7 Strange Stories of Wisconsin Monsters – Plus One from Upper Michigan

Wisconsin Monsters

What lurks deep in the dark woods of Wisconsin? What kind of creatures are swimming in the state’s many lakes? Who are the lost souls that have been haunting residents decade after decade?

Here at WhooNEW, we did a little research to find out about the legendary monsters who’ve made Wisconsin home. Our state certainly has its fair share of run-ins with Sasquatch and UFO sightings. However, there are also some unique stories of unexplained beasts and more.

Many of the following stories come out of a book called Wisconsin Lore by Robert E. Gard and L.G. Sorden. About 50 years ago, they sat down and listened tales told by the people of Wisconsin. These unusual anecdotes may have been lost if it weren’t for the authors. The book includes the adventures of lumberjacks, legends from Wisconsin’s Indian tribes and even incredible stories about the circus.

Of course, for every tale of heroism and inspiration there are extraordinary accounts of horror and the bizarre. How true are they? We leave that decision up to you…

1. The Hodag of Rhinelander

Hodag

Hodags in the snow

The Hodag is without a doubt the most well-known Wisconsin monster.

This story is often discredited due to the fact that the strange animal was discovered, and eventually captured, by Eugene Shepard – a man with a reputation for being a jokester.

Shepard was walking in the woods just after sunset in the early 1890s when a foul smell and noises in the brush caught his attention. He came face to face with a monstrosity that stared back at him with glowing eyes. The odor seemed to be the beast’s breath.

Here is what he apparently saw according to the authors of Wisconsin Lore…

“The animal’s back resembled that of a dinosaur, and his tail, which extended to an enormous length, had a spear-like end….The legs were short and massive and the claws were thick and curved denoting great strength…From the broad muscular mouth, sharp, glistening white teeth protruded.”

Hodag Capture

1896 Capture of a Hodag

Shepard would go on to gather together a group of locals who formed a search party that allegedly killed a Hodag. And Hodags don’t die easily. The group claimed they had to use dynamite to take it out.

This photo of the brave men surrounding the Hodag’s charred remains was published in a local newspaper.

A couple of years later, Shepard captured a live Hodag. He then took it on tour with him to various county fairs. Visitors would run screaming from the tent after seeing the animal suddenly move inside its cage.

Word of the beast began spreading across the country, and the Smithsonian Institute announced it planned to investigate. This is when Shepard finally admitted it was all an elaborate prank.

Hoax or not, the Hodag has become a permanent symbol of Rhinelander. You’ll find a larger-than-life fiberglass sculpture of the beast in the city, which also hosts a yearly country music fest known as the Hodag Festival.

Even Scooby-Doo and those meddling kids have had run-ins withe a Hodag as well as Eugene Shepard himself. Check out the video clip.

2. The Lake Winnebago Water Monster

Wisconsin Sturgeon

Lake Sturgeon from Wisconsin

Next time you’re camping at High Cliff State park or hanging on to an inner-tube behind a boat on Lake Winnebago, think about this story.

When the Winnebago Tribe had its villages on the shores of the lake, they would tell stories of a very large fish – which most people assume was a sturgeon. In Wisconsin, we’ve seen some pretty big sturgeon, like the one shown here.

But this one was monstrous, and it had an appetite to match.

The legend tells of how the freakish fish would wait along the channel into the Fox River snatching up deer, elk and even moose who stopped at the edge of the water to drink. It would eat them “horns, hide, hoofs and all.” None of the Winnebago would cross the channel or swim near it for fear of this monster in the lake.

Years went by, and then one day, some men spotted a dark form floating in the water. It was the monster.

They hauled it to shore and found the cause of death to be antlers that had pierced the fish’s belly. It seems the monster’s prey had its revenge in the end.

Many believe descendants of the Lake Winnebago Water Monster still live in the lake.

3. The Beast of Bray Road

Beast of Bray RoadWho’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

A lot of people around Elkhorn, Wisconsin – that’s who. Yes, Wisconsin has it’s very own werewolf legend, and it’s one of the most well-documented in North America.

The Beast of Bray Road was first reported in 1949. It is typically described as a large wolf or doglike creature with human features. For instance, this beast often stands up on its hind legs and has been spotted eating with its front paws turned upward like human palms.

It’s unclear whether this is a standard werewolf or some other monster breed of dog. No one has ever seen it transforming. There are theories calling it a prehistoric wolf known as a Waheela.

The foremost authority on The Beast of Bray Road is journalist Linda Godfrey. She was assigned to report on the wolfman for the newspaper Walworth County Week. At first she was skeptical, but there were so many similar accounts from different people, that she found it hard not to believe them.

Godfrey would go on to make a career out of tracking and documenting the Beast of Bray Road. She was interviewed in this segment on the monster, which aired on The Sean Hannity Show. And if it was on Hannity – it’s gotta be true!

4. The Haunchies of Muskego

dwarf-circus-performer

Probably not a real Haunchy

Imagine being brutally beaten by a bunch of angry little people before being hung from a tree and set on fire.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But according to Linda Godfrey’s book Monsters of Wisconsin, that’s what happened to at least one man who dared to venture down Mystic Road in Muskego. The image of his body was burned on the side of a barn.

As the story goes, Mystic Road was home to an ornery colony of people with dwarfism who may have been former circus performers.

They were known as Haunchies. Some called them goblins.

They lived in miniature buildings, and could never be caught by authorities because they also constructed elaborate underground tunnels beneath “Haunchyville” to help them get away.

Those who remember say an averaged size man in a black truck would fire a warning shot with a shotgun if you were getting too close. If you went further, the so-called Haunchies would attack you with little baseball bats.

Some say the Haunchies would cut you off at the knees so you were the same size as them.

5. The Devil’s Lake Monster

Plesiosaurus

Was it a Plesiosaurus?

With a name like Devil’s Lake – there has to be something creepy in the water, right?

The Ho-Chunk Tribe actually called the body of water “Da-wa-kah-char-gra” or Spirit Lake because they said voices of the dead could be heard during celebrations.

According to the site Unknown Explorers, it was actually the Nakota Tribe that told missionaries about a year with a massive drought when Devil’s Lake started drying up.

One day, members of the Nakota noticed a strange-looking fish stranded on a sandbar. It was humongous and had a long neck with a small head. The creature struggled in the mud for a few days before eventually wiggling its way back into the water.

The Nakota’s description have caused some to wonder if the creature could have been a plesiosaur (pictured above) – a prehistoric marine lizard – of which fossils have been found in North America. This theory is strengthened by the fact that Devil’s Lake was formed by a melting glacier after the last Ice Age. Is it possible that a frozen plesiosaur survived and came back to life after thawing in the lake?

Another Native American legend tells of a chief who took warriors out on a midnight hunting expedition on Devil’s Lake only to be attacked by something like a freshwater octopus. None of the men survived. Each year after that, the tribe (believed to be Sioux) would throw animals into the lake to appease the beast.

6. Bozho – The Sea Serpent in Lake Mendota

Pliosaur

Was this in Lake Mendota?

Yet another strange story from a Wisconsin lake centers around a monster known as Bozho. This creature, however, seems to have a sense of humor.

One of the most frequently told stories centers around a boyfriend and girlfriend. The two UW students were sunbathing on Lake Mendota with their feet dangling in the water.

The girl repeatedly felt something tickling the soles of her feet and assumed it was her boyfriend. But then she noticed he was asleep.

She peered into the water and saw the head of a huge snake looking back at her with what almost looked like a mischievous grin on its face. The young lady quickly woke up her date and the two took off running.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, numerous students reported seeing the creature during the 1940s. It was given the nickname Bozho after an Ojibwe folk hero – Winnebozho.

Apparently, Bozho liked to play tricks – overturning canoes and startling swimmers – but never harming any human.

Like the Devil’s Lake Monster, some have thought Bozho might be another type of plesiosaur known as a pliosaur. Notice the tell-tale grin in the illustration above.

7. The Ridgeway Ghost

The Ghost of RidgewayAlso known as the Phantom of Ridgeway, this apparition has a reputation for being a shape-shifter that likes to chase its victims.

The Ridgeway Ghost appeared as many different things to many different people over the course of many years – including pigs, dogs, balls of fire and a man with a whip.

However, nearly every story takes place along one apparently very haunted stretch of road in the town of Dodgeville in Iowa County.

Quite a few of those stories are known pranks – such as a man covering himself in flour and frightening neighbors, or another man who scared off a friend by putting a white rooster on his head. Coincidentally, there were also many taverns in Dodgeville back in the day.

As the authors of Wisconsin Lore put it…

“He has been seen by many persons, some of whom were sober.”

It is believed this phantom was the manifestation of the spirits of two teenage brothers who were murdered by other unruly youngsters. One was thrown in a fire, and the other boy froze to death while trying to leave town and escape his tormenters.

One of the most interesting stories about the Ridgeway Ghost in Wisconsin Lore is about a spooky poker game. Three men sat down at a table in a local bar to play cards. There was a fourth, empty chair as well. After several hands, a lot of money was on the table.

Suddenly a ghost hand began dealing from the empty chair and a man appeared sitting in it.

“The stranger began to play and the cards performed all sorts of peculiar tricks as he cast them down. When a player tried to pick up a card it would instantly leave his grasp and fly around the room.”

It didn’t take long before the three men had enough. They scrambled out of the place, leaving their cash on the table and the bartender cowering behind the bar drinking up his stock in fear. The money was never seen again.

Bonus – The Paulding Light, Watersmeet, Michigan

Paulding LightWe’ve included this Upper Michigan story because it’s one you can actually go and check out for yourself.

The Paulding Light (sometimes referred to as the Dog Meadow Light) can be seen across a valley facing north towards Paulding, Michigan. But you actually view it from a location in the town of Watersmeet. The light is believed to be a sort of will-o’-the-wisp, which is an atmospheric ghost that looks like a flickering lamp.

Many say the Paulding Light is the lantern of a railroad brakeman who was killed trying to stop an oncoming train from colliding with railway cars. Skeptics say it is only the headlights of cars from a nearby highway. Some students from Michigan Tech claim they’re sure its headlights, and say they replicated the light themselves. (Read the story)

However, some have told of the light getting very close the them, dancing along the power lines that cross the valley.

An extensive 2010 investigation that was part of the SyFy network show Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files could not reproduce or explain the phenomenon.

I checked out the Paulding Light for myself back in 2004. A group of friends and I were actually trying to produce a documentary about it and other Upper Michigan oddities – like the Ontonagon Triangle.

Check out a clip from our incomplete documentary below. I had to go to my Myspace account to find it.

Let’s Hear Your Stories!

Have anything to add to these tales of Wisconsin monsters?

Ever had any close encounters of your own?

Do you know of any other scary stories from Wisconsin? Leave us a comment and tell us all about it!

 

Comments

  1. tammy mattke says:

    Irvine Ghost Pub in Chippewa falls, widely

  2. Geoff Bogenschutz says:

    I think the scariest thing about this whole article is the fact you still have a MySpace account! Happy Halloween!

    • Ha ha! That’s hilarious Geoff. Like I said – it was such an old project that Myspace is the only place that video even exists anymore. However, you’re right, it was somewhat scary to revisit Myspace and find my profile again after all these years. And a few years is a long, long time in the world of social media.

  3. Kent Perrodin says:

    Growing up on Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Cleveland, I was aware of a creature – either a large cat or dog/wolf called the Steinthal Monster that haunted Steinthal Road in western Manitowoc County. I also heard stories of horrible paranormal activities that allegedly took place in the seminary school in St. Nazienz before it closed – the buildings and area around the school were supposed to not only be haunted, but actively evil. Lastly, an abandoned farm in the Fischer Creek area south of where I grew up was also allegedly haunted – by the time I was driving all that remained of the farm was a chimney and silo, but my mom told us when they were in high school around the time Ed Gein was active in Plainfield, she, my dad and another couple, came down from Manitowoc one night to “park.” The farmhouse was dilapidated but standing, so the guys decided to go in to see what they could see. According to mom the guys went in first and the girls never had a chance to even enter the farmhouse – the guys turned right around and charged back out. Later, after they were well on their way back to town the guys told the girls that as they entered the kitchen everything was in desperate shape, except a newly set kitchen table complete with a very shiny and sharp-looking set of butcher knives. That, apparently, was all they needed to see!

    • That’s some freaky stuff! Thanks for sharing the story, Kent!
      I’d be interested in hearing more about the Steinthal Monster – all I found online was someone joking around about snapping turtles.

    • Kent, I live in between cleveland and Manitowoc also. I moved here about 5 yrs ago. My fiance has lived here his entire life along with his family on the same land for the past 160 + yrs. Im definitely going to be asking him about theses stories. Ill get back to you if he knows anything or others in his family. May have to check some of these out. :)

    • What more do you know about the steinthal monster?

  4. Ryan Blodgett says:

    But what about mothman

    • I didn’t run into that story when I was researching WI monsters. But you are right, Ryan. Apparently that’s another investigation Linda Godfrey was involved in, and some think it was connected to college kids drowning in LaCrosse

  5. The Bluehills Sasquatch???

  6. Anyone else ever heard of the Ghost Dogs of Oulu? My wife and I were going over the list and she mentioned it– she grew up near there and has heard many stories.

  7. Cranberry road,( grandmere) Bridgman, MI. I myself have seen a huge Big foot type monster.Brown reddish hair and about 9 foot tall. Accompanied by strange white lights or orbs. This creature screamed in a almost human type voice. Several people seen this animal? with me at the same sighting. 3 days later another man which was a big hunter all he’s life ran into the creature. He was so
    Distress he had to spend some time in mental hospital. He only told me he’s sighting when i told him mine first or should i say are encounter. He told me he was hunting and creature came up to him said he never heard it coming said it was 10 feet tall reddish brown hair over body and let out human like scream. Said he was so scared he couldnt pull up hes shot gun to shoot. He sold all hes guns shortly after. He never got over it. He never hunt in those woods again.

  8. Laughing Mule says:

    Good story Justin!

    What year and county was it?

    It would have been helpful to identify the county and year where your encounter occurred.

    (Who, Where, What, Where, Why and How)

    People …. stories are like fingerprints everyone has one and what separates your story from trash is the substance despite excluding the year.

    Besides the report itself, time and location are important to the report. Anything provided after that is helpful.

    Example:

    Year,
    County,
    Month,
    Hour of Day,
    Tributaries nearby,
    Forests or Wooded lands?
    Nearest Road Crossing,

    Your reaction is very common to all of the Michigan reports I’ve read. One of the things that is painfully obvious in research of this topic is the enormous amount of people who experience real-life trauma following their sighting. Reports are mostly anecdotal in many cases but for many reasons people refuse to make these publicly known.

    After reading over 1,138 reports here in Michigan all the way back from 1700’s through present there are few things that stand out.

    We (me, you, viewers) are seeing people in greater numbers reporting them. Does that mean there great numbers of bipedal things out running around scarring people? Say like, breeding populations? Does it mean there are more people and therefore the encounters are only commensurate with the growing Michigan population? Who knows …. But the reports like yours help placing just another piece in the puzzle and those that will follow yours.

    Sightings occur in greatest numbers by hunters or sportsmen and motorists closely followed by property owners.

    Home Pounding or House Pounding as some refer to it is described as loud bangs or pounding on the side of the house or trailer mostly during early hours morning hours. Almost as though these things know when the occupants are asleep …. Window Peeking are another example of growing reports in Michigan. All of these little nuggets of information would never be known but without reports like yours and others like yours. Hope this helps.

  9. The haunting of 7 bridges rd. In bottonville wi (possible be referred to random lake wi).

  10. The Karsten Inn in Kewaunee (name has since been changed to the Kewanee Inn or something like that) is VERY haunted. I stayed many nights in that hotel “ghost hunting” and turning non-believers to believers.
    3 known ghosts are said to roam the halls- and I truely believe it.
    I didnt believe until we began to get weird pictures, door handle jiggling in plain sight, old time fire alarms would go off, you would hear flutes being played clear as day, I found myself walking through a cloud of cigar smoke on the top floor at 2AM when it was only myself and a few friends staying in the hotel. We would hear foot steps, doors opening and closing, alarm clocks going off, TVs coming on in empty rooms, sliding dining room doors being shook so hard you would have thought they were being broken down. A seance there solidified it for me, the medium looked me straight in my eyes and told me my great grandfather Hubert wanted to give me a message. (I’m not from WI and I honestly barely knew my great grandfather). So it was a sobering experience.
    With all of that, go give the little Inn some business and do some of your own ghost hunting :)

  11. My mother had just won some money at the Lake of the Torches casino and decided she wanted to go home. She took the scenic route through the back roads of the reservation around 1:30 a.m. Up ahead, she saw a strange creature unlike anything she’d seen before. She stopped the car, and it ran across the road into her headlights. It stopped in the ditch on the left side of the road, and my mom rolled down her window to get a better look at it. It was watching her. Suddenly my mom thought, “OMG This is how people get killed! I’m out of here!” She told me she doesn’t know what the creature was, and she refuses to call it a werewolf, but she says that would fit its description. It had a wolf’s head, furry human-like body, and it ran on two legs while hunched over. Since then, we’ve heard of other people calling the police because they’ve seen it. Many of them were drunk, so the reports weren’t taken seriously. But then a well-known member of the community who has a solid reputation of being an honest man called the police to report seeing the same thing in his backyard, and after that, it was given more serious consideration. My mom saw the video “The Beast of Bray Road” and said it looks just like the image of the werewolf shown at 3:35.

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