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Archive for the ‘monsters’ Category

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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“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

 

 

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FindingJay

The ancient admonition “know thyself” stems back to ancient Egyptian and Greek writers and philosophers, and generally means learning to understand one’s own being—especially through understanding other beings, cultures or ideas. Wisconsin graphic printer and designer Jay Bachochin has dedicated himself for years to the pursuit of that scientifically unknown creature called Bigfoot, in an effort to see and understand what this phenomenon might actually be and discern more about himself in the process. 

He is aware of the ways this quest has become a driving force in his life, as his passion to somehow document the creature is often at odds with his equally dedicated role as a family man. In this film, we watch him balancing the two goals by bringing his wife and children to the winter forests of Wisconsin on occasion, or, more often, braving dark nights in rough territory with only a flashlight to show the way.

In full disclosure, I’ve hiked numerous trails with Bachochin over the past half-decade, and have watched him dash off into the darkness to give chase to some creature just out of our sight. I’ve also seen him take a hard knock in the head from some invisible force as we walked a path in the Kettle Moraine State Forest.  (Both incidents are covered in the film.) Nothing discourages him, and I think the fact that his title is “Finding Jay” rather than “I Found Jay” tells us that there is probably a “Still Looking for Jay” in the works. 

This film is a two-hour trek that distinguishes itself as the thoughtful overview of a true-life monster-seeker. Where most such films focus on the creature, Bachochin shows us the heart of the search. 

Finding Jay is available starting July 1 from Amazon Prime. Learn more at www.WPIhuntsthetruth.com  and at https://www.facebook.com/FindingJayDocumentary/

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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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It has a cover! And can be preordered, and is totally written. It even has pages up such as  the publisher’s at https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/565784/i-know-what-i-saw-by-linda-s-godfrey/9780143132806/   Alas, the final production will take a few more months incubation at Penguin/Random House, but I’m hoping the results will be worth it. Also, there will be a documentary film launched at the same time of the book, with a trailer reveal to be announced. And it isn’t about dogman. Not that there’s anything wrong with dogman. Watch here for links to the trailer, hoping in a month or so. Happy New Year!!!

 

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Illustration Update: On July 2, this witness sent me a sketch by her artist son, Marc, and I’ve added it below. He did a great job, and her only notes on it were that it needed the “mane” around the neck and shoulders and also more varying lengths of fur. She said both his drawing and mine looked much like what she and her friend had seen. Here is what she described:

Time and time again, Michigan dogman sightings seem to center around the mid-Eastern area of the state, near the huge Manistee National Forest. Some of the best known sightings in that area include those near Reed City and Big Rapids featured in the TV show Monsterquest, and in nearby Luther, where owners of a family home returned from vacation to find canine claw marks in the house’s siding seven feet off the ground, and large canine prints on the ground.

Shelby, a small town in Oceana County that lies halfway between Ludington and Muskegon, is only a couple of miles from the western edge of the forest, and six or seven miles from the Lake Michigan shore. In February, 2009, at about 11:30 pm, recently retired law enforcement officer Laura Love was a passenger in a car headed north on Highway US-31 near the West Webster Road overpass. Her friend,“C,” was driving. In Laura’s own words:

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“We were just talking about general things…there was a small truck in front of us, no other traffic on the road, in either direction. The road itself was mostly clear, but did have areas of snow/ice spots. The weather was cold but there was no snow falling, and it was a cloudless night.

We saw a large, tall, dark, and oddly shaped creature run out from the left side of the overpass and hit the rear quarter panel of the small truck in front of us, causing the truck to fish-tail. Luckily the small pickup did regain control, but it didn’t stop to see what collided with it. If anything, it seemed to speed up as if it got a view of what hit it, and wanted to get the heck out of Dodge.

It looked like a giant dog or wolf. It was bipedal, not on all fours. It was at least 7-7.5 feet tall. It had a kind of mane around its head ( much like a lion’s mane) the hind legs looked like dog legs when they are up on two legs…like the knees are backwards, which seemed more pronounced as it was running across the two-lane highway left to right. The front legs were swinging freely as it ran.

The face was definitely canine, much like a collie face….elongated with a snout and nose protruding from the face. The mouth was slightly opened as it ran…and the creature was covered by longish dark hair, but in varying lengths. It had pointy ears that seemed to be more on the top portion of its head rather than on the sides. We watched as it ran off to the right side of the highway and disappear into the small trees and weeds along the road. It seemed to pay us no heed whatsoever, as if it was unconcerned that we were fast approaching it.

‘C’ kept driving, but was silent.

I asked her “Did you just see….?”

She replied, “Yes, I did.”

I said, ‘OK.’

We drove the next ten minutes in silence until we got to my driveway.

We went into my house and I made us some tea. We sat and discussed what we had seen. I am not sure if it was a relief to have the other confirm what was seen, but we agreed on all aspects that I have described.

I was concerned about her trip back to her house, as she naturally was… so we decided she would call me from her cellphone and we would talk as she drove so if anything happened I would know as it happened, and she gave me frequent location updates as she drove. Thankfully she made it home without incident.

Our encounter was brief, but it was fully illuminated, affording us a good profile view of the creature. We have always heard the stories, but normally from someone who knew someone who knew someone that saw something. Now, I can honestly say, WE saw something, and it wasn’t a man in a costume, nor a large dog nor wolf… it was a dogman. I can still see it clearly in my mind’s eye like it happened just last week.

Thank you for replying back, it was nice to see an actual email from someone…

I am fine with you sharing my encounter. I am also fine if you want to share my name…  I retired from law enforcement 2 years ago, so I am not worried about the backlash anymore.”

 

There are a couple of aspects to this sighting that make it quite remarkable. There is the “mane” or thick hedge of fur around its neck and back. This feature is not found on all upright canines but does get mentioned from time to time and is something that shows up in wolf populations as well.

The real shock factor of this sighting, however, is that the creature actually bashed into the truck just ahead of the two women, nearly sending it veering off the road. It seems odd that something with such obvious power and control of movement would hit the truck accidentally. From listening to Laura’s description of its trajectory, the move seems purposeful to me. My mind then goes toward what might happen if such a vehicle left the pavement, which Laura described as icy in patches, and rolled or was otherwise damaged. Would the creature have stayed on site to check out the truck’s occupants?

 

We will never know, of course, but since we truly don’t know yet how these creatures view humans and what their true intent may be, it’s not unreasonable to ask these questions. In the meantime, I’m thankful that both Laura and her friend made it home safely.

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