The cryptozoology world shined a spotlight on Defiance on Saturday as the first Dogman Symposium was held at VFW Post 3360.
Symposium attendees came from as far as New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. They talked about the Mothman, ghosts, Men in Black and most of all, the dogman, after all it was his time to howl.
Master of ceremonies Lyle Blackburn said organizers decided to host the first Dogman Symposium in Defiance for several reasons.
“There are a lot of people interested in this phenomenon in the area,” Blackburn said. “(Organizers) already knew of the Defiance werewolf... It’s a fascinating case.”
The 1972 case, where several railroad workers described seeing a wolfman of some sort, as well as its central location to other sightings in the Midwest led organizers to have the event in the city. Speakers talked about what a dogman was or could be, variations of the creature as well as various sightings both in the recent past and historically.
John Tenney, an author as well as consultant for various TV shows including “Unsolved Mysteries,” discussed the Michigan Dogman. He explained that many people scoff at the idea of Bigfoot, dogmen or other creatures. Many state such creatures surely would have been found by now.
“As a person from Michigan, I know my dad and his friends go hunting for deer in deer season and many times don’t see a single one,” he said. “There are 6.5 million deer in Michigan. Now imagine a smart migratory being trying to stay far from us where they may only be a million or 100,000 of them across the globe. You won’t see them.”
He said it’s possible individuals just do not have the accurate language to describe unusual creatures. He gave the example of the Nain Rouge, a creature of Red Nation legend that originally was described as having a snout and fur. It was defined as protector of sorts for the tribe, however when the French arrived in the area and it was described to them, they called it a red dwarf or red devil. It became an omen of doom or disaster. In fact, each year Detroit has the Marche Du Nain Rouge to drive the creature out of town.
Tenney said a lot of bigfoot reports in Michigan are actually dogmen, or large canines upright. Other reports of strange creatures also may be dogmen. He said in the 1970s, hunters reported seeing a large hairy man wearing what seemed to be a feed bag on his face. Reports at the time called the creature a large, 7-foot tall unkempt hippy. Areas where the creature were found had odd wolf prints with a large toe in front.
He said sightings of dogmen continue. A recent sighting in Michigan came from a hunter.
“At first he thought it was a wolf someone had hung by its neck from a tree because it was so tall,” Tenney said. “He went to cut it down.”
The creature looked down, then backed up and sprinted into the woods. The hunter kept some hair from the creature near the tree he thought it was hanging from. Tenney took it for testing at Wayne State University and is awaiting results.
Author David Weatherly, who has spoken on TV and radio shows, suggested that dogmen in some parts of the country may be skinwalkers or yenaldlooshi, as they are known by the Navajo people.
“The skinwalker is a distinct part of the Navajo culture,” Weatherly said. “On the Navajo reservation (located on the four corner area of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico) there is a fear of skinwalkers.”
Weatherly said that natives believe encountering a skinwalker can lead to sickness or death. He said skinwalkers are said to have several powers including the ability to shapeshift into the full or partial form of an animal. Navajo people believe they have mind control abilities, can cause illness (which may happen by being shot by a small bone dart) and can use a white powder to paralyze individuals.
He said to become a skinwalker one has to practice dark magic for personal gain, be male, undergo a series of initiatives to gain power, are required to kill a relative (a “loved one” that is most often a child) and steal a skin to use for transformation. It doesn’t have to be animal skin either as, reportedly, a skinwalker may shapeshift into another person if they have his or her skin, Weatherly said.
Reports of dogmen-like creatures have been reported around the reservation area. Including one in October 2003 in Duchesne, Utah, where farmers reported a large wolf that stood up on its hind legs. There was also a report of a large dog-like creature in Uintah County, Utah, where ranchers shot the creature several times after it attacked a calf. The creature did not seem to be bothered by the bullets.
Author and researcher Linda Godfrey pointed out that reports of these creatures have been around for a long time.
“There is a concentration of dogman and wolfman sightings around the Great Lakes,” she said, mentioning the Defiance case in 1972, Michigan dogman in 1987 and the Bray Road beast of Wisconsin in 1991-92.
“I’m still getting reports,” she said of the Bray Road creature. “It was not just one creature on Bray Road that went away. It’s worldwide and nationwide. ... The creatures are widespread and diversified.”
In addition to the dogmen who stand on two legs, there are also quadrupedal canines reported that are the “size of a Shetland pony.” Sightings of those creatures have occurred in 2003 in Portage County, Ohio; 2013 in Fulton, Mo., and in July of this year in Newark, Wis.
She also talked about a Felid, a large dog-cat hybrid. Reports of that have come from Ontario, Canada; southern California, Florida and Argentina.
Godfrey also said that reports of these creatures aren’t just single sightings either. There have been habitual sightings, with these creatures coming around homes or properties several times.
Other speakers during the event included: Ken Gerhard on France’s Beast of Gevaudan; Nick Redfern on “Dogmen, Werewolves and Hellhounds in the UK,” and Stan Gordon on “Dogman & Other Cryptid Creatures of Pennsylvania.”
Symposium attendees Donna Fink of Wisconsin and Dianne Beeson of Cincinnati said the event was one of the best they had attended.
“We’ve been to a lot of conferences,” Fink said.
“I think this is the first of its kind just to talk about the dogman,” Beeson said, adding the two friends are part of the North American Dogman Project.