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Archive for the ‘strange creatures’ Category

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! * * * * *

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

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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.

muscoda4

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!

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BlogTourArt 001

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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John James Audubon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Everything’s been coming up “big birds” lately, in terms of sightings reports. A few days ago I received one that, if the reported bird is what I think it is, definitely points to the flesh-and-blood, relict population side of possible explanations. The witness (name withheld for now) happens to have a doctorate in zoology, and enjoyed a prolonged daylight look at it, along with a second witness. Here’s a slightly shortened version of the original report and a follow-up response.

“I am writing to report a sighting I had, of an incredibly large, raptor-type bird back in Oct/Nov of 2006.  I had moved to Memphis, TN in July of that year to begin a new job, and was renting a house with a large, tree-lined backyard.  It was late in the afternoon, around 5:00 pm. I went into the back yard with my dogs, a German Shepherd and a Malamute, played with them for about 15-20 minutes and then sat down on my back steps.  I looked up into a tree in the SW corner of the yard.  The leaves had fallen from the tree, and the view was relatively unobstructed.  The tree was about 30 feet from where I was sitting.  In the tree, sitting on a branch approximately 15 feet off the ground, was an enormous (and I mean enormous), raptor-type bird.  The head and body (minus the tail) of the bird measured approximately 4 – 4 1/2 feet.  The bird was a homogenous, beautiful, deep red-brown, no white was present.  The beak and feet ranged from a grey-tan to black toward the tip of the beak and claws.  The eyes were a brilliant orange.  I’ve never seen a bird like this before, or after for that matter.”

I went inside to get my girlfriend, so she could see the bird too.  It was still in the tree when we came back out.  We discussed the unusual size of the bird, as it watched us watch it.  The bird seemed to be equally interested in us.  I was able to observe the bird for close to 30 minutes.  I guess I was too fascinated to even think of grabbing a camera, which I regret.  My dogs didn’t seem bothered by the presence of the bird.  The dogs did, however, get into a barking match with the neighbor’s dog, causing me to divert my attention for only a few seconds to address that behavior.  Turning back, the bird was gone.  I never heard it take off from the tree and could not locate it in the sky, so I don’t have an estimate of its wing span.  My girlfriend and I spent the evening looking at pictures of raptors that might have fit what we saw, but we didn’t find anything that was a match.  I kept an eye out for the next few days, but never saw the bird again.”

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the underside of the wings.  S/he just sat on the branch looking over the neighborhood, and then looking at me.  The bird didn’t seem interested in my dogs at all.  The bird was pretty mesmerizing.  I’m not one of the ‘I’m attached to my cell phone by an umbilical cord’, so I didn’t have it with me to take a picture.  I’m not sure I would have thought of using the phone camera had I had it with me.  At first, it did cross my mind that it might be an immature bald eagle, but there wasn’t even a hint of white on this guy, and s/he was much too BIG.”

Subsequently, I went to Reelfoot Lake in NW TN, with a friend of mine, to see the bald eagles.  The backyard bird dwarfed the eagles I saw at Reelfoot.  I honestly never thought of reporting this sighting.  Partly because I never thought of it as being a possible cryptid or unidentified species, and partly because I would have had no idea where to report it.  I’m reporting it now, because I just started reading your book American Monsters.  I thought of my backyard friend, and felt you might be interested.”

***

When I read this exciting report, especially the part about the all-over, red-brown color, my mind immediately jumped to a supposedly extinct bird known as Washington’s (or the Washington) eagle.   It was documented and illustrated by John James Audubon, whose peers were very doubtful at the time that this was a separate species and not just an immature bald eagle, even though Audubon had an actual carcass that he’d shot, himself. According to Audubon, it measured over 3 1/2 feet in body length with a wingspan of 10 feet, 2 inches.

There is a great article by Scott Maruna on his Biofort blog that discusses this controversy– and the comparative descriptions of the birds — in detail. I forwarded the article link to the witness, who wrote, “The description in the link you shared is d… close. I agree that the color would be accurately described as chestnut, possibly cinnamon.”

But that historical kerfuffle wasn’t the last word on this cinnamon bird. Maruna also posted a blog about a more modern sighting of a possible Washington’s Eagle that occurred in the winter of 2004 near Stillwater, MN, which like Memphis lies along the Mississippi River. Both Stillwater and Memphis are known for their steep bluffs, a type of habitat favored by large birds of prey. Could there still be a small population of this eagle sweeping up and down the Mississippi River bluffs?

I’ve forwarded the witness’s full information and contact info (with permission) to Maruna. Perhaps between the two of us and other interested investigators, some new publicity will bring out other sightings not yet reported, and we can all learn a bit more about this rarest of raptors.

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DSC03794The awesome Fairiechick’s Fantasy Book Reader blog has posted a special one-year revisit of God Johnson, which is now on sale for 99 cents through the month of September to celebrate the release of American Monsters; a History of Monster Lore, Legends and Sightings in America. Thanks so much Vanessa Strickler!  http://www.fantasybookreader.net/2014/09/revisiting-god-johnson-unforgiven-diary.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FairiechicksFantasyBookReader+%28Fairiechick%27s+Fantasy+Book+Reader%29

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art by Linda Godfrey

art by Linda Godfrey

Super-sized birds are one of the most tantalizing topics for researchers of cryptid animals. Most of these weird flyers resemble some type of actual bird (often a type thought long extinct) that would seem to put them in the “likely to be ‘real’” category – except for their wingspan usually reported at 20 feet or more, their massive bodies, and their penchant for carrying off live creatures considerably larger than the rabbits, fish and squirrels preferred by even the largest of our known birds of prey.

The 2005 sighting near Hayward, Wisconsin by a Minnesota businessman named John Bolduan that I chronicled in American Monsters describes one of the better observations I’ve seen anywhere of these creatures. Bolduan’s sighting was in close range in full daylight and included seeing the bird on the ground, taking off, and then flapping away, with nearby trees, tall grasses and roadway for size comparisons. It had a stork-like appearance, but Bolduan hasn’t been able to match it to any known species.

Since the time that I had to submit the manuscript for that book, I’ve received other reports of oversized avians that I wish could have been included. A brief summary:

  • Pike County, PA, autumn 1996 or 1997: A woman reported seeing a huge birdlike creature gliding over the trees during the day. She stopped her car to watch it and estimated it was the same length as her car, 17 feet. She tried reporting it to an area animal preserve and to a game warden, who both told her she had probably seen a vulture, but she said it looked nothing like a vulture and could not find anything to compare it to other than something prehistoric.
  • State Line Island, Nebraska, May 1995: In another daylight sighting, a man hiking along the North Platte River encountered two birds standing in a clearing that appeared the size of large humans but were covered with black feathers and had raptor-like heads. No markings. One turned and looked at him, then both spread their wings to an estimated 20 foot span and jumped from the ground. One was carrying a small deer in its talons and had a hard time getting airborne with it as the other bird screeched from the treetops. He believed the deer was the same small doe he had seen at that site the day before and estimated its weight at at least 75 pounds.
  • Clements, Michigan, spring 2014: NOTE — I’m withdrawing this report of a “giant” bird that had been sent by a third party. Subsequent interviews with the actual witnesses revealed this was almost certainly a turkey vulture. According to the father and son, it had the typical pinkish-red, unfeathered head and other characteristics of this bird that is probably the Midwest’s most oft-misidentified bird of prey. Just goes to show the importance of a little extra digging, and my apologies for posting the brief version prematurely!
  • On the other hand, as if to make up for that one, I received another report from Brookfield, a suburb of Milwaukee, that was indeed submitted by the original witness who answered follow-up questions. Her sighting occurred in fall, 2006, in daylight, as she and her three-year old son stood in the backyard of the home they were renting. She noted that the area had enough natural cover that they often saw deer, coyotes and other wildlife. She wrote, “A bird that resembled a golden eagle, except that it was about the same height as me (five feet, four inches) landed 15-20 feet away from us, looking me in the eye. We all remained still, staring at each other for a while. I remember feeling a little scared, as it could easily fly away with my 3-year old, but also a great reverence as I felt the bird was deciding how it felt about us being on that land.”  The woman added that they all stood for about 20 seconds, eyeing one another, before it flapped away with “great ease.” After it left, she took a  yardstick and measured what its height and wingspan would have been according to where it had stood in relation to corresponding features of her lawn, and said it stood 50-55 inches tall (about a foot shorter than she thought at first) with a 12-foot wingspan. A golden eagle may have a 5 1/2 to 8-foot wingspan but stands only about 27-36 inches tall. She added that the breast color of the bird she saw was “creamish,”  which is not usual for this species. Was it a golden eagle? If so, it was a specimen considerably larger than the known dimensions of that species, with unusual coloring. I do think what ever it may have been, it probably was interested in checking out her 3-year old, and that’s the scariest aspect of this encounter. Golden eagles have been known to seize small deer and domestic animals.

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