‘This Was No Normal Dog’: Inside The Horrifying Legend Of The Michigan Dogman

Published May 9, 2024

A terrifying cryptid with the head of a dog, the body of a man, and a bone-chilling scream, the Michigan Dogman is said to prowl the forests of northern Michigan.

Michigan Dogman

Raggedstone / Alamy Stock PhotoSome believe the Dogman cryptid is merely a bear walking on its hind legs.

Mythical monsters have permeated the public imagination for centuries. Tales of these cryptids have spread since the days of the Kraken, and reports of creatures like Bigfoot still surface to this day. However, fewer are familiar with the Michigan Dogman — save for those who’ve purportedly heard its eerie, human-like scream for themselves.

Described as a bipedal creature with the head of a dog and the body of a man, the Dogman cryptid purportedly roams the northern Michigan wilderness, appearing every 10 years on years ending with seven.

The Dogman was allegedly first spotted by a pair of lumberjacks in the late 19th century. And while there’s no concrete proof that this creature exists, Dogman sightings have seemingly only increased since the 1800s.

Like most myths, however, the Dogman story has some holes in it.

Whether the Michigan Dogman is an ancient ancestor of wolves, a paranormal entity, or the product of a harmless prank remains unclear. But the alleged encounters are genuinely chilling.

The History Of The Michigan Dogman

By some accounts, the Michigan Dogman was known to Native Americans long before white settlers first spotted it. Legend has it that the beast once terrorized local Odawa tribes along the Manistee River. Some of these tales describe it as a skinwalker — a shapeshifter capable of transforming into a beast and back.

Indeed, according to Linda S. Godfrey’s 2019 book I Know What I Saw, the Manistee National Forest has become “the main stomping ground” of the Dogman. Many encounters described in her book show the creature capably barreling through the forest from tree to tree, even in frosty weather.

Gable Film

MuseumOfTheWeird/YoutubeA still from “The Gable Film,” an eerie 8mm film video released in 2007 that some initially believed shows the Dogman in the wild.

“Unusual circumstances seem to rule this set of encounters,” wrote Godfrey. “Local historians say the forests around the site are filled with hidden Native American burials. The remains of hundreds of men, women, and children were hastily interred here in 1642 after a large invading force of a branch of Iroquois massacred the resident Potawatomi tribe.

“Some researchers believe that large-scale, traumatic events imprint themselves not only on the psyches of survivors but on something in the landscape itself, resulting in tales of haunted places and ghostly animals,” she continued, adding that Gettysburg similarly has been the site of “numerous sightings of ghostly soldiers” after the Civil War.

The first modern Michigan Dogman encounter is alleged to have occurred in 1887. Then, a group of lumberjacks working in Wexford County spotted what they believed was a stray dog. The men chased it until it hid inside of a hollow log. Then, one of the men grabbed a stick and reached into the log to poke the creature.

Julie Albrecht Royce detailed this encounter in her 2007 book Traveling Michigan’s Sunset Coast .

“The creature let out an unearthly scream, crawled out of the log and stood upright,” Royce wrote. “There face-to-face and eye-to-eye with the men stood a creature with a man’s body and a dog’s head. The terrified men broke camp and never return to the area. From then on, the beast made an appearance about every ten years.”

Sure enough, the next reported Dogman encounter in the area occurred a decade later.

Modern Michigan Dogman Encounters

In 1897, a farmer was allegedly found dead over his plow near the town of Buckley with enormous dog tracks around his body — and some say that the Michigan Dogman was behind the fatal attack.

A decade later, a local widow spoke of dogs who “yelled like banshees” outside her house at night.

And in 1917, a sheriff allegedly came upon a driverless wagon — whose horses lay dead with their eyes wide open in terror. Royce writes that a veterinarian was called to examine the animals, but couldn’t find a medical explanation for the horses’ deaths.

Dogman Teeth

MuseumOfTheWeird/YoutubeThis still from “The Gable Film” purportedly shows the creature’s teeth as it attacks the cameraman.

Across the board, the details of alleged Dogman encounters are fairly consistent. Many witnesses maintain that the bipedal creature is seven feet tall and has blue or amber eyes, a human torso, and a murderous scream. Michigan History Center representative Rachel Clark told NPR affiliate Michigan Public in 2019 that even the circumstances of the sightings are fairly consistent.

“The early reports are usually of men working in the woods who encounter this beast during their time there. And then over the years, it’s a lot of times people who are again alone, either on an isolated road or the woods,” she said. “Their encounters are very similar though. They do talk about this beast coming out of the woods, it is very agile, it jumps in front of their car or in front of them. It scratches at their houses or their tents.”

In another encounter from 2016, a Michigander identified only as “Brad” claimed he was shoveling snow when he “heard a loud splash in the crick” some 25 yards away. He scanned the wood line and “saw this pair of yellow/amber eyes” belonging to a creature standing seven or eight feet tall. The creature then “took off” and “leapt into the air.”

“All I heard for the next few seconds was the tree tops clanging against one another,” he said, as reported by Godfrey. “It was like it rode the treetops.”

Michigan Dogman Sighting

Fortean Slip/YoutubeAn alleged Dogman cryptid sighting.

These reports appear not to have slowed down in recent years. In fact, the r/dogman subreddit boasts over 24,000 members dedicated to analyzing reports of the Michigan Dogman. A number of alleged witnesses have also written to Mysterious Michigan to share their Dogman stories.

One user wrote that when they were driving down a dark road in Waterford, Michigan late one night, they suddenly saw a “mangy” creature cross the road and run into the woods.

“This was no normal dog. If it was a coyote then it’s the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen,” the alleged witness said. “This was much bigger, with a huge head and looked like it just crawled out of the deepest pits of hell.”

However, it’s possible that these modern Dogman sightings are nothing more than part of a prank.

Was The Dogman Cryptid A Prank?

In 1987, Traverse City radio DJ Steve Cook recorded a song about the Dogman, a half-man, half-dog monster he believed he’d made up. The track, called “The Legend of the Dogman,” aired on the radio on April 1 as an April Fool’s prank.

But when Michiganders heard it, several of them called in to report encounters they’d allegedly had with the monster. As Cook researched the legend he thought he’d invented, he learned that it actually did have a history — “which made it even creepier for all of us involved,” he told WCMU.

“I made it up completely from my own imagination as an April Fool’s prank for the radio and stumbled my way to a legend that goes back all the way to Native American times,” Cook told Detroit Free Press in 2011. “I’m tremendously skeptical… but I do believe people who think they saw something really did.”

Cook told HuffPost in 2012 that he has received over 500 reports of Michigan Dogman sightings, one of which was from a woman who allegedly saw the creature as a teenager one night in 1993 while smoking behind her family’s home near Reed City. The girl purportedly noticed some light coming from within an abandoned barn nearby.

When she looked through the planks of the barn, she allegedly saw a monstrous biped creature with the head of a dog peering out at her.

The Gable Film’s Contribution To The Dogman Cryptid Lore

The Dogman story only became more complicated when a mysterious video known as the “The Gable Film” surfaced on the internet in 2007.

Captured on 8mm film, the vintage-looking footage initially seemed like an innocent home video of a winter spent in a wooded area. Various cuts show people riding snowmobiles through a snowy forest or chopping wood. Another clip shows a dog roaming a tree-lined road, sniffing around and appearing to perk up at something he hears in the distance.

Then, in the final clip, the cameraman spots a strange, hairy creature in the woods, and begins to follow it. When he finally gets a clear shot of it, the beast suddenly charges at him. The film blurs as the cameraman frantically runs away. We see a flash of pointed teeth, and then the camera clatters to the ground as the monster presumably catches its prey.

As the Gable Film made rounds on the internet, many speculated that the hairy creature seen in the footage was the Michigan Dogman. Eventually, a man named Mike Agrusa confessed to creating the Gable Film, acknowledging that it was a hoax.

The Michigan Dogman tale has thus ironically spawned myths of its own, as legends about the making of these films and songs have sent obsessives down new rabbit holes.

Of course, it’s possible that the “monstrous” creatures people are allegedly seeing are simply ordinary creatures like bears standing on their hind legs. However, Rachel Clark said she is reluctant to dismiss witnesses’ claims.

“For a long time, there were stories of large cats in Michigan that were sort of dismissed,” she said. “And now we have cougar sightings… So I’m not saying there’s a Dogman that’s going to show up. However, who knows what’s living in the forests of Michigan?”

After learning about the Michigan Dogman, meet the Beast of Bray Road, a wolf-like creature that allegedly roams the Wisconsin countryside. Then, learn about the 1994 Lake Michigan UFO incident.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "‘This Was No Normal Dog’: Inside The Horrifying Legend Of The Michigan Dogman." AllThatsInteresting.com, May 9, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/michigan-dogman. Accessed May 23, 2024.