|Posted on June 4, 2012 at 10:00 PM|
THE BRAY ROAD BEAST
By Troy Taylor
Edited and Illustrated
By R. Merrill
Does A Werewolf Stalk the Back Roads of Southeastern Wisconsin?
The state of Wisconsin is (oddly) no stranger to werewolf sightings and encounters. Although it seems impossible that a mythical creature like a werewolf could stalk the nation's Heartland, a number of bizarre encounters in the late 1980's and early 1990's leaves us pondering this very idea. There had already been encounters with what some believed were werewolves in Wisconsin in 1936, 1964 and 1972 respectively, but there had been nothing like the reports that came out of the area near Delavan, starting in 1989.
The first werewolf sighting to go public occurred (perhaps fittingly) on October 31, 1999. A young woman named Doristine Gipson, from nearby Elkhorn, was driving along Bray Road near Delavan. As she neared the intersection of Hospital Road, she leaned over to change the station on her radio when she felt her right front tire jump off the ground as if she had hit something. Concerned, she stopped the car and got out to see what it was. Finding nothing on the roadway behind her car, she began to look around. As she peered into the darkness, she suddenly saw a dark, hairy form racing toward her. She did not see what the figure looked like from the distance at which she was standing (about 50 feet) but she did see the figure was quite bulky and she would later compare the form to someone who works out continually with weights. Startled by the oncoming form, and by the sounds of its "heavy feet", she quickly retreated to her car. She jumped in and was attempting to drive away when the beast jumped onto her trunk. Luckily, it was too wet for the creature to hang on and it fell off onto the pavement. Doristine returned to the site later on that evening with a young girl that she was taking out trick-or-treating and saw a large form on the side of the road. When she saw the creature moving, she ordered the child to lock her door and drove quickly away from the scene.
She had no idea what she had seen but wondered if perhaps it might be a bear, angry because she had struck it with her car. Regardless, she told a neighbor about the encounter the next day and showed her the scratched car. As word spread, more local people began to step forward with their own encounters with the beast, dating back to 1989.
One night in the fall of that year, 24 year old bar manager Lorianne Endrizzi was rounding a curve on Bray Road (just a half mile from the site of the later incident) and saw what she thought was a person kneeling and hunched over on the side of the road. When she slowed down, she took a closer look at the figure on the passenger side of the car. She was no more than six feet away from it at the time. The sighting lasted for about 45 seconds and she stated that she clearly saw a beast with grayish, brown hair, fangs and pointed ears. "His face was … long and snouty, like a wolf".
She also noted that even though the car's headlights were pointed ahead down the roadway, the creature's eyes glowed with a yellowish color, just like an animal's will do when reflected car lights. Like Doris Gipson, she also saw how wide and powerful the creature's chest and build were. She went on to add that the arms of the beast were rather strange. They were jointed as a man's would be and it seemed to be holding food with its palms upward, completely like any animal that she had ever heard of. The arms were muscular ("like a man who had worked out a little bit") and the creature seemed to have human-like fingers with claws on the ends. She did not notice any sort of tail but did say that its back legs were behind it, like a person would be if kneeling.
Endrizzi was completely unnerved by the sighting. She later stated in an interview that the creature "appeared to be so human-like that it was scary." He own answer to what she had seen was that it had been a "freak of nature". She had no idea what it could have been until she saw a book at the library that had an illustration of a werewolf in it. It so closely resembled what she had seen on Bray Road that her "eyes popped out" of her head.
After hearing Doris Gipson's account by way of rumor, Endrizzi contacted the Lakeland Animal Shelter and her mother contacted a local newspaper writer named Linda Godfrey, hoping that publicity might encourage other people who had encountered the creature to come forward. The story that followed was published on December 29, 1991 and while it contained basic information about the Gipson and Endrizzi sightings (using pseudonyms for the two women), it also included some scanty information on other sightings. It also mentioned that chickens had been stolen and than another family who lived near Bray Road had experienced their own close encounter with the beast. Karen Bowey, who actually lived along Bowers Road, stated that her daughter Heather (age 11) had seen the creature back in 1989. They had been playing outside and though they had spotted a large dog—until it stood up. She mentioned the odd shape of its back legs and the speed at which it could move. The county humane officer, John Frederickson, told the reporter that he believed the creature was a "coyote" but he did concede that there were a lot of people who believed that they had seen something out of the ordinary. He admitted that he was not sure what to make of it.
Predictably, large media outlets picked up the story and the witnesses began to suffer from practical jokes and laughter. Werewolf signs were planted in front yards and werewolf parties became common, even at the bar where Endrizzi worked. Monster t-shirts were sold and tourists cruised up and down Bray Road, hoping for a glimpse of the creature. As time went by though, the excitement decreased and the temper of the community began to wear thin. Despite all of the jokes and humor, there was still an undercurrent of fear in Delavan and Elkhorn.
An earlier sighting of "something" was made by a dairy farmer from Elkhorn named Scott Bray, who reported seeing a "strange looking dog" in his pasture near Bray Road in September or October of 1989. He said that the beast was larger and taller than a German Shepherd and had pointed ears, a hair tail and long gray and black hair. He added that it was built very heavy in the front, as if it had a strong chest. He followed the "dog" to a large pile of rocks but the creature had vanished. He did find that it had left behind huge footprints though, which disappeared into the grass of the pasture.
Russell Gest of Elkhorn also reported seeing the creature about the same time as the Scott Bray sighting. He was about a block or so away from an overgrown area and when he heard weeds being rustled, he looked up to see a creature emerge from the thicket. It was standing on its hind feet and then took two "wobbly" steps forward before Gest began to run away. He looked back to see that the creature was now on all fours, but it never gave chase. After a short distance, it wandered off in the direction of Bray Road. Gest said that the creature was much larger than a German Shepherd and was covered with black and grayish hair. While standing upright, it appeared to be about five feet tall. It had an oversized dog or wolf-like head with a big neck and wide shoulders. The animals form was mostly dog-like, leading Gest to surmise that it was some sort of dog-wolf hybrid.
Around Christmas 1990, Heather Bowey had her previously mentioned encounter. She had no idea that she had seen the same thing as Doris Gipson until she heard the young woman talking about on the school bus. The driver, Pat Lester, (who happened to be Lori Endrizzi's mother—coincidence?), listened to the girl's story and passed it on to Linda Godfrey. The reporter then contacted Karen Bowey, also a school bus driver, and then mentioned the sighting in the newspaper. Heather elaborated on the encounter to Scarlett Sankey.
The sighting occurred around 4:30 pm as Heather and several friends were returning home from sledding near Loveland Road (about a mile and a half southeast of the intersection of Bray and Hospital Roads). They happened to look up and see what appeared to be a large dog walking along a creek in snow-covered cornfield. Heather estimated that it was about a block away from them. Thinking that it was a dog, they children began calling to it. The creature looked at them and then it stood up on its hind legs. She described it as being covered with long "silverfish-like- brownish" hair. The beast took four awkward steps in their direction and then dropped down on all fours and began to run at the children in what Heather later described as being "a bigger leap than dogs run." It followed the group about halfway to the Bowey home (about 250 yards away) before it ran off in another direction.
In March 1990, an Elkhorn dairy farmer named Mike Etten spotted something unusual along Bray Road one early morning around 2:00 am. In the moonlight, Etten (who admitted that he had been drinking at the time) saw a dark-haired creature that was bigger than a dog, just a short distance from the Hospital Road intersection. Whatever the creature was, it was sitting "like a raccoon sits", using its front paws to hold onto something that it was eating. As he passed by the creature, it lifted its head and looked at him. He described the head as being thick and wide, with snout that was not as long as a dog's. The body was covered with dark, thick hair and its legs were big and thick. Not being able to identify the animal, Etten assumed that it was a bear. However, when the other sightings of the Bray Road Beast were made public in 1991, he had to reconsider this assumption.
One of the last reported encounters with the creature occurred in early February 1992. It happened around 10:30 pm on Highway H, about six miles southwest of the Bray and Hospital Roads intersection. A young woman named Tammy Bray, who worked for a retirement home, was driving along when a large, dog-like animal crossed the road in front of her. She quickly punched the brakes and slide to a stop, just about the same time that the creature turned and looked at her. She described the creature as have a board chest and pointed ears and being covered with matted brown and black fur. The narrow nose, thick neck and shining yellow eyes of the beast quickly convinced her that she was not looking at any sort of dog. Finally, it continued on, unafraid, across the road and she noted that it walked "strong in front, more slouchy, sloppy-like in the rear." Tammy drove home and hurried into the house to tell her husband, Scott Bray, that she had seen the same animal that he had earlier seen in their pasture.
The sightings eventually died out but the strangeness that seemed to envelope the region took a little longer to fade. In January 1992, just as furor over the Bray Road Beast sightings was starting to quiet down, a local "reputable businessman" told reporter Linda Godfrey that he had seen two bright lights emitting sparks and moving erratically across the sky above Delavan. Later that spring, four or five horses that were pastured near Elkhorn were found with their throats slashed. John Frederickson, who investigated, was quoted as saying that "They were almost surgical-type wounds". And then after than, things became eerily quiet.
So, what was the Bray Road Beast? Neither a coyote or the native red wolf can really match the descriptions that were given of the creature, despite humane officer John Frederickson's comments that a coyote might rear up on its hind legs before running, explaining several witnesses claims that it walked on two legs. A gray wolf would be much larger than a red wolf but are not generally found in the area. In addition, gray wolves are much narrower in the chest than the Bray Road creature was reported to be and wolves are shy of humans and despite the matching yellow eyes, would not attack a car as the creature from the Doris Gipson encounter did. The creature simply resembled no known animals, but alternately was compared to dogs, bears and wolves. According to Jerome Clark, Dan Groebner of the International Wolf Research Center in Ely, Minnesota stated that the creature could not be a wild wolf.
Witnesses also insisted that it was not a dog, although some suggested that it could have been a wolf-dog hybrid of some sort, But how does this explain the creature's habit of kneeling, walking on two legs and holding onto food with the flat of its paws turned upward? Also, Lori Endrizzi claimed that the animal had human-like fingers! The idea that the monster may have been a bear is also called into question. While bears do occasionally walk for short distances on two legs, they do not hold food with their palms up, do not jump onto moving cars and very rarely do they pursue or try to attack humans.
So, what could it have been? To find possible answers to that, we have to look outside of the normal confines of zoology. Researcher Richard Hendricks points to a creature that was suggested by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark called the "shunka warak'in". The creature was said to have lived in the wilds of the Upper Midwest and was a wolf-like animal that was known to the Native American population and to the early settlers in the region. The creature was named by the Ioway Indians and its name meant "carrying-off dogs". Little is known for sure about the creature but apparently it was quite fierce and for awhile, a mounted specimen of one was exhibited at various times in the west Yellowstone area and in a small museum near Henry Lake in Idaho. Interestingly, the dog-hyena type creature fits many of the descriptions of witnesses in southeastern Wisconsin, including its strange look (which would have made many compare it to a wolf or a dog mix), its dark shaggy fur and a sloping weakness to its back legs, which was noted in almost every report.
But even if we accept the possibility that this creature could have been one of the rare, and possibly extinct "shunka warak'in", then how do we still explain the fact that it picked up its food with its paws (hands?) and walked about on two legs. If the Bray Road Beast was real - it had to have been some sort of creature that has never been classified before.
Or more incredible to believe, a genuine werewolf! Investigator Todd Roll was quick to point out the hints that there may have been an occult connection to the Bray Road Beast. The discovery of the mutilated animal carcasses and the occult activity at the cemetery and the abandoned house coincided with the sightings of the monster in the region. Do we dare consider the idea that the beast was a shape shifter of some sort, blending between man and wolf?
There is also one more theory that we have to consider—that the entire thing could have been an elaborate hoax. Notwithstanding the fact that Doris Gipson's encounter took place on Halloween, there were other problems as well. The most obvious issue to cause suspicion was the relationships between all of those involved in the case. Endrizzi's mother, Pat Lester, is a central figure in the case. In addition to being one witness' mother, she was also Gipson's neighbor and drove the school bus that Gipson, Heather Bowey and Russell Gest rode. Heather's mother was also a school bus driver. Tammy Bray was also a friend of Pat Lester's daughter and the wife of Scott Bray. It was also Lester who took the initiative to contact the newspaper about the sightings. However, it should be strongly pointed out that Lester never tried to influence the reports of the witnesses. It seems more likely that she was simply in a position to hear about the encounters and her interest and compassion towards those involved helped to encourage them to go public.
So, could they have been making the whole thing up? Sure, they could have been, but it doesn't seem likely, especially based on the fact that no one had anything to gain by making the sightings public—other than ridicule and embarrassment, which is hardly an incentive to make your story known.
As time has passed, the investigation into the case has grown cold and with no further sightings of the Bray Road Beast to continue the news story, the papers have fallen silent. One has to wonder if we will ever know the truth of what happened in southeastern Wisconsin between 1989 and 1992 for the mystery, at this point, remains unsolved.
See the Original Newspaper Articles about the Bray Road Beast, as well as other oddities from the state of Wisconsin at Rick Hendricks' Weird Wisconsin Also, in 2003 reporter Linda Godfrey finally published an excellent book on the case of the Bray Road Beast. Don't Miss it!
Cryptozoologist's Note: Could the Beast of Bray Road and the Beast of 7 Chutes be the same species of creature?
Sources & Recommended Reading:
Godfrey, Linda - The Beast of Bray Road (2003)
This book was not yet available when I put together the article above but it is definitely the definitive text on the case and highly recommended.
Sankey, Scarlet - "Bray Road Beast" (Strange Magazine - 10) (1992)
Weird Wisconsin created by Richard Hendricks
Clark, Jerome - Unexplained! (1999)
Coleman, Loren & Jerome Clark - Cryptozoology A to Z (1999)
Pohlen, Jerome - Oddball Wisconsin (2002)
Personal Interviews Writings & Correspondence
©Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.