LINDA S. GODFREY INTERVIEW

1
2021

BIO : LINDA S. GODFREY

As a professional artist, teacher, writer and mother of two, Linda Godfrey has carved a niche for herself as one of the most respected authorities on anomalous animals and paranormal phenomenon in Wisconsin.

As the acknowledged expert on the creature knows as “The Beast of Bray Road,” Godfrey has been interviewed on a plethora of television networks and programs that deal with bizarre creatures, such as Inside Edition, Sightings, Animal Planet, Discovery Kids and the Sci-Fi channel. Godfrey has also been featured on AMC’s expos’e of the realities behind the werewolf film “Underworld” entitled “Fang vs. Fiction” and has recently been working with an Australian team producing a show for the Discovery Channel. Godfrey has also made numerous appearances on Godfrey has also made numerous appearances on Coast to Coast AM.

As a journalist, Godfrey was the first to break the chilling story of the horrific, werewolf-like monstrosity that is said to lurk in the shadow shrouded forests surrounding Elkhorn, Wisconsin’s Bray Road.

Since then she has gone on to author three books, “The Beast of Bray Road, Tailing Wisconsin’s Werewolf,” “Hunting the American Werewolf and “Lake and Sea Monsters (Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena).” Click to see more of Linda Godfrey’s published works.

Godfrey has continued to pursue her interests in the unknown and has gone on to investigate an array of unusual animals allegedly lurking in her home state. Next on her slate is the forthcoming “Beyond Bray Road,” which will continue her chronicle of this nefarious creature’s exploits with numerous additional sightings and encounters as well as further exploration of possible explanations for the so-called “wolfman” phenomenon.

INTERVIEW: LINDA S. GODFREY

How long have you been interested in cryptozoological and paranormal phenomenon? What was the genesis for this interest?

I can’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t fascinated with everything mysterious, starting with an imaginary fairy friend who bunked in the street lights when I was a little girl. We lived in a house that I believed was haunted and this sparked my interest in the paranormal at an early age.

My dad was a science fiction fan and believed he had seen a UFO, so I grew up with all this roiling in my mind and it made me curious to learn more. I hadn’t done any special study of cryptozoology, however, until I wrote the first newspaper article about The Beast of Bray Road and became intrigued with the fact that people were seeing an animal that no one could identify.

When and how did you become involved with the unusual events, which occurred near Elkhorn in the early 1990’s?

I was working as a reporter, columnist and cartoonist for the Walworth County newspaper, The Week, when a woman tipped me off to the fact that people around Elkhorn were claiming to see what they described as a werewolf. I asked around and found out she was right, and pitched the story to the editor. I thought that if we had some strange, big animal lurking nearby, people had a right to know about it.

What encouraged you to pursue these eyewitness accounts, when other reporters merely dismissed them out of hand?

I think the other reporters who could have done the story were afraid of seeming less than professional by taking on such an “iffy” subject. I’ve never been too concerned with what people think, and the excitement of having such a mystery to solve far outweighed any fears for my reputation. Besides, I was already a cartoonist and it’s hard to get more disreputable (or more newsroom flak-worthy) than that.

What was your initial reaction to the eyewitness testimony that you chronicled?

Even though I was very interested in the story, I still wore my reporter hat and was at first skeptical of the people that I interviewed. But after I had talked to several of them and found that their descriptions of the creature tallied and that they were all still frightened by having seen it, I couldn’t find any reason not to believe that they really had seen something unusual. After all, they each had more to lose than gain by telling.

Who coined the name: “The Beast of Bray Road”?

That phrase was mine; I wasn’t happy with the term “werewolf” since it has connotations of Lon Chaney-type transformations, and we had no idea whether what these people were seeing had anything to do with silver bullets and full moons. I was really leaning toward the theory of a large hybrid dog at that point, and “beast” just seemed a more appropriately generic term. Plus, it went so well with Bray Road (which just happened to be the main site of that first reported sightings cluster).

What is the most horrifying encounter that you’ve ever heard regarding this bizarre creature?

It may be the story about a young girl who was sitting in a tree behind a barn on her farm on Hwy. 11 near Bray Road when the creature came out of the woods, spied her, and spent the better part of an hour trying to get up in the tree at her. She was able to stay high enough to avoid it, and later showed the claw marks it left on the tree bark to a woman I know. It finally gave up and she waited another hour before bolting to her house, but she was quite shaken. At least we now know it does not climb trees well.

Has anyone actually claimed to have been physically attacked by the Beast? If so, has there been any evidence to support the claim? If not, why do you think the animal has not harmed anyone?

Other than a few witnesses who said the Beast ran after their car and raked its claws over it as they departed, I haven’t had any reports that it has attacked people even when it had a good chance to do so. I don’t know what it would have done to the girl in the tree had it succeeded in reaching her, however. As to why it hasn’t attacked anyone, I believe from all reports that it is a scavenger and a hunter of small game, and is wary of humans. Most who see it say they have the feeling that it did not want to be seen, and that it escaped from their view as soon as possible.

Eyewitness Lori Endrizzi believed that the creature in question was supernatural or “satanic” in origin, while others, like Doris Gipson categorized it as merely “a freak of nature” – where do you stand on the Beast’s origins?

It’s hard to stand anywhere but firmly in the middle since I have no positive proof of either extreme. I do have to say that since the first book came out, I’ve had a number of sightings that seem to have a paranormal component such as sudden materialization, morphing shapes, or telepathic communication, which have compelled me to delve more deeply into explanations beyond the obvious flesh and bone possibilities.

In your “opinion” is the Beast a genuine biological phenomenon or does it cross the line into the realm of the paranormal?

Again, that is the question of the day and I think there are arguments for each. I’ve had at least one sighting in this state now where the witness saw two creatures, which implies that perhaps this could be a breeding population. On the other hand, there are those paranormal manifestations to contend with, and some Native American sources have told me they believe it is a spirit creature.

Do you think that there is any chance that the Beast is an evolutionary offshoot? Some kind of Darwinian anomaly which could be classified, as you suggested in your book, as a “canid” (canine hominid)?

That is my likeliest bet in the biological phenomenon camp. This thing just doesn’t act like a hybrid dog; hybrid dogs don’t walk around upright. We had many large carnivores on this continent at one time and certainly many of them had canine characteristics.

Who is to say that one of them couldn’t have developed bipedalism in the natural selection process and somehow managed to exist all this time in the wild pockets of the state? After all, Wisconsin has only been settled by Europeans for less than two hundred years. Such creatures would have had millennia to exist and adapt. And there are many references among the indigenous peoples to creatures not in our known Wisconsin menagerie.

Do you believe that there is any possibility, whatsoever, that a human being could physically transform into a predatory canine-like creature?

I know there are people who believe that they do transform, but so far as I know not one of them has been willing to document this process on film. I do believe that there are people practicing shamanic religions who can form some type of etheric body or project an image of animals or strange creatures that seem to be able to romp about…whether these things truly exist or are mere impressions created on the minds of certain receptive people is debatable, but it’s a common belief among our native tribes nationally.

There are also people who practice manifesting “magical” thought forms, similar to the tulpa figures created by Tibetan monks. Is this possible? A quick study of quantum mechanics will suffice to prove that the “real and solid” universe most of us believe we live in is anything but that, and I remain open to the possibility of mind over (or into) matter in some of these cases. Unfortunately, the demand to put this type of creature on camera doesn’t wash, since an etheric body or thought form probably would not register on film the same way it would be seen by the human eye in person.

What are some of the other bizarre creatures you’ve investigated in your home state? What (besides Bray Road) are some of the most interesting cases you’ve ever been involved with?

Well, first I have to make clear that the great bulk of creature sightings have not been on Bray Road but all over the state, though chiefly in the southeastern section. I’ve also had reports of the same creature in other states, especially Pennsylvania and New York.

But in Wisconsin I’ve been investigating a creature around the Marathon County area people are calling the bearwolf that I first learned about from investigator Todd Roll in Wausau…it has the head of a wolf, similar to our Beast, but a thicker, shaggier body and is somewhat shorter. I’ve also had a report of two people seeing what they called a Lizard Man near the Wisconsin River in LaCrosse, and a bizarre, mini-version of the Beast near Oshkosh.

Can you tell us a little about Highway 13’s flying reptile man or the Mauston Birdman, both of which were mentioned in Weird Wisconsin?

The reptile man is interesting because it was first seen and reported by no less than a state Department of Natural Resources warden. These wardens are a notoriously skeptical lot when it comes to strange creature sightings. He described it as shiny, green-scaled, and man-shaped. A group of highway workers later saw the same thing, and in both cases the creature surprised its witnesses by snapping wings out from its back and sailing off into the trees.

The Mauston birdman was another flying creature, this time six feet tall, yellow-feathered and beaked, but with human body shape. Sound like Big Bird? It was seen by an elderly grandmother, and the strange thing is that a few years earlier, a young girl in the family had told them that Big Bird came to visit her. They all thought she had just been watching too much Sesame Street. Of course we do have the tradition of the Native American thunderbird here in Wisconsin, but that is usually described as looking more like a pterodactyl than a Jim Henson creation.

Have you ever participated in any field expeditions mounted for the purpose of finding the Beast or any of these other creatures, or do you consider yourself more a chronicler of the legends/evidence?

For a long time I had to content myself with simply being a chronicler, because most of the time I would not receive sighting reports in time for the trail to be fresh, or they would have occurred on property that could not be accessed. I did once spend most of the night on Bray Road, with permission of the Sheriff’s Dept. and with a professional photographer in the car, watching some raw chicken we had set out for bait, to no avail.

Recently, I had a sighting reported to me the day it happened in Rock County, and as fate would have it, I knew the nearby landowners. They permitted me to bring a professional paranormal team (getghostgear.com) for one night, and we set bait in numerous places and dispatched teams with walkie talkies and video cameras. We also placed motion detector cams in likely spots. We did not bring guns with silver bullets. The creature never showed, probably having detected us before we could detect it…if it was even still in the same area.

But it’s really like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. To my knowledge, no one who has deliberately set out to try to see the creature has had any success. Of course I always have my eyes peeled when I’m driving at night. And by the way, it hasn’t been spotted on or near Bray Road for at least eight years. Almost anywhere else in southeastern Wisconsin is a more likely place these days.

What is the best piece of evidence that your research has turned up regarding any of the zoological anomalies you have investigated?

Several people have reported seeing footprints in the sightings areas, but no one has ever thought to take a cast or even a photo. One woman said the print seemed to be of some large animal, and she was able to place her size nine ladies moon boot inside it (the print was made in a freshly tilled field). Interestingly, none of the prints have been reported to look anything like a Bigfoot print, and most will say it reminded them of the print of a super-large dog or wolf.

Two people have claimed they had fur on their car bumpers but lost it. Unfortunately, most of those who have sightings are not trained or even interested in cryptozoology so that it never occurs to them to save evidence, and they are also usually too rattled to think of anything but getting away. Still, that leaves us with around 50 eyewitness accounts for evidence… all from “regular” people, of every age, gender and walk of life.

Who are some of the individuals who have most influenced your decision to continue pursue your investigations into unknown animals?

Coming across the work of people like John Keel and Loren Coleman was very inspirational; to learn people had dedicated their whole lives to this sort of endeavor was a big shot in the arm. I also had a lot of local support from friends like Richard Hendricks, Wausau paranormal investigator Todd Roll, Eau Claire researchers Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, and the guys at getghostgear.com. And of course the strong, continuing public interest and never-ending sightings have kept my crypto-adrenaline pumping.

Beyond the Elkhorn encounters, what would you consider to be the most intriguing werewolf case you’ve ever come across?

One of the most puzzling is one that was told me by a bookstore clerk in Madison, who saw something that resembled the Beast on a residential street in that city. It was under a streetlight early in the wee morning hours so he had a good view, and he actually witnessed it “morph” from a wolf-headed, human form into an ape-headed form. He swears he was not drinking and doesn’t do drugs. It certainly makes one think twice about shape-shifters. He was still obviously terrified when he told me about it a few weeks after it happened.

You served as an expert on AMC’s “Fang vs. Fiction tie-in with the motion picture “Underworld” and have been featured on numerous other television shows. How did you become first become involved with television documentaries?

I’ve never sought out any of the television shows; they all have contacted me. That’s probably because I broke the original story, wrote the book and have most of the sightings reports, having somehow become the unofficial Werewolf Central. And it is quite unusual to have so many sightings of a wolf-headed creature in one area in contemporary times. So when a producer wishes to create a werewolf documentary these days, Bray Road has become the place to go. I usually help them as best I can because I feel I owe it to the public as the accidental “keeper of the lore.”

How has the exposure you’ve received being on so many nationally syndicated radio and television programs affected your life?

Other than occasionally being stared at or recognized at airports or places like that, it’s affected it very little, really. Thank goodness! One good effect that it’s had is people who have had a sighting but never knew who to tell will see me and then usually contact me through my Web site, www.cnb-scene.com. I am able to collect many more stories that way.

How do you sons feel about research? Are either of them interested in cryptozoological phenomenon?

Neither of my sons is the slightest bit interested. They each are very busy with their own lives and work, and having grown up with “that nutty mom who researches werewolves” they would each rather do their own thing. And I think that’s great. Besides, they may come around some day. For the record, my husband has not caught werewolf fever from me, either. But he gets sort of a kick out of what I do.

What inspired you to go beyond your series of articles and write a book about The Beast of Bray Road and other strange phenomenon? How many books have you written?

It was mostly the sheer volume of material I’d collected, along with the growing realization that after ten years, people were still very hungry for information on the subject. I had already published my first non-fiction book, “The Poison Widow,” a true crime story about a Wisconsin woman who, with her boy-toy lover, killed her husband with strychnine in the 1920s and was the subject of a sensational, nationally reported murder trial.

My publisher asked what else I had and I replied, would you believe werewolves? He believed, and “The Beast of Bray Road” leaped into print. My third book is just released, “Weird Wisconsin, Your Travel Guide to Wisconsin’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” co-authored with Richard Hendricks and published by Barnes & Noble. Happily, it has an entire monster chapter titled, “Bizarre Beasts.”

I’m currently working on a follow-up book to “The Beast,” tentatively titled “Beyond Bray Road” to chronicle the many other sightings and new insights and possible theories. I’m also working on a Weird Michigan book for B&N, and another true crime biography. Richard and I have a couple of other projects in the works, too.

How has the critical/fan response been to your published works?

So far, most of what I’ve seen has been positive. I’ve received many great emails from people, and researchers such as Nick Redfern have written good reviews. But I wrote the first “Beast” book not as a standard cryptozoological tome but as an account of the entire phenomenon, including the sociological aspects, the media role, and associated sightings worldwide, as well as my best effort at reporting the sightings and trying to present some plausible (and implausible) explanations.

It may not have been what everyone expected, but it was the only way I could write it, and I think it helps put the sightings in some kind of context. The next book will chronicle even more stories than did the first, and I am digging much deeper into the surrounding geography and other sightings histories of each location. It will also examine possible “supernatural” explanations more closely, since I’ve had more of those reported now.

What are your personal opinions regarding the existence of the so-called “big three” monster mysteries: Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents and Hairy Hominids? Which group intrigues you most?

Well, of course I’d have to say I’m most intrigued by the Hairy Hominids, although it’s not just because they happen to be my main subject. I’m fascinated by them in the same way I’m fascinated by all the great apes, because of their resemblance to man. We see ourselves in them, but our wild selves. That’s scary to contemplate , but offers a potentially huge source of insight on exactly what Homo Sapiens is really all about.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate the lake and sea monsters, as well. Lake Geneva has a great historical account of a serpent they had once nicknamed Jenny, but my story on it was inexplicably cut out of the Weird Wisconsin book (along with about half of what Richard and I sent them, but it’s still 272 pages).

I’m also very interested in the Native American legends of the water panther, which was often represented in our state’s ancient animal effigy mounds. I’m writing more about that in Beyond Bray Road. I do believe all these groups exist or have existed in some way, whether it’s as an ancient population remnant or even, as some insist, denizens of several dimensions with one paw or flipper in each.

What do you think is the most intriguing cryptid on Earth today?

That’s a tough one. But at the moment, I’m extremely interested in finding other examples of lizard men. Bigfoot, Wolfmen… they are still mammals and somehow don’t seem that impossibly far away from us as humans. But a reptilian humanoid is so bizarre, so alien to our general frame of reference, that I’m extremely curious about them and hoping to uncover more examples. Besides, I have this great recurring image of “Creature from the Black Lagoon” in my mind. I would love to see life imitate art.

What are your future plans? Writing… television?

Television? Only as an evil necessity. I’m not planning anything like The Beast of Bray Road Show. Though I think he could be a great unreality show host. Writing, certainly, as long as I can keep getting publishers to print things.

I also have a 300-page novel sitting in a drawer waiting for revisions, and three uncompleted YA fantasy books slouching and kicking their toes against the dirt in a computer file somewhere. I’m also an artist, I do cut paper/collage illustrations for books and magazines, and fine art pieces that I show occasionally. And then there are the monumental concrete monster sculptures I plan to cover my yard with someday…

After all these years what drives you on your continued pursuit of this and other elusive animals?

Mostly my flat out, wicked crazy curiosity. I want to know what it is these people are all seeing, and why they are the ones to get the glimpse. Are the sightings accidental, or are these people somehow chosen? I want to solve the puzzle, or at least keep laying the pieces out there until some sort of shape emerges from the shadows.

It says in you bio that you reside in rural Elkhorn… Do you feel comfortable living so close to the creature?

Absolutely comfortable. As discussed above, it has never hurt a human and sightings really still are extremely rare, when you consider the huge amount of territory and the seven-decade span they’ve occurred over. I’ve probably suffered much more damage to myself trying to shoo a woodchuck out of my flowerbed (I tripped, sprained an ankle and scraped up one leg very badly) than I will ever sustain from the local cryptid crowd.

I surely would like to see the Beast just once, however. But I’m much more wary of reported mountain lions and bears in our area, and try to document them on cnb-scene. We even currently have an out-of-place bighorn ram in Walworth County that no one has been able to catch. There’s a whole world of critters hiding out there for our eternal mystification. Knowing that makes life so much more fun.

For more information on the work of
Linda S. Godfrey visit
www.beastofbrayroad.com