This is Godfrey's first sketch of Wisconsin's Beast of Bray Road.
You thought I was kidding, didn't you? :)
On Monday, November 7, five Academy students and I, along with our high school English teacher, visited the Neenah Public Library to hear Linda S. Godfrey speak about her newest book, Monsters of Wisconsin. Godfrey has published 12 other titles, including Weird Wisconsin, Haunted Wisconsin, The Michigan Dogman, and Mythical Creatures.
Here is another one of Godfrey's illustrations based on a witness's testimony.
Godfrey was a UW-Oshkosh grad working as a newspaper reporter 20 years ago when she first learned about a local legend of a 'werewolf' prowling around Elkhorn, WI. After learning that the area county patrol officer actually had a file labeled 'werewolf' in his desk to hold the many complaints and sightings he received, Godfrey decided to write the story. The story ran in her local paper, The Week, on December 31, 1991; it went national two weeks later!
And literally, she's been hunting monsters ever sincee.
Godfrey's hour-long presentation on Monday was packed with pictures, sketches, and statistics of the many beasts she has received reports on: Dogman, Pigmen, Bigfoots, and Dragons.
I had asked my students to go into the presentation looking for something they could use for their NaNos. Motivated by M. T. Anderson's passion for place, I was hoping we would hear about wonderfully creepy locations to emulate in our own settings, lending our stories color and personality.
And in a way, we did. What we learned was that many sightings were in normal places, like wide roads, bridges, and well-lit neighborhoods. For example, open Bray Road is a popular place for
Dogman sightings. The road is a most un-spookified stretch, surrounded by cornfields. Godfrey explained how cornfields themselves are the spooky places--they are, in fact, Creature Highways: snack-filled swaths of land that creatures can trek unseen.
Bray Road. How scary is that, right?
So we learned often the scariest things lurk in the shadows near the most normal-looking places.
When Godfrey learned that we were looking for stories to propel our own, she readily acknowledged that many other writers, particularly science fiction writers, read her books for the same reason. She explained that what especially attracts writers is that the creatures she learns about act so very, very differently from how our "normal" concept of creature acts. For example, in the hundreds of reports she has received from the United States and Canada about Dogmen, she has recieved ONE report of an injury caused by one. How interesting is that? A ferocious looking, man-hunting beast that snarls and lunges, that lurks and prowls, but that doesn't actually attack? That's peculiar, and it goes against our preconceived notions of werewolf.
Pretty fun stuff, but I'll be honest. (But I'll say it parentheses: I had to sleep with my light on the first night after the presentation. They were everywhere, I swear. The Dogmen were coming for me, and I couldn't do anything about it!)
Other sort of wonderfully obvious bits I picked up from Godfrey's excellent presentation were a) follow your passions, b) do your research, c) trust people, and d) be open to believing in the unbelievable.
Thanks so much to Melissa of NPL's Adult Programming to let us join the three dozen others for this event. And so much thanks to Linda S. Godfrey for coming and speaking. We had a wonderful time, and we have picked up great spooky stories to weave into our own tales.
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