Friday, July 31, 2009

The Michigan Dog Man

In 1987, as an April's Fool's prank, Michigan DJ Jack O'Malley got together with his production director Steve Cook, and made up a song about a half-dog half-man creature that roamed the backwoods of the northern portion of the state.

The creature, which they dubbed the Michigan Dog Man, was created from bits and pieces of creatures from other state legends, including the Bigfoot legend, the legend of the New Jersey Devil, the Boggy Creek Monster, and several other 'cryptids' (animals that appear in legend but heretofore have not been found in nature).

Cook was an avid fan of the paranormal and a student of folklore. The two men came up with a history of the Michigan Dog Man, which included a seven year cycle of appearances. The song played on the radio, the joke was a success, and then the reports started coming in.

But that wasn't the weirdest part.

Turns out there really is an Indian legend unique to the northern part of Michigan about a half-dog, half-man creature that early French explorers claimed to have seen and is referred to in historical texts as the loup garou.The loup garou is a half-man, half-wolf beast that is roughly equivalent to the werewolf of popular fiction and late night horror movies, and was native to the Canadian woodland areas, Michigan, Indiana, and parts of Illinois.

Linda Godfrey, an Elkhart Wisconsin writer, first heard about Dog Man sitings in the greater Chicagoland area, and began to research the phenomenon. Her first book, The Beast of Bray Road, started out as a tongue-in-cheek look at what she assumed would be a totally bogus collection of local lore and dubious anecdotes. However, once Bray got into her research and began interviewing eyewitnesses and collecting evidence, she found herself quickly coverted.

Today, a Dogman blog keeps Dog Man watchers up on the latest sitings, and Bray continues to research and write about what she now believes is an actual creature.

Is there any truth to the legend?

Well, I walk my dog every morning for an hour in a 700 acre nature preserve a mile from my Michigan home. I've never seen the Dog Man there. But I can tell you for sure that the woods in Michigan can be damned spooky, and there have been many mornings when if I had indeed run into a Dog Man, it wouldn't have really surprised me one bit. Seriously.

We are so isolated from nature, most of us, that we really don't 'get it' anymore. So when these legends surface, they become sensational because they are strange to us. For the native peoples of this region, legend and reality were not so sharply separated. They understood that every place also had spirit, and that spirit could change form, or be formless, or invade a human being. Spirit is fluid, shapeshifting. We have no word for that now. We have no concept. 'Legend' is as close as we come, and that's not quite the right word.

Eyewitnesses confirm the shapeshifting quality of the Dog Man, often reporting that at first they thought they were looking at a huge, unnaturally large dog or wolf, but that as they watched, the animal stood on its hind legs and its arms elongated right before their eyes, becoming more humanlike. The Dog Man is often said to have red eyes and a fierce contenance, a detail shared with the New Jersey Devil.

I have a fascination with the paranormal, and the cryptid branch of the paranormal is especially cool. I do believe that there are creatures that inhabit the netherworld between form and spirit, and that can move at will between these worlds.

Is the Michigan Dog Man one of those creatures?


Wanna go for a walk in the woods?


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