I 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.
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.