The Cryptid That Got Away
Back in the late spring/early summer of 1986, before the influx of digital distractions permeated the minds of the youth, there was the grand notion for children to go outside and play. For me it was no different. I was around 11 or 12 years old and my family lived on a spacious acre and a half in what was then a somewhat rural Mequon, Wisconsin. My friend Joe lived next door and he, my younger brother Mike, and I would quite often explore the woods and fields behind our property. Part of the allure was a dirt bike trail that ran parallel to some railroad tracks, and about a quarter mile south of my house the trail led to a pair of small bridges - one for the trail and one for the train. A creek that flowed beneath them (and still does to this day) offered abundant entertainment for adolescent boys such as us. Countless hours were spent here catching minnows and crayfish, throwing rocks, and running through the surrounding corn fields.
|Google Earth image showing the bridges and distance.|
It was here at these bridges that I had my one and only encounter with a cryptid-type creature. I can't remember the time of day exactly but if I had to guess it was mid-afternoon, the sky being partly cloudy or a bit overcast. The bridges were separated by a steep dip, down upon which we often rode our bikes like daredevils on a half-pipe. Joe and I were on the railroad bridge scanning the creek below, probably chucking stones at the poor fish who happened to swim within striking distance. My brother was on the south end of the other bridge hanging out. We were preoccupied with these very important activities when Mike gave a yelled whisper, "You guys! Get over here real quick! You gotta see this! There's something on the path!" We turned around towards Mike and scoffed at him, expecting him to try and play some lame joke on us. He waved hurriedly for us to run over to him as he stared north up the bike path. The foliage was heavy enough where if one was on the railroad track bridge, one couldn't see up the trail, and thus we begrudgingly ran down the little valley and to the other side.
I would say that we three considered ourselves no amateurs when it came to the local wildlife. Considering the time and energy invested into harassing the mega-fauna as curious boys often do, we became very familiar with deer, rabbits, woodchucks, muskrats, snakes, and numerous other animals including the occasional coyote. This time it was different. It was apparent my brother was not jesting, as I came onto the path and greeted him with a serious "Whoa. What the hell is that?" We stood there in momentary silent observation of the creature who was doing exactly the same thing to us. This thing just sat in the middle of the path staring, watching.
Although not quite as menacing as the drawing I did above, if I were to show this picture to either Mike or Joe they would instantly know what it was. The creature sat on its haunches posing much like a cat does when sitting, but appearing in that position to be about three feet tall. It was jet black in color, being covered in sleek fur; the eyes were the same but glistened in the daylight, making it obvious it was watching us. The ears were very rabbit-like, very erect, almost if you could imagine how Bugs Bunny's ears are depicted. From its bottom, there patiently switched back and forth a tail, also very much like a cat. The creature gave the impression of being intelligent, curious, and alert. Pondering its image now reminds me a bit like Frank the demonic rabbit from Donnie Darko. Never in my life had I ever seen anything like this then or since.
|Google Earth image of our perspective/viewpoint.|
Being brave (or quite stupid) I told my companions that I was going to try and get closer to it. I walked slowly, one step at a time, and as I did so the animal remained motionless except for its tail. I suppose it was waiting to see how far I would go in closing the gap between us, which I estimated by looking on Google maps to be about 150 feet. After making a nervous 35-40 foot advancement in which I never took my eyes off of it, it turned around with lightning speed and leaped into the brush and woods to the east. At that moment the spell of amazement was disrupted and all of us took off running together to where it had been. In a matter of seconds we were in the same spot the creature had been but there was no sign of it and no sound to be heard. It had seemed to just disappear.
From this moment, we rushed back to the house where my parents were eating an early dinner and proceeded to tell them all about the encounter. As to be expected, we were greeted with laughs and dismissed as having exaggerated what we saw. For the next two weeks we actively searched the surrounding areas of woods in hopes of finding tracks or even another sighting. It was not meant to be.
|It was jokingly recommended that we saw a Hodag.|
During this period of time, we were one day hanging out by a neighbor's house and were describing our experience when he jokingly said it was probably the Hodag. The Hodag, for those unfamiliar, is a mythical folk monster that is said to reside in the northern reaches of Wisconsin and Minnesota. That's the name we adopted for it for a long time and called it the Hodag any time we referred to that day back by the bridge. When I was 13 years old I happened upon a book about cryptids and monsters that was in my middle school library. In the book was an entry about the Hodag, which showed a supposed photo of the beast and I realized this was not the same creature we saw. The book went on to describe that the Hodag was easily captured by cutting down its favorite tree because it had no joints in its legs, having to sleep while standing up and leaning against something. Thus, when it went to lean against the tree to sleep, it would fall over, unable to stand back up and make it prone to other predators and capture. I felt some disappointment in this revelation, thinking we had some of the answers. We were back to square one in figuring out what we saw and have been ever since. It has been one of my most cherished and vivid memories of my childhood.
Has anyone else seen this thing or something like it? I'd love to hear about it or any ideas of what it may have been.
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