Folklore is a way for us to entertain each other, connect with each other, and sometimes it’s a way for us to instill values. The story of Hansel and Gretel teaches children not to go with strangers. The Tortoise and the Hare guides us in understanding that speed isn’t always better than determination. But what about more frightening folklore? It seems that every culture has some kind of unknown, woodland creature lurking around. Mexican culture has the chupacabra, Native American culture has Bakwas, in the modern-day U.S., we have Bigfoot.
In the 1950s a journalist by the name of Andrew Genzoli had a little fun with a letter sent in from a reader. In the letter, the reader described finding freakishly large footprints in a northern California woods. A September column for the Humboldt Times, Andrew published the letter along with some of his own commentary about maybe having a “relative of the Abominable Snowman,” right there in California.
The column, meant to be lighthearted and humorous for an easy Sunday morning read, sparked quick interest from readers. Andrew’s colleague at the paper Betty Allen published a series of follow up articles on the footprints using the name that loggers had given the mysterious and large creature. Bigfoot was born.
The mythical beast has since inspired countless books, movies, TV episodes and more news articles of people talking about their own spottings and encounters.
To this day, folks are still calling and writing in to their local news stations about Bigfoot sightings. According to satelliteinternet.com, Michigan ranks no. 16 in Bigfoot sightings. With lakes and woods occupying so much of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, I wonder if some of those sightings may not be Bigfoot at all, but a creature from another tale.
Dogman is a piece of folklore close to Michigander’s hearts, and especially, northern Michiganders.
First spotted in 1887 by loggers working in Wexford county, Dogman predates Bigfoot. The 7-foot creature is characterized by having a human body and a dog’s head.
Reported encounters with Dogman or Bigfoot look the same. They’re both usually spotted in wooded areas, with early reports coming from loggers. The person who saw them is usually alone. And both creatures seem to have a fair amount of speed and agility.
Bigfoot could be anywhere between 6’6 and 10 feet tall, with hair covering his entire body and a sagittal crest head shape similar to an ape.
There’s no doubt that the two creatures look fairly different, and if someone was unaware of the local legend, they could easily report a sighting of a strange creature as Bigfoot instead. I didn’t know who or what Dogman was before I moved up here.
Rich Brauer wouldn’t be confused about which creature he was seeing if ever to find himself alone in the woods. I reached out to the filmmaker who could arguably know Dogman better than anyone, he filmed two movies ‘Dogman’ and ‘Return of the Dogman.’ He’s interviewed many locals over the years who have reported seeing Dogman, and there’s no question that it’s him.
“The thing that really struck me as I’m filming this and people are literally coming up on the street, and saying, I’ve got a Dogman story for you. So many people who had these vivid stories and memories of seeing Dogman. And these stories are coming in and there were people that were not flying saucer, aluminum foil on their head kind of people. One of them was a science teacher, a young guy with a family. There were a couple of law enforcement people that were not inclined to do this kind of thing. Another guy who runs an auto parts store came home one night and said, ‘This thing was standing up in my driveway and ran right past me. It looked just like a wolf on its hind legs.’”
So, Bigfoot or Dogman? We may never know for sure how many of those sightings were adamantly Bigfoot. But the folks who live or have lived in northern Michigan would know Dogman when they see him. Whether he’s in the woods, down the road, or in your backyard.
Do you believe in the legend of the Dogman?
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