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Werewolf Mayhem and a 50th Anniversary: Horror in the 1970s

Today’s article is a little different from most of my others. There’s a good reason for that. I’m encouraging someone out there to write a full-length book on one of the most fascinating stories of the 1970s, but that most people know nothing about it. Not only that, next year, the 50th anniversary of the monstrous affair will be coming around. So, in light of what this article tells you, perhaps someone will go for it and nail the story down – whatever the answer. Midway through 1972, Defiance, Ohio became what can only be termed “Werewolf Central.” Over the course of a hysteria-filled two months – July to September of Seventy-Two – 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 equivalent of Nessie, the Chupacabra and Bigfoot. 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. Hence the photo below!

(Nick Redfern) L to R: Lyle Blackburn; John Tenney; me; and Ken Gerhard. Creature seekers at the old tracks!

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.” For weeks, people were on edge: the Defiance Dogman 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.

The Cleweekend says: “The Werewolf of Defiance is one of the those local legends that sounds like the beginning of a classic horror movie. Two railway workers, hooking up train cars late at night. One looks over to see a towering werewolf, fangs bared who proceeds to attack the hapless victim. Hollywood as it might sound, that’s the story that Ted Davis reported to police in 1972. The werewolf may have attacked him with a club rather than his claws, but otherwise the story sounds like so many other tall tales. Except that Davis wasn’t the only one seeing dogmen in the wild. Another employee of the railway also reported a wolfman stalking the rails. Then a week later, a grocer driving home sees a lycanthrope in his headlights.”

(Nick Redfern)

Astonishing Legends had the following, important to say about the wolfish madness: “Chief Donald Breckler said to the news media, ‘We don’t know what to think. We didn’t release it (to the news media) when we got the first report about a week ago. But now we’re taking it seriously. We’re concerned about the safety of our people.’ ….A slight panic began to enter the town and several newspapers, including The Toledo Blade and the Defiance Crescent-News, covering the strange sightings. In general, it was agreed that the werewolf was large (at least 6ft) and humanoid in some way (some reports even said it was wearing jeans). It was also reported as being bipedal but severely hunched over. Newspapers did report, interesting enough, that none of the events happened during a full moon.”

Cryptozoologist Colin Schneider had his view on it all: “The Crescent News, the local newspaper, and the Toledo Blade, ran a total of four articles about the incident. The longest of the articles focused on the local police force’s investigation into the incident. Headed by Donald Breckler, the police chief at the time, the police searched extensively for the ‘werewolf.’ Although the general public thought that it to be a bored teenager’s prank, Chief Breckler considered the club-wielding, animal-faced assailant was a threat to the community. Eventually, after days of looking and no results, the search soon ended.” And, by September 1972, the whole thing was over. However, we’re not quite done. There are so many threads and leads in this story that someone should really go after this story to their absolute ability possible. By that, I mean write a book on all of this! After all, if someone starts now, such a full-length book could correctly be billed as the 50th anniversary. Indeed, next July will be the beginning of the fiftieth. And with police files, witness testimony, chaos around town, and significant media coverage, there’s plenty out there to make a great story. Anyone up for the challenge?!

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Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.
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