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Artwork by Linda S. Godfrey 2017

Flight of the Mid-Michigan Dogman

Could a dogman travel from tree to tree in a snowy woods? That is what appeared to happen in a 2016 incident according to a report from a Michigan man in 2016. And this was only the beginning of his sightings of upright, wolf-like creatures. Between February and October of that year, he had no fewer than three encounters with creatures he said reminded him of a werewolf. The woods where this occurred are thought by local residents to be filled with ancient Native American burial mounds. Indeed, local historical records tell of a massacre of Potawatomi people by a rival tribe there in 1642.

The geography of the area also helps support the possibility of large cryptids there. Montague, a city of about 2500 people, lies only about four miles from Lake Michigan. Its wet and woodsy habitat is perfect for predators looking for food or a good hideout. To the east lie wide swaths of forest land, and an hour to two hours to the north and west are the known Michigan dogman sighting areas of Big Rapids, Luther, Baldwin and others.

The writer’s own words tell the tale, with only a few minor edits. He did not give me permission to use his name, and my accompanying sketch is my own artist interpretation of the large, wolf-like head he describes in his report:

Hello Linda. I live in a town called Montague here in west Michigan. About an hour to hour and a half as a crow flies southwest of both Big Rapids and Reed City. I live with my father on the family farm that sits on 30 acres of woods, creek and marshlands.  All of my encounters have come this year [2016] from February to about a month or so ago [October].

The first came on or about the eighth of February [2016] at approximately 3:52 am.  A heavy winter storm was hitting the area with some nasty weather. I was up early to get a jump on the snow shoveling, so the driveway was accessible for the propane delivery guy later that morning. As I was about halfway down the driveway I heard a loud splash in the creek to the south about 25 yards away, thinking it was a deer or two I had jumped. I stopped shoveling and scanned the creek and wood line for any movement.  As I scanned the creek I came to the wood line and saw this pair of yellow/amber eyes about 7 1/2 to 8 foot tall standing right next to a huge oak tree.

It took off with a super burst of speed to the west, it then leapt into the air and all I heard for the next few seconds was the tree tops clanging against one another. It was like it was riding the treetops.  I stood there for the next few minutes questioning my sanity. For the 6 to 7 seconds I saw this creature it stood 7 1/2 to 8 feet tall, stood on two legs that looked like a dogs hind legs. Big wolf like head, with a snout and ears that resembled that of a German Shepard, and those eyes of yellow/ amber in color.

SIGHTING TWO

The second sighting came on or about March 24, at approximately 2:38 pm. I had decided to walk up the creek and clear brush. I always carry a firearm with me on these occasions. I had gotten about 450 yards up the creek that flows through entire acreage of the property, it was strange to me how completely quiet or as I say “dead” the woods were. I always jump something up whether it’s a deer or turkey or ducks that are always there. I didn’t even hear any birds which was really strange. I rounded a bend in the crick when up ahead about 55 yards is what looked to be the back of a black bear that was digging into the bank of the crick.

As I was setting my firearm down on one of the little islands in the crick I snapped a branch and it stopped completely what it was doing. I froze and watched as this thing stood up on two legs and started to turn around towards me. It stood 8 feet tall and had a huge wolf like head, snout and ears of a dog, and all black fur. In the first encounter the creature’s fur was grey in color with some white, this one was all black.

It kept glancing over to the east and back towards me. It had not yet seen me, it put its snout into the air and looked like it was sniffing the wind.  I’m completely freaking out at this point and reach to pick up my firearm to get out of the area quickly when there was a splash up the creek I looked up and now this thing was on all four legs, it still stood 5 to 5 1/2 feet tall. At this point I don’t want to run out of fear that it will give chase, so I stay frozen. It looked at me and snarled, and I thought it was sizing me up and then all of a sudden it looks to the east, back at me one more time, and took two giant leaps toward the east, and onto the bank of the creek, that’s about a 25 foot distance. It then jumps towards the treetops and disappears to the east. I stood there in total disbelief.

I got home and my mind just kept racing. So I decided to confide in my father about what I had seen and he looked at me as if I were an alien. Said I was crazy and I should get my head checked out. I know what I saw!

ENCOUNTER THREE

The third and final encounter came on May 29, 8:52 pm.  My dad and I were having a fire down by the creek and we were getting low on wood.  He asked if I could go get more wood for the fire from behind the pole barn. I hesitated and said in a few minutes.  I was afraid of those woods, which is something I thought I would never say. After about ten minutes I start to make my way towards the back of the pole barn it’s just about dark and I keep hearing this rustling and a lower growl like dogs are playing and when I reach the back of the barn it stops. I light a cigarette and look out into the woods which are 10 yards away, again the woods had gone completely silent, it was eerie. Then there was a sound like a zipper being zipped up.  It was about 30 yards to the south. I waited for a minute and decided to look out to where I heard the sound. As I glanced to my right I saw something move.
It is just about completely dark, and there is a stench in the air that is absolutely putrid. It smelled of rotten guts and urine. I figured it was a rotten carcass of a dead animal. And then as I was shining my flashlight a deep guttural growl, like a raccoon would make came from the area I had heard the rustling sound.  So I shone my light over towards the sound and I saw eyes about 5 1/2 feet off of the ground, the eyes were red in color and were very shiny. It really didn’t freak me out as a lot of critters have red eyes when exposed to light. Then this thing stood up on two legs, this thing was really tall 8 to 8 1/2 feet, it growled again and literally turned around and walked away to the south.

I thought I had crapped myself, I came back home and my dad asked where was the wood? I said I didn’t feel well and was going to bed. I went out the next day to look around the area I heard the noise. I found only a deer skin, the rest of the deer was gone, including the head.

Also two neighbors of mine have heard very eerie howls coming from my family’s woods, saying they only come at dusk. They have been in the area for 50 + years and said they have never heard a sound like the one that they heard.

Also my friend’s cat Albert was trapped 60 feet up in a tree for 3 days during that storm that hit here just recently and refused to come down. It took tree cutting experts with a bucket to get him back. The rescuers said the cat hissed at them and did not cooperate with the rescue, and was shaking uncontrollably.

And one more thing. I set apples out for the deer every week and noticed the other day that all the apples were gone, and a rock was in every place where there was an apple. I have a trail cam on the area as I write this so hopefully I can get some pics to you. I also found some tracks that look like a huge wolfs. There used to be deer around here all the time. Had a herd of 50 or so. Now you’re lucky to see one or two, it’s like they disappeared. Been really strange around here for the past couple of years and I don’t know what to think about it. In all three of my encounters the thing I saw reminded me of a werewolf. I no longer go near the woods. I was told by a family member that a lot of the wood acreage is Indian burial grounds. I don’t share this with very many people at all in fear of getting laughed at or called crazy.

***

            This report includes a couple of unusual features. In the first two encounters, the man saw the creature leap for the treetops. In the first, it appeared to be following him by jumping through the trees. That is not known canine behavior. Canines are not built with the brachiating or branching limb structure that allows them to swing by their arms as primates do. Perhaps it jumped from tree to tree. Dogmen have been seen making tremendous leaps and bounds.

A second thing I noticed was the presence of the Oz Factor, or a general bubble of silence, that seemed to envelope the area during two of the incidents. This unexplained phenomenon frequently appears in tandem with cryptid sightings of all kinds, as well as with various paranormal experiences.

Since it seems to be a recent and ongoing set of sightings, I hope to hear back from the witness if any more incidents occur. And during this final month or so of Midwestern winter weather, I’ll be listening in every ice storm for werewolves in the trees.

 

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Although Hollywood loves to depict their classic werewolves in shredded shirts and jeans, the great majority of eyewitness reports describe fur as the only covering on the upright canines they have encountered.

Here’s an exception to the rule, from a former Texas pizza delivery man whose encounter occurred the night of July 20, 2012. I leave it in his own words with only a few minor edits for repetition, spelling and paragraph separations:

 

Hello Linda,
Thank you for getting back to me. I’m going to state right away that my sighting has terrorized me to say the least. When I was a small child I watched an American werewolf in London by myself and had been mortally afraid of werewolves since then.
My sighting was on the 20th of July in 2012. It was a Friday night. I was 19 at the time, and didn’t have many responsibilities other than delivering pizza part time, so naturally being a teenager I was out with friends at a house party in old Katy (a suburb west of Houston, Tx) .
My friends and I experimented with both marijuana and alcohol, but we were always “responsible” enough to make sure one of us stayed sober to be the designated driver. That particular night was my turn to be the sober one. My friend B. had gotten well past drunk and once he was starting to behave reckless I decided it was time to leave the party and take him home. He didn’t want me to take him home, so instead he asked me to drive him to one of his friends houses that I’m not familiar with. This friend, who I only remember as Joey, lived on the far west outskirts of Katy, close to a town called Brookshire.
I took  Morton Rd to get there, with the driver and passenger windows down so B. could get some fresh air. The street is one turn north of Morton, and while I don’t remember the name of the street I do remember how to get there (my sense of direction is fairly superior; I’ve delivered pizzas all throughout Katy, and have since become a local truck driver in Houston). The road had 3 or 4 house on the eastern side, and on the west side was a fairly large forest area (maybe 40 or so acres) and dead ends just past the last house.
I had noticed the moon was full before I even went out that night. I got to Joey’s house, the second house on the right and parked my car on the left side of the road, closest to the trees. I helped B. get out of my car and walked him to the porch, Joey came out and thanked me for dropping him off and we said goodbye.
I decided to smoke a cigarette before I left the road. At the time, I shared my car with my dad and his number one rule was to not smoke in his car. After lighting my cigarette it didn’t take long to notice that the road was eerily silent. I assume I didn’t notice before as I was helping my noisy drunk friend get inside the house. Maybe three drags of my cigarette I heard heavy footsteps going across the gravel maybe 100 feet in front of me. I was alarmed at the sound they made, similar to the sound of pulling something metal against concrete.
As I’ve stated, my fears have always been werewolves. Here I am, alone, standing on a dark road under a full moon and I hear something BIG walking too close for comfort in front of me, I didn’t hesitate to throw down my cigarette and get into my car. I told myself as I was getting in that I wouldn’t turn on my headlights so I wouldn’t have to see what was in front of me, and simply reverse my way back onto Morton Rd and get the hell out of there. Unfortunately for me, my car had automatic lights that turned on as soon as I started the car, a fact that I was aware of but in my panic seemed to ignore.
Immediately in front of me about a hundred feet as I had guessed was a 6 and a half to 7 foot beast, on two legs. It was covered in black fur, with the body of a gym addicted man and the head of what I guess could be similar to a German shepherd or a black wolf. It had human like feet covered in the dark fur as well with large claws sticking out about two inches, and it held its left hand out the same way a human would reaching for something in front him/her. I noticed that the fingers ended in large claws as well. While this was enough to cause my jaw to drop, what got me the most was that it was wearing torn blue jeans that seemed too tight and unnaturally torn, and an open flannel blue shirt that was ripped at its bulky shoulders.
It looked my way when the lights revealed it and glared at me with narrowed yellow eyes baring its large fangs. My windows were still down and I hadn’t touched my radio so I had no trouble hearing the loud growl it let out. It then turned its head to the forest and dropped on all fours and ran out of my sight into the trees.
All of this took place in about 20 seconds, but it felt like hours. At this point I literally had tears in my eyes but didn’t hesitate for one second longer to shove my car in reverse and put the gas pedal to the metal. I heard loud growling and grunting as I was leaving. I reversed onto Morton Rd and went 80-90 miles an hour down the streets leading back to Katy and didn’t slow down till I was on interstate 10. While still on Morton Rd I kept my eyes in front of me and sobbed the whole time because I had never been so scared in my life. I can swear that the look I got from this creature was communicating to me that I had no business seeing him and that he wanted me gone. The look reminded me of criminals on tv being caught in their wrongdoings and wanting to cause harm to those who witnessed it.
I got home, ran inside and called my Scottish terrier into my room and didn’t sleep till the sun was up.
To this day I’ve never had a desire, nor the nerve to go back to that part of Morton Rd. I obsessed over the idea that I had seen a werewolf and researched werewolf sightings on google and was intrigued by the Beast of Bray Rd sightings and everything else that came up. I was disappointed to see that nothing i found on the web was precisely what I saw…while the beasts others have encountered seemed similar, none were spotted wearing clothes.
The Reaction
I told my mother and father what I had seen, and while my mother could tell I was being genuine, my father was more interested in me driving that far from home without letting him know so I stopped talking about it. Of the 7 people outside of my family I’ve told, only my wife to be and my friend Mike seemed to believe me, most laughing and asking stupid questions such as “did you ask the werewolf if he got the vampires yet?” And similar things like that.
I’ve always wanted to write you, but it wasn’t hard to notice that my story sounds far fetched, especially considering the fact that I couldn’t find any other reported sightings near the Houston area, nor much in Texas recently either. I guess I was scared of being ridiculed, or to be honest scared that if I did say my story that somehow the creature would find out and hunt me down…I’m honestly positive I’ll never stop being haunted by the memory of this creature, it’s just too vivid and too frightening to put out of my mind.
I also never told the friend I dropped off there that night, what I saw. In fact, I didn’t see him again for two years until accidentally bumping into him at a gas station in south Katy.
Last week, my mom and fiancé went shopping at Barnes and Noble and noticed Real Wolfmen and thought I’d like it. I haven’t put it down since and after reading the chapter where the woman in Tennessee saw a clogged creature, I decided that after four years of hesitating it was time to write to you.
I’m not sure what happens next, but I want to say thank you again for getting back to me and taking the time to listen to my sighting. I know that some of these creatures have been spotted in daylight, but I just don’t know how what I saw couldn’t be a werewolf…the moon was full (the official full moon was July 19th but it still looked exactly the same from what I saw) and this creature was wearing clothes..I know some dogs wear sweaters when their owners force them to but even pretending that dogs walked on two legs standing 6.5-7 feet tall, how someone could dress a dog up that way is beyond me…and there’s no way in hell that it was a man dressed up as a werewolf/wolfman/dogman…it was just too real. 
I’m 23, a father of two daughters and I’ll be married next month.
The witness shared a few more things with me after I told him that in my experience, the upright canines with more humanoid features and especially those seen wearing a human garment tend to be seen near parks or Native American reservations. There are, in fact, several reservations near that area, he said, and since he is part Native American, he asked his grandmother about tribal lore that might explain the encounter. He said she told him that in their legend, the entities usually referred to as skinwalkers are more like the usual idea of werewolves. The witness drew a sketch at my request, then asked his mother to redraw it, using his drawing as a guide. I must say it looks very like a typical portrayal of a werewolf. The ruff or neck mane is something that many witnesses describe, however, clothing or no clothing.
To play the devil’s advocate, there is a big advantage to hoaxers in wearing clothing, because it’s eliminates the need for a full bodysuit of fur. In the drawing, the feet are shown as flat rather than digitigrade (supported on toepads) But this witness didn’t seem to think this could have been a human. The creature ran away on all fours. And there was that almost full moon…

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Thunderbirds, mothmen and other unknown flying things are some of the most puzzling of cryptids. They appear in the sky or a nearby meadow, amaze lucky witnesses, and then fly away without any hint as to their intent. Sometimes they seem to portend doom, as in the famous case of Point Pleasant, W. VA’s Mothman, which many think was a harbinger of the tragic Silver Bridge collapse.

 

In other cases, such as the northwestern Wisconsin daylight sighting by John Bolduan that begins my “American Monsters” book, witnesses are left feeling perplexed yet privileged to have witnessed such a spectacle. Bolduan watched in awe as the tall, silvery-feathered bird took to the air and displayed a 22-foot wingspan.

 

There’s another example of that flighty ambiguity in my next book due out this fall, titled “Monsters Among Us, an Exploration of Otherworldly Bigfoots, Wolfmen, Portals, Phantoms and Odd Phenomena.” In this incident, a central Wisconsin woman witnessed a gigantic, large bird standing on a bridge near Black River Falls. She was told by a Native American elder that she had seen a Thunderbird.

 

Why am I bringing these examples up now? I’ve often wished that I had some way to help  interpret these incidents, but had never found much contemporary material aside from well-known Thunderbird lore. I was thrilled recently, then, to stumble across a gleam of illumination in my summer reading pile, in a book about one man’s solo canoe adventure down the Mississippi River. The beautifully written work, Nick Lichter’s The Road of Souls, Reflections on the Mississippi, also describes many of the places long considered sacred or otherwise important by our indigenous people.

 

One of these places is Rock Island, Illinois (specifically, the area known as Rock Island Arsenal across the river from Bettendorf, Iowa). Lichter cites the translated autobiography Life of Black Hawk to explain that this island was once considered a hunting, fishing and horticultural paradise by Blackhawk’s people, the Sac or Sauk. I’ll quote just the last half of Chief Blackhawk’s own statement from  Lichter’s book:

 

“In my early life, I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had care of it, who lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands, and has often been seen by our people. He was white, with large wings like a swan’s, but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which he inhabited, for fear of disturbing him. But the noise of the fort has driven him away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken his place!”

 

Lichter adds, “The swan’s cave was long ago dynamited out of existence.”

MississippiRiver

(Image shared from http://cdn26.us1.fansshare.com/photo/mississippiriver/shannon-mississippi-river-watershed-wikimedia-commons-delta-333095664.jpg)

Might the big birds seen up and down the Mississippi since Chief Blackhawk’s day be embodiments of that wandering spirit bird? Blackhawk doesn’t directly call the spirit bird a swan; he merely says it is white, has wings like a swan and is ten times its size. That’s very reminiscent of what Bolduan described. And Webb Lake, where it appeared, is only about five or six miles from the Mississippi in Burnett County, Wisconsin. Moreover, the other encounter I mentioned on the bridge in central Wisconsin was near Black River Falls, a tributary of the Mississippi.

 

This is just my own fanciful thought, but maybe that great, spirit bird is still winging over the Mississippi, setting down now and again as it searches for another place of peace– another earthly paradise to watch over. I believe it’s as good an explanation of these huge creatures as any.

My final thought is a question inspired by Blackhawk’s words when he suggested a “bad spirit” might have taken the great bird’s place… I can’t help but wonder what shape that bad spirit might have taken…

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copyright Linda S. Godfrey all rights reserved, no use without permission

copyright Linda S. Godfrey all rights reserved, no use without permission

Sure, it has monsters. But the astounding beauty and diversity of the landscape around the west central midsection of Wisconsin is as remarkable as the wide range of unknown creatures that seem to inhabit it. My previous post focused on the hairless creature legend of Hillsboro; the two accounts I’ll highlight here are located slightly west of that area, near Tomah and Westby. Both cases are especially apropos to summer road trip time, since the creatures involved seemed to home in on the witness’s cars!

The “Big Bird of Tomah” was spotted by a now-retired, male medical worker driving south on his way from Black River Falls to Tomah one morning around 1999-2000. He was nearing the north side of Tomah on US Rte. 12 when something large and black swooped across his windshield–it was a black, feathered bird with a body he described as about six feet long, and a wing span he estimated at twelve feet. He said it was close enough that he was able to look it in the eyes as it passed him. He did not recognize the species. Luckily, the bird kept going, and so did the man. He told some co-workers but as usually happens in these cases, was disbelieved.

Just for comparison, that side of the state is also known for the sightings of a giant, stork-like bird near Hayward, the Man-Bat of La Crosse, and a flying Lizard Man seen by a state patrol officer and a group of construction workers near Medford. I also have a report of a man-sized bird seen standing on a bridge near Neillsville, on or near Ho Chunk land.

The “Westby Wolfman” report came to me just a week ago but occurred in 1990-91. The witness wrote:

“I saw a wolf figure that ran and stood on two legs, but it would have been in 1990 or 1991. It was outside of Westby, Wi on County Road P around 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning. I think it was in the spring of the year. I was on my way to work. It ran from the side of the road and charged into the driver’s side door of my car. Thankfully the window was up. I saw his face clearly. I stepped on the gas. It scared me.

“Although the whole thing happened so quickly, it was early in the morning and still dark outside. It had a wolf face. It was on two legs. It did not look like a costume. It was taller than the car I was driving. I would guess it to be maybe 6 ft tall. It had black fur, maybe dark gray. Where it came from on the side of the road, there was a bridge and a trout stream. It did not dent my car. Trust me, I looked. When it charged the car it hit hard.

“Years later I confided to one of my clients about the incident. She told me there was a book I needed to read. It was your book. When I saw the sketches in the book, I realized it was the same as I had seen that morning. I never heard of any other sightings in that area, but perhaps there were and they were too afraid to say anything either. I never reported it because I didn’t think anyone would believe me.”

There have been many other strange creatures spotted around this area of the state—kangaroos, Bigfoot, and lake serpents to name a few. It’s an extremely scenic part of the state to visit even if you only see known animals, which can be just as exciting in their own right. Summer Road Trip Rating: Five Screeches! * * * * *

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The box ad lay between a charity’s plea for donated boats and cars and an announcement of an open house for a senior apartment village. “Giant Skeletons Found at Lake Lawn,” it declared, right there on page 9 of the May 4, 2014 Walworth County Sunday. “Lake Lawn Hotel 1911.” The ad continued: “In 1911 the Phillips brothers uncovered skeletons that ranged from 7 to 9 feet! Author L.A. Marzulli is offering a $500 reward for photographs of the dig site showing the skeletons, at the Lake Lawn Hotel.”

Lake Lawn Resort grounds

Lake Lawn Resort grounds

The mention of ancient, giant skeletons in my local paper stopped me cold. I knew that a number of such remains had long ago been disinterred from one or more of the 100-plus ancient conical and effigy mounds built along the shores of Delavan Lake, Wisconsin. This was before the structures were protected by law as sacred and historic treasures. Now known as the Lake Lawn Lodge and Golf Course, the popular resort is only about a 15-minute drive from my home. I’ve been there many times and have researched the mounds and skeletons for the “Ancient Mysteries” section of Weird Wisconsin. But I’d never found any photos of the dig site, nor even a reference to such photos. None of the original, 1911 newspaper stories on the discovery had provided illustrations. If such photos existed, I was very eager to see them.

The Delavan Lake mounds were one of the largest and most important groups of ancient earthworks in S.E. Wisconsin. They included both cone-shaped mounds similar to those found across much of the country, and the rarer animal-shaped effigy mounds. Archeologists often date cone-shaped mounds to the Early to Middle Woodland cultures that flourished in Wisconsin from about 500 BC to 500 AD. The animal-shaped effigy mounds are thought to have been built by a later culture known as the Late Woodland between approximately 500 AD and 1200 AD. (These dates and identifications are still under study and involve complex interactions between various prehistoric peoples; I recommend the book Indian Mounds of Wisconsin by Robert Birmingham and Leslie Eisenberg for a more thorough treatment.)

Original Lake Lawn Resort

Original Lake Lawn Resort

Unfortunately, great numbers many of both types of these mounds were leveled by early settlers in order to clear the land for farming, houses, and even – from 1850 until almost the turn of that century on Delavan Lake – winter quarters for members of the Mabie’s Circus and Menagerie, complete with a ring barn for training horses. Jeremiah Mabie owned the lakeside part of the property, and after he died in 1867 his widow remarried.  Anna Mary Mabie Phillips and her second husband, Ernest Field Phillips, built the original Lake Lawn Hotel on that beautiful shore in 1883.

The grounds still contained many of the original mounds at that time, but treasure seekers had opened various of them without finding much. In early March, 1911, the couple’s two sons, Ernest and Chester Phillips, decided to see for themselves whether the conical mounds might indeed contain burials and artifacts.

They chose a 40-foot-diameter mound behind the hotel’s horse barn, and soon uncovered a burial chamber six feet below the top of the three-foot high mound. The chamber measured about 7 by 9 feet, and its floor was made of carefully layered gravel, white sand and blue clay. There was evidence that the top of the chamber had been constructed of a one-foot thick layer of dirt topped with fired clay.  To the excitement of the Phillips brothers, this mound did indeed contain burials: fourteen of them, including several with fractured and otherwise damaged skulls that indicated a violent death. Most of the bodies had been interred lying on their backs with their knees flexed and arms bent upwards. But two were buried in a sitting position. The only artifacts found (and these were in the top of the mound, not the chamber) were a piece of flint, an 8-inch sandstone “pebble,” and a 6-inch red stone. Ernest Phillips submitted a full report of the findings to the Wisconsin Archaeological Society on the 21st of that month.

Page from the Delavan Enterprise showing historian Yadon's column

Page from the Delavan Enterprise showing historian Yadon’s column

A little over a year later, in 1912, the Phillips brothers decided to dig into another, similar mound in the same area as the first. This burial contained one skeleton in a sitting posture, a female and small child lying next to it, and one other adult. The remains of a possible clamshell necklace was found beneath the female burial. According to a later recap in the December, 1926 issue of The Wisconsin Archaeologist, the skulls of these burials all had “low, flattened foreheads.” But that’s not all.

This second mound dig made national news very soon after its discovery. On May 4, 1912, the New York Times carried an article from a May 3, Madison, Wisconsin news article titled, “Strange Skeletons Found.” The article ventured to state that the skeletons indicated “that a heretofore unknown race of men once inhabited Southern Wisconsin.” (The article then seems to combine the previously uncovered skeletons with the four that had just been found to arrive at a total of 18, which it describes without discrimination between the two mounds):

“The heads, presumably those of men, are much larger than the heads of any race which inhabit America today. From directly over the eye sockets, the head slopes straight back and the nasal bones protrude far above the cheek bones. The jaw bones are long and pointed, bearing a minute resemblance to the head of the monkey. The teeth in the front of the jaw are regular molars. There were also found in the mounds the skeletons, presumably of women, which had smaller heads, but were similar in facial characteristics.”

The Delavan Republican said, “The skeletons appear to be those of warriors of powerful frame and immense size when compared with people of this day and age.” The Delavan Enterprise noted that “the cranium of one of [the] ancient warriors was of unusual size, and the other bones found would indicate that they were a race of giants.” The paper didn’t note the exact height of these people, but similar skeletons estimated to be of the same time period from around Wisconsin and the U.S. have noted their heights at between seven and nine feet tall. Author Jim Brandon mentioned a few of these in his 1983 book, The Rebirth of Pan. Beside the Delavan Lake discoveries, Brandon included finds such as:

  • Brewersville Indiana, 1879, skeleton measuring 9 feet, 8 inches taken from a mound
  • Kanawha County, W. Virginia, 1844, skeleton seven and one half feet long taken from a mound chamber
  • Fox Lake, Illinois, (about 15 miles south of the WI/IL border) 1877 contained a skull similar to those described at the 2nd Delavan dig: “The large projecting eye-brows, deep set eye sockets, the low, receding forehead and the long-narrow and flat shape of the crown rendered it a very animal-looking skull.”

(More examples may be found online on a blog page titled Giant Human Skeletons at http://gianthumanskeletons.blogspot.com/p/giant-skeletons-with-double-rows-of.html)

So who were these super-sized people with sloping heads and jutting chins? They probably weren’t the Algonquian, Winnebago, Sac and Fox people encountered by European settlers in the late 1700s and early 1800s, who were mostly under six feet tall and lacked the exotic skull features of those buried in the two mounds. Estimates of the age of the mounds and bones ranged as far back as 2000 years, and most traditional anthropologists would align these large people with the mound-building groups dubbed the Adena and Hopewell.

The Adena people had some rather unique and recognizable features, according to an article in March, 1985 FATE Magazine by Jim Miles. He quotes Carnegie Museum curator Don W. Dragoo to note that the Adena were distinguished both by body heights over six feet in height with “massiveness of the bones [that] indicates powerfully built individuals,” and by “a massive protruding chin.” Dragoo’s study was based on almost 100 skeletons found in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

BeaverDamDig 001Some similar individuals may have been buried just north of Milwaukee and other points around Wisconsin. Beaver Dam’s terrific Dodge County Historical Society Museum displays photos from excavations made a few miles east of town in their Nitschke Mound Park. The skeletons in these photos don’t appear unusual. However, on a recent visit some friends and I were allowed to look through the files, where I found an old newspaper clipping of a burial dig from The Milwaukee Journal, date unknown. This one (see scan, left, of the copy the museum made for me of the newspaper clip) revealed a skeleton with a truly strange, enlarged and weirdly shaped skull that was unearthed in Kletzsch Park along the Milwaukee River, probably in the 1930s. The photo includes the silhouette of a director of anthropology at the Milwaukee Public Museum, W.H. McKern.

Researchers have proposed many theories as to the origins of these large people. Author Marzulli believes that some of these skeletons may have belonged to a dispersed remnant of the people referred to in the Old Testament chapter 6 (verses 1-4) of Genesis as the Nephilim – offspring of the “Sons of god and daughters of men.” One key element Marzulli points to is that so many of these skulls feature cranial elongations and oddities that cannot be explained by normal variations of human physiology nor by  skull-flattening practices some native peoples employed to reshape their infant children’s skulls. These anomalous skulls with huge and weirdly shaped craniums are widespread throughout the Americas, with a particularly large number found in Peru.

Some researchers believe the skeletons are those of extraterrestrial aliens or even Bigfoot, and I have to admit that the description of those massive skulls with giant eye sockets and flattened foreheads does remind me of witness descriptions of Sasquatch. Others believe that the Sasquatch are the remnants of the Nephilim, and that the Nephilim were extraterrestrials.

The traditional anthropologist’s answer, usually, is that these were simply very robust indigenous people or individuals with either naturally inherited stature or growth hormone problems. Various medical conditions that contribute to giantism do exist today. Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois who grew to a height of 8 feet, 11 ½ inches, needed a 10-foot casket after he died in 1940 at age 22. But photos of Wadlow show him with a very normally (according to our own Western, modern standards) shaped head.

It seems these skeletons represent a true mystery.

I called the Delavan Historical Society to see if by chance they had some shots of the digs in their collection, thinking that if they did, they might want to go collect the reward. Small-town historical societies can always use extra funds. They did know about the offer – Marzulli had already visited them in person – but alas, they had found nothing for him. One of the staffers gave me the name and phone number of the elderly daughter of a former owner of the property back in the mid-20th Century, however, on the chance that such photos may have been handed down within her family. The very kind lady wasn’t sure, but invited me to have a look through her father’s old family photo albums. That visit was a story in itself, but yielded no dig photos.

It wouldn’t surprise me if nothing conclusive about these mounds ever comes to light. For some reason, any evidence of  the remains of anomalous human beings seem to disappear into a deep, black hole of obfuscation once any sort of established institution gets access to them. Even in 1983, Jim Brandon said of the anomalous bones found in ancient North American mounds: “As soon as mound excavations became widespread in the 19th Century, these reports began to circulate. It is doubtful, however, if any topic has been more relentlessly suppressed.”

Part of the reason for that, of course, is the completely understandable outrage that Native Americans feel at seeing burials sacred to them dug up and displayed for all to see. Almost all museums and other institutions that have harbored remains of Native Americans have by now repatriated their collections to the appropriate tribal entities. But beyond that, there seems to be an extra wall of silence regarding the existence of these huge skeletons with the unusual skulls.

I do know, thanks to a 2004 interview I conducted with the late Delavan historian, Gordon Yadon, that two of the largest Delavan Lake skeletons were removed from the mound and taken to a house the Phillips brothers owned in town. The brothers, Yadon told me, coated the bones with shellac to preserve them. After both brothers died, their belongings were auctioned off but the skeletons weren’t part of the sale, said Yadon. No one knows where they went. Or if anyone does, they aren’t talking. I presume any alleged photos disappeared with the skeletons.

Some later excavations were made of a turtle mound and a linear mound at the resort in November, 1955, by representatives of the Campus Archaeological Society of the University of Chicago.  This dig was duly photographed and recorded, and from what I could discover revealed only the more usual contents of Woodland-era burials, including a few skeletons “bundled” in the traditional manner of many Native American cultures.

It’s possible that some of the remaining mounds still hide secrets from prying, modern eyes, and if so they will remain hidden thanks to our present laws governing preservation of such sites. If it’s any comfort, I’m sure that’s what their makers intended.

Sources:

“Startling and Important Discovery,” The Delavan Republican, March 23, 1911, p. 1.

“Scene of Old Battle,” The Delavan Enterprise, March 23, 1911, p. 1.

“Strange Skeletons Found,” The New York Times, May 4, 1912.

“The Legend of Lake Lawn Lodge,” 2001 Visitor Information Guide, (publisher uncertain) pp. 40-41.

“The Legend of Lake Lawn Lodge, Delavan, Wisconsin,” Ruby Reader, resort pamphlet citing the Walworth County Historical Society

“Phillips Brothers Excavated Indian Mounds,” W. Gordon Yadon, Delavan Enterprise, Jan. 22, 2004.

Jim Brandon, The Rebirth of Pan; Hidden Faces of the American Earth Spirit, Dunlap, Ill.: Firebird Press, 1983, p. 243-246.

Birmingham and Eisenberg, Indian Mounds of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.: The University Press, 2000.

For extra research: Mary Sutherland, a researcher and co-owner of Burlington’s Sci-Fi Café, has written a book filled with many verbatim newspaper reports: The Red Haired Giants: Atlantis in North America

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