Archive for January, 2015

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.


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.

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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?

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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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