saw was you?
Nick: I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t ever remember laying up there, but anything is possible. I just remember what I remember, and other people saw what they say they saw.
Cris: Do you think the naked apparition seen at the road might have been your mother?
Nick: I would say…yeah. I think, if my Mom were playing a part in what happened, she might have to go about things in different ways with different people to get them to perceive what was actually going on. Maybe their mind would’ve told them it wasn’t real. But a woman lying on the side of the road was a real possibility; therefore, Deborah Hoyt saw it when she did.
Cris: It seems like that was a big part of what saved you: People reported a naked woman’s body on the side of the road. Deborah Hoyt definitely saw a female, and she seemed pretty sure about it. So it’s hard to believe it was you, but I suppose a skeptic might say that, so I wanted to ask. Some people just do not want to believe in anything supernatural.
Nick: That is one thing I have found throughout the years. A lot of people I have met have a hard time believing in anything big at all. People think they do, but not everyone generally believes what they think they do, I have found.
Cris: That is what this book is about: how the presuppositions you hold, the things that you believe about reality, will mold your opinion about everything else. If you don’t believe in the possibility of miracles or supernatural things, then you will always try to come up with an explanation that excludes them, no matter how fanciful. In this way, opinions are really a product of worldview as much as facts. People always interpret facts through their worldview. It’s like the lens that you view the world through.
Nick: It is. You know what? I really like what you’re talking about. I’ve read a lot of books on spiritual things; I read a lot. I am definitely interested in this book that you are writing.
Ghost or no ghost, a naked woman lying on the side of the highway is hard to ignore. Nick believes his mom was doing what was necessary to get a reaction. His great aunt Karen also believes that the apparition was her niece’s post-mortem effort to save her son. She offered:
Some say that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. But if there was any possible way to make this happen, I know Chrissy could. She had such a great love for the Father and Jesus and she was so strong-willed and determined that nothing would stop her from making sure her baby was safe. She loved him so much. He was all she had in this world. He was her everything, and there were no boundaries where he was concerned. Her love remained even in death—even if it meant taking her clothes off to attract someone to the site of the wreck.
I asked Nick for more details about the angels that were with him at night. Perhaps they had something to do with apparition sightings? Interestingly, this led Nick back to Karen’s dreams.
Cris: These beings of light that you saw, were they close to you? Were they only at a distance? Did you interact with them?
Nick: One of them was next to the car the whole time, and one of them was next to the road. I’ve been told by a lot of people that when I was in the hospital—and, like I said earlier, I don’t remember the hospital, I don’t remember the recovery at all—I was told by a lot of people that I told them I saw the angels. I told them a lot of other things, too. I told my aunt [Karen] a few things. I don’t know what show you saw, but one that goes way back [Unsolved Mysteries] talks about my aunt having visions; that’s the same aunt. She had multiple dreams, I guess, at the time it was going on. She has actually had quite a few paranormal experiences. A lot of people in my family have had paranormal experiences—on that side of the family at least.
Cris: Your aunt had a dream, and she reported it, and others saw a naked body by the road—and it was those things put together that helped them find you, correct?
Nick: My aunt’s dreams never get focused on because she did not want to be involved in any of the television programs. So the next show that covered it [Paranormal Witness] was because my grandfather submitted it, and it was the first one I took part in since the accident.
An important idea developed in The Supernatural Worldview is that some folks, like Karen Nichols, are more inclined to perceive the spirit realm than others. This doesn’t make them guilty of witchcraft or of practicing the occult arts. It isn’t something Karen asked for or intentionally developed, but rather is an inherent ability. In her third dream, an after-death communication from Christine led Karen to conclude that her niece was deceased, but that Nick was in desperate need of rescue. The dream featured broken glass and tearing metal—details that are consistent with the actual mangled automobile. Karen’s actions support her story as well. Desperate, she and her husband rented a car to drive five hundred miles as they scoured the roadside for any small sign. Karen described the journey and a remarkable event that was spiritually perceived and later confirmed:
I was praying as we left on our journey 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, and there came a groaning in my spirit, and I began to hear an utterance that I couldn’t understand. I believe it was the Holy Spirit, and I began to hear a man’s voice. It was dynamic and forceful, and he was praying, he was demanding, he was rebuking. I understood his 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 sent down with all the glory and love and protection. I do not believe I have ever experienced such power before. I felt like I was enveloped in warmth and peace. I heard this for what seemed the entire trip, but then at one point I couldn’t feel Nicky any longer, and I told my husband he could slow down. It was over; Nicky was gone…I couldn’t feel him.
Karen believes that Nick briefly departed this life. This odd detail is especially interesting in light of what she later learned at the hospital. For now, we return to the search as described by Karen:
I knew that there would be something of Chrissy’s or Nicky’s on the road or at a turn out that would let me know where they were. So I began looking on the side of the road. If I didn’t have a clear view, I would have my husband stop so I could get out and physically look over the side. There was so much vegetation on Highway 50, a very mountainous highway that leads to Lake Tahoe.
The timing of the discovery is amazing, because it seems that Karen and Deputy Strasser arrived at the scene within minutes of each other. The Associated Press reported: “Strasser had spotted the boy’s tennis shoe on the side of the highway Saturday, and then found the car. He believes the boy at some point climbed from the car to the highway, and then returned to the car. That is the only explanation for the shoe being on the road, Strasser said.” [x] Just minutes after Deputy Strasser had followed the shoe to locate the car, Karen and her husband spotted Nick’s shoe on the road and pulled up next to the patrol car.
The Associated Press Headline
As we were looking, I saw a little tennis shoe lying on the side of the road and also noticed that the patrol car had stopped there. I told my husband, “She’s here; stop the car!” I got out of the car and started to run, but the deputy stopped me and told me that I couldn’t go down there. By “down there,” I mean there was a drop-off about twenty feet down and I could see Chrissy’ car. I was yelling Chrissy’s name. The deputy said that Chrissy was gone. I remember it felt like my legs turned to rubber, and I and my husband hit the ground.
Nicky was alive, but barely. He looked like a little bird that had [fallen] out of a nest: His skin was dark and baggy, his little eyes [were] filled with muck. His lips were parched; he was marked and curled up in a fetal position next to Chris. When his name was called, he responded quietly. I left to go to Marshall Medical Center in Placerville to wait for the ambulance to bring Nicky there.
When I was finally able to see Nicky, he was alert but weak. I knew something miraculous had taken place, but at that time I wasn’t sure what it was. Later that morning when they were able to stabilize him, they transferred him to UC Davis. His organs were shutting down. They said he only had thirty minutes, maybe less, of life left because his kidneys were shutting down and they still weren’t sure if they would be able to reverse the damage. So we left Marshall Hospital and went to UC Davis in Sacramento.
When I walked in the hospital room, Nicky sat straight up and looked at me, his little eyes as big as saucers, and said, “Aunt Kiki, Aunt Kiki, my mommy died!”
I said, “Yes, Nicky she did.”
Then he said, “I died too, but I wasn’t afraid because I was with Jesus and His angels, but I couldn’t stay. I had to come back here.”
He also said that Jesus’ angels were there with him in the car. I asked where they were, and he said, “There were three—there was two by the car and one on the road.”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t speak. I just held him and thought back to the time when I couldn’t feel him anymore, and said, “Well there it is.”
I thought to myself, “He is only three and a half years old; how would he know these things?” He wasn’t old enough to be influenced by anyone.
This corroboration from Nick suggests that when Karen could no longer feel Nick’s life force, he actually had a near-death experience (NDE). This possibility brings the number of paranormal phenomena associated with this case to five: 1) Karen’s precognitive dreams; 2) Christine’s after-death communication to Karen; 3) Apparition on side of the road seen by multiple witnesses; 4) Nick’s angels; and 5) Nick’s NDE. Of course, the atheist fundamentalists and debunkers cannot allow a case this strong to stand uncontested. But what does any of this have to do with Christians and the future of humanity?
According to the police, the female apparition matching Christine’s description was undoubtedly what first led them to Bullion Bend, where it was eventually discovered that the car ran off the road. This is obviously not a mere coincidence, but skeptics can’t accept the idea of supernatural intervention. One callous online cynic suggested that the apparition was invented by Deborah Hoyt in order to conceal the fact that she and her husband had run Christine off the road. To escape responsibility, the cynic asserted, she concocted the ghost as a way to alert the police to the location without incriminating herself or the driver. Such a libelous accusation offers the antisupernaturalist a plausible escape—a disparaging tactic common to paranormal debunkers. However, the absence of skid marks reveals that Christine never hit the brakes. Even more, the skeptical slander is controverted by evidence not included on the television shows. These are new details never reported before.
After Nick’s rescue, a California highway patrolman, Jack Greenwood, gave Karen astonishing information not reported on any of the television programs. He even told her that “something supernatural took place.” She recalled the conversation between her and her husband and Greenwood shortly after Nick’s rescue:
We met with Jack, and when we first met, his eyes were big and he spoke very precisely. He began with a deep breath and started by saying, “I’m not a religious man. I’m not a Christian man.”
Then he said, “I am Catholic, but I’m not religious. I have to tell you something happened here that I can’t explain.”
He was on duty the night before Christine was found, and there had been not one but actually three calls. The first call was about a woman lying on the side of the road. They reported she was naked, had dark brown hair, was petite with big breasts, and her skin looked real white, like she had been in the cold for a long time.
[Greenwood] said he went out to the area to investigate and found nothing. Later that night, he received another report of a woman lying on the side of the road with the same description in the same area. Again, he went to investigate and found nothing. Later that morning, he received another call with the same report of a naked woman of the same description. He said he told the caller that he had been out twice and there was nothing there.
The man replied, “The hell there isn’t!” He told Jack that he was sitting on the side of the road with his cell phone watching her from his rear view mirror and that she was running frantically back and forth like she looking for something. He said, “I’m watching her as we speak.”
Again, [Greenwood] found nothing. He went on to say that later that morning, he was still on duty and received the call on the accident and he was the one that responded.
Greenwood reported that three different people had reported seeing a naked woman by the side of the road. In fact, one witness had seen her pacing back and forth! This unprecedented information substantially changes the case in favor of a supernatural worldview. Karen continued with her recollection of the conversation:
He went on to say that he had been a highway patrolman for over twenty-eight years and had seen a lot of accidents where people had been in the elements for days. He said that when the body deteriorates, the abdomen will usually swell and burst, and that is what he expected to find. The days all that week had been very hot, about 106 degrees in the daytime. He was the CHiP officer who went to the site of the accident. It was a wilderness area. He said the insects were awful. They were being bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs. There were lots of varmints and wild animals in that area, but the strange thing was that when they got to the car, it was as though a tent or a veil had been placed over the car. He said there wasn’t one insect bite, no blowfly larva, no animal bites, no sign of anything.
clothes had been folded and placed on the hood of the car. There were
signs that Nicky had been out of the car, and when he was picked up and
put on the gurney, he had been sitting on a book of Bible stories, and
you could see the imprint of his little bottom on it. [Greenwood] then
said that he was the one that took Christine out of the car, and her tummy
was just as flat as if she had just died. There was no sign of deterioration
or decay; she only had a little trickle of blood from her nose. [Greenwood
said] that she had probably died at impact; it was obvious that she had
broken her neck from the protrusion of the cervical spine. He said that
there was only one tiny spot on her elbow that showed any sign of deterioration.
He said that when he took her out and looked at her, she fit the total
description of the girl that had been reported.
He said, “I don’t know what happened, but something supernatural took place here, folks.” He said we should report to Unsolved Mysteries.
Deborah Hoyt, Unsolved Mysteries
These details have also never previously been revealed. Of course, Greenwood’s final piece of advice came to pass, and the case premiered on Unsolved Mysteries (season 9, episode 16) as: “Highway 50 Phantom” on February 21, 1997. But what about the other unreported details? It seems unlikely that a toddler bothered to fold his clothes after he stripped them off in the sweltering summer heat. Did the angels fold his clothes, or did his mother’s ghost do it? I suppose we’ll never know. What about Christine’s body? If we count its (and Nick’s) unexpected preservation, we have seven paranormal phenomena.
Karen had ESP dreams (view from inside the car).
2. Christine and Karen experienced after-death communication with one another.
3. At least three witnesses reported an apparition pointing to the scene of the accident. Deborah Hoyt’s account is on record; the accounts of two others were verified by officer Jack Greenwood.
4. Angels (figures of light) were seen near the car and by the road at night.
5. Nick had a possible near-death experience.
6. Christine Skubish’s body was inexplicably preserved.
7. Nick was able to survive without food and water for five days in temperatures over 100 degrees.
From Paranormal to Gospel
As we come full circle in the upcoming investigative book The Supernatural Worldview, one might wonder why the opening section is titled “Paranormal Witness to Gospel Witness.” According to Karen Nichols, Christine had her challenges, but was a Christian who loved the Lord. While recovering in the hospital, Nick said he was briefly with Jesus and His angels in heaven. Officer Greenwood related that Nick was discovered sitting on a book of Bible stories in the torturously wrecked car. Without food or water, Nick was miraculously preserved through scorching heat that reached more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the loss, God’s hand of provision can be seen through the tragedy.
How can evangelical Christians respond to a story like this? All too often, it ends up being “demonize first, ask questions later” (that is, if ever). It seems disingenuous and inconsistent coming from folks whose central message involves the resurrection of the dead. In this case, it appears that God allowed a departed mother’s spirit to intercede with passing motorists and to communicate in the dreams of her aunt. Why should this stretch plausibility for those with a biblical worldview? I don’t believe it should, but it often appears that way. If Karen hadn’t been informed by dreams, and if the apparition hadn’t been reported, Nick would not have been found in time. At least one ghost story has yielded good fruit.
During the process of interviewing Nick Skubish in 2013, I suggested to him that God must have an important plan for his life. We all know that many young children are killed in car accidents. The odds for the toddler’s survival in the wilderness for five days were exceedingly low. Nick quickly agreed, and told me he is still experiencing unusual events to this day. I shared my personal testimony and asked Nick to read the gospel of John.
After he read it, I asked for his reaction. Nick responded, “I thought it was a good example of how consuming sin really is. Seems like the people’s pride in their own opinion or religious views prevented them from seeing who He was and why He was even here.”
Needless to say, I was very impressed with his answer, since this was his first reading of the book of John.
I did my best to explain why his response about the consuming nature of sin was so accurate: “We need saving because God’s judgment against sin is real. But the really cool thing He did was to provide a way for imperfect sinners like you and me to make it. He took the punishment we deserve. The really important passage is: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God’” (John 3:16–18).
I asked, “So do you know that you have experienced that rebirth that Jesus was telling Nicodemus about?” Nick responded that he has never really experienced it. We prayed together, and Nick accepted the gospel over the phone. Nick has moved from “paranormal witness” to “gospel witness.” He has a challenging path before him. Please pray for 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.