Michigan has some strange tales, but few are stranger than that of the Dogman. Some say the story began with a 1987 radio prank by Northern Michigan radio personality Steve Cook. Following the broadcast, Cook was surprised when listeners began sharing their stories of the beast. Surprise turned to shock, however, when a cabin near Luther was attacked by some kind of canine.
One of the many encounters listed on Steve Cook’s great website took place in the summer of 1938. 17-year-old Robert Fortney was fishing on the banks of the Muskegon River near Paris, Michigan when a pack of what appeared to be large feral dogs emerged from the woods:
Fortney remained silent, but the sensitive noses of the dogs quickly picked up his scent. Since he had been small game hunting earlier in the day, Fortney had his loaded rifle nearby. As the dogs approached, they assumed the group posture of a pack on a hunt. Fortney picked up the gun and fired a shot into the air.
The dogs cringed and turned to slink back into the forest, all except one: a huge black dog with unusual eyes.
“They were blue,” said Fortney. “What kind of dog has blue eyes?” The big dog and Fortney considered each other for a long moment, less than ten feet separating them. Fortney fired another shot over the head of the strange dog. Then to Fortney’s shock and amazement, the black dog stood up on two legs and cast a glare that sent shivers down his spine.
“It reared up on its hind legs and stared at me,” said Fortney in a phone interview in 1987. “It may be that I was just scared, but I swear that dog was smiling at me.”
Profits from Cook’s sales of Dogman merchandise support AC Paw, a no-kill animal rescue program that specializes in animals that have been injured, abused, or neglected. Click their logo for details.
The Dogman legend has grown over the years, and Michigan filmmaker Rich Brauer is hard at work on the filming of “Dogman 2: The Wrath of the Litter”. In a nice feature in the Detroit Free Press, Brauer opines:
“Every culture has a mythical woodland creature that they blame stuff on. I don’t know what it is about people that they want to blame stuff on something like that. There’s an inherent imagination that people have, especially when they go in the woods and start to hear things and their hair stands up on the back of their head. … It might turn out to be a chickadee on a stick, but up until that moment, it was something huge.”
Looking for more? “Ghost” on Absolute Michigan brings up a graveyard full of spooky stories including the rowdy ghosts of the Fenton Hotel and the Ghost of Minnie Quay. For more on the Dogman and many more scary stories, turn to Linda Godfrey’s Weird Michigan, a compendium of strange tales from all across Michigan.