Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Michigan Dogman

Forget Bigfoot. Michigan has its own bipedal beast that stalks the woods. That creature is the Dogman.

Stories about a canine-type beast that walks on two legs have been passed around Michigan for centuries. The Odawa told tales of a creature called the wendigo, which tempted tribesmen to kill and eat their families. French settlers spoke of the loup garou, a human who could change into a wolf. ("Loup" means "wolf" in French, while "garou" means something similar to "werewolf.")

The Michigan Dogman has been described as seven feet tall (when he stands on two legs) and 400 to 700 pounds. He has brownish/grayish fur, and differs from a werewolf in that he's not a human who changes into a wolf, but rather a creature that remains half dog/half human all the time. The first known modern sighting of a Dogman occurred in Wexford County in 1887. Two lumberjacks claimed they saw a creature that had the body of a man and the head of a dog. They chased it, but the creature "screamed," frightening the lumberjacks so badly that they hightailed it out of there. Other encounters with the Dogman (or with Dogmen) have occurred sporadically since then, with run-ins reported in such communities as Paris, Manistee, Cross Village, Luther, Onaway, Chelsea, and the UP's Garden Peninsula. 

The Michigan Dogman remained a semi-obscure state legend until 1987, when Steve Cook, a disc jockey at WTCM in Traverse City, played a song called "The Legend," which was about the various encounters Michiganders have had with the Dogman. Cook, who recorded the song, intended it as an April Fools' joke, but ended up receiving several calls from listeners who claimed to have seen the creature themselves. Here's the song, which became one of WTCM's most-requested tunes:

The Dogman received more media attention in 2007 with the discovery of "The Gable Film," which purported to show a Dogman attack on camera. The video, which appeared online, has a grainy quality that makes it look like a film from the 1970s. It shows images of a family doing mundane things like driving snowmobiles and chopping wood. Everything is all fun and games until the last scene, which contains blurry footage (and, really, isn't the footage in all these types of videos blurry?) of a creature staring at the cameraman from a few hundred feet away. The creature charges on four legs at the cameraman. One of the last images is of the Dogman's teeth hovering over the lens...then the camera drops to the ground, and all is still. Watch the video and then, below the clip, I'll let you know what I thought the first time I saw it. (Caution: If you're not a fan of wiggly camerawork, you might not want to watch this.)


Yeah, that's a guy in a dog suit.

As it turns out, that's exactly what the creature really was. (Actually, it was a guy in a ghillie suit, which is a type of camouflage that's supposed to look like plants, but close enough.)

In 2010, the History Channel show "Monster Quest" (don't get me started on how far away from "history" the History Channel has fallen) devoted an episode to the Michigan Dogman, and looked into the authenticity of "The Gable Film." Ultimately, the show revealed that the video was a hoax created in 2002 by Mike Agrusa, who was a fan of Cook's song. Agrusa made another video, "The Gable Film Part 2," that claimed to show the police investigation that occurred after the attack in Film 1---and that included footage of the cameraman's body. (Agrusa substituted painted foam insulation for the unfortunate victim's blood and guts.)  I was going to post that video here, but the image YouTube was going to show as a placeholder is of the body in question, so in the interest of not making anyone squeamish, I've chosen not to include it. If you want to see the film, just go to YouTube and search for "Gable Film Part 2."

Here's a clip from the "Monster Quest" episode that debunked Gable Films 1 and 2:

"The Legend"---the song that some might say started it all---recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and the website offers CD and DVD copies of the tune, as well as other Dogman-related products. Profits from these sales go to several animal rescue groups throughout the state. Whether or not the Michigan Dogman is fact or fiction, his existence helps other Michigan dogs (and cats) find safe, happy homes, which I think is a cool thing (and I bet the Dogman does, too).

For more information:

If you're interested in the Dogman stories and legends, check out Linda S. Godfrey's book, "The Michigan Dogman: Werewolves and Other Unknown Canines Across the U.S.A."

In 2012, the story of the Dogman came to the silver screen in the form of "Dogman," a movie starring Michigan native Larry Joe Campbell (best known for the TV show "According to Jim"). Reviews have not been kind, but you can see the trailer below. The movie must have done well enough, because a sequel, "Dogman 2: The Wrath of the Litter," is scheduled for release in 2014.

Wisconsin has its own version of the Dogman, called the "Beast of Bray Road." Check out more information about it on Wikipedia.

No comments:

Post a Comment