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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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http://www.whatitmeanstobeamerican.org/places/wisconsin-monster-capital-of-america/#.VMJ0aTpONX4.twitter

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My Evening Adventuress costume

Me as "Evening Adventuress"

Steampunk costumes are glorious things. My own effort was not contest-worthy (though I still had fun wearing it), but I was blown-like-a-zeppelin-in-a-hurricane away by the grand prize winners; a wheelchair tricked out  with everything from a dangling faux gaslight to a metal-tubing cupholder, and a man with a wooden cabinet backpack that had moving gears, Tesla lights, and an array of other steamish objects too vast to describe here.

My quick take-aways from the weekend:

Victorian-era clothing looks great on every age group, with the possible exception of corsets worn as sole top. A corset-fail pictorial would have been horrendously easy to document.

Most SF/F fans believe Bigfoot is also SF/F, judging by the Mystery Animal Panel.

Autographing tables really should be located someplace near the attendees.

Girl Genius is a funny and top class comic.

Panelists in the know mentioned Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi and Catherynne M. Valente  as some of their fave, upcoming novelists. My Amazon wishlist runneth over.

Concensus from the 2012 Apocalypse panel I sat on was that the big change will be a spiritual transformation rather than an all out Armageddon as in the movie. Whew! I can drive again without checking for yawning sinkholes to Hell every two minutes. And does this mean anyone can be Pope in 2012?

It is possible to go an entire weekend eating nothing but Con Suite and Green Room food. And those who do, really appreciate it.

With the exception of one argumentative dealer, SF/F people are the nicest and most mannerly of crowds. Maybe it’s because we have so much practice at keeping our monsters in our heads where they belong.

windycon 007

WindyCon36 attendees

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I must be one, then.

I’ve been called worse. So when an airline in-flight magazine gives me the title of monster hunter it strikes me only as a tad amusing, and perhaps even accurate. Midwest’s current fall issue chronicles the tour of southeast Wisconsin strangeness that I gave Chicago writer Rod O’Connor in July (read ONLINE). Using my books Strange Wisconsin and Weird Wisconsin, we covered Lake Geneva’s lake monster, Jennie, the Beast of Bray Road (natch), the Millard dinosaur store (which didn’t make it in but see my photo below), Whitewater’s famed witch’s triangle, and the weirdest legend in Wisconsin: Haunchyville, alleged domain of tiny men with miniature but lethal baseball bats.

 

O’Connor does a great job of contrasting SE Wisconsin’s pleasant, woods-and-cornfields landscape with the monsters and strangeness that lurk therein. He writes as fastidiously as he keeps his car — despite the fact that he often has a baby on board, the interior would put any dealer’s detailer to shame. “We never eat in the car,” he told me as I bit into the pita sandwich I had just acquired at the LaGrange General Store. His eyes followed a crumb that had dropped to the pristine passenger seat where I sat. I hastily retrieved it and made sure there were no more. You never want to tick off someone who is going to write a major magazine story about you. 

I did thoroughly enjoy the day, especially our side trip to Mystic Drive in Muskego where the Haunchies famously dwell. The tales tell of a forbidden lane at the end of the street that is guarded by a rifle-toting man in a black pickup truck, where you are sure to incur a whopping fine for trespassing. We did encounter a black truck with two men but no visible rifle. But the farm at the end of the street where the lane should have been is now busily subdividing itself like an amoeba, and the Haunchy habitat appears to have been obliterated.

I was amazed then when we discovered a weedy yard on Mystic Drive itself with three small, strange-looking buildings. From the looks of them, no humans of any size ever dwelled here, but I wondered whether their presence was enough to have started the Haunchy legend in the first place? Supposedly the Haunchies were a colony of little people retired from area-based circuses, but I had expected to find nothing at all from this popular urban legend. The tiny buildings were a fun bonus. They can be seen from the road, no need to trespass. Here is a picture of the oddest one:

 

It is obvious from the state of disrepair that this is no country for old, little men. 

The tour was fun, though, and we barely scratched the surface of weirdness in Wisconsin. I hope the Midwest passengers get a charge out of the article and a little crypto-education to boot. Perhaps more than one will be alert enough to glimpse that pterodactyl winging its way past their cabin window…. 

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