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Exploring American Monsters: North Dakota

Located in the Great Plains of the American Midwest, North Dakota is flat. Really, really flat. At least most of it. The western part of the state (the 19th largest of the United States) is dotted with hills and buttes. North Dakota is sparsely populated, with 739,482 residents. The largest city, Fargo, has 113,658 people, which is 15 percent of the entire state’s population. North Dakota is bordered by South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, and the Canadian provinces Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The state experienced an oil boom when the Parshall Oil Field was discovered in 2006, although oil prices are flighty things, and the boom has calmed a bit. Famous North Dakotans (with a population that small, there aren’t many) include New York Yankees great Roger Maris, astronaut James F. Buchli, 1960s pop singer Bobby Vee, and author Chuck Klosterman. American bison, moose, elk, white pelicans, and eagles are native to the state, and if legends are to be believed, so is the Devil’s Lake Monster.

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Devils Lake Monster

This 330.2-square-mile lake in northeastern North Dakota is host to anglers fishing for perch, walleye, and northern pike. Although not much disturbs the surface of the lake but recreation boats, back when the area was new to European influence, a monster would occasionally poke its head above the water.

The local American Indians told the settlers stories of a great snake that lived beneath that lake, a serpent that instilled fear in those who saw it. According to a 1915 article in the Grand Forks Daily Herald, two well-known businessmen, a police captain, and the pastor of the local Methodist Episcopal Church, saw the Devils Lake Monster on different days, and at different points on the lake. Each gave a similar description. The creature was about two feet round, and about sixty feet long.

Unfortunately, the Devils Lake Monster doesn’t rear its head above the surface often.

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The Miniwashitu

A legend surrounds Little Missouri River, a 560-mile-long tributary of the xxx-mile-long Missouri River. The legend of the river monster the Miniwashitu. Although sightings of the Miniwashitu are slim, in 1921, curator for the North Dakota State Historical Society Melvin Randolph Gilmore told of one sighting.

In the late 1800s, a man wandering near the river saw an enormous creature rise from the water. Red hair, thick “like a buffalo” covered the beast. The monster had only one eye, and a single horn thrust from its forehead. Its backbone protruded, nocked like “an enormous saw.” Terrified, the man made it home before he passed out, and later died.

When white settlers spoke of the encounter, local American Indians told them their fear of the monster. Whoever saw the beast went mad, and usually blind, before succumbing to an untimely death.

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Bigfoot

If there were a place for this big furry fellow to hang out, a state as thinly populated as North Dakota would be it. According to an article in the Aberdeen American News, there was a rash of Bigfoot reports from the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation when several residents claimed to have seen the elusive creature.

A representative of the Three Affiliated Tribes said Tribal officials took photographs of large, human-like tracks, but wouldn’t so far as to say they were from Bigfoot.

These weren’t the first sightings of the creature in North Dakota. A man hunting said a “great ape” stalked him outside his mobile home in Minot, North Dakota. A newspaper clipping from 1908 also chronicles an encounter with Bigfoot.

According to an article from the Stevens Point Journal, two cattlemen from Velva, North Dakota, encountered a wild man outside town. While hunting, the men came face-to-face with the wild man who had just emerged from the bushes. One of the cattlemen lassoed him, tied him, loaded the wild man on a horse, and took him to town.

The wild man was “extremely hairy” with a “grotesque and wild appearance.” The man’s eyeteeth were “unnaturally elongated in the form of tusks.” He would not speak, nor eat, although he drank water from a bucket. There is no report of whatever happened to the hairy wild man.

Thunderbird

The Thunderbird is a gigantic bird that’s named such because the beating of its wings sound like thunder. Seen over the centuries across the continent, the thunderbird closely resembles a family of bird called the Teratorn that existed between the Miocene and Pleistocene periods. These birds had wingspans of up to twenty feet.

American Indian stories of these flying terrors across North America are similar. Thunderbirds can create storms, shoot lightning bolts, and have been known to eat pets – and children.

According to a report from About Paranormal, an Air Force security member in North Dakota stopped to have a smoke in 2009 when he saw what he at first thought was a hang glider drifting across the starry sky. When he grabbed his night vision gear, he realized the glider was a bird with a wingspan of about twenty feet. It flapped its wings, and drifted out of sight. Not surprisingly, he never reported his sighting to the Air Force.

Next up: Ohio.

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Jason Offutt is paranormal investigator, an author of several paranormal books such as “What Lurks Beyond,” “Darkness Walks: Shadow People Among us,” “Haunted Missouri,” and “Paranormal Missouri” and a teacher of journalism at Northwest Missouri State University.
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