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The Bray Road Beast

Jefferson "Wolfman" or Walworth "Werewolf"?

Joe Schackelman
The Labor Paper [Kenosha]
Friday, February 19, 1993

There's Something Out There

If you drive out to Walworth County, especially near the intersection of Bray Road and Highway 11, be careful. For one thing, many of the people in that area now carry loaded guns. The other reason to be careful is because there have been numerous sightings in that area of a creature described as being big and unfriendly.

The description of the sightings from the last 10 months are strikingly similar. All agree that the creature cannot be a large dog or bear. (It is interesting that those who have seen the creature refer to it as "he" rather than "it.") They say he walks upright most of the time. When he walks he appears to be from six to eight feet tall. His body is covered by long dark hair and he has a "canine" face. His hands have extra long fingers or claws.

The witnesses insist on confidentiality and there is one similarity that nearly all of them share the creature made eye contact with them and was fearless. In several cases he bared his teeth by pulling his upper lip back in a "sneer" or "snarl." All of the witnesses were terrified by the experience and many of them are still frightened.

This story back-tracks to the rural area outside of Jefferson, Wisconsin. In 1958 this writer interviewed a gentleman who had been a nightwatchman at an institution two miles east of Jefferson. He had encountered a creature on those grounds at about midnight on two nights during 1936.

On the first night he came upon the creature kneeling on the peak of a mound of earth, clawing at the ground. (Note, the kneeling was described as identical to how a human would kneel.) The nightwatchman's approach frightened the creature away. The next morning that nightwatchman inspected the digging and told me that the creature seemed to have three claws on each hand. Also, the mound he was digging in was supposedly an Indian burial mound.

The face-to-face encounter came the next night. At that time, when the nightwatchman aproached the creature, again digging in the same spot, it stood up and squared off with the man. That nightwatchman described the creature as "over six foot tall, covered with dark or black hair, giving off a bad, bad odor ... like long-dead meat ... eyes that looked right into me ... and it made a sound. It was a three syllable growl, low and mean, something like "gadarrah" with the accent on the second syllable." That nightwatchman who had been a professional heavyweight boxer stated, "the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I knew this thing could kill me if it wanted to."

The nightwatchman said, "We looked at each other for a long time, I had my flashlight ready (like a club) and it growled at me. Then I did the only thing I could do, I prayed to God to save me and it turned and slowly walked away. It looked like it sneered at me. For a long time I stood there, that bad smell hung in the air and then I said another prayer of thankfulness. I never saw that thing again or anything even like it."

The interview concluded with the former nightwatchman saying that he told his wife about the encounter and although she believed him, she made him promise not to tell anyone else until sometime near the end of his life. That gentleman died in November of 1974.

In 1964, a well documented sighting took place near a rural home outside of Delavan, Wisconsin. That story was carried by both The Milwaukee Journal and The Capital Times. In this case, the witness was driving home late at night (off Highways 14 and 89, as he turned onto Trunk R - D) when his car lights picked up a "big, hairy creature heading south. The thing jumped the barbed wire fence about four feet high, just jumped it with ease and went south across the road. It scared the devil out of me."

That witness estimated the creature to be seven or eight feet tall and weighing between 400 and 500 pounds. "It was big, dark and hairy. He was standing up just like a human, he had feet and hands and was running just like a man runs, bent just a bit forward." According to that witness, "The closest animal it looked like was an ape. It was too hairy to see if it had ears. It had long arms. But it was too big to be human."

In 1972 the creature came back to Jefferson County. (These sightings were only about two miles south of where the nightwatchman had his encounters in 1936.)

A Jefferson County Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer, David Gjetson, was called to investigate the sighting of a "large apelike creature" that had been visiting a farm five miles east of Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County.

A woman living on the farm reported an eight foot animal with long black hair had been walking around the farmyard. A few weeks later she called again, to say the creature had returned and come right up to the farmhouse door, rattling it and trying to get in.

"Since the woman didn't invited it in for coffee, the creature decided to try the horse barn next," said the DNR agent. "It took a swat at the horse," he said, "and left a gash across its chest 30 inches from one end to the other." After leaving its signature on the horse, the creature then crossed the garden and left.

The report, filed with the DNR, states that the animal apparently walked upright and left barefoot impressions that were over 12 inches long.

This brings us to the Summer of 1992. The single most detailed interview was done by Linda Godfrey writing for The Week, a Walworth County newspaper located in Delavan. According to that account, seventeen-year-old Tom Brichta and his friend, Chris Maxwell of Hanover Park, Ill., were headed home from a wedding reception late one Saturday night on Jefferson County Highway 106. They were singing along to the radio, said Brichta, when they first noticed a "skunky" odor somewhere between roads "D" and "N."

"Then I noticed a hand sticking out into the road," said Brichta. "My friend noticed me looking to the side and he looked and saw whatever it was. It was large; its lower chest and upper belly was at the top of my car. It was huge. It was hairy, and it was standing over a roadkill."

Confused, Brichta slowed down, only to have the beast lunge at the vehicle. It left two scratches on the car. He remembers seeing the arm going for his car. "The fingers were either pointed or had quite long nails on them," he said. Brichta wasn't driving fast, he added, because it was foggy and he couldn't see more than two car lengths.

Brichta reported it to the Jefferson County Sheriff's department, which duly recorded it as a bear sighting according to their Lt. Lenz. "But it wasn't a bear," said Brichta. "My family has a cabin up north, and I've seen plenty of bears, and this wasn't a bear." What it was, though, he said, was frightening.

Two months later, he saw it again. This time, it was dusk, and another friend, Scott Freimund, was with him. They were on 106, the same road as before, said Brichta, just past "D." The two Palmyra high school seniors gazed in awe as a "seven-to-eight foot high" creature walked easily on two legs alongside a cornfield. Its head was turned toward the cornfield, said Brichta, as if it was looking for something. "It reminded me of a person window-shopping," he said.

When Brichta slowed up for a better look, the creature turned and looked straight at him. "It almost seemed to challenge us," he said, "like it was saying, what are you going to do about it?" The creature then lifted its leg as if it was stepping over something, and turned to go back into the cornfield, pushing the corn aside in front of it.

Brichta's description of the creature was eerily reminiscent of the Delavan sighting years earlier. Except Brichta saw pointed ears and a muzzle. "It walked on the balls of its feet," said Brichta, "and while it was walking its upper shoulders were above the corn" (which measured six feet high at the time.) "The thighs were muscular."

Freimund said he would compare the creature's build to "a football player on steroids. He had something clasped in his hand I couldn't easily see what it was. We went on our merry way, scared senseless. I wouldn't want to go through that again unless I had a loaded weapon and a cross around my neck."

Brichta returned to the cornfield later, and discovered that there was a large hillock of grass where the creature had taken the big step, and also an area of crushed grass where it appeared something large had been lying. "It couldn't have been a deer lying there because there was an ear of corn still on the stalk, hanging right over it. A deer would have eaten that."

"Not a day goes by that I don't think think about it," added Brichta.

Note that one of the parties interviewed above used the phrase "Skunky" odor. The scholarly book, Encyclopedia of Monsters by Daniel Cohen has a passage on the "skunk ape" in which witnesses describe seeing an ape-like creature which is large, hairy, over seven feet tall and possessing an especially bad smell. This could lead one to believe that these creatures being large and fearless do not respect skunks and are sprayed by them with the odor being retained in their fur.

On Wednesday, January 27, Channel 12 of Milwaukee aired the show Inside Edition. Writer Linda Godfrey was on that show and told about numerous sightings in and around Walworth County.

This writer has talked with Ms. Godfrey about these sightings. She has personally interviewed "about 20 people" who have seen "something." I have asked her if the witnesses might be subject to hysteria or suggestion. She says no. I have also asked Ms. Godfrey if, in her opinion, the "something" that is out there is some form of animal or it is something paranormal or supernatural. She has told me that, in her opinion, whatever it is is not supernatural.

This answer is interesting to me because some years after I completed my interview with the retired nightwatchman we sat together and had further conversation about the creature he had encountered. I asked him, with his many years of looking back upon the incident, if he had formed an opinion an opinion as to whether the creature was some form of animal or if it was supernatural.

His answer was, "That damn thing came straight out of hell." He smiled then and added, "Maybe my prayer sent it back to hell." And then his smile faded and he said, "I bet it didn't stay there."


Note: This piece, as originally published, contained a lengthy sidebar excerpt entitled "The 'Skunk Ape' of Florida," from Daniel Cohen's Encyclopedia of Monsters, Waltham Abbey: Fraser Stewart, 1991, as a point of comparison.

Posted: February 27, 2000

 

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