Over the years (decades, actually) I’ve had a lot of correspondence with Dogman expert, Linda Godfrey. She has written a number of books on the subject, including Real Wolfmen, Werewolves and The Beast of Bray Road. Today, I’m not going to look at the history of the Dogmen. Nor am I about to scrutinize photos of their paw-prints. And the geographical angle won’t be tackled, either. So, you may quite reasonably ask me: “Nick, what are you going to address?” Well, I’ll tell you. I thought I would use Linda’s excellent research to address the various theories for what the creatures might actually be. As you’ll see from my interview with Linda, she came up with a number of possibilities. Now, let’s have a look at them. They range from the down-to-earth to far stranger. Linda said:
“They were all mostly saying that they had seen something which was much larger than normal, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four, with a wolfish head. Some described it as a German Shepherd-like head, pointed ears, very long, coarse, shaggy, and wild-looking fur. One thing they all mentioned was that it would turn and look at them and gaze fearlessly or leer at them, and it was at that point that they all got really frightened. Everybody who has seen it – with the exception of one – has been extremely scared because it’s so out of the ordinary. It was something they couldn’t identify and didn’t appear to be afraid of them. It would just casually turn around and disappear into the brush. It was never just out in the open where it didn’t have some sort of hiding place. There was always a cornfield or some brush or some woods. So, that was pretty much the start of it. Once that got out, I started finding other people who called me and got in touch with me and I sort of became the unofficial clearinghouse. And we called it the Beast of Bray Road because I’ve always been reluctant to call it a werewolf. The original sightings were in an area known as Bray Road, which is outside of Elkhorn.”
Now, to the theories. As Linda said: “Everybody seems to have an opinion about this that they are eager to make known and defend. I personally don’t think there are enough facts for anybody to come to a conclusion. I have a couple of dozen sightings, at least. A few of them are second-hand and they date back to 1936. And they aren’t all around Bray Road. Quite a number are in the next county, Jefferson. I’ve had a woman write me who insists it’s a wolf. And I think a lot of people subscribe to that theory; yes, it’s definitely a wolf and can’t be anything else. But that doesn’t explain the large size.”
Linda continues on this particular theme: “We’ve had all sorts of theories; mental patients escaping or some crazy guy running around. A hoaxer is another theory; that it’s somebody running around in a werewolf suit. One or two could have been that, but I tend to have my doubts about that, because the incidents are isolated and not close together. One of the sightings was on Halloween, but that’s also one of the people who got a really good look at it and they’re sure it wasn’t a human in a costume. Otherwise, most of them have been in really remote locations where, if you were going to hoax, the person would have to have been sitting out there in the cold just waiting for somebody to come along. So, if it’s a hoaxer, my hat’s off to them. But I tend not to think that’s the case. I don’t rule it out completely because once publicity gets out, things like that can happen.”
Linda expands: “Occasionally, I’ll get letters from people who say they are lycanthropes themselves and their theory is that this is an immature, real werewolf and it cannot control its transformation, and that’s why it allows itself to be seen occasionally. They are completely convinced of that. And there are people who believe it’s a manifestation of satanic forces, that it’s a part of a demonic thing. They point to various occult activities around here. There are also people who try to link it to UFOs. Then there’s the theory it’s just a dog. One woman, a medium, thought that it was a natural animal but didn’t know what it was. And there are a lot of people out here that do wolf-hybridizations, and I’ve thought to myself you’d get something like that. But that doesn’t explain the upright posture. Then there’s the theory that it’s a creature known as the Windigo or Wendigo, which is featured in Indian legends and is supposedly a supernatural creature that lives on human flesh. But none of the descriptions from the Windigo legends describe a creature with canine features.”
Linda expands into additional territory: “There’s another possibility: I think a lot of these people are seeing different things. And that when they heard somebody else talk about something, there’s a tendency to say, ‘Oh, that must be what I saw.’ There’s really no way to know. And there are differences in some of the sightings. I’ve had people ask me, ‘Are you sure this isn’t Bigfoot?’ Most of the sightings really don’t sound like what people report as Bigfoot. But a couple of them do. There’s one man who saw it in the 1960s in a different area of the county, who insists positively that he saw a Bigfoot, but doesn’t want anyone saying he saw a werewolf. And the terrain around here isn’t really the typical sort of Bigfoot terrain of forests where people usually report these things. We do have woods and a big state forest, but it’s a narrow band of forest. It’s a lot of prairie and is not what you would think a Bigfoot would live in. But you never know. I’ve also had the baboon theory, which I find extremely unlikely.”
While all the theories in Linda’s list cannot be correct, I suspect that somewhere the truth is in there. A terrible, awful pun, I know!