When I was a senior in high school, one of my favorite classes was Current Events. It was fun having a class where you could bring in newspapers and magazines to discuss what was going on in the world. By far, the best day was Friday, which was weird headline day.
One Friday, my teacher came walking into class with a huge smile on his face, set his briefcase down, looked directly at me and said, “I got a good one for you, mister Hale.” He then proceeded to read a newspaper article from a Wisconsin newspaper that spoke of a creature born of nightmare, legend and cheesy late horror movies.
The article mentioned that over the last few days, a werewolf had been seen prowling a stretch of road near Elkhorn and Delavan, Wisconsin. The Beast of Bray Road, as it was being called, had been witnessed eating roadkill and attacking the livestock of unsuspecting farmers. Everybody just sat in their seats listening intently to the bizarre story that was unfolding.
Needless to say, I was hooked.
The legend of a man transforming into a vicious animal has figured into the mythology of practically every culture that has graced the face of the earth. Some of the earliest legends concerning canid and human hybrids came of the birthplace of western civilization and culture, Greece.
According to a well-documented legend, a race of wolf men called The Nuri participated in, and practically cleaned up at one of the first Olympic games. They were said to be stronger, faster and far more competitive than their human counterparts. Although this is an interesting legend that many ancient sources claim to be true, the werewolf of myth and legend that we know has much sinister origins in Western Europe.
The belief that a infected human being is damned to become a werewolf by the light of the full moon is only partially true. The damned part is right, but the rest is pure Hollywood fiction. According to the recorded legends of the werewolf, humankind can transform into a wolf by making a pact with the devil while wearing a wolf’s pelt or spreading some magical potion on their body. Usually, these people were either seriously mentally ill, or under the influence of a strong mind altering narcotic. However, the legend persists which brings us to the land of cheese, the great state of Wisconsin, and an eerie back country road called Bray Road.
The first known sighting of this nightmarish creature was on a cool October night in 1936 in Jefferson County. A lone man was driving along a lonely stretch of road when he saw a large man digging in the ground of a Native American burial ground. I’m sure his first thought was, “why would a man be digging with his hands in dirt?” But when the strange figure stood up, he could tell this was clearly not a man.
The motorist described the creature as being taller than a man with shaggy grayish brown fur. He watched in horror as the creature opened its mouth full of sharp fangs and let out a terrifying growl. The motorist had seen enough. He pushed the pedal to the metal and got the hell out of there.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the werewolf-like creature made its appearance numerous times. One report from 1972, again in Jefferson County, was made by a woman who claimed that a large, hairy dog like creature tried breaking into her home. Although these reports are dramatic and a little hair raising, the bulk of the reports of the creature was made in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s on Bray Road in rural Elkhorn and Delavan.
For a ten-year span of time,1989-1999, several people reported seeing a large wolf-like creature eating road kill on the side of Bray Road. The best most dramatic sighting came in 1999, when the creature attacked a poor girl and her car.
On an October night in 1999, a young woman was driving down Bray Road when something that looked like a large dog ran in front of her car. Unable to avoid hitting the creature she ran it down knocking it to the side of the road.
and feeling bad about hitting a dog, the young woman got out of her car and went looking for the animal she hit.
After recovering her composure, she inspected the damage the animal inflicted upon the front end of her car, and then she began searching the immediate area. When she walked to the rear, believing the animal was behind her car, she became intensely aware that she was being watched. When she looked up, fear gripped her as a large hairy biped with gray-brown fur came rushing at her. Terrified, the young woman jumped into her car and attempted to drive away. Whatever this thing was jumped onto the trunk but couldn’t hold on as she sped away in the rain.
Feeling fortunate to be alive, the young woman drove off at top speed leaving behind the horrific creature.
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When considering the Beast of Bray Road, we are left with the question: what is it? Due to its magical connotations, the majority of cryptozoologists are reluctant to call the creature a werewolf. Instead, they believe that the beast may be some kind of Bigfoot like creature or a Waheela, a giant extinct wolf that may have had the ability to run short distances on its hind legs. To me, these are likely candidates but there are other theories.
Right about the time of the beast of Bray Road sightings, local police found numerous dogs which appeared to have been ritually sacrificed along with occult paraphernalia. Some feel that perhaps some black magic practitioner made that diabolical deal with the prince of darkness and transformed themselves into a werewolf. This may seem highly unlikely, but it is keeping with the real legends of how a man can become a wolf.
One other theory concerns a creature of local Native American legend, the Dogman. According to legend, the dogman was an actual race of men that had the body of a man and the head of the dog. The dogman was said to be highly volatile and known to viciously attack humans, especially when it was hungry.
Reports of the dogman come from the upper peninsula of Michigan. Throughout the 1880s, several lumberjacks reported seeing these creatures in and around the forests where they were cutting down trees. Usually, the dogman didn’t live up to its voracious reputation as according to eyewitness reports they seemed shy and retiring.
Another theory concerning the beast was that the creature was just a human suffering from a severe and rare mental illness called lycanthropy. Lycanthropy is a real diagnosable mental illness where a person truly believes that they shrug off their human skin and become a werewolf. In extreme cases those that have this illness have been known to attack and devour livestock while others have killed human victims while in this state of psychosis.
The Beast of Bray Road, is an enduring legend of the northern Midwest and shows no signs of ever going away. Citizens in and around Elkhorn and Delavan, Wisconsin, still claim to see this creature in the woods surrounding the area. Is this a real werewolf or perhaps a bigfoot or a severely mentally ill person that believes themselves to be a wolfman?
Like with any other cryptid we may never know until a body is produced proving the creature exists.
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