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I like to release book reviews in twos, for some reason. I think it’s because when I finish reading one really good book, it piques my appetite for another great read right away.

This time I’m pairing Ken Gerhard’s A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts and Barton Nunnelly’s Mysterious Kentucky, the Dark and Bloody Ground. These two gentlemen, and I mean that in the highest sense of that word for they are both truly gentlemen, have each written a book with the word “mysterious” in the title and a wide swath of unexplained beasts and phenomena cavorting through the interior pages. While Gerhard goes global, however, Nunnelly sticks to his home turf of Ol’ Kentuck. Together or one at a time, these books provide a rich harvest of unknown tidbits that will have readers gobbling every word Gerhard and Nunnelly have served up. To quote the immortal request of Charles Dickens’ urchin Oliver Twist, all I can say is, “Please, sir[s], I want some more.”

A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts; Encounters with Cryptid Creatures by Ken Gerhard

Most people probably wouldn’t consider a quiet cluster of children more frightening than, say, a modern day version of a werewolf – until they look in the children’s eyes and Scan_20170428see only glistening black pools. At that point, for me, the Black-eyed Kids or BEK’s gain a few points on the mysterious creature horror scale. These and other creatures that are not your grandfather’s monsters are discussed alongside more traditional entities in Ken Gerhard’s “A Menagerie of Mysterious Beasts.” Readers will find themselves contemplating the Polish Wilkolak, sort of a vampire/werewolf combo, for instance, or pondering whether a photo of an alleged Chupacabras is truly a depiction of the blood-sucking goat killer or something else that simply appears otherworldly but has a mundane explanation.

Mundane is not a word I’d use to describe any part of this book, however. Whether readers are newbies still wrapping their craniums around the vast array of beasties, or seasoned enthusiasts seeking to hone their knowledge of favorite cryptids or catch up on the latest reports, Gerhard’s ghoulish gathering provides an irresistible gateway to the unknown. It’s a volume I’ll be keeping close at hand.

Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2; the Dark and Bloody Ground by Barton M. Nunnelly

20170410_211045This is it…the book I and many other fans of Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 1 have been pining for Barton Nunnelly to finish and deliver. Well, he has at long last delivered, and how!!

Mysterious Kentucky, Vol. 2 covers more strangeness of each area of the huge state Native Americans considered cursed land, from historic lore to present day happenings. And joy of joys, the section on Kentucky Bigfoots alone comprises 118 pages of pure Sasquatch encounter bliss. It’s a hefty tome, packed chockablock from the first story which concerns, appropriately, Kentucky’s first people, to the last entry, Kentucky’s Chernobyl! The book must be seen and held to convey just how info-dense and well organized it is.

Nunnelly is also a gifted artist, and his illustrations enlighten the research and careful writing that take this book to the level of must-have permanent collection shelf of my personal library. The sense of immersion in the Blue Grass State is so complete, I almost looked around for a few blades of teal-colored grass as I sat and read. And as spooky as Nunnelly has revealed Kentucky to be, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a few stems materialized on my bookshelf. After reading this book, I can guarantee stranger things have happened.

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Scan_20160606

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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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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This Mania.com review of American Monsters by Chuck Francisco will forever live in my heart for comparing my work to an “X-Files Survival Guide,” complete with a reference to Fox Mulder and his ever handy monstersskwerlz 002flashlight. And I love Francisco’s observation that “October brings about a collective lowering of our cultural inhibitions.” (Thus allowing even usually inhibited folks to pick up a book about monsters.) I don’t usually post my reviews here, but this one was so stylish and fun that I couldn’t resist. Here’s hoping we’ll gather a few more readers into our fold of those who, like Mulder and Scully, follow the unknown all year round.

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The branch

If a tree branch falls in the forest …

Sunday, July 8, 2012, at about 7:30 PM, I decided to take a short hike in a little area of southern Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine area that I’ve walked for about 19 years without incident. While strolling along next to a deep kettle, a huge bowl-shaped depression left by the last glacier, I noticed three young saplings had been bent over by someone or something to form a perfect rainbow-styled arch. I know this sort of formation can happen naturally, but some people believe Bigfoot creates these tree sculptures for various reasons. Anyway, it made me start wondering if this could be a good habitat for a Sasquatch.

That gave me the idea to pick up a stick and bang on a nearby tree a few times, just as a lark. I’ve never been sure about the efficacy of having a crowd of Bigfoot hunters pounding trees en masse, but I think it might not seem so much of a threatening invasion if there are only one or two people hitting a tree – keeping in mind that we still don’t know for sure what such knocks might mean to a ‘Squatch.

I knocked three times. Nothing. I tried several more rounds of three knocks each and then suddenly I heard what sounded like a return knock coming from down in the kettle. I knocked several more times and received responses. While there are homes dotted around this area of the Kettle Moraine, there was absolutely no one else around and the kettle was on private land too overgrown for even diehard hikers. The slopes of many of the kettles are also very steep and quite treacherous for humans to navigate, so I thought it unlikely some jokester was down there.

After a few more knocks I heard the unmistakable sound of something very loud crashing through the underbrush toward me. I couldn’t see anything, however, and the sound then stopped at least 50 feet away from the ridge where I was standing.  I probably should have run but I was in denial that it could be anything dangerous and instead I whacked the tree again. I heard another crashing charge toward me. Again – idiotically — I hit the tree. There was a period of silence accompanied by muted scuffling sounds that seem to be getting farther away from me, and then I heard another knock from down in the kettle. I answered and it did too, except this one was accompanied by what sounded like wood tearing. I thought that was strange but I answered anyway and then there were two knocks again accompanied by the sharp sound of splitting wood. I gave my tree two sharp thwacks, reasoning that I was still close enough to the public pathway that I was probably safe, and then it happened.

I heard a deafening crack and watched in disbelief as a huge branch that I later measured to be over 20 feet long and at least 8 inches in diameter seemed to tear itself free from a giant old oak tree rooted in to the bottom of the kettle. The branch was at least 30 feet above the base of the tree but because I stood on a ridge it was directly at my eye level. I could not see anything moving the branch before it fell horizontally and thudded on the forest floor below. One end of the branch was covered with fresh green leaves and there was fresh wood on the tree where the branch of cracked off so I knew this was not a dead or hollow tree ready to shed its limbs. There was almost no wind and it was a blue-sky-white- cloud kind of day with great visibility, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I could think of no plausible reason for that healthy limb to have cracked off the tree at that moment, and that’s when I realized that only some truly massive force could have done it. That’s also when I dropped the stick and ran.

I wanted to go back before dark to have a look at the tree limb and reassure myself that it really happened but I was not going in there by myself. I called my friend Sandra Schwab, an experienced investigator, and she immediately grabbed her 21-year old daughter, Natalie, and drove to meet me. Although I was still in shock, the three of us plunged in and made our way down to the bottom of the kettle where it was easy to find the torn branch. We were astounded by the size of it and by its obvious freshness. We confirmed it was easily 8 to 10 inches in diameter and over 20 feet long, counting the smaller branches at the end of it. We peered up at the tree and could see a freshly broken spur where the branch had been only a half-hour earlier. It was at least 30 feet above the ground.

The tree split into a fork about halfway between the ground and where the branch had been, but it still looked like a really tough climb even for Bigfoot. But when we walked around behind the tree, we saw a pile of logs and small branches that seemed to have been deliberately collected on the ground to use as a stepping stone to a higher perch where it could’ve sat unobserved to tear the branch away from behind.

The tree

You can see the freshly splintered remains of the branch — 30 feet up from the tree base!

As it happened, we found an oval patch of bark that had been rubbed off the branch leaving very fresh wood underneath. It was about the size that I imagine a Bigfoot hand would be based on many witness observations. Moreover, Natalie found the piece of bark that had been rubbed off lying not far from the branch. It was buckled in two places and had shred marks as if something with very strong nails had dug in and applied great force to it. It also stank strongly of musk. Since Natalie had already handled it and there did not appear to be any skin shreds or hair that would be useful for DNA, we each inspected it in turn; I smelled that musk odor on my own hands the rest of the night. We also found bare spots of ground that reeked of musky urine. Whatever the massive force was, it was rank.

The ground was too hard for tracks but we saw various places where the wild ginger and other plants were strangely flattened. And our adventure was not over.

We climbed the ridge behind the tree and looked down into the adjoining kettle. Suddenly, Natalie gasped that she saw it! Sandra and I both turned toward where she was pointing. But it was too late — it was out of our view. Natalie did not see the entire body but said she saw what looked like a tall biped covered in tan fur that was lighter than the numerous deer in this area. She said it was moving quickly but not running and not walking like a human exactly, either. The word she finally settled on was “striding,” in very long strides, as it disappeared into the brush. I should add that Natalie had been a skeptic on the idea of Bigfoot, but is no longer.

We stood there staring and hoping to get a glimpse of it again when we heard a very menacing growl from somewhere in the kettle below us that was like nothing any of us could recall. If only I would have turned my camera on and switched the dial to video I could’ve recorded it, but the sound was over before I could come to my senses and make my move. (If I had been smart, I also would’ve brought my digital audio recorder.) We all felt that the growling was a warning to leave and decided that was the prudent thing to do since it was fast getting dark and we did not want to be lost in those woods with a creature strong enough to tear an 8 inch branch off a live oak tree.

9×4 section of bark found next to tree

We returned the next day to have a better peek at the back of that tree.  I was looking for fur tufts or other clues that we might have missed. We didn’t see any but did notice much of the top surface of the branches piled behind the tree had been rubbed smooth on top as if it had been used often. There were no other sounds or incidents, and the musky smell was gone.

Ironically, my plan for Sunday evening had been to take a drive over to Rock County to some other active sites. Instead I ended up being where – and when — something was actually happening. This illustrates the point I often make that both Bigfoot and the Dogman have large territories to roam and are just as likely to be seen in any favorable habitat — whether someone else has seen them there already or not.  The key is to know what kind of places they prefer and to be alert to subtle clues. And then it still takes luck.

Because Natalie actually saw some kind of tall, furry creature and the three of us heard that strange growling, I feel a lot more confident thinking that this may have been a Bigfoot rather than some other unknown phenomenon. I don’t believe it was a Dogman because I think that a canine would have a very difficult time scaling a tree like that much less use its canine arm structure to tear off a giant branch. Bears can climb but can’t knock on trees with sticks. And it would’ve been next to impossible for most any human to have done what I witnessed without using an axe or other equipment.

And I may have had a previous glimpse. In May of this year, I was walking in the same area when I heard a medium-sized branch crack off a tree at the top of a kettle just behind the side yard of a nearby home. I looked just in time to see it drop as something very long and covered in light tan fur also descended quickly into foliage below. The only thing I could think of at the time was that it might have been the tail of a mountain lion that had just alighted from its perch, breaking the limb as it did so – rather a stretch in itself. Now I wonder if it was the arm of a Bigfoot that had just snapped off a tree branch while standing hidden below! There just aren’t many critters around here with light-colored fur.

I’m still rather in awe of the experience and I think that I will see and hear that giant branch falling off the oak tree for the rest of my life. Was it Bigfoot? I can’t prove it, but I can’t come up with any other explanation other than that it was the most extreme coincidence imaginable, considering the way everything happened. And Natalie did see something. I will let you all know if there’s more to the story!

(Location must remain confidential since the kettle itself is on private land and owner does not want disclosure of the site)

Looking up at tree from behind — broken spur at top right

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