The extraordinary story begins on April 21, 1977, when, at approximately 10:30 p.m., a young man by the name of Billy Barlett, along with two friends, were driving down Farm Street near Dover, Massachusetts. As the teenagers drove past a loose, stone edifice (known as the Farm Street Wall,) Barlett noticed some movement out of the corner of his eye.
At first he assumed that the motion was caused by a dog or some other indigenous animal, but as his headlights bore down on the creature, he realized that it was like nothing he had ever seen. Barlett would later describe this enigmatic entity:
“It was not a dog or a cat. It had no tail. It had an egg-shaped head. It looked like a baby’s body with long arms and legs. It had a big head about the same size as the body, it was sort of melon shaped. The color of it was… the color of people in the Sunday comics.”
Barlett also stated that the creature had large, orange eyes and a hairless body, with what appeared to be a rough textured epidermis and a distended stomach. He further elaborated that this “animal” had large hands and feet, complete with elongated digits, which Barlett claimed the creature used to grasp the loose rocks along the wall. Later Barlett drew a picture of the thing next to the wall and annotated the illustration with this quote:
‘‘I Bill Bartlett swear on a stack of Bible’s that I saw this creature.’’
As if this account weren’t fascinating enough, just two hours later — and approximately one mile away — 15 year-old John Baxter, while walking down a lonely stretch of road en route home from his girlfriend’s house, spotted what he described as a child-like figure moving toward him from down the street. When the figure spied Baxter it apparently fled into the woods adjacent to the road.
Baxter, fearing for the welfare of what he assumed was a sadly deformed neighborhood boy, pursued the enigmatic being through the dense cluster of trees, over a shallow brook and across a field. It wasn’t long before Baxter lost sight of the figure and finally halted at the bank of a shallow gully to catch his breath.
According to his own account, it was then that Baxter’s gaze fell across the gully and he was treated to his first clear view of the creature, which was purportedly leaning against a tree across the gap. Baxter later described the following harrowing moments:
“As I was looking really close there I could see the eyes it was looking at me I just stared at it for another few minutes and then I just got all these thoughts that maybe it was something really strange. ‘Cause, you know, nothing ever happened to me like this before, so I didn’t know what to think.”
“So I finally got the thought that maybe it wasn’t as safe as it looked, ’cause the way it was staring at me it just seemed like it was– I don’t know. I got all these feelings that it was thinking to itself, or waiting to spring, or whatever, you know? And so I backed up the bank kind of fast, and my heart started beating really fast!”
Baxter, who left the forest in a panic, drew the animal that night and later described the creature to authorities, giving a description which matched Barlett’s account down to the last detail including the huge, orange eyes. In the ensuing media circus, Baxter insisted that he had reported his encounter without any prior knowledge of Barlett’s sighting.
The third, and final, encounter that the residents of Dover would have with this creature occurred the following evening, when the thing was spotted by 15 year-old Abby Brabham and 18 year-old Will Taintor. They claimed that the creature in question was thin and sitting on all-fours by the side of the road, near the edge of a bridge. Brabham compared the beast to a bulbous headed, hairless primate:
“As I looked at it… it kind of looked a minute like an ape. And then I looked at the head and the head was very big and it was a very weird head It had bright green eyes and the eyes just glowed like, they were just looking exactly at me.”
Almost all of the eyewitness were asked (separately, of course) to sketch the creature which they had seen. The results were astounding to say the least. The only discrepancy between Brabham and Taintor’s accounts, and those which were given the night before, was the fact that Brabham insisted that the creatures eyes were not orange, as previously described, but green.
Some investigators have pointed out that light reflecting of an animals eyes (especially headlights) often creates an entire spectrum of hues and that this minor difference in no way devalues the eyewitness testimony. This is a problem often faced by SKUNK APE investigators who, more often than not, have to rely on testimony given by motorists passing these creatures in the dead of night.
Almost as soon as news of this event was reported, investigators LOREN COLEMAN — who interviewed all of the primary eyewitnesses within a week of the sightings and has been credited with coining the name “Dover Demon” — Ed Fogg and Walter N. Webb, descended on the region in order to collect as much evidence as possible. All three investigators came to the conclusion that there was no evidence of a hoax:
‘‘We have a credible case, over 25 hours, by individuals who saw something. Nothing quite like the Demon has been reported seen before or since. The Dover creature does not match the descriptions of the CHUPACABRAS, or of Roswell aliens, or of the bat-eared (HOPKINSVILLE GOBLINS) said to have attacked a family in Hopkinsville, Ky., in 1955… it doesn’t really fit any place. It’s extremely unique. It has no real connections to any other inexplicable phenomena. I think the Dover Demon’s mystery lives on. ’’
In an interview with American Monsters, Coleman summed up the entire event:
“The short story (no pun intended) is that over a two day period in April 1977, four people saw a small, 4 foot tall orange sharkskin creature (somewhat like Golem in Lord of the Rings) in three separate sightings, in Dover, Massachusetts, a rural location near Boston. The case goes down as unexplainable. I don’t know the answer to “what really happened” as all the eyewitnesses checked out, and were found to be credible by law enforcement and other people in Dover.”
Coleman also theorized that the large geologic outcropping in the woods off Farm Street, which local historians refer to as the “Polka” stone, might actually be a mispronunciation of a “POOKA” stone, which is related to the fairies of Celtic folklore in general and, more specifically, to a particularly nasty breed of AQUATIC ENIGMA associated with the infamous Gaelic predator known as the “Irish crocodile” or DOBHAR-CHU.
In what may be a totally unrelated incident, Barlett claimed that the year following his sighting, he was in a parked with his girlfriend in a remote area when he heard a thump on his car. When he turned he says that he spied a “small figure” leaving the scene. Although Barlett would not speculate as to whether this was the return of the Dover Demon, he remains unsure of who or what banged on the car.
After the 1977 occurrences hit the news another eyewitness, Mark Sennott of Sherborn, came out of the woodwork, claiming that he and his friends may actually have been the first to see the Dover Demon, an event which they reported to local authorities although nothing came of it. According to Sennott, he and his friends were cruising on Springdale Avenue near Channing Pond in 1972, when they saw a strange creature in the forest:
‘‘I don’t know if we really saw something. We thought we did…we saw a small figure, deep in the woods, moving at the edge of the pond. We could see it moving in the headlights. We didn’t know — it could have been an animal.’’
On October 29, 2006, The Boston Sunday Globe published an interview with the then 46 year-old Bartlett, who — though often tormented by curiosity seekers — has not wavered on his bizarre tale regarding what he saw on Farm Street that night. Even twenty-nine years after the event, Bartlett continues to insist that he had an eerie encounter with a humanoid creature, approximately 4 feet in height with glowing orange eyes and no apparent no nose or mouth on its watermelon-shaped head.
‘‘In a lot of ways it’s kind of embarrassing to me. I definitely saw something. It was definitely weird. I didn’t make it up. Sometimes I wish I had… it’s a thing that’s been following me for years. Not the creature — the story. Sometimes I dread every Halloween getting calls about it… I have no idea what it was. I definitely know I saw something… I’ve always tried to guess what it was. I never had any idea… This was no prank. I wasn’t trying to be funny. People who know me know I didn’t make this up.’’
As to the identity of the Dover Demon, it is difficult to speculate. Although it is often associated with ufology — due in no small part to the fact that this creatures physiology is vaguely similar to the notorious race of aliens commonly referred to as the GREYS — the fact remains that there were no reported UFO sightings in the area at the time. That having been said, there is a consensus among most investigators that this unidentified entity is very likely a visitor from OUT OF THIS WORLD.
Whatever this creature was or was not, this strange case has mystified cryptozoologists, ufologists and fortean investigators for decades. Now firmly entrenched in paranormal lore, the Dover Demon has become a pop culture icon with its likeness appearing in both video games and Japanese figurines, although, it must be noted, that it — nor any of its ilk — have been reported again in the Dover area.
Carl Sheridan, who was the Chief of Police during the “demon” flap and remembers all to well the media frenzy that surrounded it, claimed that people in the region are still not sure what to make of this unusual tale:
‘‘That thing has haunted me for 29 years. I knew the kids involved. They were good kids… pretty reliable kids. God only knows (what they saw)… I still don’t know. Strange things have happened. The whole thing was unusual.’’