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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

manmndme

On the observation peak at Wildcat Mountain State Park

I spent this end-of-Nov. day in Wildcat Mountain area (WI) with my sister Pam having a true field day doing some research, taking some pix and chatting about cryptids with locals. If you’ve never been to this great state park I highly recommend it! http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/wildcat/ Also nearby Man Mound Park https://www.co.sauk.wi.us/parksandrecreation/man-mound is awesome, unique Native American history and art.

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Readers of “Strange Michigan” may remember the story of an unusual water feature known as an ice disk, ice wheel or ice circle. These winter phenomena appear as a perfectly round, piece of ice cut from a larger sheet of ice on a river that spins independently of the ice surrounding it. The Michigan Ice Disk I described in “Strange Michigan” was found Nov. 30, 2007 on the Hemlock River near Crystal Falls and measured 55 feet in diameter. Another ice disk was found in Michigan in the Pine River near Vestaburg in early January 2017. It was featured on Good Morning America and in many local media including Mount Pleasant’s Morning Sun: http://www.themorningsun.com/…/rare-ice-disc-brings-nationa…

I heard about it from my old friend, Mount Pleasant resident William Kingsley. I didn’t find a diameter listed, but these things can be as large as 700 feet in larger rivers. And while the ice circle is definitely a natural phenomenon caused by unusual variations in water temperature and density, it’s still an incredible sight that reminds us just how marvelous and surprising our earthly surroundings can be.

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beargleason

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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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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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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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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Cream, Wisconsin

Cream, Wisconsin

There is a windswept intersection in Buffalo County called Cream. I drove through it one day, lingering where State Hwy. 88 meets Cty. Road E. All the 
buildings, a clustered handful, are painted the color of cream. On a blue sky day they are like clouds pulled to earth and given wooden skeletons. Pristine as sea salt. The crimson of even a lone cardinal’s wing would look garish against all that white.
But imagine the road in the photo turned to dirt, picture it in the year 1872 when Buffalo County’s first fair was held right there in the street. Those stark cream frames  a melee of horses, buggies, oxen, pigs and dusty-booted pioneers. Animal grunts, piles of manure and a table set with berry pies and cornbread.
One of those buildings housed a dance hall in 1903, and in its time it held masquerades, turkey shoots and medicine shows. It was the Broadway of Buffalo County.
The  clot of  dwellings was once called Eagle Valley, which is strange because Cream and Buffalo County are now home to hundreds of golden eagles that never used to live there. Bald eagles are native, goldens are not. No one knows where they came from. Scientists  presently  stalk them, to band their thick legs and follow them home.
As I drove through Cream and turned around and drove back again, I slipped  my Cream-the-rock-group CD into the dashboard player (truth!) and listened to their tune, “Crossroads.”
Surreality.
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