The folklore and campfire tales of the North American wilderness are rich with mysterious beasts and phantom creatures. The lake monsters and wampus cats might well have been mythological, or they may have been unknown species driven to extinction by the fur trade long before scientifically-minded explorers could document their existence. However, along with rumors of unknown yet plausible beasts, the trappers and their Native guides spoke of certain creatures with an aspect so human they baffle conventional zoology. While the majority of discussions of human-like monsters have focused specifically on the legends of the Apemen of Mount Saint Helens and other “Hairy People” until recently little attention has been paid to the reports of the so-called Dog-man.
For centuries, it had been assumed that the werewolf hysteria that gripped France during the early modern era had migrated across the Atlantic to the firesides of the Huguenots and Acadiens whose tales of the Loups Garoux imprinted their way into American folklore. This is almost certain to be the origin of the Rougarou, a Cajun folk-monster reputed to stalk the bayous of Louisiana. However, it is impossible to really know if these people were merely passing on superstitions from the Old Wold, or describing actual encounters with highly atypical wolves.
Linda Godfrey is credited as being the first journalist to seriously investigate reports of the “American Werewolf” a creature she describes in her book “The Beast of Bray Road” (2003). As a reporter for The Week, (a now defunct newspaper in Delavan, Wisconsin), Godfrey noticed a rash of people calling in saying they witnessed a giant werewolf-like beast stalking alongside an isolated country road. Intrigued by the impeccable credibility of these witnesses, Godfrey began to examine the archives of her paper and found similar stories being reported back as far as the 1930’s. This research became the source for her first book on the subject and helped to raise awareness of what many Americans have taken to calling the Dogmen.
Linda Godfrey was taking a risk with her career by choosing to write about this phenomenon. However, the accounts in her book touched a nerve with readers across the U.S. and Canada who believe they have witnessed the same thing. Now Godfrey is considered an A-list speaker on the subject of Werewolves in America because of her journalistic integrity and dedication to only reporting verifiable facts.
Most witnesses describe a beast the size of a Siberian Tiger, with the head of a Wolf, and the speed of a greyhound. Many witnesses report seeing these beasts walking and running on two legs.
The only known animal that comes anywhere close to the creatures described is a species of giant North American wolf believed to have gone extinct at the end of the last ice age. This has given rise to a hypothesis that, about 10,000 years ago, the strictly quadrupedal Dire Wolves gave way to a more stealthy bipedal Canid still unknown to Science. Others even wonder if the modern reconstructions of Dire Wolf fossils are being assembled on four legs only because that is the preconceived notion of how Canids must ambulate. The theory that Dire Wolves may have evolved bi-pedalism is considered far fetched by many, however, it does provide a plausible explanation for the many sightings of werewolf like creatures stalking the same regions where the Dire Wolves were once known to prowl.
Generally speaking, Dire Wolf based hypothesis do at least relate to an animal that exists in the fossil record. In geological terms, the date of extinction for the Dire Wolf puts the species well within a range to have possibly survived in pockets by adapting to environments where their remains would be unlikely to fossilize. However, a living breathing Dire Wolf does not fully explain all of the strange phenomena that accompany sightings of these amazing monsters.
Over the past decade or so, podcasters like Vic Cundiff of “Dogman Encounters Radio” have interviewed hundreds of eye witnesses who tell compelling stories of their experiences with this phenomenon. Even if only ten percent of those stories are true, the raw numbers suggest something academic science insists cannot be so. While no one is able to agree on what these creatures really are, the growing number of eye witnesses who report seeing these werewolf-like creatures give cause to question whether it is wise to dismiss them as mere tall tales.
What a good read! Coincidentally, I read a mystery that featured rougurous last fall.
Remind me to never go camping if I visit North America. While there isn’t substantial evidence to say that these Dire Wolves exist; there isn’t any way of proving that they do not. With so many remote and secluded areas of land, it pays to remain open-minded.
Worry not, surprisingly few reports come from campers. Farmers and hunters seem to witness them the most; but, they are also more likely to notice wolves in general. My own theory is that this a case of grey wolves and coyotes crossbreeding with feral domestic dogs resulting in gigantism. So, not really relic Dire wolves but convergent evolution into the same niche. I come across as many eyewitnesses in suburbia as I do the wilderness, which is part of what makes this such a fascinating phenomenon. Thank you for commenting.
I was joking – I don’t go camping. It would make sense that farmers and hunters would notice more in general because of their close connection with the land. I agree and wouldn’t rule out animals cross-breeding; we cannot possibly know everything that exists in small and remote pockets of land.
You are very right about that last bit. And there are large parts of this country where folk just won’t talk about such things to outsiders.
I respect that. Keeping things sacred from outsiders can preserve and protect them from interference, or worse still, someone trying to make money off it by exploiting that area.
“Keeping things sacred” is a lovely way to frame it, reflecting the general mindset among indigenous communities regarding their lands. However, it is often just as much the case that folk don’t want to be ridiculed or accused of lying.
They were my thoughts exactly when I wrote my comment. I was thinking of the indigenous communities that want to protect their lands and the stories that form part of their history.
While it can be very hard to earn their trust, members of those communities are some of the best sources of information I’ve come across over the years.