The Legend

Michigan’s northern half of the lower peninsula holds some of the most breathtaking natural scenery in the country. Sleeping Bear Dunes was voted by viewers of ABC’s Good Morning America to be the most beautiful place in America. It hosts everything needed for the outdoor adventurer, extensive hiking trails, endless beaches, miles of mountain bike trails and more camping resorts than any state would ever need. The area is surrounded with natural beauty, with serene Lake Michigan on one side, and the millions of acres of National forest on the other hiding one of the best kept vacation spots. During the fall season, vacationers often take a drive down Michigan’s iconic M-119-known locally as the Tunnel of Trees, a picturesque journey of fall beauty captured in the dim light of pre-winter. One secret the woods still holds from many visitors also happens to be one of North Americas most enduring legends.
You’re listening to Devilry and I’m Matthew William Motsinger
Steve Cook of WTCM-FM in Traverse City recorded a song for April fool’s day in 1987 called The Legend. The song recounts a strange myth whispered by his friends and family. The joke was on him when he became inundated with stories from listeners who claimed to have seen a strange dog or wolf like creature which stood on its hind legs.
The song took on new life however when Grand Rapids Press ran an article about an unknown animal near Luther which ripped apart screens and mangled door frames trying to enter the small cabin in the middle of the woods. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources investigation ruled out a bear and said it was some kind of unknown Canine. Those versed in the Occult might see a link to Sabine Barin-Gould’s recounting of the Baltic legends of werewolves that would try force their way into homes at night. If they succeeded, they would kill everyone inside.
The creature struck closer to home though in 2008, when Kathryn was driving home on a foggy summer evening just after 10pm. Turning off of portage road, right behind Bucky’s cafe on a cut through to Lake Austin, she saw a strange creature laying on the road. Michiganders are preternaturally sensitive to kamikaze deer who have a tendency to jump out of the shadowy woods and into oncoming traffic in the blink of an eye and end up causing you hundreds of dollars in repairs too your vehicle… No, I’m not trimerized, I’m just painting a picture for you. Anyway, Kathryn likely thought it was just a fresh pile of road kill, that is until the creature rose up on its hind legs as she neared. She later described it to a local reporter as five to six feet tall, with grayish brown hair, it had a canine face yet looked eerily human. Its yellow eyes stared back at her a moment before disappearing into the woods running, still on two legs, with an awkward gait. Kathryn knew the area well, on a different night with better weather, she might have taken a leisurely stroll down the deserted road before heading to bed. She got home and immediately called the police who declined to investigate.
On that strange stormy evening in 2008, the Dogman of Michigan had come to Kalamazoo County. 
Weather he had ever left is a question is up for debate, as many who live on the edges of Michigan’s great the north wood’s darkness can tell you strange tales of a creature that stalks the forests of Michigan from Manistee to the shadowy guardians of the Omer plains. The legend of the dog man stretches back to Native American times when tribes would embed themselves of a particular animal’s characteristics and often associate their hunting, fighting, and ceremonial practices with such an animal. Some powerful Shamans among Native American tribes were known for their ability to transform into the creatures of their native land. Known as skin walkers among the Navajo, they possess the ability to create strong astral projections of the beast they incarnate. It should be noted however that this ability is said to be extremely difficult and considered rare. Moreover, this ability does not predispose the Shaman to evil, both good and evil shamans were said to be able to take on the form of their spirit animal regardless of intent. Some legends even recount fully becoming the animal, rather than just a temporary or astral transformation, leaving the meaning of such a legend to a wide spectrum of speculation.
Many of our Native American legends come to us from the exhausted work of Henry Roe Schoolcraft who served as the first Indian agent to the Michigan territory and became obsessed with collecting Lodge stories from the local tribes. One of the many tales taken by him was that of the Tale of Sheem which is considered both allegorical and can be seen as part of the Chippewa belief system.
The Tale of Sheem is one such story of a young boy who is abandoned by his family and he soon became an outcast. When winter comes and he is hard up for food he takes to scrounging for food in the midst of a wolf kill and gradually beginning to identify more and more as a wolf himself. In likeness the pack he follows begins to accept him. Schoolcraft notes his transformation in five short stanzas:
Listen, brother—elder brother!
Now my fate is near its close;
Soon my state shall be another,
Soon shall cease my day of woes.
Left by friends I loved the dearest,
All who knew and loved me most;
Woes the darkest and severest,
Bide me on this barren coast.
Pity! ah, that manly feeling,
Fled from hearts where once it grew,
Now in wolfish forms revealing,
Glows more warmly than in you.
Stony hearts! that saw me languish,
Deaf to all a father said,
Deaf to all a mother's anguish,
All a brother's feelings fled.
Ah, ye wolves, in all your ranging,
I have found you kind and true;
More than man—and now I'm changing,
And will soon be one of you.

Despite the ambiguity left to us from our native brothers, our ancestors who settled Michigan almost always associated such sightings with evil magic. Any historian with merit would tell you Michigan was first settled by the French, who have long had a fascination with stories about backwoods witches using the devil’s power to transform themselves into vicious wolf like monsters to terrorize their fellow man. French raconteurs would often tell stories during the long cold of Michigan’s winters to keep their comrades entertained. Did they bring their stories of the loup-garou with them while wading through the wild lands of pre-colonial Michigan? Almost certainly. An 18th century engraving shows its lethal distinction from its blood sucking neighbor. The beast is seen towering in stature of its victim, a woman, whose rosary dangles from her neck, useless against the monster who fears not the shadow of the cross. A wooden stake sticks out of the side of its raised maw causing no harm, showing us, and the victim that this is no vampire we are dealing with, but something else entirely. It has raised its victim up in its jaws, ready to devour not just her blood or essence, but body and bone as well. Only metal could kill this creature, a certain type of metal especially. As one young Detroiter soon learned.
The tale comes to us from the early settlement days of Detroit when a young woman was stolen away during her wedding dance by a werewolf who dragged her off into the woods never to be seen again. The young widower swore vengeance and neighbors joined him in the hunting party who managed to shoot off the monster’s tail with a silver bullet which the local native tribe later used as a powerful charm. The bridegroom finally trapped the creature against the edge of the river but before he could kill it the loup-garou dived into the waters
The myth is an entertaining trop among modern anthropologists studying the lost civilizations of the Natives that inhabited these lands before modernity slowly crushed them into oblivion. Surely though, this legend like all incoherent and silly beliefs of our forefathers have can now be discarded in the light of modern science right? Like the Vampire before him, we can take the half-educated ravings of backwoodsmen and allegorical native stories as just that, stories. That might have been the case if not for Steve Cook and his practical joke, which called forth a living folklore thriving to this day. People who were otherwise too frightened or embarrassed to tell their strange tale confessed to Steve, and the world, that they had seen the strange hairy beast that still roams Michigan.
The Cooks song stirred up an old memory for an aged Robert Fortney, who recounted a strange encounter with a wild dog pack in the year of 1938. While target practicing on the banks of the Muskegon River, Fortney heard the bark of dogs approaching and hid behind a tree until they sighted him and began to charge. He took aim and shot the lead dog before the rest turned off and ran. Before disappearing into the underbrush, a large black member of the pack stopped and stared back at Fortney curiously, then to his amazement, it stood upright in its hind legs continuing to stare him down. Man, and beast both made it out alive and Fortney live another forty-nine years before he had the courage to tell anyone about the encounter.
Interlochen, in manatee county has had its own sightings, most prominent being the that of two fishermen in a boat on Claybank Lake, around sunset they spotted an animal swimming through the water in their general direction, which they took to be a dog. Imagine their horror when in neared, and they saw the dog had a man’s body. They franticly beat the thing away with their oars as they tried to make an escape. When the Traverse City Eagle got a hold of the story one of the men declined to give a full interview stating only that he did not know what he saw that night.
Another story comes from a couple parking whose nocturnal activities quickly fogged with windows of their car. Upon hearing strange noises, they interrupted their romp to investigate. Wiping away the fog the man saw a wolf like face staring back at him with yellow eyes and a man’s body. He was so traumatized by the event he swore off parking ever again.  
Twenty miles north of Pinconning Resides the small community of Omer known ostensibly as Michigan’s smallest town and holds the secrets of an ancient Chippewa legend of the Witchy Wolves-Wraith like watchdogs. Ancient guardians of the graves of fallen Warriors of the tribe who warn off anyone perceived as a threat with howling laughter which echo’s through the woods. When the warning howls did not suffice, the invisible watchdogs would attack directly, knocking to the ground, scratching, biting and tearing at the intruders. One outdoorsman reported being slammed up against his car by an unseen force while headed hunting while others have reported unearthly screams that have made witness cry when recounting the experience. Often cars also would suffer damage as well with large scratches and dents appearing where there was none before.
Jose Road is known for a particularly high number of encounters with the other worldly guardians, being the site of one of the older cemeteries in the area. Trouble is, there is very little evidence of Chippewa burial anywhere in the area until you go up river to a town called Selkirk in the eastern side of Ogemaw County where an archeological find notes a otherwise unknown Native American group that had a habit of building fort like earthen works for trading and, possibly ceremonial purposes as they were not constructed with any logical military purpose, they were not on high ground or near water ways, some weren’t even close to heavy traffic areas. What’s more, local archeologists have noted this earthen works stretch all across Michigan’s northern lower Peninsula-from Manistee county all the way to the aforesaid Forts in Selkirk.
And as one folklorist has noted, most sightings of the Michigan dog man happen just south of the line of forts, Luther and Omer being along this same line. If the forts were used as a ceremonial meeting place it is likely its builders imbued it with some power. Just as the Christian culture does today, when a Church and items in it are blessed or consecrated in order to preform a certain task within the religion, Shamans of this lost tribe established guardians over their sacred sites, and the white man in his ignorance has stumbled into the realm of these guardians to their own peril. Along this line of thinking, the Shamans would have stored vast amount of energy in these areas to summon the demon dogs to the defense of the holy sites. When the perpetrator crossed the unknown line of defense, a kind of emotional trigger is pulled, manifesting the monster, weather it be in some repressed reassess or our mind or the opening of a door into another dimension from which the creature’s poor out, it really is anyone’s guess.
Is the Dog man an ancient guardian to the relics of a lost civilization? Or rogue Shamans out to take vengeance on those who stole and pillaged his ancestors land? Could he be an import from French colonial days to fill cold and lonely nights in the wildness when there was nothing left but the wind and the snow? Or could he really be an unknown and undocumented monster roaming the vast northern forests? The state, along with Wisconsin has seen a resurgence in wolf populations in recent years. Originally thought to be extinct in the lower peninsula, Monster quest discovered evidence of wolves present in areas where Dog man has been reported. And unlike traditional folklore in history, he is present even today, with hundreds of normal people sending unsolicited reports to the likes of Linda Godfrey and Steve Cook we have to presume that people are seeing something. To dismiss the unknown, as so many do, simply because it tends to defy our limited Newtonian understanding of the world it just as illogical as to say it does exist yet have absolutely no proof. Like the existence of ghost, the Dog-man lurks just beyond the shadows, peering at us from the tantalizing eternity without answer or comment.

Fate Presents Werewolves and Dogmen edited by Rosemary Ellen Guiley 

The Beast of Bray Road by Linda S Godfrey 

The Michigan Dogman By Linda S Godfrey 

The Book of Werewolves by Sabine Baring-Gould