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Posts Tagged ‘cryptids’

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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Sasquatch illustration by Linda S. Godfrey for American Monsters

Sasquatch illustration by Linda S. Godfrey for American Monsters

American Monsters release day! What a great time I had on CoasttoCoastam.com with George Noory last evening talking about all the creepy critters! Thanks to all who listened, called in, and followed my blog afterward. In case you missed the show (I’m not normally up between two and four a.m. either :-) click HERE.

Also, check out my guest blog running today in Huffington Post on America’s Seven Scariest Monsters. It was extremely difficult to choose only seven, and I’ve seen a few comments wondering why I didn’t include the upright canines such as Michigan Dogman or Beast of Bray Road. It’s true that few things are scarier than encountering a menacing, upright wolf, but since I’m so identified with my wolfmen books and research, I wanted to emphasize that this book is a survey of the whole weird menagerie from giant birds to lake monsters. Besides, the canine crew gets its due in the book’s section on land beasts. And I wouldn’t care to run into any of these creatures on a dark trail at night. 

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Sketch of Alberta canid creature by witness

Sketch of Alberta canid creature by witness

One particular drum I keep beating as I compose my cryptid chronicles  is the fact that unknown, upright canine-like creatures are seen all over the Americas, and indeed, the world. There is not just one “beast.” More and more, in fact, seem to come from Canada. This makes sense, considering the sheer amount of natural forest and abundant wildlife enjoyed by our neighbors to the north. Alberta is an area I’ve heard from in the past, and I received one not recently that falls into the scary sightings category of huge canines that run with cars. Creatures with this seeming attraction to vehicles often remain on all fours, but this one showed off  its bipedal ability, as well. The woman who wrote wished to remain anonymous, but her letter began:
“My sighting happened as my husband and I were driving around at night in the late autumn of the year about 2010 or 2011.  I was on the passenger side just idly looking out my window when I seen something crouched down beside a white car. It started running alongside my truck the opposite side of some parallel parked cars on the road. The way it ran was akin to a cheetah in fast motion, the hind legs were lunging all the way forward past the front ones. I seen that it was very skinny, I could see the vertebrae of the back, ribs and shoulder blades. After about 50 meters there were some houses so it stood up on its hind legs and turned its head, which swiveled on its shoulders like a human, and looked dead at us long enough for me to get a really good look. It took a quick glance into the woods and in a single bound leapt the whole length of the cut line, about 15 feet.
“It had shoulders like a man and the head and face of a dog, yellow eyes and no discernible genitals. I could see that its hair was very short and almost iridescent against grey skin.  Its arms hung like a man’s but, its hands were also like a man’s but with a long dew claw-style thumb. After it jumped into the woods I looked at my husband and he was just looking at it and turned to me saying ‘Did you just see that too?’ “
The sighting occurred near Fort McMurray, a growing community with a brisk oil sands industry. I asked for further details about the creature, especially since the woman first estimated its height at about nine feet! She wrote back to say may have been shorter than that. Her first guess was based on a quick comparison to a six-foot fence in the vicinity. The creature’s head stuck above the fence,  she said, but  thinking about it later she thought she might have over-estimated just how far above the fence it was. Guessing the height of any large, moving creature from a moving vehicle is always a tricky business, but it seems this beast had to at least have been well over six feet tall  on two legs.
I had a few other questions, too, such as the exact fur color and the features of its head.She went on to add:
“The hair must have been grey too, it reflected a lot of light. I remember seeing the face had an elongated snout, it was kind of snarled. Its ears were similar to a dogs pointed ear near the top of its head. The tail was kind of bushy compared to the rest of it. Its legs had hips like a humans and thighs also like a human but had the inverted ankles of a dog, its feet were long but only the front pads appeared to be touching the ground. It was a fairly lit area, the other side of the road was a residential area. It did notice me, I think I may have interrupted it because it was kind of hidden behind a car when I first spotted it and it immediately looked up and started running.  It seemed more annoyed than anything. By the time it stopped running it was 30m in front of my truck on the other side of the cars parked on the road so it sprinted really fast.”
It’s interesting to me that, given the amazing amount of wilderness area Canada possesses, that the creature would have shown up on a busy road in a residential area. But Ft. McMurray is located at the confluence of the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers, surrounded by forest — typical shelter areas for these cryptids.
As for its appearance, I do get reports of dogmen with short, gray fur — the typical color of many Eastern Timber wolves. This creature is also definitely canine, judging by the long snout, pointed ears and tail. Its behavior seems more motivated by a desire  to disappear from view rather than intending to taunt the witness, and the witness only suggested it was annoyed at being seen. The great speed and leaping ability it displayed are  characteristics I’ve heard often.
The hand-like paws are a bit more rare among the reports I receive, but as I’ve often noted, many witnesses have said the paws were elongated but were still not true, human-like hands. The dew-claw- like “thumbs” argues a little to that point, I think. And the creature was running on its toe pads rather than flat-footed.
As always, many thanks to the eyewitness for sharing her experience. I can’t help but wonder if any of those other drivers on that busy street also saw the creature.

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Illustration by Nathan D. Godfrey, all rights reserved

One question I hear a lot from radio callers, blog readers and conference attendees is whether I think that unknown, upright canine creatures are related to UFOs. It’s actually a concept that’s been around for some time and is also asked in regard to Bigfoot and other cryptids. My usual answer is that while I don’t have any reports from witnesses who’ve seen a dogman hopping directly off a UFO (although I know there are a few cases where people have claimed this about Bigfoot), it just so happens that places where mystery creatures abound are also often UFO hotspots.

A  perfect example of this type of area is the northern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest which stretches through Sheboygan, Fond du Lac and Washington Counties in Wisconsin. This wooded, well-watered and hilly terrain encompasses the Holy Hill region which has had numerous sightings of upright, wolf-like creatures — probably the most famous of which was the 2006 incident where the DNR’s carcass removal contractor saw one such beast drag a fresh deer from the back of his pickup truck. It’s also an area where many Bigfoot have been spotted, and includes old legends of a Goatman and ancient sacred places to boot.

It’s just as well known for its UFO activity. The city of Hartford, in fact, was named the site of one of the Top 10 UFO Cases of 2012 by the Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON. The incident occurred July 13 when a woman in her 50s and her daughter both saw a silent, lampshade-shaped object equipped with lights and measuring about two hundred feet long zip over the trees in their yard before shooting away in classic UFO style. The sighting lasted about half a minute, which is actually longer than most sightings of unknown phenomena.

The little town of Dundee, one of Wisconsin’s three self-proclaimed UFO capitals (the others are Elmwood and Belleville), has a long history of unidentified flying objects in its skies. A woman I met at a library signing told me of one that she’d had just off Hwy. 67, about ten miles south of Plymouth, on her family farm at the age of ten in November, 1967. She had been sent to fetch some chickens, whose wings hadn’t been sufficiently clipped, from a tree. She was busy pulling them out when she saw a large, silent, cigar-shaped craft hovering just above a nearby tree only forty feet away. It had small portholes or windows, and on one end were two curved, pipe-like appendages that emitted yellow and blue, laser-like lights that appeared to float off on their own. It eventually zoomed off but the girl had quite a long look at it. She didn’t know if the craft’s occupants were aware of her. She also had an aunt who saw a round, disk-like craft over her fishing boat in the same general area.

Cheeseheads aren’t the only ones to see such things. The late Fortean investigator John Keel, best known for his in-depth investigation of, West Virginia’s Mothman of Point Pleasant, said in an interview for the Sept., 2007 issue of FATE Magazine that there were “countless” sightings of UFOs in that vicinity in the mid-1960s, and described seeing many unidentifiable lights himself when he inspected animal mutilations that were also associated with the strange goings-on. The part of the interview that grabbed my attention, however, was his statement that, “Mothman left tracks that looked like giant dog prints.”

That has pretty interesting implications, if true. I’ve never received a report of a dogman with wings, although plenty of people have claimed to have seen flying things with hairy, un-bird-like bodies. But it hints at some sort of Protean, multi-formed entity able to look like several different animals or a blend of them, with some connection to weirdly behaving lights. And yet, most dogman and Bigfoot witnesses believe they have encountered solid, flesh-and-blood creatures. Keel also thought the lights he saw in Pt. Pleasant were “mischievous masses of energy,” but the two witnesses mentioned above who saw UFOs in or near the weird-creature-infested Kettle Moraine both described craft-like forms with defined shapes. Perhaps they were entirely different phenomena – who can really say?

I have to confess that I’ve been working on a case for several months that involves large, bipedal canine prints that do such inexplicable things as appear suddenly in the middle of a secluded field, then track into nearby woods. They seem to belong to some large animal that is somehow able to obscure its image from multiple trail cams as it drags or carries off deer carcasses. The trail cams have caught weird, anomalous lights overhead when these things occur – all of it so far unexplainable. The investigation is still in active progress but I’ll admit it has me questioning some of my own biases at this point.

Still, even that case isn’t solid proof of a relationship between the unknown creatures and mysterious lights or sky vessels, to my mind. But I do believe that the fact that they often appear in the same areas and sometimes the same time frames, too, means that any open-minded investigator ought to take a serious look. Our universe is seldom simple or predictable, and perhaps there’s an unimagined answer out there that no one’s thought of. Yet. I think we’d best keep looking for it.

 

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Mike Agrusa in Ghillie Suit copyright Linda Godfrey

Mike Agrusa in Ghillie Suit copyright Linda Godfrey

First there was the infamous “Gable film” video that purported to show the Michigan Dogman in attack mode, and then we had the tragic case of the Montana man fatally struck by two vehicles while dressed in what he hoped looked like a Sasquatch costume. Both of these rather bad ideas had one thing in common – – the perpetrators wore ghillie suits.

The ghillie suit, common wardrobe gear for hunters, is a ragged, head to toe covering made of camouflage fabric. It seems to be the latest fashion of choice for anyone seeking to hoax large cryptid sightings – – and has also now provided one Wisconsin law enforcement agency a possible explanation for an otherwise unexplainable encounter.

An incident in Vernon County, Wisconsin, in late August 2012 was widely reported in early September of that year as a Bigfoot sighting. Milwaukeean Rich Heiden follows news about the paranormal, UFOs and cryptids, on a state-wide basis. He found about 20 newspaper articles on this topic but noticed that dates given for the incident were either inconsistent or totally missing from the stories. After he investigated these discrepancies, he received a message from the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department blaming the encounter on a ginseng thief in a ghillie suit. The sheriff’s administrative assistant, Carol Oliver, wrote,”Sighting was August 29, 2012, at 5:00 p.m.  Called in the next day.  Later believed to be an illegal harvester of Ginseng, dressed in a camouflage ghillie suit.  The camouflaged person had been seen earlier on the 29th on the Reserve land, carrying two bags.”

The reserve land she refers to is the Kickapoo Valley Reserve. This area encompasses nearly 8600 acres and is indeed rich in ginseng, which has become a hot commodity for thieves. I have no doubt that illegal harvesters abound at that time of year and that it would be very logical for thieves to camouflage themselves in ghillie suits. However, the eyewitness account describes something that doesn’t really sound like a camo-clad human.

According to the La Crosse Tribune, Sept. 5, 2012 edition, the witness called Sheriff John Spears after his sighting near South Jug Creek Road. Reporter Matt Johnson said the sheriff told him, “they saw what they described as a dark-haired … Sasquatch. It looked like it was hiding in the ditch line. When they went by, it jumped.”

The sheriff said the witness described the figure as large, dark black/brown in color, with no clothing. The witness added that the creature appeared to be covered only in fur and told the sheriff there was no way that it could have been a wolf. If he indeed saw the creature at 5 PM there also would have been ample daylight at that time of year in Wisconsin to distinguish between nearly black fur and the tousled, green/brown strips on a ghillie suit. I assume that the creature was fairly close to the observer since this was a narrow back road and it leaped up just as the car passed. I also wonder why a thief attempting to hide himself would jump up as the car went by.

It may also seem odd that a Bigfoot would expose himself to view, but reports of a noelcard3 001Sasquatch running or walking in a ditch or crossing the road in full view of a driver are fairly common. I might add that there have been many sightings of Bigfoot in this area of Wisconsin which is a well-watered terrain of sandstone outcroppings and deep valleys –the type of land many Sasquatch researchers consider perfect Bigfoot habitat.

Could it have been a hoaxer? The “jumping” behavior does suggest that possibility, but hoaxers usually choose better traveled roads since their main goal is to be seen. This was very remote location on a hot August Thursday at 5 PM.

Another relevant detail I’d like to know is where in that vast reserve the ginseng thief was spotted. I made my own call to the Vernon County Sheriff’s Department and their records did not show the location of the alleged poacher. They also would not release the name of the creature witness.

The sheriff sent a squad car to the sighting location but the dispatched deputy found nothing. Yes, it could have been a ginseng poacher or a thrill hoaxer, but until the sheriff finds the suit wearer (unlikely) and determines this person jumped up at a driver on S. Jug Creek Rd., I believe this case should remain open.

And I proclaim Richard Heiden Digger of the Month!

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Mokele –Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin by William J. Gibbons,  Coachwhip Publications 2010

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My absolute favorite comic strip as a kid was Alley Oop, the beautifully drawn adventures of a caveman with a very sweet ride:  a savvy stegosaurus named Dinny.  This fantasy of humans getting to share real time with living dinosaurs has fueled mass media entertainment from The Flintstones cartoons to Michael Crichton’s tale of resurrected saurians, Jurassic Park. But in the end, say scientists, their lovely bones and fossils show that all the dinosaurs perished in a mass die-off many millions of years ago.

Or did they? What if, in the deepest, least accessible parts of the African continent, a small relict population of something like an Apatosaurus lives on? The Congo’s legend of the creature called Mokele-Mbembe insists that is exactly the case. And author Bill Gibbons is one of a small group of investigators to have made that trip in person – several times.

Other adventurers had traveled to western mid-Africa from as early as 1776 in search of huge, long-necked semi-aquatic beasts reported by local people and missionaries. Gibbons covers all these previous expeditions in proper detail before delving into his own considerable efforts that began with his first trip in 1985. Gibbons lays out a meticulous account of his expeditions, including not only a thorough record of creature lore and sightings reports but his own trials with sickness, risky travel situations, and local people that were often not cooperative. He also experienced a striking religious conversion during his first trip and shares his epiphany as an integral part of his story.

Although Gibbons was never able to get that definitive proof, he does a good job of compiling all known data and evidence of Mokele-Mbembe  and of several other mysterious beasts. I do wish that the book included a standard index! But Gibbons hopes to return for another shot at filming this creature.  As a fellow seeker of elusive and anomalous animals, I wish him the best of luck, and I think that Alley Oop would say the same.

 

 

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