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I Know What I Saw is now out to be seen! 

This week, starting 7-20-2019 also see Inside Edition.com‘s  rerun of their original vintage episode of the Beast of Bray Road, plus a more current interview they did with me a few weeks ago to update the old beast. Next week, watch for a full feature story in the Chicago Tribune in the online section and then the print version on that Thursday.

Also new indie film out this fall, RETURN TO WILDCAT MOUNTAIN; Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus.  (click to see trailer and watch for release news, or see Facebook @whitelhasa’s Return to Wildcat Mountain page.) 

 

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Black Panthers in the Midwest? NEW FILM TRAILER RELEASE:  Return to Wildcat Mountain; Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus

 

 

 

 

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At first blush it seems a waste: a mountain lion’s paradise, empty of lions for almost 100 years. But nestled among the rocky crags and lush valleys of this small area in west central Wisconsin, around 150 eyewitnesses say the big cats also known as pumas or cougars are returning – indeed, have already returned — to their old lairs and watered woodlands. Both tawny-colored and, surprisingly, black-furred big cats now strut these rolling hills. Why surprisingly? Scientists say they don’t exist!

cows and barnWhite Lhasa Studios LLC (producers Linda Godfrey and Steven Godfrey) presents the trailer to a new film that tells this story of the returning cats and the people who have witnessed them firsthand.

An area reporter says the eyewitnesses are sure of what they’ve seen. Wildlife officials say most are mistaken. The residents, who range from retired police officers to Amish farmers, beg to differ. The cats are back on Wildcat Mountain, they say, and this time, they show no signs of leaving.

Please follow and like if you enjoy it. The film will also illustrate and correlate with a large chapter in my forthcoming book (see earlier post) “I Know What I Saw,” Modern-day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore.”

The first scheduled showing of the documentary (rough cut) will be June 8 at the Marinette Menominee Bigfoot Conference. Watch here for updates and our fast developing schedule.

My continuing mini-experiment with the deck trespasser: (see previous post)

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My original placement of my randomly selected item

Something or someone is still visiting my deck. Not to make too much of this but it’s a bit strange even if it’s an unknown human hanging out illegally in my back yard in wee hours of the morning. And so many readers have expressed interest that I thought I should share the most recent development.

Earlier this week, I decided to remove the 5 white landscaping rocks that still formed a perfect pentagram near the edge of my backyard. I threw them in the Green Belt woods and replaced them with two different pebbles; a small granite piece and a larger, flat old river rock. I added a tiny plastic dinosaur, and intentionally laid it on its side, directly on the deck so it wouldn’t get blown away, as it has been quite windy here. Nothing happened for days.

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The change made by unknown agent that has remained in place for several days.

Tuesday a.m. on Dec. 3 I looked for it first thing and realized the granite stone which had been stacked squarely on the river rock was now lying next to it but still touching. But the normally tipsy dino had been set up to stand on top of the rock! The formation has survived a windstorm since then, still standing. In the photos you can see how it first looked when I placed placed it on the deck planks. No way the little dino somehow blew upward to stand solidly upright while the small granite stone rolled off the larger rock.

 

Is the culprit a human trespasser? Living in a populated area as I do, it would seem the most likely solution. (We do live on the very edge of town with nature trails surrounding.) But the sudden appearance of the pentagon-shaped rock formation and the re-ordering of the mini-dino were both achieved in darkness, overnight, evading any surveillance moves on my part. Again, why? My husband didn’t even realize I had put the new little display there and hadn’t been near it. I heard the neighbor dog bark one single, loud bark during very early morning hours on that Night of the Plastic Dinosaur but that’s it. The Hubz and I have carefully examined our entire yard and the adjacent woods but no clues or evidence turned up. In the meantime we keep watching, and I’ll keep updating if anything else occurs.

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An overnight gift on my deck? Something unusual turned up this morning on my backyard deck which overlooks part of the Green Belt that connects hiking paths around the city where I live.

My bedroom window overlooks it directly. I once had a wired-in, infra-red motion detector focused on the yard there but something bit the wire in two! That was a few months ago. But just lately, I’ve been getting wood knocks in groups of 3 from the woods back there. Always a few minutes after I turned my light off.

A couple of nights ago, the knocks occurred immediately after I turned off my light. I told the Hubz but I wasn’t too excited, could have been lots of things. Last night around 8 or 9 pm some of the neighborhood dogs started barking in alarm mode. Again, I’d usually figure a deer or rabbit, coyote or whatever…until whatever was being barked at decided it had enough and made that super deep “hobita-hobita” growel + vowel sound that I and many others have associated with Brother Bigfoot or Sister Squatch. The barking stopped immediately. Again I mentioned it to my resident skeptic and he said, “Hmph.” So this morning I took a look out there and was shocked to see a perfect circle of 5 white landscape rocks laid out on the deck near the back rail. They had to have been carried from some edging close to the house. I know my neighbors…none of them would have sneaked onto my yard to make a little rock feature for me. The deck is surrounded by wilted plant debris so no footprints. Here are a few pix from my photo record. And the quarter and standard card deck are for size comparison, not a test to see if my visitor wants to ante up for a game of poker. BTW the woods were completely silent…no squirrels, birds etc. Eerie!

This Halloween offering is for those followers of the the Beast of Bray Road legend and encounters, who enjoy puzzling over the decades-old paper trail of ink-blotted arcana fished out of battered files.  I recently found two such items hidden in a drawer in a folder I’d marked, “Old Beast.” They actually fell out of the folder and right in my lap–an old makeshift bookmark and a page torn from the small notebook I used in my early reporting days.

I was about to throw them in the circular file but then I noticed the words, “Bray Road Werewolf” at the top of the bookmark. Beneath it was what I believe were my first written words about witness Lori Endrizzi and her mother, Pat ; “Lady claims daughter saw a werewolf on Bray Road 2 years ago.” I had added “Hospital Road,” because the sighting was near Bray’s intersection with that shortcut to Walworth County’s hospital complex. (Some names are redacted.)

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There were other brief comments from someone inviting me to cover a meeting on alleged mis-used animal traps, along with a mention of the county  animal shelter where I later met with Jon Fredrickson, the county’s then animal control officer. The bigger piece of paper includes more notes on that meeting, and a great Fredrickson quote, “The county’s getting stranger.” And best of all are my notes on his description of a wolf or coyote springing up when startled so that it only seemed to be walking upright. And I can’t leave out the mention of the large, clawed animal trail on Potter’s Road.

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For those who are not fans of very old paper trails, I give you (metaphorically), my growing collection of creature socks, all from friends, that also give me joy. Happy Halloween to ALL my friends, I just thank you all for being here.

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Reports picking up in SouthEAST Wisconsin?

Here’s a tail of a black and a tan, one 7 miles from Bray Road a few days ago and one less than two weeks on the southern outskirts of Janesville…

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On Saturday, September 7, 2019, 25-year old Harley Marcum and fellow employee Robert Davis were between shifts outside the back door of a south Janesville company about 6:30pm, when something caught Marcum’s eye; a dark animal moving swiftly from the parking lot toward a nearby marsh, on all fours and low to the ground. “Holy crap! Look!” Marcum yelled at Davis, not believing his own eyes. Robert looked where Marcum was pointing just in time to see a huge black-furred animal skulk off into the grassy, marsh area, its glossy coat reflecting the waning sunlight. There was no doubt in either of their minds, said Marcum:  It was a mountain lion or some other type of big cat.

(Click link for video of Marcum and Davis)

The two men exchanged startled glances, and then decided to run after the animal to see if they could scare it out for another look. A few steps into the field, however, they couldn’t see where it had gone and began to feel uneasy. They retreated to the parking lot, the edge of which was only about 20 feet from the marsh but didn’t catch another glimpse. They did tell a friend of theirs about it, and the friend contacted me. I met up with Marcum and Davis at their usual shift change time on Thursday, Sept. 19, where I looked around for prints and heard more of their story.

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Harley Marcum points at marsh the big cat was frequenting

Where did the big cat go? Their employer’s location is in the general area east of Hwy. 51 on Janesville’s south side, but there are many open and wooded wild areas where the big cat could also easily rove. Male cougars need thirty-square-mile territories if they are planning to stay, and can cover many miles in a day if just passing through.

It Was a Beast

Both men described a rather formidable animal.

“It was weird,” said Harley, “like nothing I’ve ever seen. And I clearly seen it; it was bigger than a German shepherd.” In fact it was larger, he said, than what he would expect a mountain lion to be. “I could see the muscles, it was slick black. It was a beast,” he said. “I had a side view of the head, and I saw a long tail that curled upward and then curled down.” That is a standard mountain lion description.

Harley also noted that it had what seemed a big head for the body, which, together with the black fur that zoologists say is never seen on a mountain lion, may indicate some other species of big cat or a hybrid. Harley said they did not report their sighting to the DNR or other officials. They are now alert at every shift change, hoping for the privilege of seeing such an unusual animal again. “I’m extremely grateful,” said Harley of his encounter.

Sighting #2: Tan Cougar seen East of Bray Road

An even more recent report came to me by phone the day after it occurred, September 15, 2019, from a location only about 7 miles from the NE tip of Bray Road. The caller and his wife own a summer home and acreage in eastern Walworth County. They had first contacted me in November, 2018, after they found roundish, “large baseball” sized prints on their land and learned that only a few miles away, a farmer had lost two calves to an unknown predator. He had five trail cameras positioned around his property for the remainder of the winter, but nothing turned up on any of them. He contacted the DNR but was told it must be either a dog or a deer. He knew it was neither of those.

When the property owner called me last week, it was to tell me that the previous day, his wife had seen what she was sure was a tan mountain lion, walking only about 60 feet away from her bedroom window. She also noted its large, looping tail. She had good light and a longer look at it than most people. The couple prefers to remain anonymous.

And just south of the WI-IL Border:

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art by Linda Godfrey all rights reserved

Area newspapers ran articles in August, 2019, about an 11 p.m. sighting on August 8 of a dark brown, large animal with bright eyeshine. A couple was driving near the village of Rockton, IL, traveling north on South Bluff Road next to the Rock River when this occurred. They described the typically flat-faced head profile of a big cat and also the tell-tale tail that appeared to be “curling under” as it crossed the road in front of their car. They insisted it was not any well-known or usual animal seen in that area.

Readers of my blog will know that I’m working on a documentary called Return to Wildcat Mountain about the surge of tan AND black big cats in central Wisconsin west of the Baraboo area. You can see the trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTc-t85UeDw and short versions will be shown at Iowa’s Van Meter Visitor Festival just west of Des Moines September 28, and at the Charles Dickens Horror Festival in Colorado on October 19, 2019 for starters. More to come!

Note: For a fuller story of the Rockton IL sighting please see Singular Fortean’s story singularfortean.com/news/2019/8/28

 

 

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witness sketch of the Man-Bat of La Crosse, WI, 2006

My favorite motto is “Always look behind you, always look up.” And there seems to be a lot more reason over the past few years to obey that second half of the saying.

Although they’ve proven quite controversial, many dozens of giant, flying, sometimes bat-like creatures have been spotted above the city of Chicago and its environs in the past few years by a variety of eyewitnesses. This isn’t entirely new. There have been similar reports from around the US for decades, such as those describing Point Pleasant’s Mothman, Tacoma’s famed Batsquatch and others including the creature I called the Man Bat that almost flew right into the windshield of a truck on a country road near La Crosse, WI the night of September 26, 2006. I investigated that one on site quite soon after it was seen, and also heard from other area people who’d encountered it. Overall, these and the other eyewitnesses reporting sightings across the country seem as credible to me as any other group of cryptid spotters, and I do believe this is a phenomenon worthy of investigation.

I could not help wondering, though, why some–again, FAR from all–of the Chicago flyers were appearing over popular tourist areas such as Lincoln Square, the Gold Coast and the Art Institute of Chicago. Most cryptid sightings occur in rural or at least liminal places; the outskirts of a city rather than the downtown, for instance.

The Art Institute sighting reminded me of something I’d written in a 2009 book titled “Mythical Creatures” for the Chelsea House series, Mysteries, Legends and Unexplained Phenomena, edited by my late, great and dear friend Rosemary Guiley. (The book includes the story of the La Crosse Man Bat on pages 33-34.) Also, my youngest son has an art degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and had some first-hand knowledge of various projects people were working on.

Before I go any farther, I want to be clear; I’m offering this idea only for what it’s worth—and only as it may provide insight to some encounters with the sky critter phenomenon. There are other ideas and theories out there. I’m not offering a solution or even a suggestion that any particular individual has been involved with the origin of these unknown flyers in any known way. But let’s look at one chapter, “Mixed Up Monsters,” of the book mentioned above.

My research on  that chapter back in 2009 had led me to the various, publicly exhibited works of an art professor at SAIC named Eduardo Kac (pronounced Katz) who’d become famous for his claim that he had produced a rabbit/jellyfish chimera named Alba that glowed green under black lights. The exhibition intended to display Alba to the world never happened, however. And more importantly to our discussion here were another facet of Kac’s work involving remote-controlled, bat-like robotic figures complete with sonar. Many researchers have studied and written about these bat-bots.

One such writer, a Stanford student named Thomas Loverro, offered a paper in the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal on Kac’s work, divided into sections titled telepresence, biotelematics, robotics and transgenic art. https://web.stanford.edu/class/sts129/essays/Loverro2.htm

These artworks were created not with brushes or chisels, but with the latest scientific equipment. Or as a Dec. 12, 2018 Chicago Reader article put it, “…SAIC’s Bio Art Lab, where art is life—literally.” This futuristic genre had garnered its own space at SAIC, a lab in the basement of the MacLean Center at 112 S. Michigan.

Loverro also wrote “… [Kac’s] 1999 Darker Than Night interactive exhibit, which is a culmination of the works examined thus far. It brings computers, robots, animals, and humans together and asks them all to communicate with each other. Kac placed a robotic bat (“bat-bot”) in a cave with over three hundred Egyptian Fruit Bats in a zoo. The robotic bat was equipped with the ability to convert real bats’ high-frequency calls to within the audible range of humans and also rotate its head, where the sonar microphone was located. Human listeners could then remotely, via a virtual reality headset, turn their head to control the bat-bot’s microphone and immerse themselves in the world of the bat.”

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

Kac’s “bat-bot,” then, literally hung out with living bats.

http://www.web.stanford.edu/group/journal/cgi-bin/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Loverro_Hum_2002.pdf

SO…it could be mere coincidence. But since Kac is a Professor Emeritus at SAIC, and is undoubtedly well known to a generation of art students and other artists, could it also be that some follower or admirer of his work may have seen some of the early Chicago Flyer reports, remembered the bat-bots and designed one with drone technology for some short flights above downtown Chicago? Over the Art Institute? Where there is an art-bio-lab? I emailed Kac at his SAIC address to see if he had any idea whether such experiments were being undertaken in the school or elsewhere, but did not receive an answer. It’s possible he never received my inquiry. And also very possible he has never heard of Chicago’s flying things.

Again, this is all mere speculation and not a suggestion that any particular person, known or unknown, is involved. It doesn’t explain sightings in any other places, either, especially those in other states. But I do think it’s a good example of how in this day and age, investigators need to look outside the cave to explore all possibilities. At least knowing that bat-bots and other bio-mechanical-genetic “things” are being invented may help keep us looking up.

“There’s no plainer way to say it: I write about monsters.

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Illustration by Lucia Calfapietra for Read It Forward.com 2019

As in wolves that walk on their hind legs, Bigfoot, and man-bats—the spooky stuff that pounding hearts and cold midnight sweats are made of. Upon learning what I do, most people assume I’m 6-foot-3 and spend my time clomping around forests with a rifle and a rucksack, hunting for phantom animals. They’re always disappointed to learn I’m closer in size to a Hobbit than I am to Paul Bunyan and that I carry a camera rather than a machete. (I do clomp around in forests every chance I get.)

Some expect me to resemble a woodsy goth. “You look like you could be somebody’s mom,” I’ve heard young fans moan. I am indeed the mom of two somebodies, and happy for it. But the fact that I seem so ordinary may be why every interview I’ve ever had starts with something like, “So how did a rather short art teacher/journalist from Wisconsin turn into a werewolf investigator and author?”

Truth? It’s not just about the monsters. It never has been just about the monsters, as much as I adore their rippling, furry muscles and their fangs all-a-glisten with viscous drool. No, there’s something more intrinsic, something monster-like that we’re all on watch for in this world because we know it exists even if we won’t admit it. Stories and folk tales are full of this mystery factor, and they can serve to make us aware there’s a monster in everyone’s life. But sometimes the monster just stands and introduces itself.

It surprised me as much as anyone when, in 1992, I wrote a newspaper article on an alleged werewolf-like creature seen by eyewitnesses outside a small town in Wisconsin, and the story blew up worldwide. The universe then turned its astonished, glowing eyes my way, and the “hunt” ended up taking over much of my life. Somehow the creature just never seemed as strange to me as it did to most other people, and I credit a few special childhood books that I believe helped make it so.

One of these books made me decide at age 3 that I wanted to be an artist and writer, but again, it wasn’t for the love of bears, ghosties, or wolves jeering at little pigs in fragile houses.

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This book’s protagonists were two feisty kittens named Hush and Brush, who invented every color ever seen by men or angels and went off to paint the world. I remember begging my mother to read it over and over because this story, Margaret Wise Brown’s 1949 The Color Kittens, showed me both the power of words and the miracle of color. It was as close to a religious experience as most 3-year-olds can have. And I’m not even a cat person.

Despite that fact, it was another cat tale that would give my world its second wakeup call. At Herbert V. Schenck Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1957, I was 6 years old, lying on my kindergarten nap-mat waiting for the teacher to read us something dull. Then she announced the day’s story: The Cat in the Hat, by a man with the funny name of Dr. Seuss.

Cat? Hat? I perked up, and by the time she’d finished the first couple pages I was entranced in a state of joyful shock—not only at the rhymes but at the audacious rhythm, the unsentimental artwork, and the ludicrous Cat, who seemed more sinister than saccharine. Most riveting was the scary premise of the story: Mother leaves two children alone, extremely weird character enters the home, wreaks havoc, calls in two even stranger characters that go wild on the place, and then somehow the whole mess is cleaned up and the mother never finds out. Only the goldfish knows.

The teacher had read us many books, but this one felt completely new. I didn’t realize at the time, of course, that this was exactly what Dr. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel, had been going for when he was asked to create a children’s book that would make young kids want to read. But it worked on me. I felt the power. The Cat was a creepily benign monster, and I understood that intuitively, as young children do.

There have been other books that opened unexpected worlds. One of my favorites, by Katherine Gibson Isobel Read, was simply called Fairy Tales. Its cover illustration showed a small group of children sitting at the feet of a storytelling elf, watched over by an enigmatic and beautiful fairy. The back cover completed the scene with a high hill topped by the requisite castle and towers. I looked at this illustration so long and often that I wore the binding off the book.

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My drawing of a rather stately fairy and elf quartet done in 3rd grade, age 9.

I didn’t believe fairies were real, but I wished very hard that they were. My sister and I invented a make-believe fairy universe of beings that lived in the clouds by day and danced in streetlights at night. They had magnificent wardrobes of gowns and tiaras, and left their tiny, polished teeth in a nearby quarry where we would spend hours hunting for small quartz pebbles. This world was strangely devoid of monsters, though there are many adult folk traditions that see fairies in an ominous light.

Together these books fused art, words, and unknown creatures into a corner of my youthful mind that always made me think, What if? Their message was a promise that though strange things may happen, and that these things may bring disorder to our lives—and though there may, indeed, be monsters—we’re strong enough to face the unknown beasts, clean up the messes, and leave some beauty in the world.

It was for the love of those books that I dared to write about werewolves, and still do.

See this and other essays at Read It Forward.Com!

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I’d really rather stay on the viewer’s end of the binoculars when folks are discussing cryptid or unknown creatures, but this article “Do You Have a Werewolf Problem?” by the Trib’s Chris Borelli places me firmly on the “focus–zoom in–speculate” side of field equipment and monster tales. It’s a fun piece of writing (although I’m pretty sure I said the 60# deer left NO drag marks, and how is just turned 68 “nearly 70?”) but overall it’s a good representation of the last 27 years or so, and I’m very grateful to Chris, Chad Lewis, and Loren Coleman for their kind remarks and analyses. Stacey Wescott also created some inspired visuals that help tell my unexpected tale.

I would also be remiss if I failed to thank an alligator that recently kickstarted the whole thing by showing up in the Humboldt Park lagoon, sending Borelli in search of explanations.

The alligator also had impeccable timing as my new book, I Know What I Saw, was just released July 16 and I’m speaking and signing books in Chicago at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square July 25, 2019 at 7 pm. And no, I was not the one who put the alligator in the water. But as I’ve learned from this occupation–and preoccupation–of mine, strangeness is everywhere, and once in a while it does you a kind turn or two.

Here is the link to chomp onLindaTribStone: https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-linda-godfrey-cryptozoologist-0725-20190724-fcoddjwfwzg7fne6ljmldutaae-story.html