For centuries, stories of strange hairy creatures, have been reported across the North American continent. Some call them Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Chupacabra or Wendigo. Yet there is one creature, a cryptid that most people have never heard of. Described as a cross between a man and a dog, this creature walks on four legs or can stand upright and walk on its hind legs. It has a distinctly canine appearance, fur all over its body, and human-like hands with claws. Some say it’s a form of bear, others say it’s a werewolf, but those who know, call it a Dogman.
Sifting through many reports, consensus identifies the creature as one with both canine and human attributes. It moves quickly, shows an above average intelligence, is cunning, and not afraid of human beings. A few reports indicate it has language skills. It has been sighted across North America, but they are most commonly seen in the upper midwestern part of the United States. The southern Great Lakes region, especially Michigan and Wisconsin are the central point of the encounters. Bray Road, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin has gained the reputation over the years as the most common area for sightings.
Most agree that the earliest tales of the Dogman, which at the times was likely called Wendigo, can be found in the oral histories of the Native American Odawa, tribe. Later, French explorers in the 1700s, called it Loup-Garow, or werewolf. It became known as the Dogman man in 1887. Two lumberjacks working in the forest in Wexford County, Michigan, reported seeing a creature that they described as a cross between a man and a dog, specifically a canine head on a body which was proportional to a human man. It stood approximately seven feet tall and was reported to scream in a human-like voice.
Notable Dogman Sightings – A Brief Timeline
One of the strangest and earliest detailed sighting occurred in 1936, near the Saint Coletta Convent, in Racine, Wisconsin. A night security guard reported seeing a large man-wolf creature, clawing at the earth in the vicinity of Native American graves. It fled as he approached to investigate yet left a terrible lingering smell of putrid meat. Strange footprints and odd scratch marks on the ground were found the next day. Several days later the creature was again spotted by the same man, but this time it didn’t flee. The guard reported he nervously held his ground and that the beast stood and faced him, before unexpectedly vocalizing just one word, “Gadarah.” He claimed to have then lost his nerve, turned, and fled, never seeing the creature again. Some scholars have attempted to connect the word to an ancient Greek city mentioned briefly in the Christian Bible. In Gadara, the Christian prophet Jesus Christ, met a man called Legion, who was possessed by evil spirits. As expected, Jesus expelled the evil spirits and healed the man.
Even though reports were made throughout the years, no real attention was focused on the creatures. That would all change when a radio DJ began discussing the Dogman on his show in 1987. The station was flooded with calls, with one caller reporting a terrifying encounter back in 1938. At the time, the man was a seventeen-year-old boy, who claimed he was attacked by a pack of wild dogs while fishing on the Muskegon river. Panicking, he fired a shot into the air, causing the pack to scatter, which they did, except for one black menacing dog. He reported that it stared directly into his eyes from about ten feet away, before smiling. Disturbed but not completed terrified, the young man to fire a second shot. The beast fled, but not in the way he expected. It proceeded to stand up on its hind legs, extending to about six feet tall, and left the scene, running on two legs.
Once the cork was out of the bottle, people began speaking about their own encounters. And although it sounds suspiciously coincidental, starting in 1988, sightings were more frequent in both Michigan and Wisconsin. One of the more notable sightings was by a young woman driving along Bray Road, a desolate stretch of highway in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, about 1:30 in the morning. She spotted the back side of a strange greyish-brown figure with pointed ears, bent over something. As she got closer, it turned revealing a face she described as canine in appearance and it was eating something. Unlike other animals caught in headlights, this creature didn’t run. She claimed it simply stared back at her, defiantly. She fled the scene and reported the incident to the local animal control office. This was the first of many sightings in the area of the creature which came to be known as the Beast of Bray Road.
Several year later, another sighting of the creature walking upright was made by a teenage girl on Halloween night. While driving on Bray road towards a friend’s house, she believed she hit something with her car and got out to check. But when a hairy brown creature lunged at her from the forest, she jumped back in the car and sped for home. She claimed the creature had grabbed the back of her car and held on for some time, leaving scratch marks on the rear bumper. In an even stranger twist, when she was returning home, this time with a friend in the car, the two saw the creature again. This time she chose not to stop and investigate, and immediately drove off.
Additional sightings of the Dogman were sporadically reported in Wisconsin and Michigan in the period between 2007 through 2009. The most recent report was in northern Minnesota, in the city of Duluth. A woman reported a creature running through a residential area on all fours. It was very large with a hunched back, about seven feet in length, and moving like a gorilla. She panicked and fled the scene, but when telling her story, had someone else tell her of a similar encounter a few year prior.
With so many sightings, it’s hard to label the Dogman as a hoax. Yet, with so little physical evidence, other than eyewitness testimony, it’s hard to confirm their existence, either. Like so many other legends, this one remains in limbo for the moment.
Journalist Linda Godfrey is considered the expert on the The Beast of Bray Road. She published a book in 1992 that takes a wide-angle approach to understanding the events surround the Dogman of Wisconsin.
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