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  • Writer's pictureJohn Wick

The Dogman of Michigan

On the 1st of April 1987, WTCM radio personality Jack O'Malley, and his production director, Steve Cook were finally ready to hit play on a small project which the pair had been working on as an April Fool's prank. Cook had drafted a poem that chronicled the Quasi-factual tales of half-man, half-dog creature, a beast that prowled Michigan's dark forests, striking like clockwork every seven years, which was again due to make it's expected appearance.

Cook had initially attempted to put his poem to some accompanying music, before finally opting to convert it into a proper song, with the intention of ginning up some harmless fear in the community. But neither man could have imagined what would transpire following the broadcast of their composition which they titled The Legend.

It'd been a few days since the song first aired and disappointingly for Cook and O'Malley, their creation had so far failed to make any impact on their listeners at all. That was until their phone lines suddenly began to light up, and a relentless barrage of callers began asking about "that weird song", wanting to know when it would be played again. The pair took a call from an elderly man who had allegedly seen something strikingly close to what Cook's poem described in his youth and was disturbed by the similarities.

Within only a month, the legend went on to become the most requested song on air and was also picked up by the national news media. The composition was even updated and re-released in 1997 for a 10-year anniversary special. Despite never having received a formal airplay distribution and with all of the profits that were generated having been donated to various animal welfare efforts, 'The Legend' has been heard by people world over. Towards the end of the poem, the listener asked, "Have the Dogmen gone away? Have they disappeared?" subtly encouraging the audience to come forward in order to relate their own creepy encounters with the fabled beast.

Over time, the good people of Michigan would go on to do exactly that. There have been countless sightings of the Dogman reported since Cook's poem first aired, many of these reports have been made in earnest and many more have been made in jest. But as with all Cryptid sightings, most of these tales are purely anecdotal and however convincingly they may sound, they exhibit little in the way of proof. There have however been handful of encounters which was supported by photographic evidence and are more difficult to dismiss.

One such sighting occurred in 1961, when a night watchman working at a manufacturing plant in Big Rapids, Michigan was about to start his rounds of the premises. As a perk, the guard resided in a house situated directly opposite the company he worked for. This manufacturing plant was located alongside a large area of dense brush-land known to the locals as the Hay Marsh. The encounter was related by his son, many years after it took place, who remembered his father warning him many times not to play outside after dark. He recalled how he'd acted skittish and claimed to have heard coyotes, bears and other strange animals in the brush whilst walking the perimeter fence late at night.

The captured photo of a dogman walking

As the story goes, the watchman was keeping an eye on the plant from his front porch, maintaining his alertness by sipping a cup of coffee and consuming a sweet roll. It was around 3:00 a.m. and the shift had been uneventful, but all that would change in a matter of minutes. There was a sudden movement along the chain-link fence located at the rear of the property and being so early in the morning, the guard suspected that mischief was afoot. He drew his gun and continued to watch the fence line for a few minutes, until he realized that what he was looking at was, in fact, not human at all.

A fur covered creature had emerged from the darkness that was far too tall to be a normal man. It possessed broad and powerful shoulders and alternated between walking on two legs and all fours as it moved silently and fencing. It appeared to have a canine look about it. In disbelief, the watchman, an avid photographer, ran inside and grabbed his Kodak Signet 35-millimeter camera. When he returned to the porch, the creature was still prowling along the factory's driveway, directly underneath a lamp post. He adjusted the camera for a long exposure as it was still dark and then steadied his hands to take the picture.

The photograph that he subsequently took shows a hunched figure standing upright on two legs, which is extremely broad and powerfully built. It appears to be at least seven feet tall and is covered in a thick fur coat from head to toe, seeming to have an elongated canine's snout. Immediately after the photograph was taken, the creature slowly headed back into the Haymarsh, this time moving on all fours. As proof of the encounter, the guard's son provided the photograph's original negative, clearly confident in its authenticity, as celluloid film is extremely difficult to tamper with.

Unfortunately, the picture is understandably blurry, due to poor lighting and instability during the exposure, meaning finer detail is impossible to make out. Nevertheless, the image is intriguing, and the entire event was enough to convince the Watchman to always carry his rifle with him, when patrolling after dark.

A Dogman on the road

In 2007, a prominent politician from Benzie County was involved in a chilling encounter as he made his way home late one night. Given the nature of his job, the story was recounted by his brother-in-law in order to maintain the witnesses anonymity. Whilst driving back from a friend's house along Cinder Road, near the town of Bendon, the man noticed a pair of eyes reflecting the light from his high beams several hundred feet away. He began to slow down expecting it to be a deer.

However, as he drew near, he realized that the creature was far too large, as the eyes appear to be standing around six or seven feet off the ground. He had slowed down to around 30 miles per hour, but the animal had not moved an inch. Now only a few hundred feet away, he started to believe that the creature was an extremely large dark wolf. However, he soon noticed that the animal was not standing on all fours, but was instead reared up on two legs, towering over the carcass of a deer that was lying by the roadside.

When the witness brought his car to a stop, he could see the creature clearly illuminated in his headlights. It had still not moved and he was beginning to suspect that it may be a large stuffed animal put there to scare people, when it suddenly bolted off into the surrounding Woodland. Terrified, but needing to prove to himself as much as anybody else what he had just seen, the man stepped out of his vehicle and inspected the side of the road where the creature had been standing.

By the light of this torch, he noticed a paw-print in the soft mud and took a photo with his digital camera. The print is an extremely large, dog like impression, which is nearly 8 inches across, double the size of an average wolf print and pressed much deeper into the mud, indicating the animal must have possessed a considerable weight. The witness placed a shotgun shell inside the impression for scale, showing just how large it truly was. This lone print is not much evidence in itself, but the politician was understandably willing to go further into the woods after seeing the creature head in the same direction. When asked if the animal he saw might have been a bear, he vehemently disagreed. Being an avid hunter himself, he was well-aware of what bears looked like at close range.

Bray Road is a quiet stretch of country highway situated outside the rural township of Elkhorn in Wisconsin. Whist not part of the dogman's traditional Michigan Heritage, Wisconsin borders the Great Lakes states to the west and is in relatively close proximity. Bray Road would become somewhat notorious during the late 1980s and early 90s, after a rash of sightings of a werewolf like creature by passing motorists. So persistent with these stories, that a local reporter named Linda Godfrey was assigned to investigate the matter. Whist initially skeptical, she would go on to write a book on the subject titled The Beast of Bray Road Tailing Wisconsin's Werewolf.

A young couple's encounter

During one such encounter in late 2016, a young couple was sharing a cigarette on their porch, which was located adjacent to 300 acres of vacant land. It was not unusual for wild animals to cross this open ground near their home. But on this evening, they caught sight of a large shape, moving steadily through the grass, towards them approximately 30 feet away.

This animal was flat to the ground only rising to about a foot and a half of the terrain, but they estimated it was between seven and ten feet long. As soon as the approaching creature realized it had been spotted, it turned and silently headed away from them. When it reached the cover of the nearby tree, it's suddenly reared up to its full height revealing a muscular frame covered in light brown fur, before running off into the darkness on two feet. The panicked couple ran inside to fetch a relative, who used a powerful flashlight to illuminate the brush in search of the creature, but it was nowhere to be seen.

Whereas the Bendon and Bray Road monsters were described by the witnesses as being extremely animalistic, hunched, over dispatched deer carcasses or stalking their prey through the brush, there are many different reports of these creatures behaving far more like humans than dogs. One such encounter which went on to reach great notoriety in the fringe community is that of Katie Zahn and two other girls, who allegedly witnessed multiple Dogmen near the Avan Bottoms nature Reserve, also in Wisconsin.

Spotting multiple dogmen

According to Zahn, she and her two friends were relaxing in a field in the summer of 2004 when they heard the loud snapping of branches in the trees lining a stream nearby. After trying to ignore the sounds for some time, the girls eventually decided to go and investigate. Walking downhill through the tree line towards the creek, Zahn discovered three large dog like creatures by the water's edge, drinking from the stream with hands cupped together as a human would. She described the animals being tall and muscular covered in fur and with canine features.

One of the creatures turned to face Zahn and her friends, sending the trio sprinting back to their car, which they jumped into before speeding off. Unfortunately, no visual evidence exists that might support Zahn's encounter. However, it has been hailed by the community as being one of the more credible encounters, assisted by the fact that Zahn passed a polygraph test relating to the incident. That said, it is worth remembering that polygraphs are not a hundred percent accurate and it is curious how Zahn was the only one tested, as surely her friend's statements would have been valuable too.


Assuming these encounters are true, there are a number of theories which speculate as to what these entities may be. Some commentators believe that they are an ancient or extremely rare species of Canid, for example, a dire wolf. Dire wolves were a species of ancient canine which were roughly 25% larger than the gray wolves which now inhabit the region. They are widely considered to be extinct yet, there have been reports and even videos of extremely large wolves terrorizing domesticated dogs.

That being said, dire wolves are only believed to have grown to lengths of five feet and were quadrupedal, so reports of 6 to 7 foot tall bipeds would seemed a far-cry from their reported stature. They were also believed to resemble large wolves, rather than the hulking half man, half canine humanoid forms which are being witnessed.

Another prominent theory is that the dog man is simply a misidentification of other existing animals. Whilst most people report seeing wolf like creatures as in the bendon Road and haymarsh sightings, several witnesses describe the beast as more bear-like.

Some sightings could potentially be the misidentification of bears which are common in the area. Even the more doglike reports may be accounted for using this explanation, as drastically underweight bears can be somewhat canine in appearance due to their similar skull shapes. Bears are well within the described size range and are also known to rear up on their hind legs when encountered. Misidentification of common creatures may go a long way to solving the question not only of the dogmen, but also of other Cryptids across America and around the world.

The tall, hairy, canine biped was first reported in Michigan, but similar creatures have been reported all over the country, often linked to native tales told many centuries before. But whilst this may be the most likely explanation to many of these reported sightings, photographs such as that of the Haymarsh creatures do not resemble a bear at all, as the rear legs are too long and slender in comparison to his torso. Knowledgeable hunters- such as the witness of the Bendon Road monster are adamant that what they saw was not a member of the Ursidae family.

The native Cheyenne people are reported to have established a group of warriors known as the Dogmen. They would spend years becoming one with their spirit animal, taking on the strength and mannerisms of wild dogs and wolves, and according to legend passed down through their descendants, these men were able to transform into dogs, continuing to roam the woods and swamp lands long after the majority of their people were wiped out. Whist this is somewhat far-fetched and impossible to prove, it is worth noting that none of those who claim to have had encounters with dogmen report being harmed in any way.

According to Cheyenne descendants, this is due to the Native American belief that evil must be brought on to oneself, and so none of the dogmen will attack bystanders unless they are provoked. A far more skeptical explanation may be found in the sudden emergence of multiple dogmen encounters immediately after the release of 'The Legend'. This would seem to suggest that what was being reported was somehow embellished if not fabricated entirely. Steve Cook claims that his infamous creation was formed entirely in his own imagination and that he only became aware of the original dogman legends, which predated his poem by centuries long after its release.

Many hold the opinion that Cook's poem was simply the catalyst for the mass fabrication of the dogman as an entity. In other words, there had always been folklore and campfire tales of dogmen in the region, similar to how most places have some kind of mythical cryptid, which subconsciously inspired Cook and informed his creation. However, his poem unintentionally or otherwise grouped together Michigan's collection of Cryptid tales, converting them into a single immortal identity.

As with all cryptids, definitive evidence and reliable witnesses are exceedingly difficult to come by, but thanks to Cook's poem, the dogman will likely be a scary story for entertaining others around campfires for many generations to come. Whether a case of life imitating art, or pure fabrication in the wake of the media spotlight, tales of dogmen continue to emerge from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and its neighboring states, and large communities are steadfast in their belief that somewhere in the north woods darkness, a creature walks upright. And the best advice they will ever give, is never go out at night.


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