Monsters and Ghosts A to Z : Dogmen

Michigan Dogman Drawing on Monsters and Ghosts A to Z from Nurse Ghastly
Image via Brian Roskinski/Steven Cook

The Michigan Dogman

In the cryptozoology world, one of the best-known specimens of the dogmen is the Michigan Dogman. This legend comes from Wexford County, Michigan and first appeared in the late 1800’s. According to the legend, two lumberjacks were out one night when they spotted a creature with the body of a man but the head of a dog. Other accounts come from the local tribe of the region, the Odawa Indians, as well as other sources but are not as well documented as the 1887 encounter.

Several years later, in 1938, a 17-year-old boy by the name of Robert Fortney was attacked by a pack of five dogs on the banks of the Muskegon River near Paris, Michigan. Upon describing his encounter he stated that one of the beasts walked bipedally. The Legend of the Michigan Dogman, Absolute Michigan

Reports of the same type of creature would come from areas in the upper peninsula in Allegan county in the 1950’s, and in Manistee and Cross Village in the 1960’s.

Nearly all of the reports described the same creature with only minimal variations. It is most often said to be around 7 feet tall with glowing amber eyes. It always walks bipedally with a human-like body, and dog-like head (and often torso). Many reported that the creature emits a horrifying howl that echoes an otherworldly human scream. Unlike werewolves, the creatures do not seem to transform from human form to dog form but rather remain in a type of half-man, half-dog shape.


The Gable Film

A film that is said to have come from the 1970’s showing a sighting of the dogman in a home movie. In the film, the creature is spotted at a distance and it seems to attack the cameraman.

However, a 2011 episode of MonsterQuest proved the film to be a hoax. The creator of the film, a man by the name of Mike, admitted to falsifying it and stated that they still had the costume that they used to create it.

The Beast of Bray Road

Author Linda S. Godfrey from Wisconsin has researched the dogman extensively. Her work appears in the book Beast of Bray Road as well as various other pieces.

The Beast of Bray Road retells an account of a 1992 sighting of the dogman in southern Wisconsin by a man named Steven Kreuger. Kreuger was working as a contractor picking up roadkill when he witnessed the creature attacking his truck. At the time of the attack, it was recorded as a sasquatch attack. However, Kreuger insisted that what he had seen was not a bigfoot but something else.

Following the airing of Kreuger’s story on a local news station, a second witness stepped forward stating they too had seen a similar creature just a few years prior.

Several more sightings would occur in the area through 2004 and 2006. In November of 2006, two men stated that they witnessed the creature cross the road in front of them. Just a day later two boys come forward stating that they saw the creature in a back yard. A man by the name of Tom Schmenk also stated that he witnessed the creature near a highway.


The Cook Song

WTCM-FM disc jockey Steven Cook in Traverse City, Michigan recorded a song in 1987 as part of an April Fools prank about the mystery of the dogman. He simply titled the song “The Legend”.  Although he claims that he is skeptical of the existence of the dogman, he started receiving calls shortly after playing the song for the first time. Many of the callers had their own experience with the dogman to tell. Additional recordings of the song were made in 1997 and 2007 with another verse added detailing an attack in Luther, Michigan. What’s Lurking Around Luther, Ludington Daily News, Thursday, August 13, 1987


Native American Connections

There are a few creatures in the folklore of the Native American tribes of the area that share similarities with the dogman. Throughout the United States, there are many Native American traditions whose folklore include a dog or hyena-like man. Frequently, however, this figure is seen as a shapeshifter.

One myth in particular that has been linked to the dogman phenomenon by author Linda S. Godfrey is a creation myth from the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin. The Menominee people have a rich history and have lived in the area near the mouth of the Menominee River for more than 10,000 years. The five clans of the tribe at one point occupied much of Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.

In this myth, the figure Manabush is given a twin brother by the great spirit. This brother looked like a human but could also take the shape of a wolf when hunting. The evil spirits had been banished beneath the earth through the nearby river. Manabush knew that these spirits were jealous of the wolf and so he warned his brother to never cross the river but rather to always stay on the banks of the river and go around to make his way home from hunting. On one hunting trip, his brother attempted to cross the frozen river and fell into the ice where the evil spirits below captured and killed him. The spirit of his brother appeared to Manabush and he told him to go to the west to be the Chief of the Departed Spirits.

When Manabush had accomplished the works which the Great Spirit had sent him to do, he moved far away and built his wigwam on the northeast shore of a large lake. Since he was alone, the spirits wanted to give him a companion in the form of his twin brother. The spirits brought his brother to life. Manabush’s brother looked like a human being but could also assume the shape of a Wolf, which he used when he hunted. Since Manabush had always been aware of the jealousy of the evil spirits from under the earth and the water, he warned his brother the Wolf never to return come home across the lake but rather to always go around it by shore. One day, after the Wolf had been hunting all day, he found himself directly across the lake from his wigwam, and so he decided to cross directly over the frozen lake. When he was partly across the lake, the ice broke and he fell through. He was seized by the bad underwater spirits and destroyed.


Manabush immediately knew what had happened to his brother, and he mourned his brother for four days. Every time Manabush sighed it made the earth tremble, forming the hills and valleys. The spirit of his brother the Wolf appeared before Manabush and Manabush realized that his brother would not return to him. He told the wolf’s spirit to go to the west to become the chief of all the departed spirits. Sadly, Manabush gave up his home by the lake and hid himself inside a large rock near Mackinaw.


For many years, the people would visit Manabush there and hold the Medicine Dance which he had taught them. And when Manabush wanted to interact with the people but did not want to show himself in human form, he appeared to them in the shape of a little white rabbit with trembling ears, just as he had appeared to Nokomis when he was a baby.

-adapted from W.J. Hoffman, 1890, “Mythology of the Menomini Indians” American Anthropologist 3[3]:243-58 Indian Country Wisconsin

The Science

Many animals, including bears and wolves are native to the areas where the dogman is frequently reported. While those who have witnessed the creature are adamant that what they saw was not a known animal, various wildlife officials believe that what they are actually seeing is an animal indigenous to the area.

Black bears, or ursus americanus, is found in Michigan and has dark black or brown fur like that frequently described on the dogman. They are solitary animals, which would account for the reports of the dogman frequently seen alone. In respect to size, however, the bears generally only reach a max height of 4 ft when standing upright. This is a vast difference from the 7 to 8 ft towering height often associated with the dogman.

Bears are also known to have a general “home range” that they remain in. They tend to prefer more heavily-forested areas. For females, this tends to be around a 50 square mile span. For males, this extends to over 300 square miles. This could explain the tendency for dogman sightings to remain in one or two general areas within a close proximity of large forests over time.  Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Looking for more cryptids? Check out other posts in our Monsters and Ghosts A to Z series here.

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