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Archive for the ‘Wisconsin history’ Category

BeastNewCover

New cover by Nathan D. Godfrey

It’s been over 25 years since, as a Walworth County newspaper reporter for The Week, I broke the news that people were calling our local animal control officer to say they had seen what looked like a werewolf around Elkhorn, Wisconsin on Bray Road. People are still calling, emailing and messaging me, and yes, there are still sightings of  large wolves or other canines walking upright — as well as reports of what witnesses say looks like a reddish-furred Bigfoot and odd light phenomena on Bray Road — but also widely spread around the US, Canada, and even South America. Welcome to my blog, where I share sightings, news, appearance schedules, links to podcasts, a form to report your encounter, and much more. Thanks for checking in here, and please hit the follow button for update notices!

Recent podcasts:

August 10, 2017– See You on the Other Side podcast with Michael Huberty and Allison Jornlin 
http://othersidepodcast.com/blog/2017/08/15/157-monsters-among-us-cryptids-linda-godfrey/
 — withLinda GodfreyWendy Lynn Staats and Allison Jornlin.

July 12 — 2-17 guested on Cosmic Switchboard with James Bartley, part one of two-hour show available at https://www.thecosmicswitchboard.com/2017/07/14/linda-godfrey-interview/

July 11, 2017 REPLAY of The Graveyard Shift interview, on demand http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thegraveyardshift/2017/05/14/gssn08ep17-time-loop-linda-godfrey-interview-replay

July 11, 2017 – a solid two-hour talk with Daniel on End of Days Podcast https://youtu.be/vQo4MKisCj8

June 13, 2017– The Creature Zone with Linda Godfrey  http://withoutyourhead.com/viewnews.php?autoid=109577

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photo from Lincoln County Sheriff’s Dept.

This time of year seems to be when reporters go looking for oddities — or oddities come looking for them. Such seemed the case yesterday when a bold young black bear was seen begging bipedally from cars passing on a highway near Gleason. It was eventually captured and taken to a wildlife refuge. It seemed utterly unafraid of humans, leading to speculation it was either a pet -YIKES – or someone had been feeding it in a habituation situation.

When Hannity Show Came to Bray Road

There’s also a short compilation of Wisconsin beasties in a 3-year old article in Whoo New online blog, including the Beast of Bray Road, Muskego’s Haunchies and others. I’ve had a few people ask where to see the Sean Hannity episode on The Beast (one of the best short documentaries on the subject, I think) and the blog included this handy link.

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October 1992, to be exact. It was a different slate of candidates: George HW Bush vs Bill Clinton vs Ross Perot. I don’t remember whose idea it was at The Week to throw the Beast into the ring with them, but I do remember modifying my original sketch for the full page poster. At any rate, 24 years later I believe it’s worth at least considering one more time. 🙂 (Note: Please, no comments comparing the Beast with any official human candidates for better or worse – he stands on his own two rear paws)

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Nothing to do with werewolves, but

Bestselling authors Linda Godfrey (The Poison Widow), Matthew Prigge (Milwaukee Mayhem), and Sherrie Lueder (Until Someone Gets Hurt) share how they uncoverd the truth about some of Wisconsin’s most notorious crimes. They’ll discuss the writing process, how they do their research, and how they find their ideas. Book sales and signing to follow. 6:30-8 pm, the event is FREE.

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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.”

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(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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Every once in a while I’ll be going through my files and will  discover items that have never been resolved for various reasons, just crumbling away in the staid limbo of manila folders. Here are a couple of headscratchers that turned up recently.  While I also have a bunch of newer reports to share soon, I feel I should mention these oldies first, just in case anyone knows more:

Nashotah Bigfoot? July, 2006, Nashotah, Wisconsin report from three men driving on County C south of town described “something huge and brownish that turned to gray toward the back end” crossing the road in front of them as close as only six feet from the car. It was on all fours, had bigger legs than arms (or forelimbs) and its rear end was higher than its front end, giving it a posture “like a souped-up car” as it ran. They were sure it wasn’t a bear or a deer, and indeed, I’ve heard reports of Bigfoots running on all fours in just this manner.

The man who wrote me about it (second hand) in October, 2006, said he was investigating the incident for the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) but it doesn’t appear on their site as far as I could discover. I sent him a recent email for an update and am hoping for a reply. I also have the name of the witness, but his contact info has changed.

I would say this sounded more like a Bigfoot than dogman, except the witnesses also said it had a 4-6 inch long tail.  They did not get a good look at its head. The driver said he’d also seen a large upright creature running through his back yard, and it was seven to eight feet tall. That by itself is not conclusive. I remain especially interested in this incident because of the “Hartland Hairy Thing” seen only two years ago in Hartland, Wisconsin, just five miles away. Both towns are about thirty miles north of Bray Road, Elkhorn.

Water Walker and Giant Swimming Animal: August, 2006, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was the date of an old Yahoo conversation I printed and saved from another group because of a question from John Scherf asking if anyone had seen the “Lake Michigan Water Walker.” He said that a strange figure was sometimes sighted sitting on the beach in the very early morning hours. It would then rise up and walk out onto the lake waters until it disappeared. (A person wading out to swim, perhaps?”

The page also included a note from friend and long time cryptid quester Kimberly Poeppey: “I saw a big animal swimming in Lake Michigan! It was as big as a car. It was swimming in the bay by the Art Museum.” She added it was winter and the animal was swimming around blocks of floating ice, leaving a large wake behind. All she could see was its “big, dark, back.” Lake monster?

Anyway, I feel better having given these three mysteries a fighting chance. I penned out a rough map, above, just to give some idea of their relative locations–all in S.E. Wisconsin. I’m no cartographer, but I added a few representative bipeds and quadrupeds in appropriate places for interest. And I’m far from done going through my files. I’ll post again if anything else shakes out.

 

 

 

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D&D

“Gary Con,” an annual Wisconsin gaming convention held to honor the late Gary Gygax, creator of “Dungeons and Dragons” games, is a rapidly growing Lake Geneva event. A recent Atlas Obscura article discusses not only some possible reasons for the conference’s surging popularity, but revisits the anti-role-playing hysteria fomented by opponents of the game in the early 1980s. But D&D was not the only source of fantasy creature lore in the area. Fans of canine cryptids may be interested to know that Lake Geneva lies only a ten-minute drive from Bray Road, home of the upright, wolf-like creature known as the Beast of Bray Road.

BeastofBrayThe game and the creature arose quite independently, however. I didn’t break the Beast news story until the early 1990s, but Bray Road area sightings were already occurring in the early 80s (Marvin Kirschnik, 1981) — yet they were unknown to the public at that time. Still, there are some fun associations. The original cover of my book The Beast of Bray Road; Tailing Wisconsin’s Werewolf , for example, was created by one of D&D’s top fantasy artists, Jeff Easley, who painted the image based on his interpretation “just for fun.” Prairie Oak Press later paid him to use it as the cover art. (The cover for the second edition shown in the above link was painted by my son, Nathan Godfrey.) And of course the D&D games feature a “werewolf lord” in their pantheon of beastly characters.

There are probably many more such common threads between the game and the creature. While I doubt there are  any real associations between D&D and the Beast,  it’s always interesting to look for the coincidences that so often swirl around strange phenomena.

UPDATE: Another of those weird connections just came in. An Illinois man who owns property near Bray Rd., and whom I’ve been helping investigate large, bipedal canine tracks and other things there for 2 years, wrote me almost immediately. He happened to have been the math teacher of Gygax’s original business partner, and was recruited to help the original game designers with some of the required math calculations!

 

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