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Department Deals with Dover Demon “Detectives”

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 22nd, 2007

Dover Demon

Last night, Saturday, April 21, into the early morning of Sunday, April 22, 2007, I was on the “Dover Demon” radio special broadcast by “Spooky Southcast,” for two and a half hours. It was good to celebrate the exact anniversary of the Dover Demon sightings this way, and to join current investigators from the area, on the air.

Of course, like some people who decided to go to the specific sites of the encounters, I would have enjoyed being on Farm Street in Dover last night, as well. But it sounds like some people went a bit overboard in their “searching” last night. More on that in a minute.

For the “Dover Demon Special,” host Tim Weisberg assembled a panel including Jeff Belanger, author of the forthcoming Weird Massachusetts, Christopher Balzano who is writing a book on the Bridgewater Triangle, Keith Johnson a demonologist, John Horrigan of the Mass Monster Mash, and “Spooky Southcoast” Science Advisor Matt Moniz, plus technician/producer Matt Costa at the controls in the “Spooky Studio.”

Moniz and Horrigan were out in the field, at the Farm Street and other sites where the encounters had occurred in Dover. That was an intriguing part of the program, and I enjoyed hearing from the field, during the broadcast. Moniz, reporting in, needless to say, had a difficult time even making cell phone contact from the rural setting, and several of his reports were cut off due to dropped transmission.

One of the interesting things they reported on was the definite water-link from one site to the other. They found the small creek flowed from one sighting location to the next. And discovered fresh signs that this is still being used by animals to travel along and via the creek.

Dover Demon

This is what Abby Brabham drew.

Furthermore, Moniz said that in talks with the Dover Police Department moments before – who were checking out what they were doing there – Moniz and Horrigan learned several groups of amateur detectives, home-grown investigators, and wannabe cryptozoologists were roaming Dover “looking for the Dover Demon,” on that dark night (Saturday, April 21, 2007). The DPD said that the small groups of people were trespassing, and were being “escorted” off private property. Moniz and Horrigan saw one such incident themselves, where a group of four or five young people were being – not arrested – but asked to leave an area, minutes before Moniz went on the air. Moniz said when they were stopped by the police, they said that they were doing a live radio broadcast. They were allowed to stay in a put-over along the roadside (apparently on Springdale Avenue – the Abby Bramham-Will Traintor site), and continued trying to get a cell signal. Earlier attempts from the Bartlett location on Farm Street had been unsuccessful.

Dover Demon

Bill Bartlett, showing his budding artistic skills, carefully captured on paper what he saw in this 1977 sketch; click on the image for a larger version.

One great surprise was an actual tape of a November 2006 interview with the first Dover Demon eyewitness Bill Bartlett. As it happened, I was being interviewed by Jeff Belanger for his “Bridgewater Triangle” segment in his forthcoming Weird Massachusetts volume, when we naturally drifted into talking about the Dover Demon. Belanger said he’d recently interviewed Bartlett and had it on tape. I encouraged Belanger to play snippets from what Bartlett said happened in 1977, as part of the anniversary special, since I knew Belanger was going to appear on the show too. The story of importance is the Dover Demon seen by eyewitnesses, I feel, not the investigators, and I thought that would refocus the celebration back to the cryptid and the witnesses. The two Bartlett segments did make this program unique. (If I learn that there are mp3 or other copies, I’ll let people know.)

A drawing made by Baxter showed a humanoid figure with large eyes standing by a tree.

Dover Demon

John Baxter, separately, sketched what he observed; click on the image for a larger version.

Sunday, April 22, 2007, continued the Dover Demon story with the Sunday Boston Globe’s West Suburban edition carrying a rather lengthy feature on the Dover Demon. I have not seen the printed edition (it is not in the edition they sell in Maine) but I understand there may be a drawing of the Dover Demon with the piece. Find the article’s text below, with my enhanced comments in brackets:

Dover: ‘Demon’ Bewitches Still, 30 Years Later
Sunday Boston Globe
April 22, 2007
DOVER — Do you believe in the Dover Demon?
This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the alleged sightings of the mysterious creature, described by several witnesses as about 4 feet tall with a thin body and arms, glowing eyes, and a huge, egg-shaped head.
Whether it’s real or a hoax, the Dover Demon has gained notoriety among paranormal enthusiasts around the United States and the world. In conjunction with the anniversary, the Dover Historical Society plans to print T-shirts depicting the creature.
“The Dover Demon case is one of the most widely publicized creature sighting reports of all time,” said Chris Pittman, a Franklin resident who presides over the Massachusetts UFO Resource Site, a website focused on the paranormal. “I don’t think it would be possible for anyone interested in paranormal mysteries not to have heard of this case.”
These days the creature is included in a number of books and websites about strange creatures right alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. For example, About.com (a website owned by The New York Times, parent company of the Globe) puts the Dover Demon on its list of the “Top 10 Most Mysterious Creatures of Modern Times,” and a Japanese toy company has manufactured Dover Demon figurines.
The creature was reportedly seen on three separate occasions on April 21 and 22, 1977. William Bartlett , who was the first person to report seeing the creature, said he wasn’t aware the Dover Demon incident was turning 30.
“I don’t really think about it, unless someone calls me to ask about it,” said Bartlett, an accomplished painter in the realist style who lives in Needham but grew up in Dover.
When asked, Bartlett stands by his story.
Bartlett, who was then 17, said he spotted the creature while driving his Volkswagen Beetle along Farm Street about 10 p.m. that April 21. He got a good look at the creature for 10 to 15 seconds, he said, and knew right away that it was like no animal he had ever seen.
The creature’s head was nearly as big as the rest of its body, and it had long, spindly fingers, he said. It was walking on all fours atop a stone wall.
“As I drove by it turned its head to look at me,” Bartlett said in a recent interview. “You get that moment where your eyes meet. I remember that happening. It freaked me out.”
Bartlett said he went home, told his parents what happened , and immediately began sketching a picture of the creature. He was already an aspiring artist at the time and has always had a good visual memory, he said.
Bartlett’s sketches have become the most-used representation of the creature.
His drawings attracted the attention of Loren Coleman , a cryptozoologist, or researcher of “hidden animals.”
Coleman said he happened to see the sketches in a Dover store a few days after the sightings. Coleman learned that other teenagers had also reported seeing the creature, and [after interviewing the witnesses separately,] he quickly assembled a team to look into the stories.
He found that 15-year-old John Baxter reported seeing a similar creature walking around on Miller Hill Road the same night as Bartlett’s sighting. The next night, 15-year-old Abby Brabham and her boyfriend saw a similar creature cross the street on Springdale Avenue. The three sightings were all within about a mile of each other.
Coleman said he became convinced: The teens were not friends with each other and did not find out until later that others had made similar reports.
“These were kids that were not pranksters,” Coleman said. “They just weren’t kids that would have had any reason to be lying.”
Coleman, who coined the catchy name “Dover Demon,” has been writing and talking about the creature ever since. His most well-known book, Mysterious America, is being rereleased this week with an expanded chapter on the Dover Demon.
Coleman said he believes the story has had staying power because it is unique: No one has ever reported seeing such a creature anywhere else in the world.
Besides being featured on U S television programs such as “Unsolved Mysteries,” the Dover Demon has drawn interest from abroad. Coleman said he has spoken to media from such places as Japan, Russia, Austria and South Africa about the creature.
On Monday night he will appear on a nationally syndicated radio show, ” Coast to Coast AM,” and expects to spend much of the show discussing the Dover Demon.
“Who could’ve known that 30 years later, people would still be talking about it?” said Coleman, who now lives in Portland, Maine. “Who would’ve guessed that the story of those teens would become an international phenomenon?”
The town of Dover hasn’t really embraced the story, according to Coleman [compared to the way that towns like Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Roswell, New Mexico, have annual festivals, museums, and souvenirs]. But a bit of enthusiasm appears to be surfacing with the 30th anniversary of the sightings.
Paul Tedesco, president of the Dover Historical Society, said the group’s T-shirts commemorating the anniversary will be imprinted with Bartlett’s famous sketch and the words “Do you believe?” They will be sold during the Dover Days Fair on May 19 as a fund-raiser for the Historical Society.
Tedesco also said he’d like to organize some sort of Demon-themed contest for the fair. “I’ve never believed it,” Tedesco said. “But hey, people have fun with it.”
For those who do believe, though, the question remains: What was that creature?
Coleman said he has never drawn any conclusions.
“For me, I’m happy saying I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I think it’s enough to just acknowledge that it was an actual, real incident. It’s a mystery, but it’s a very real mystery.”
Bartlett said he only knows what it wasn’t: It wasn’t a fox or some other animal. He had been accustomed to seeing those animals while growing up in Dover back when it was a farm town, he said.
“I honestly saw something,” Bartlett said. “I wish I had made it up, and it was a hoax, because then maybe I could have profited from it in some way. But I didn’t make it up. I know it was real.”By Kyle Alspach, Globe Correspondent

I have got to get a couple of those tee-shirts!

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


9 Responses to “Department Deals with Dover Demon “Detectives””

  1. showme responds:

    Happy Birthday, Dover Demon!

    I have heard skeptics claim it was a baby moose, but all of the photos of young moose I’ve seen show a small head, compared to the rest of the body.

    The gripping hands and feet are a real puzzler.

  2. DWA responds:

    ANNOUNCEMENT! ANNOUNCEMENT!

    Aliens from the planet gRFLSK^$#@$@!-394! You left behind some specimens! And we have your dog! Please report to Customer Service!

    Either that, or a juvenile sasquatch. :-D

  3. Bob Michaels responds:

    I just can’t buy into this apparition, it’s another Jersey Devil type myth.

  4. SpookySouthcoast responds:

    If anyone would like to listen to this show, you can either download it from iTunes (or wherever you get podcasts), listen to it on the blog at SpookySouthcoast.com, or just click the link below to open the media player.

    Let us know what you think!

    And thanks again, Loren

  5. Rillo777 responds:

    I’m always suspicious of things that appear only a few times and only to teenagers.

    I’m very glad Dover has a mascot, but I consider this more folklore than cryptid.

  6. Double Naught Spy responds:

    Yep, cain’t possibly be true. Just too weird. We might have to live with a bit more uncertainty if we allow ourselves to look at the evidence with an open mind. Yep, had to be a dog. Can’t be nothin’ like that runnin’ around on Earth, ever. Them kids is liars.

  7. Rillo777 responds:

    I’m wary of a creature that only appears a few times and then only to teenagers.
    I’m afraid this one is more folklore than cryptid.

  8. Loren Coleman responds:

    I beg to differ.

    The eyewitnesses were credible. Bill Bartlett’s humble and retiring approach to this needs to be listened to at the link noted, versus these quick shotgun judgments.

  9. Mnynames responds:

    I’m with Loren on this one.

    Further, there have been dozens and dozens more sightings of the “Jersey Devil” than of the “Dover Demon”, and by much more reliable people than teenagers too, such as policemen, fish and wildlife workers, and so on. I’m sorry, but the trouble with the Jersey Devil is not that there nothing behind the myth (Far from it), but rather, that several separate phenomena (Some explainable, of course) are being lumped together under one title. Also, keep in mind that unlike the Dover Demon, JD is still being seen. The last report I read of was from 2004 or 2005, when a woman and her kids witnessed something big in a nearby tree that then flew at them before landing on their roof. 3-toed (Or hoofed, as improbable as it sounds, that’s rather what they looked like) tracks were found the next day in the snow on their roof, but not anywhere in their yard, indicating that whatever made them had traveled through the air to get there. She was scared enough to call the police, and resolved enough to contact fish & wildlife as well.

    My personal theory is that most of the flying reports that can’t be explained by great blue herons are of Thunderbirds, while your big hairy humanoid sightings are, of course Sasquatch.

    And, in case it needs to be said again, there’s far less evidence available for the DD, who has not been seen since that time, yet there’s little reason to doubt that evidence either.

    Not trying to steal DD’s thunder here, but JD deserves some respect too.



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