Of the many and varied reports that exist of shapeshifters, there is absolutely no doubt that one of the creepiest sagas of all is that which was splashed across the pages of various newspapers in the summer of 1905. It’s hardly surprising that the story attracted so much attention, given that it was focused on sightings of what can only be accurately described as a beast that was half-human and half-dog. The Register newspaper – which was published in Rake, Iowa related the facts surrounding the strange saga on June 15. The title of its article came straight to the point: “Dog with a Human Face.” And, just for good measure, the writer of the eerie article added an atmospheric subtitle: “Strange Monstrosity Seen By Many Persons In Colorado Hills – Attempt Capture In Vain.” While the Register’s story got picked up far and wide, it was actually based upon an earlier article – specifically one which appeared in the Pittsburgh Press on May 3, and which was titled, “Strange Animal: Has an Almost Human Face and a Red Mustache.” The collective accounts paint a deeply strange picture.
So the story went, for a period of several weeks, sightings had been made of the near-unearthly beast on the hills surrounding Buena Vista, Colorado, and also along the old railroad tracks in Wildhorse, which was a station on the Colorado Midland Railway. So far as can be determined, the first encounter – or, maybe, more correctly, the first reported encounter – took place on a stretch of road that crossed the Arkansas River, which weaves its winding way through Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Colorado. The unfortunate soul who had the distinct bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time was a woman, a local and rich farmer, who was having a leisurely drive across the river – atop a cart pulled by her favorite horse. Upon reaching one particular bridge that spanned the river, she slowed down, puzzled by the sight of some large, unknown animal standing rigidly in the middle of the road. Her first thought was that she was looking at a large dog, wolf, or coyote.
There was, however, something decidedly not right about its head. At first, and due to her distance from the animal, she could see that while the body certainly resembled that of a canid, there was something strange about its face. As she got closer, despite the horse became decidedly reluctant to go any further, it became all too clear why that head looked so abnormal. To her horror, the woman could see that, yes, the body was very dog-like. But, it was clearly no dog. Nor was it a wolf or a coyote. That much is sure from her description: the animal had large black spots on its coat, it was of a greyish color, and had extraordinarily long and pointed ears. Its tail seemed to be out of proportion, too. But, that was not the end of it. Far from it. Things were about to get worse. Much worse.
Upon reaching the animal, which still stubbornly refused to move, she could see that its eyes were much closer than one would expect to see on a dog. Not only that, the eyes looked incredibly human-like. In fact, to her eternal terror, she could see that the whole face looked human. This was amplified by what was a large tuft of hair under its nose which eerily resembled a mustache! The woman’s horse was equally terrified, almost throwing her from the cart as it fought to rear up on its back legs. Suddenly, and just as the woman thought the beast was about to launch a violent attack, the animal issued a woeful howl and headed off into the surrounding undergrowth. Just before vanishing for good, it climbed a small, local peak and turned and peered ominously at the woman – perhaps, in its own wild way, warning her not to follow its tracks. For the witness, however, this was not the most traumatic part of the encounter. As the dog turned its head away from her, and while still on that same peak, it rose up onto its back limbs and stood there in a curious, swaying fashion. And it topped everything off with a loud, ear-piercing howl, before dropping to all-fours and heading back into the undergrowth.
It was not seen again. At least, not by the tortured witness. In the days that followed, however, a wealth of additional accounts reached the staff of the Pittsburgh Press, all of which suggested that the creature had made its home somewhere in the vicinity of the river – which would have made a great deal of sense. After all, the river and its environs offered cover and camouflage, as well as a plentiful supply of water and small animals to feed on. Hardly surprisingly, it was the fact that the monstrosity was half-human and half-beast that really caught the attention and imagination of the press of the day. Despite almost two months of coverage, the affair of the Dog-Man of the Arkansas River came to a halt as June came to a close. The creature was not seen again. There were no reports of it being shot and killed. And, no farm animals were attacked – which would have been a telltale sign of a marauding predator wildly on the loose. The overriding opinion was that, with dozens of gun-toting locals scouring the area, the animal had wisely decided to exit its then-current environment and head off to pastures fresh and new.
So, what was this half-human, half-animal? The short answer is: we don’t know. And we probably never will – unless, of course, others of its kind still, to this very day, haunt certain stretches of the Arkansas River. A case could, perhaps, be made that the animal had a deformed face – a condition, maybe, that gave it an eerily human-like appearance. That does not, however, provide any kind of answer as to how the beast could walk on its back limbs, rather than on all four. And what about that nerve-jangling howl? Taking all of this into consideration, what we are left with appears to be a series of encounters with something that bore all the hallmarks of the classic werewolf, the ultimate predatory shapeshifter.