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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.

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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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Only a few days before Christmas, 2014, Phantoms and Monsters blogger Lon Strickler included a UFO sighting and close encounter report titled “Still…the Oddest Account I’ve Ever Read.” http://www.phantomsandmonsters.com/2014/12/stillthe-oddest-account-ive-ever-read.html It came from a man named Ken who sent Strickler his late father’s written account of seeing a UFO in Orange County, CA in 1996, just before spotting a bald, alien-looking being dressed in a light blue bodysuit as he was walking a few blocks away from his house.

I almost choked on my eggnog–in a good way–as the story reminded me of a 2006 Wisconsin sighting that also involved a UFO and an muscoda1alien in a light blue body suit. And it’s a Christmas story, as well.

I visited and interviewed the nationally recognized, visionary artist Ellis Nelson of Muscoda for my book, “Strange Wisconsin,” not long after his sighting. Nelson is a semi-retired, self-taught metal sculptor. His front yard gallery on the edge of Muscoda teems with original versions of the Grim Reaper, various animals, and a stylized version of the UFO he saw fly overhead as he sat outdoors in his lawn chair one day that year.

It was August, and the yellow jackets were swarming. Nelson watched one of them as it spiraled into the sky, hoping to discover the location of its nest, when he noticed a silent, gray disk emerging from a large cloud bank. He watched the strange craft glide acrossmuscoda2 the sky and disappear in another group of clouds.

A few months later, on Christmas day, he was sitting inside his studio next to his home-made, sawdust-burning furnace, when a strange, female humanoid appeared only a little over a foot away. He had been dozing, said Nelson, but her presence jolted him awake. (Some may say this was therefore a dream-state experience but Nelson insists it was not.) Despite his surprise, he sat stock still and studied her carefully. She had white hair arranged in corkscrew curls, large blue eyes lacking pupils or whites but covered by a clear membrane, and she wore a form-fitting, light blue bodysuit accented with a red bowtie. Her mouth was a just a straight slit, she had no visible nose, and her head “bulged in back where it met the neck.” She was staring at his furnace, and he watched her for what he estimated was about 8 seconds.

He was then distracted by the sudden awareness that his drill press was lying on the floor, and when he looked up again, she had vanished. But so certain was Nelson about the reality of his experience that he wrote and signed an affidavit attesting to his truthfulness. He keeps this memento of the Christmas visitor sitting framed on his desk.

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The California alien was a bit different than the Wisconsin creature. Its eyes were small and round, and it wore big black boots. But the biggest difference between the two sightings is that the alien Ken’s father saw walked behind a garage, only to (apparently) re-emerge as a huge, glowing-red-eyed, Sasquatch-like being that ran to a nearby woods! That witness also reported a time gap of nearly two hours during the event, while Nelson wasn’t aware of missing any time.

The annals of UFO lore are rife with descriptions of small, slim aliens in body suits of different colors, but these two incidents with their respective connections to Sasquatch and Christmas set them apart in a scary, yet almost charming way.

Muscoda, however, has also been the site of at least one reported cryptid sighting—albeit over 60 years before Nelson’s drop-in guest. In 1941, two young men driving just north of the town had to brake to avoid a dark-furred, furry creature standing upright in the middle of the road. By the time they managed to stop the truck, the beast was right next to their window, well lit by a bright moon. It stood about five-and-one-half feet tall, and was not a bear, cow, deer or any other animal either man could identify. The story was told to me by the daughter of one of the witnesses, who said he spoke of it often over the rest of his life, describing it as “creepy.”  (“Hunting the American Werewolf”)

UFOs, body-suited beings and furred, bipedal creatures. Not so different than a flying sleigh, a white-haired man in a red suit and big black boots, accompanied by a slew of prancing, magical beasts with glowing red noses instead of eyes. And there it is: another example of the weird similarities between folklore and contemporary eyewitness reports as so many researchers have pointed out. A Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

2014-12-09 GJpaperback 006It’s been some time coming, but due to popular demand there’s now a print edition of my fantasy novel God Johnson; the Unforgiven Diary as well as the original e-book. It’s ready for order on Amazon.com right now and will also be available from other vendors as soon as all the magical processes by which that happens have fallen into place.

And yep, I’m still working hard on the sequel!

I should add that it has little to do with my non-fiction roster, and there are NO WEREWOLVES involved. Sphinxes, yes, and a few other creatures (see disclaimer below).

Not that I’m neglecting the non-fiction. My next book for Tarcher is underway, and I’m currently looking into some fascinating reports included a red-eyed wolfman seen in Germany and a New Hampshire dogman. Happy holidays to all!

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Monsters of every type are spotted all year round, but they never seem to grab the limelight in April or January the way they do at Halloween. October is always my busiest time of year, but perhaps due to the recent release of American Monsters; a History of Monster Lore, Legends and Sightings in America, the past month has been extra crazy. I’ve been posting links to a welcome spate of articles, interviews and guest blogs on other social media, but thought I would gather some here just to marvel at the diversity of  Web venues that are out there these days. I sincerely thank these authors, bloggers, and writers, as well as the libraries and organizations that invited me to speak. Now: on with the tour! —

* Christine Verstraete is a horror author specializing in teenage zombies. My guest post, “My Favorite Monster,” ran on her kickin’ Girl Zombie Authors Blog Oct. 29.

* Paranormal Fantasy author Denise Agnew ran my post in which I ask whether there is such a thing as a hive mind when it comes to dreaming up book titles & other creative works on Oct. 31 at her beautiful blog.

* Parade Magazine chose American Monsters; a History of Monster Lore, Legends and Sightings in America as one of their three “Spooky Reads” picks in their Sunday, Oct. 26 insert.   http://www.timesfreepress.com/parade2/

CNN.com’s “Why Bigfoot is Getting Nervous” tells 2 stories from American Monsters in their October 31 edition, both stories drawn from new and exclusive witness reports in my book.

* Gamers will appreciate an article explaining how my books about unknown upright canines may be used to show that the “Werewolf Dude” character is not necessarily a fantasy beast after all in the popular SurvivalCraft game

* Ian Gronau’s Oct. 16 CSI Community Shopper article asks five important questions about monsters and my unlikely occupation.

* Radio podcast of Jimmy Church FADE to BLACK  (small fee required for podcast membership) features two hours of really fun conversation on the topic of monsters.

* Magonia, a magazine that explores Fortean phenomena, posted a really great review of American Monsters that made me feel they really understood what I was trying to achieve.

There are others, and if you feel I missed one that should be included, let me know. (WordPress has a great edit feature.)

A few more things are still coming up in November; check the calendar on the About page here for those. In the meantime, Happy Halloween to all my friends and readers, who are the candles in my jack-o-lanterns.

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