Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weirdness in Wisconsin

Loren Coleman delves into the strange and Fortean-saturated saga of Janesville, Wisconsin...

Looks like a road-trip is in order for me!


  1. I've mentioned before here that I grew up on the western edge of Wisconsin along the Mississippi -- a couple hours bike ride from where you searched for the Mothman, and a few blocks from where the Mothman report occurred at Brice Prairie.

    One thing I can say about alligators; they're not as uncommon as you might think. Barges go up the Mississippi from the New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and plenty of gators hitch rides on those. Every summer it seemed a new news report would come out about someone fishing off a bridge or at a spillway and snagging a small gator. (And small gators with no predators grow.)

    The Wisconsin River branches off the Mississippi in lower Wisconsin and goes all the way up to the north-eastern part of the state. It doesn't connect to the Rock River in Janesville, but it swings through Dane County, which is adjacent to Janesville's Rock County. Since commercial river transport is so big there, I wouldn't be surprised if some barge-hopping gators ended up on a container that a semi truck took through Dane and Rock Counties, and from there they found their way to water.

    There's marsh and swampland all over that area of the state -- it wouldn't be hard for a population of amphibious reptiles to make a good go of it, and with the freakishly warm winters Wisconsin's had for the past 20 years, that's even more possible.

    But there are other things worth considering: Elkhorn is the next county east of Rock County -- and that's Beast of Bray Road country. One thing I think Linda Godfrey has pointed out before is the strange connection between effigy mounds and cryptid sightings.

    Other states have effigy mounds, and I know Ohio is famous for the Serpent Mound, but there are only a handful of mounds in other states; there are 4,000 still extant in Wisconsin, and at one point there were tens of thousands more. Godfrey has reported that the native tribes there (Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe) claim the mounds were there when they arrived, and that they've had cryptid sightings near those mounds for eons.

    That part of the country is interesting; it's called the Driftless Area and it's old, older than most other landscape because it was largely untouched in the last glaciation period. (To me it kinda looks like Utah, but green.) There's a state park in that area called Aztalan that still has three massive mounds in it, but Devil's Lake state park also has mounds and something else -- a sunken pyramid at the bottom of 40-foot deep lake. It's not a typical pyramid; it's a long rectangular-shape, built with stacked stones that taper up to a peak. It's hard for divers to spot because it's so silty at the bottom, but it has been photographed and spotted with sonar.

    The problem is how the hell did a pyramid get there? Stone-age people most likely weren't diving 40 feet in the dark to build it, so it must have been built before the lake was a lake -- and here's where things get odd. That lake itself was created in the last glaciation, 12,000 years ago, but the glacier didn't really touch the surrounding area (the bluffs were once higher than the Rockies -- like I said, the area's old). So if the pyramid was built before the lake was there, that makes the pyramid older than Gobekli Tepe. If the same people who built the pyramid also played a role in the effigy mounds, that might explain why the Ho-Chunk say the mounds were already there when they arrived.

  2. For what it's worth, my pop had a big black cat sighting while fishing on the Mississippi, and that turned into kind of a thing with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. He was in a channel a little ways off an island, and thought he saw a black lab on the island's beach. But the way it moved was wrong, and he says then he noticed the tail, and said to himself "That's a damn cat!" He watched it for a while, and it roamed the treeline for a bit and then went back deeper into the island.

    He contacted the DNR because he was thinking there was an escaped cat someplace; cougars haven't been there in about a century, and this thing was black. The way he tells it, they started to interrogate him pretty forcefully, to make sure he wasn't drunk, a story-teller looking for attention, etc. They initially got some basic info, and then hung up. A short while later he was called back, and grilled over the phone for about 20 or 30 minutes. When they were satisfied he wasn't a nut, the officer told him that two evenings before they spotted a dead deer on that same part of that same island; it'd been attacked by something and killed. They tagged the deer and returned the next morning to collect the remains, but the carcass had been dragged to the middle of the island and completely picked over -- no organs left, and a lot of the meat gone. They weren't sure what could have done that, because there are no coyotes or wolves out there, but now here's my dad with a report of a giant black cat.

    If you ever do go back to Wisconsin, feel free to ask any questions you might have. I don't live there anymore, but if I don't have some info, I may know who to go to or where to look.

    Fun Fact: Orson Welles is from Wisconsin, and before he went to Europe, he wrote a play about hunters in northern Wisconsin being terrorized by a ghost in a cabin. It was discovered in the State Historical Society archives back in the early 1990's.

  3. M:

    Many thanks for the 2 comments. I have a similar story to the DNR one in my next book, this one from a few years ago on the east Coast.