It was around 7:30 p.m. on August 4, 2016 when me and a few friends - Bigfoot-seeker Lyle Blackburn, Ken Gerhard (author of Encounters with Flying Humanoids), and Jen Devillier - headed off to the Ohio town of Defiance. A long drive was ahead of us. Around seventeen hours, to be precise. But, we were a team on a mission. Earlier in the year, Ken had told me of his plans to hold a "Dogman Symposium," which was where we were heading to. For those who may be wondering, the term "Dogman" is, in essence, modern day wording for the world's most legendary shapeshifter: the werewolf. Although, ironically, there are very, very few reports of the Dogman actually shape-shifting.
When I bring up the matter of Dogmen, it very often results in the rolling of eyes and hoots of derision. The fact is, however, there are hundreds of highly credible reports – from all across the United States, but particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio – on record of encounters with what can only be described as hair-covered, upright wolves. For the most part, these creepy critters provoke full-blown terror in the witnesses, as well as a sense that these entities are definitively evil. Linda Godfrey, undeniably the leading expert on the subject, has now written six books on the subject – such is the large body of data available to work with.
UFO conferences, Bigfoot symposiums, and ghost-themed seminars are everywhere. Not so for the Dogman, however. That is, until Ken decided to rectify the situation by putting on an event specifically devoted to discussions of the dog-headed man-beast. It was a great idea, I thought. And when Ken invited me to speak at the gig I certainly wasn't going to say "no." Ken had a few concerns about putting on the event, but he shouldn't have: there was a large audience, all keen to learn the latest on – and the history of – this strange creature. There was a good line-up of speakers, too, including Stan Gordon, Linda Godfrey, John Tenney, and Black-Eyed Children authority, David Weatherly.
As we headed out on the night of August 4 – Defiance-bound – I sensed this was going to be a weekend filled with intrigue. My instincts were not wrong. And there was a very good reason why Ken chose Defiance for the site of the first Dogman Symposium, a reason which explains the intrigue.
Midway through 1972, Defiance became what can only be termed Werewolf Central. Over the course of two months – July to August of that year – sightings of a rampaging, hair-covered man-beast, with a pronounced muzzle and dressed in rags, were made. The local media quickly picked up on the sinister saga, as did the town's police, who even opened an official file on Defiance's very own monster.
To say that Defiance was gripped by terror would not be an understatement. Many of the sightings of the creature were made around a series of old railroad tracks, and usually late at night. A couple of guys working on the tracks – Ted Davis and Tom Jones – had an encounter of the very close kind. A close call, one might say. Davis told the local newspaper, The Blade: "I was connecting an air hose between two cars and was looking down. I saw these huge hairy feet, then I looked up and he was standing there with that big stick over his shoulder. When I started to say something, he took off for the woods."
People were on edge: the Defiance werewolf was major news. And then, like a definitive specter of the night, it was no more. The legend, however, never really died away. The monster may be long gone, but memories of those days and nights of the early seventies still persist among those who lived through that brief, turbulent time of terror. And, of course, the beast got a new shot of publicity in August 2016.