by Shelly Gatto
Ever since the mid-1930s, a strange beast has been reported around Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Named for the location where it was most sighted, the Beast of Bray Road has sparked fear in those who live in the area. While some remain skeptical, those who have seen it have no doubt about what it is. The creature is often described as a hulking beast, possibly a werewolf. Its name has been applied to other beasts reported in Wisconsin with matching characteristics.
The story of the Beast of Bray Road comes with some controversy. There are times when people try to tap into the fame and mystique of a legend by falsifying evidence. When the truth is revealed, it tends to take something away from the original reports. This was the case involving a film presented by Steve Cook in 2002.
The film was claimed to have been made in the 1970s, and was referred to as the “Gable Film.” This three minute long video depicts a few mundane home movie clips finishing with the cameraman riding down a rural dirt road. The film shows a huge four legged beast on the road. The creature assaults the camera man and the last moments of film show teeth and fangs before the camera tumbles to the ground.
For nearly ten years, Cook claimed that the film was real and not altered in anyway. A debate began with one half attesting to the validity of the film as evidence of the Beast of Bray Road, and the other half insisting it was a fake. Finally, on a segment run by the History Channel’s Monster Quest, Cook admitted that the film was not real. It was created in 2002 to renew interest in the beast. The video taped creature was nothing more than a man in a Ghillie suit.
When someone goes to great lengths to produce false evidence, such as Cook’s film, it poses a few interesting questions. Should a single dishonest filmmaker completely discredit the reports of those who claimed to have seen the beast? Unfortunately, such an act of deception usually takes credibility away. Yet, what about the other reports from regular people not looking to cash in?
· Mark Schackelman claimed he saw a talking half wolf, half man creature east of Jefferson, Wisconsin along Highway 18. He was driving down the road when he saw the beast digging in an old Indian mound. He described it as covered in hair, over six feet tall when standing upright, with a muzzled face and features of a canine and ape. He said the beast’s hands were very strange, with a twisted thumb and only three fingers. Shackelman also described a stench that emanated from the beast, similar to decaying meat. He returned the following day to see if the creature was still there. It was, and this time it spoke a three syllable word that sounded like “gadara” with the second syllable emphasized.
· Dennis Fewless had an encounter with the beast described by Shackelman, only this time in Harvard, Illinois. Around midnight, while driving home from his job at Admiral Television Corporation, Fewless turned onto Highway 89 from Highway 14 when his headlights illuminated a strange creature running across the road. He described it as dark brown in color and possibly weighing around 400 to 500 pounds with a height of seven or eight feet. During the incident, the beast ran across the road and jumped a barbed wire fence before Fewless lost sight of it. A return to the location during the day presented little evidence except for the area where the beast pushed corn aside as it ducked into a field. In an interview with author Jay Rath, Fewless stated that “I was awful scared that night. That was no man. It was all hairy from head to feet.”
· A woman called police to report an attempted break in. When interviewed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources during an investigation, the woman stated that the intruder was a large, unknown animal. It approached her home and tried to enter through a door. She also later reported the beast returned to her home and injured a farm animal, inflicting a deep wound that extended from one shoulder to the other. Her description matched that of the Beast of Bray Road. The only evidence left behind was a footprint, which measured over twelve inches in length.
1989 – 1999
· A number of stories made by those claiming to have seen the Beast of Bray Road dating as far back as 1989. These reports finally came to light after an incident involving Doristine Gipson in 1999. Until then, most were afraid to come forward due to public opinion and general disbelief.
· Around the time of Gipson’s sighting, dairy farmer Scott Bray admitted to seeing a “strange looking dog” in his pasture near Bray Road in September or October of 1989. He described the creature as larger and taller than a German shepherd, with pointed ears, a hair-covered tail and gray and black fur. The beast seemed to be bulkier in the front, with a strong chest. He tried to follow the bizarre dog to a large pile of rocks however he lost sight of it. Proof of the occurrence remained in the form of huge footprints.
· Russell Gest reported another sighting around the time of Scott Bray’s reported sighting. He said he was about a block away from an overgrown area when he heard the brush being rustled, as if an animal was there. A beast appeared, standing on its hind legs. Gest stated that it took a couple of wobbly steps forward before he ran away. As he ran, Gest looked over his shoulder to see if he was being followed. He noted that the beast had gone down on all fours but was not chasing him. It eventually wandered towards Bray Road. Gest also described the beast as covered in black and gray fur and larger than a German shepherd. He estimated its upright height as around five feet, with an oversized dog or wolf head, wide neck and shoulders. He believed it to be some kind of dog and wolf hybrid because its primary features were canine.
· On a fall evening in 1989, bar manager Lori Endrizzi was driving along Bray Road. As she rounded a bend, she saw what she initially perceived as a human being kneeled or hunched along the side of the road. She slowed down to take a look through the passenger side window. She was roughly six feet away from the figure and got a look at it for about 45 seconds. She described it as a beast with gray-brown fur, fangs and pointed ears. She said it had a long face with a snout like a wolf. She also stated that its eyes glowed yellow, even though her headlights were not reflecting on them at that point. It’s arms were jointed like a human’s and it seemed to hold its food with its palms up, which is unlike any local animal. The beast was muscular with human-esque fingers adorned in claws. Endrizzi could not see a tail, but its back legs were behind it, similar to a person who was kneeling.
· Heather Bowey (who was eleven years old at the time) claimed a similar incident to Gipson’s 1999 sighting, this one occurring around Christmas of 1990. She had no idea that her story was similar to Gipson’s until the two were discussing it on the school bus. Bowey’s story was passed on by the bus driver, Pat Lester who was also Lori Endrizzi’s mother. Lester told Linda Godfrey what she had overheard and Bowey later elaborated when asked about the incident. Bowey’s sighting occurred around 4:30 pm while she was on her way home from sled riding with friends. Near Loveland Road, which was about a mile and a half south east of the intersection of Hospital Road and Bray Road, they saw a large dog walking along a creek in a cornfield. Bowey estimated the creature was about a block away. Assuming it to be a dog, the children called it to them. Noticing its audience, the creature watched them then stood up on its hind legs. It took four steps in their direction, although it appeared unaccustomed to walking on hind legs. It then dropped down on to all fours and charged the children. Bowey claimed the creature was able to leap “a bigger leap than dogs run.” The group ran away. The beast followed them about half way to Bowey’s home, which was about 250 yards from where they spotted it, before veering away.
· Another dairy farmer, Mike Etten, made a report about a sighting that occurred in March of 1990. He admitted to having been drinking around the time of the incident, but claims he saw a dog-like beast that was much larger than a domesticated canine. He described it as sitting like a raccoon, using its front paws to hold on to something it was eating near the Bray Road – Hospital Road intersection. As he passed by, the beast looked at him with a thick, wide snout that Etten described as shorter than a dog’s muzzle. Its legs were thick and it was covered in dark hair. Initially, Etten had dismissed the creature as a bear, but after hearing other similar reports in 1991, he began to wonder if that was accurate.
· On October 31st, eighteen year old Doristine Gipson was driving on Bray Road near Delavan, Wisconsin. As her vehicle approached an intersection with Hospital Road, her right tire was jolted, as if it has lifted off the ground to roll over something large. She stopped and existed the car to see what had been hit. As she peered into the darkness she noticed a large, hairy figure moving quickly towards her. Afraid, she jumped into her car and started it. As she pulled away, the beast leapt onto her trunk. The beast could not get a hold on the wet car exterior and slid off. She returned later that evening while trick or treating with another girl and saw a large form along the road.
The Final Sighting
The sighting involving Doristine Gipson and the diary farmer were the final major reported incidents involving the Beast of Bray Road to date. That is not to say that others have not encountered the strange creature and simply not reported it, as many did prior to Gipson’s reports.
It is important to note that after Gipson’s report, and the following wave of previously unmentioned claims that appeared, there was some backlash on the witnesses. Most were discredited and people generally mocked their stories, playing pranks and posting “werewolf signs” in yards. Others hosted werewolf parties while some tried to make money off of the frenzy by selling t-shirts.
Other strange occurrences were reported in the area as well. In January of 1992, just as the frenzy over the Beast of Bray Road was fading, a local businessman, described as “reputable,” reported sparking lights seen in the sky above Delavan. He said they moved erratically. Later that spring, four or five horses were discovered in a pasture near Elkhorn with their throats slashed. Investigator John Frederickson described the wounds as surgical.
The explanations offered insist that the Beast of Bray Road was actually some kind of dog and wolf hybrid, or a similar animal. Those who did not actually see the beast feel that this is a valid explanation. Witnesses however, believe that is not be possible. No dog and wolf hybrid would possess fingers like a human or walk on its hind legs.
Other bizarre occurrences were reported before and after the bulk of the beast sightings. During the summer, roughly a dozen animals had been left in a ditch along Willow Road, which is near Bray Road. The Delavan humane officer, John Frederickson, thought the animals had been used in some kind of cult ritual. The idea was dismissed by police chief James Jensen in June of 1991. Frederickson insisted, stating that they were missing the point. The creatures had ropes secured around their legs, their throats were slit while others had been decapitated or dismembered. One dog, believed to be the most recent death among the corpses found, had its heart removed. A number of the deceased animals matched the description of missing local pets. None had been killed by traffic. No other authorities seemed interested in Frederickson’s findings and quickly ended the investigation. They even bulldozed over the ditch where the dead animals had been found, completely burying the corpses.
Frederickson later heard rumors about individuals who were posing as humane officers in search of stray dogs. One incident even involved a man in a black uniform driving a long dark-colored car, who tried to convince a child who was home alone to give up his pet black lab. Other reports around the same time tell of cult graffiti on an abandoned house and local cemetery about a quarter mile from Bray Road. Some grave markers had melted candle wax on them.
A Final Word on the Beast of Bray Road
It seems difficult to dismiss so many stories that are so similar. If something did exist on Bray Road, we may never know what it was. For now, the sightings seem to have stopped. At least, official reports of the sightings have. We are left with a few very strange stories, a publicity stunt, and a lot of speculation.