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Posts Tagged ‘Life’

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.)

BOBRfilenotes 1991

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.

BOBRfilenotes1991b

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.

SocksWithCreatures1

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“There’s no plainer way to say it: I write about monsters.

readitforwardIllo

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.

colorkittens

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.

fairyartage9

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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lindatribportrait

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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Coming up July 7 and 8th…I’ll be giving a talk at the local library on the 7th at 3:30 and then on the 8th a Q & A with my son, Nate, on our (mostly his) RETURN TO WILDCAT MOUNTAIN documentary on the scores of mountain lion sightings and the fact that in one Wisconsin area, over half are of black panther-like creatures, and officials say there are NO black mountain lions anywhere! First screening of the director’s rough first cut — told by witnesses including a former staff researcher of Florida’s Panther Project.

BigfootConPoster2019

iKnowWhatISaw_flyer-6.7

Check out our 2.5 minute flyer on Return to Wildcat Mountain, Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus

 

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black button eyes

black button eyes

So what do Brad Pitt and Newbery Award winner Neil Gaiman have in common? Buttons, of course! As in Pitt’s recent film role of  Benjamin Button, and in the spooky button eyes of Gaiman’s alternate universe people in Coraline.

I’ve always been a fan of  the button, as well as of those gents, and I own a collection of decorative sew-on fasteners vast enough to repair any given article of clothing. I even bought a book that shows you how to get that country look and enhance everything from bustiers to picture frames with a slathering of hot-glued buttons. I admit I have yet to try any of the projects. Decimate my collection for a faux-country-tarted-up bustier? I guess the book just doesn’t push my buttons .

Instead, I’ve collected these button factoids. They require no sewing or hot glue to enjoy, only your “scroll” button:

– Buttons are considered too fancy for Old Order Amish. They use straight pins, snaps and hook and eyes to keep their shirts on. The Puritans shunned buttons as crazy-evil vanity, too.

– Buttons form a major part of countless cliche expressions; cute as a, bright as a, button nose, button your lip…

– Buttons were invented 3,000 years ago but people didn’t figure out how to actually fasten clothing with them until around 1200 AD. Until then they just hung around looking cool.

– The word “button” comes from one of two French words but no one knows which; one means “bud” and one means “push.” It is NOT derived, as many mistakenly assume, from the word “butt.”

– A campaign button from President Obama’s 1996 Illinois Senate campaign sold for over $4,000. Of course, purists will argue that was technically a badge.

– The phrase “belly button” has only been in use since 1877, according to Medterms. I would have thought someone would have come up with it sooner; it just seems so basic.

– “Hnappurinn” or “Button” was the title of a children’s movie made in Iceland in 2008. I don’t know what it’s about but I’m pretty sure Brad Pitt wasn’t in it, and that the children in it aged the normal way, if at all.

I heart buttons

I heart buttons

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Saint Nuggie

Something I’ve always liked about the Catholic Church’s saints – even
though I’m a Lutheran – is that they come with great stories. My
personal faves are St. George, who dropped a dragon, St. Christopher,
who was given a dog’s head by God to help prevent vanity, and St.
Columba, who scared away a water monster near Loch Ness.

I was pleased, then, the day the statue of St. Nuggie came to me. He
lay crammed into a Zip-lok bag with a handful of bedraggled dollhouse
characters that I found in a flea market. Only a few inches tall, sans
markings or labels, there was nothing remarkable about him. Just a
youthful, contented face and a hand making the peace sign that somehow
reminded me of the way my brother’s hand used to look just as he was
bending his fingers at the knuckle to administer a nuggie.

Saint Nuggie close-up

Saint Nuggie close-up

A nuggie, for the happily uninitiated, is a knuckle rub to the top of
the scalp, usually accomplished by holding the recipient in a firm
headlock. While physical nuggies are unpleasant in the extreme, I
thought perhaps a spiritual nuggie might be useful now and then. A
saint that could give me a light knuckle rap when I spend too long at
the blog or reach for a second Nonni’s biscotti would be a friend
indeed.

So, St. Nuggie stood watch on the base of my nightstand lamp for two
years. Just recently, however, I got some new glasses, and took a much
closer look at him after he had toppled into the wastebasket for about
the 200th time. It was only then that I noticed he pointed to an eensy
red heart with his other hand.

Sakes alive. I realized with chagrin that this was no Saint, this was
a tiny plastic statue of a tween-age Jesus! I may be a Lutheran, but I
know a Sacred Heart when I see one. Eventually.

I was horror-stricken. Had I committed blasphemy by calling him St.
Nuggie all this time? I cringed for three or four seconds and then
decided not. This is, after all, a three-inch tall piece of hard
plastic with no name written on it. Perhaps Saint Nuggie just likes to
wear jewelry in the shape of a heart because – being a Saint — he’s
got a good one. Or maybe he had bypass surgery and the incision stayed
miraculously open. Yep, a mere deuce of rationalizations did it for
me. Saint Nuggie he will remain.

I do hope no one will report me to any canonization authorities for
making up my own saint. After all, that guy in Green Bay who dresses
like the pope and calls himself St. Vince has been getting away with
it for years, and he’s still admitted into Friday Night Fish Fry.

Besides, I’m sure that if there were anything wrong with the
misidentification, St. Nuggie would have had me rubbing my scalp in
penitence by now. Not that he’s ever stopped me from eating that
second biscotti. All he lacks is a good story. I’m hoping he will
reveal it to me one of these days, and if it’s any good, I’ll share.

It would be heavenly if it involved a monster.

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