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(Not a Milwaukee lion) By K Fink (NPS) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The past week’s sightings of one, possibly two mountain lions in the city of Milwaukee have captured the media limelight across the nation. The Milwaukee Lion or Lions (as one witness claimed to have seen two) have been skulking around Milwaukee’s north side, giving police the slip after allegedly ripping the head off a house cat and prowling in people’s back yards.

I’m not surprised; mountain lions have been sighted all over Wisconsin in the past few decades–long after they were supposed to have been eradicated in this state–including my own neighborhood eight miles north of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, just two years ago, when my husband was nearly attacked by one in our back yard! He had walked outside after dark and ended up walking backwards back to the house, yelling and waving his arms and kicking at the animal which was only a few feet away from him. Luckily it ran back in the woods when he reached the house. He also saw it at close distance the next morning, and so did two neighbors on different ends of the street. None of them reported it.

Also, A person I know whose family farms east of Elkhorn told me that a another family member observed two mountain lions checking out their livestock this past spring. They didn’t report it. I also saw many dozens, perhaps hundreds, of wht looked like fresh mountain lion prints (5 inches, no claw marks, correct shape) in the snow on a path I was hiking with friends in the northern part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, Southern Unit, this past February. It was not a long hike!

Godfrey measuring possible cougar prints in Kettle Moraine Feb. 2015

Godfrey measuring possible cougar prints in Kettle Moraine Feb. 2015

Nor is this the first time one has been reported in the greater Milwaukee area. The Waukesha Freeman ran an article by Kollin Kosmicki in its Good Morning Today section July 13, 2005 titled, “Is There a Mountain Lion in Waukesha?”  The sighting had been made June 1, 2005, by Phil Buteyn in Minooka Park, only 30 yards from the path he walked with his grand daughter. Buteyn, a retired school teacher, was adamant that he identified the animal correctly, having seen it from a relatively short distance in good, daylight conditions. Kosmicki said Local DNR warden Kyle Drake noted there was also a sighting reported in Pewaukee in fall, 2004.

Many will remember the cougar shot in Chicago’s Roscoe Village area in mid-April, 2008. That animal was traced through DNA evidence back to Wisconsin and specifically southeastern Wisconsin, including the area north of Elkhorn in Walworth County. Another was killed in Morrison, Illinois on Nov. 26, 2013, 130 miles west of Chicago. Both cougars were thought by most wildlife authorities to have migrated from the Black Hills area, looking for mates and new territory. I think it’s very possible the present Milwaukee sightings hail from that same source, although it’s also very possible it was an escaped, illegal pet. It’s been about ten years since a Wisconsin State Patrol officer told me he stopped a car whose driver was transporting three cougar cubs in the back seat!

I do have a huge file on cougar sightings elsewhere in the state–a stunning amount of them–within the past several decades. I’m in the final week before the deadline for my next book or I’d be compiling them all here right now, but I promise they are next. That’s why I added “Part One” to my title here. I believe cougars are not as rare in Wisconsin as people think, but they are under-reported. And in the meantime, I’m waiting along with everyone else to find out what happens in Milwaukee. Judging by what’s happened in Illinois, it may not be pretty.

Oklahoma Pterosaur

pterosaurMaggie2

A few days ago I received the following report from an Oklahoma family. The father and his 12-year old daughter, Nu, had a daylight sighting of what they thought looked like a pterasaur, and each of them drew a sketch of what they saw. The dad wrote the following description:
 “My daughter and I saw a featherless bird without a tail on Saturday 09/27/2014 between 10 am to 10:15 am. The sighting was about 3-4 seconds. I spotted the creature first and told my daughter “hey what’s that.” She caught 3 seconds or so of it. My daughter knows birds and she can tell you about birds in good detail. She told me that the bluejays were sounding an alarm call at the time.
It was a clear beautiful day. Maybe a few fluffy clouds here and there.There was no flapping and it flew (glided) from SE to NW towards the Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge.  It looked black or dark brown. It had no tail but the feet were behind and I thought you could see toes or knuckles pointing up. If you put both of your hands like open fists straight behind your back – that would be like it.  The feet were in line with the wings from my angle.
I did not get a good look at the head and so I am not sure if it had an appendage or bump on the back but it gave me the impression it had some thing but it was not obvious.  It seemed big – between 6 – 8 ft maybe. It wasn’t a hawk or a vulture. I would say it was 2 1/2 times bigger than a adult vulture.  It was about 60 Feet away. If you look straight ahead and lift up your right arm and raise it above your vision (where you can no longer see it without moving you head)  that would be the angle.
We live near lake Overholser in Oklahoma City. We are located just west of 23rd and Council.”
Nu’s mom, Maggie, added the following:
“My daughter and husband said it was close enough to tell it had no feathers, The most surprising thing was there was no tail!  We have hawks outside and turkey vultures and they come in low sometimes and you can see the 2 tone feature patterns. Even far away the feathers are clear.This thing they said had no tail, no feathers and was structured differently from other flying animals. My daughter says it did not look like a bat as they are here as well.”
I thought they did a very good job with the descriptions, especially with the sketches, and thank them for coming forth with their sighting.

pterosaurMaggie1

This one is a shot I took of the pterosaur reconstruction at Chicago's Field Museum. There are many known varieties of the order Pterosauria, which lived during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.

This one is a shot I took of the pterosaur reconstruction at Chicago’s Field Museum. There are many known varieties of the order Pterosauria, which lived during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods.

I was delightfully surprised today when giant bird witness John Bolduan send me the link to a video he self-recorded in which he recounts his excellent sighting of a huge, stork-like bird in northern Wisconsin. I met him on-site and measured the road which the bird flew over at low altitude–it ranged between 20 and 22 feet. John said the bird’s wingspan was at least that wide if not wider. His is the first encounter detailed in American Monsters; a History of Monster Lore, Legends and Sightings in America, and I’ll be talking about it tomorrow as part of my talk at the Milwaukee Paracon June 6 at 5 pm. A big shout out to John for providing this amazing reference for his experience.

copyright Linda S. Godfrey all rights reserved, no use without permission

copyright Linda S. Godfrey all rights reserved, no use without permission

Sure, it has monsters. But the astounding beauty and diversity of the landscape around the west central midsection of Wisconsin is as remarkable as the wide range of unknown creatures that seem to inhabit it. My previous post focused on the hairless creature legend of Hillsboro; the two accounts I’ll highlight here are located slightly west of that area, near Tomah and Westby. Both cases are especially apropos to summer road trip time, since the creatures involved seemed to home in on the witness’s cars!

The “Big Bird of Tomah” was spotted by a now-retired, male medical worker driving south on his way from Black River Falls to Tomah one morning around 1999-2000. He was nearing the north side of Tomah on US Rte. 12 when something large and black swooped across his windshield–it was a black, feathered bird with a body he described as about six feet long, and a wing span he estimated at twelve feet. He said it was close enough that he was able to look it in the eyes as it passed him. He did not recognize the species. Luckily, the bird kept going, and so did the man. He told some co-workers but as usually happens in these cases, was disbelieved.

Just for comparison, that side of the state is also known for the sightings of a giant, stork-like bird near Hayward, the Man-Bat of La Crosse, and a flying Lizard Man seen by a state patrol officer and a group of construction workers near Medford. I also have a report of a man-sized bird seen standing on a bridge near Neillsville, on or near Ho Chunk land.

The “Westby Wolfman” report came to me just a week ago but occurred in 1990-91. The witness wrote:

“I saw a wolf figure that ran and stood on two legs, but it would have been in 1990 or 1991. It was outside of Westby, Wi on County Road P around 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning. I think it was in the spring of the year. I was on my way to work. It ran from the side of the road and charged into the driver’s side door of my car. Thankfully the window was up. I saw his face clearly. I stepped on the gas. It scared me.

“Although the whole thing happened so quickly, it was early in the morning and still dark outside. It had a wolf face. It was on two legs. It did not look like a costume. It was taller than the car I was driving. I would guess it to be maybe 6 ft tall. It had black fur, maybe dark gray. Where it came from on the side of the road, there was a bridge and a trout stream. It did not dent my car. Trust me, I looked. When it charged the car it hit hard.

“Years later I confided to one of my clients about the incident. She told me there was a book I needed to read. It was your book. When I saw the sketches in the book, I realized it was the same as I had seen that morning. I never heard of any other sightings in that area, but perhaps there were and they were too afraid to say anything either. I never reported it because I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”

There have been many other strange creatures spotted around this area of the state—kangaroos, Bigfoot, and lake serpents to name a few. It’s an extremely scenic part of the state to visit even if you only see known animals, which can be just as exciting in their own right. Summer Road Trip Rating: Five Screeches! * * * * *

HillsboroHairlessI always feel a twang of chagrin when I find out more about a story long after it’s gone to press. But it’s also a chance to make good on the additional facts and keep faith with my readers that I’ll try to put forth the best information I have–late to the party or not. Such is the weird tale of the 1992 creature known as the Hillsboro Hairless Thing, aka the Hillsboro Mutant and the Hora Horror, which I wrote about briefly in my 2011 book, Monsters of Wisconsin.

The news accounts I’d found then that seemed the most consistent  told of a small, gray, hairless critter that jumped out of a hay mow in the barn on the Joe Hora farm and attacked a beagle owned by Hora’s grandson, Brian. But I have long-time Hillsboro, Wisconsin newspaper writer Steven Stanek to thank for a treasure trove of original news clippings that add much to the story.

In actuality, according to an article Stanek wrote two weeks after the first breaking story in the Hillsboro Sentry-Enterprise, the beagle was the aggressor as it pulled the creature from its hiding place in the hay. All the stories agree that the farmer hit the two-foot-long beastie with a pipe and quickly killed it. Left is a picture of Brian Hora holding the carcass. Below is a scan of the printed newspaper story and photo that includes the curious beagle and a better view of the creature.

IMG_20150130_0001

This later article also mentioned that not everyone agreed with the DNR’s conclusion that the creature was a raccoon with mange. Two veterinarians who examined its post-mortem photos said the hairlessness was too complete to be mange. The creature also lacked the strong smell and thickened skin associated with mange, according to witnesses. As for the animal’s identity, a raccoon (perhaps hairless due to genetic mutation) still seemed to be the top local contender although a few citizens suggested a quill-less porcupine or a Mexican hairless dog as possible candidates.

More surprisingly, it turned out that another one of the creatures, very similar except with larger ears, had been spotted on a farm in nearby Yuba twice in summer, 1991. The animal appeared to be very healthy despite its naked appearance, said property owner Phil Connors in Stanek’s article.IMG_20150130_0002

Even weirder, yet another one turned up in adjacent Juneau County along Highway 71 in July, 2011 (right after my book had gone to press, naturally). It was found dead by Highway Patrolman Jeff Potter. About the same size and shape as the previous animals, it also displayed the same long, raccoon-like toes and bare tail. The headline in the Juneau County Messenger read, “Does Wisconsin Have Chupacabras?”

So, does it?

My own opinion is that they were all raccoons with a genetic mutation for hairlessness. I learned during my research for American Monsters on the famed Texas blue dogs also  at first also termed Chupacabras that hairlessness is not a terribly unusual mutation in mammals and that it’s a dominant trait. If that’s true, there are likely more of them hiding in the woods and hollows of Juneau and Vernon Counties. I just hope that the next one will be preserved and subjected to scientific analysis so that the legend–if not the carcasses–of Hillsboro’s Hairless Horrors can at last be properly laid to rest.

http://www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/places/wisconsin-monster-capital-of-america/#.VMJ0aTpONX4.twitter

LouisProudCoverMost people who explore unknown phenomena also often spend just as much time looking for mundane explanations of the cryptids, UFOs and the other curious things they study. This is a mandatory exercise in any honest investigation; sometimes the raft of eerie lights in the night sky is really a flotilla of Chinese lanterns, or the big shaggy thing behind the tree turns out to be a common black bear. If so, it’s good to know.

Sometimes, however, “natural” solutions may involve things that require their own explanations — various types of energy fields, for instance. It’s easy for non-scientists like myself to bandy about terms like electromagnetic fields or microwave radiation without necessarily having a firm grasp on what these things actually are. Such ignorance can be not only embarrassing but detrimental to whatever theory a researcher may be trying to work out.

That’s why I was so delighted to discover the excellent resource, Strange Electromagnetic Dimensions; The Science of the Unexplainable by Louis Proud. Proud puts the whole panorama of electrically-related energies into unique, relatable perspective with easy-to-understand discussions of what they are and eye-opening accounts of how they affect the world around us, our bodies, and even our sensory (and perhaps extrasensory) perceptions. Who knew that electromagnetic fields can produce stress responses that lower our immune systems, or that people can actually become allergic to electricity?

Wikimedia Commons fair use

In addition, Proud includes many case studies that imply possible connections between electrical sources and phenomena such as poltergeist activity, psychokinesis, and people who attract lightning or whose presence “breaks” streetlights and other electric devices. In this light, he even touches upon the idea of the human brain as ultimate quantum computer. That’s heady (pun intended–sorry) stuff.

Readers don’t need to be paranormal investigators in order to find Proud’s book truly sobering. Anyone who lives and works in electrified buildings–almost everyone in the industrialized world–may want to think about just how many artificially generated EM fields surround modern humans every minute of the day and night. I admit that I have now stopped carrying my cell phone around with me as much as I used to, and that I am much better about taking breaks from my computer. The lights, TV, oven, microwave, furnace fans, bedside clocks and the jillion other electric devices that bathe us 24/7 are much harder to deal with. Maybe the electric-power-eschewing Amish people really do have it right!

Wisconsin Amish children playing non-electric game at non-electrified school - photo by Linda Godfrey all rights reserved.

Wisconsin Amish children playing non-electric game at non-electrified school – photo by Linda Godfrey all rights reserved.

As for links between these fields and UFOs, cryptids and the like, Proud leaves researchers to assemble their own connections, but provides plenty of basic circuitry for the task. I’ll be reading it a second time with my own batteries, switches and ground wires ready. Highly recommended!

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