Meet Wisconsin's mysterious creatures
Beware: The beasts and beings that go bump in the night may be closer than you think
We’ve all heard the stories and scoffed at the grainy photos and video: Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, Latin America’s Chupacabra, West Virginia’s Mothman. Nestled in the safety of the Midwest, Wisconsinites have little reason to be afraid of the dark … or do we?
Beware: The beasts and beings that go bump in the night may be closer than you think.
Beast of Bray Road
The most infamous of all Wisconsin creatures is the Bray Road Beast. Often described as Wisconsin’s werewolf, witnesses lucky (or unlucky) enough to catch a glimpse of this creature report it to be a bulky, tall, upright-walking two-legged creature approximately the size of a very large bear. The creature’s face is said to resemble that of a wolf, complete with a long snout and its body is covered with long, matted fur. Some of the more horrifying eyewitness accounts tell of the beast’s bright red eyes eerily piercing the night air. It appears that the beast is also a carnivore as many unsuspecting drivers have spotted it roadside, devouring a freshly killed animal. Keep an eye out for the beast wherever you are traveling in Wisconsin. Although originally sighted in Elkhorn, this creature has since been sighted all over the Badger State.
Hodag of Rhinelander
In 1893, Gene Shepard, a pioneer and woodsman from Rhinelander, spotted a strange creature in the woods unlike he had ever seen before. Shepard claimed that the mysterious animal was part dinosaur, part elephant and part frog. Three years later, Shepard captured a live specimen of the animal and unveiled the most bizarre and frightening creature ever seen in the Northwoods – the hodag.
The giant lizard-like creature measured over seven feet in length and was nearly four feet tall. To add to its menacing appearance, the hodag’s back was lined with long spikes that ended in two giant horns perched on its head like some mutated bull. News of Shepard’s amazing discovery quickly spread throughout the United States and soon thousands of curious sightseers descended upon Rhinelander with coin in hand for a chance to glimpse the hodag. Shepard eventually admitted that the hodag was nothing more than a hoax drummed up to draw tourists to Rhinelander. However, even to this day, others swear that the hodag is still out there waiting to be discovered.
Mysteries of Meridean
According to legend, Meridean, a tiny town located 19 miles west of Eau Claire, was named for a young woman, Mary Dean, who met her unfortunate fate when she drowned in the dark churning waters of the Chippewa River. Locals whisper about the tale of Mary’s ghost appearing in the river, crying out for help like a seductive siren. Those foolish enough to attempt a rescue suffer the same dreadful fate, as Mary pulls her victims down to a watery grave.
There is more to fear in Meridean than just Mary. Hellhounds, large black phantom dogs with glowing red or green eyes, haunt the old boat landing. Those brave enough to set foot outside their car will find themselves in the company of the sinister beasts.
As one story has it, a group of burly bikers were out for the night when they spotted several large black dogs in the distance. As the dogs eerily crept closer, the men noticed that the animals were nearly transparent. Terrified, the men jumped onto their motorcycles and sped off, stopping only when they had reached the safety of Chippewa Falls.
Although sightings of large hairy bipeds have surfaced from all corners of the state, they are most abundant in the Northwest. In recent years, the towns of Cumberland and Danbury have been home to more than a few weird sightings of these unknown creatures. One eyewitness hiking through the Danbury forest spied what appeared to be a large hairy creature – well over seven feet tall and completely covered in thick brownish fur – lurking in the heavily wooded area, trying to hide itself among the trees. When the eyewitness tried to get a closer look, the creature quickly disappeared into the brush.
Phantom Chickens of Seymour
Wisconsin’s oddest creature has been reported in the small town of Seymour, about 17 miles outside Green Bay. Here, unsuspecting drivers passing through Chicken Alley have reported hitting a chicken. But when they got out of their car to investigate the damage, there was no fowl to be found. Other drivers have reported seeing flocks of chickens dart in front of their car, but then inexplicably vanish before the impact.
Gnomes of Fifield
Located in the center of the Northwoods, the town of Fifield is home to some of Wisconsin’s most bizarre legends. On summer evenings along Holy Cross Road, carloads of curious visitors eagerly await the specter of a young mother killed along the railroad tracks. But the daring try their luck with the gnomes. Legend states that if you throw a rock into the thick woods surrounding the tracks, a gnome will throw it right back at you. Those who have seen these creatures report that they are much like the typical gnomes of folklore, about three- to four-feet tall with pointed ears and a coned hat. Be sure to leave them a small offering of candy or a shiny rock, lest they curse you.
Vampire of Graceland Cemetery
The peaceful community of Mineral Point is perhaps the last place you would expect to encounter a vampire, but the city has been plagued by rumors since 1980 when a police officer out on late-night patrol claimed to have seen a tall, thin, pale figure in Graceland Cemetery. The officer chased the vampire to the edge of the graveyard, where the creature easily scaled the fence and vanished into the night. Most folks blame a practical joker, but others insist that the vampire continues to roam the cemetery.
Chad Lewis, author of Hidden Headlines of Wisconsin and co-author of the Road Guide to Haunted Locations, is a paranormal investigator for Unexplained Research.
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