There are many theories about what the Bray Road Beast is – or was.
Initial reports described the Beast as essentially wolf-like, with a powerfully built chest, and oddly shaped rear legs. It was described as larger than a dog, with big teeth and fangs. It had long claws and pointed ears. At times it was described as running on two legs.
Lori Endrizzi drew a picture of the beast, showing an essentially wolfish creature, kneeling. This after she found a picture of a werewolf in a library book, which nearly made her eyes pop out of her head. Doristine Gipson also later drew a picture which resembled a hairy upright werewolf-like creature. Other witnesses described a scraggly-haired creature, larger than a dog, but thinner than a German Shepherd. Most noted its "wobbly" or "slouchy, sloppy-like" manner of walking, as if it were having locomotive problems. Others described the back legs as being very wide, only to become very skinny near the feet. Others saw the beast on two legs, then dropping to four. Some saw it only on four legs, others only on two. A few described it as kneeling, or sitting up "like a raccoon sits." The Beast ran after and jumped on cars. Some saw the Beast, running on two legs, chase down a whitetail deer.
In most of these early cases, the Beast is five feet or five feet and a half long or tall, depending on how many legs it was seen standing on. All said the Beast was larger than a coyote, larger than a dog, and skinnier than a bear with a muzzle shaped more canine than ursine.
Initial theories talked of a dog-wolf hybrid, while others countered that it was nothing more than a deformed coyote or dog. If this creature was seen as a "freak of nature," it was freakish in the sense of physical deformity rather than aberration. There are many discrepancies in the descriptions, enough to cause some to wonder whether there were multiple beasts or whether the aberrant sightings should be tossed out, ignored.
A majority of the community thought the whole thing a hoax or a matter of people drinking too much. Scornfully or jokingly, the creature quickly became known as the werewolf. As this talk spread, the image of a werewolf, with its stereotypical connotations of upright wolfish manlike being, seemed to catch hold of the popular imagination. Yard signs and advertising depicted this familiar figure out of folklore and movies. The illustration that accompanies The Sun article is only the most egregious example of this stereotyping. The werewolf seen on yard signs or in advertisements is also seen smiling or looking happy, counter to the ferocious werewolf of folklore and fable, as if the very notion that a savage terrorizing beast could be found stalking the quiet fields and sunny pastures of the rural Midwest.
Others in authority countered that it was nothing more than a black bear, found further south than is typical. People have never seen one, the reasoning goes, and when they don't know what they're seeing, their imaginations run wild with speculation.
Other sightings seem to be that of a different creature entirely, with descriptions closer to Bigfoot or an ape-like creature, as seen in the Godfrey and Shackelman stories in 1993. Here the creature is seven or eight feet tall, apelike, with a strong skunky odor, weighing several hundred pounds. Some of these sightings are from a time previous to the 1989-1991 Beast sightings, but others, like the Brichta and Maxwell sightings, are from after the initial flurry of Beast reports. And what of the creature that uttered "Gaddarah," then sneered as it stalked away after the nightwatchman said his prayer?
Multiple entities or variants on a theme? Real creature or paranormal entity?
Loren Coleman, in the January 2000 issue of Fate magazine, writes about the shunka warak'in. Coleman says:
The beast is described as "nearly black and having high shoulders and a back that sloped downward like a hyena." An Ioway Indian, Lance Foster told Coleman that "a strange animal called shunka warak'in ... snuck into camps at night and stole dogs. It was said to look something like a hyena and cried like a person when they killed it."
According to Mark A. Hall, a Minneapolis-based researcher, says Coleman, "sightings of mean-looking wolflike and hyenalike animals have come from Alberta, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois" in recent years.
Could the Bray Road Beast be a shunka warak'in?
A picture and further details of the shunka warak'in appears in this issue of Fate magazine, as well as in Coleman & Jerome Clark's Crytpozoology A to Z: the Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature (New York: Fireside, 1999).
The photo shows a stuffed and mounted shaggy beast, with a long snout and pointed ears, scraggly, with oddly shaped legs. From certain angles, it could be said this beast appears to be standing on two legs, as its chest is prominent and rear lower than the front.
Todd Roll hints there may be a Satanic connection between the Bray Road Beast and the mutilated dog carcasses. Scarlett Sankey in Strange Magazine also brings up animal mutilations, telling of sightings of a black-cloaked hooded figure astride a black horse, accompanied by a large black dog, seen emerging one night from a carcass drop point. Satanic lore is filled with stories of ritual sacrifices for power and the ability to shapeshift. Despite the jokes, could the Bray Road Beast really be a werewolf? Is it a meld of wolf and man?
And what of the Dogman legends of Michigan, and from around the world? In 1987 animals attacked a cabin in northern Michigan near the town of Luther. There was considerable damage to a screen and molding around the door and window. After inspecting tracks found around the cabin, as well as teeth marks on the molding, Department of Natural Resources officers concluded that a dog had done the damage. The story spurred others to come forward with their tales, including 68 year old Robert Fortney, a Cadillac resident. He said he had been attacked by five wild dogs in 1937. "The lead dog came right at my throat; I had to shoot him. The rest of them started to slink away." The last dog to leave was a giant black animal, which, before it left, said Fortney, stood on its hind legs and glared at him. [For those of you playing the Name Game, we offer Fortney as an exhibit.]
Note the many reports of the Bray Road Beast behaving similarly.
For other reports of Dogmen, see David Gordon White, Myths of the Dog-Man, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1991.
There are countless other theories, all of which have varying degrees of utility, which run the gamut from Jungian archetypes to Ultraterrestrial trickster figures to electromagnetically induced hallucinations. The theories range also from variations of known real creatures to conjectured creatures to creatures of long ago to paranormal entities to creatures from the Id. Despite the sheer number of possibilities, in the end it comes down to a simple either / or proposition.
Is the creature taxonomically objectively real, or something metaphysically subjectively real?
The investigation continues ...
Copyright Weird Wisconsin 2000
Posted: February 27, 2000
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