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Dover Demon 2006

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 29th, 2006

Dover Demon

The Boston Sunday Globe
Boston, Massachusetts
Decades later, the Dover Demon still haunts
By Mark Sullivan, Globe Correspondent
October 29, 2006

Dover –Twenty-nine years later, William Bartlett stands by his story of what he saw on Farm Street that night. It was an eerie human-like creature, he said, about 4 feet tall with glowing orange eyes and no nose or mouth in a watermelon-shaped head.

‘‘I have no idea what it was,’’ Bartlett, now a 46-year-old artist living in Needham, said in a recent interview. ‘‘I definitely know I saw something.’’

The ‘‘Dover Demon’’ that Bartlett and two other teenagers reported seeing over a two-day span in April 1977 has since gained worldwide attention, not unlike Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, and the Latin American goat-sucker, the chupacabras. Internet pages are devoted to the Dover Demon. You can play a video game featuring the creature, or buy a figurine of it as far away as Japan.

‘‘In a lot of ways it’s kind of embarrassing to me,’’ said Bartlett. ‘‘I definitely saw something. It was definitely weird. I didn’t make it up. Sometimes I wish I had.’’

He has made a career as a painter, his work displayed in galleries on both coasts, but a Google search on ‘‘Bill Bartlett,’’ he noted, invariably turns up his teenage encounter with the unknown.

Once, his wife, Gwen, browsing the horror section of a bookstore, flipped open an encyclopedia of monsters — and there was an entry about her husband and the Dover Demon.

‘‘It’s a thing that’s been following me for years,’’ Bartlett said. ‘‘Not the creature — the story. Sometimes I dread every Halloween getting calls about it.’’

On April 21, 1977, Bartlett, then 17, was driving along Farm Street at around 10 p.m. when, he said, he saw the creature atop a broken stone wall.

Two hours later, according to news accounts from that time, John Baxter, 15, was walking home from his girlfriend’s house when he got within 15 feet of the creature along a creek in a heavily wooded area along Miller Hill Road.

At midnight the next night, Abby Brabham, 15, was driving home with her boyfriend when she spotted the creature sitting upright on Springdale Avenue.

Dover Demon

This is what Abby Brabham drew.

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.

Bartlett’s large-eyed creature crawled with tendril-like fingers across a stone wall. ‘‘I, Bill Bartlett, swear on a stack of Bible’s that I saw this creature,’’ he wrote on the sketch.

Dover Demon

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

The locations of the sightings, plotted on a map, lay in a straight line over 2.5 miles. All the sightings were made in the vicinity of water.

No sightings have been reported since, though Bartlett says a weird experience a year later left him wondering if he had had a return visit from the creature.

The following year, he said, he was in a parked car with his girlfriend when he heard a thump on the car. He made out a small figure leaving the scene. He remains unsure who — or what — banged the car, he said, though it could have been a youngster playing a prank. Farm Street on a recent evening could have been a modern- day Sleepy Hollow, with woods lining the fieldstone walls, and what little light there was coming from the moon. Since at least the 17th century, the vicinity of the second-oldest road in Dover has been associated with strange occurrences.

In his 1914 town history, Dover Farms, Frank Smith writes of Farm Street:

‘‘In early times this road went around by the picturesque Polka rock [on the farm of George Battelle] which was called for a man by that name, of whom it is remembered, that amid the superstitions of the age he thought he saw his Satanic Majesty as he was riding on horseback by this secluded spot.

‘‘The location has long been looked upon as one in which treasures are hid, but why anyone should go so far inland to hide treasures has never been told; however, there has been at times unmistakable evidence of considerable digging in the immediate vicinity of this rock.’’

Loren Coleman of Portland, Maine, a well-known cryptozoologist, or researcher of ‘‘hidden animals,’’ from Sasquatch to sea serpents, led the original investigations into the Dover Demon, whose name he coined. Studying Dover’s history, Coleman said in a telephone interview, he was struck by the fact that the area in which the Demon was sighted had a tradition of unexplained activity.

‘‘In the same area you had three major legends going on,’’ he said, citing the apparition of the devil on horseback, the tales of buried treasure, and then the Dover Demon. ‘‘I think it certainly says something. It’s almost as if there are certain areas that ‘collect’ sightings, almost in a magnetic way.’’

Coleman theorized that the large geologic outcropping in the woods off Farm Street that historian Smith called the ‘‘Polka" stone might actually have been called the "Pooka" stone, after the fairy folk of Celtic folklore.

When the Dover Demon was sighted in 1977, it might not have been the first time a strange creature was spotted in the woods by local teenagers. Mark Sennott of Sherborn, who was buying a bagel and coffee at Isabella’s Groceria in Dover Center on a recent Saturday morning, said there was talk at Dover- Sherborn High School in the early 1970s of strange things seen in the woods.

In fact, Sennott said, he and his friends might have seen a ‘‘demon’’ themselves at Channing Pond on Springdale Avenue in 1972.

‘‘I don’t know if we really saw something,’’ he said. ‘‘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.’’ Sennott said the group told police, who investigated, but ‘‘nothing came of it.’’

When Bartlett saw his creature five years later, he said, he was driving with two friends on Farm Street near Bridge Street on the way to Sherborn about 10 p.m. They hadn’t had any beer: ‘‘We were probably looking for it,’’ he said, ‘‘but we didn’t have any that night.’’

Bartlett said the car was traveling maybe 35 to 40 miles per hour when he saw the thing ‘‘standing on a wall, its eyes glowing’’ in the headlights. ‘‘It was not a dog or a cat,’’ he said. ‘‘It had no tail. It had an egg-shaped head.’’ He said
he saw it from about 10 feet away, over the duration it took the car to travel from one utility pole to the next. His two friends did not report seeing the creature.

He grew up around animals, and had seen the odd mangy fox, Bartlett said. ‘‘This definitely wasn’t,’’ he said. ‘‘It was some kind of creature,’’ with ‘‘long thin fingers’’ and ‘‘more human-like in its form than animal.’’ Its shape reminded him of ‘‘kids with distended bellies,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve always tried to guess what it was. I never had any idea.’’ This was no prank, Bartlett said. ‘‘I wasn’t trying to be funny. People who know me know I didn’t make this up.’’

Coleman, who began an investigation within days of the sightings in 1977 and spotlights the Dover Demon case in the 2001 edition of his book Mysterious America, believes Bartlett.

‘‘We have a credible case, over 25 hours, by individuals who saw something,’’ said Coleman, who interviewed all three [actually four - LC] teens within a week of the reported sightings and said he was convinced they had not concocted a hoax.

Nothing quite like the Demon has been reported seen before or since, he said. The Dover creature does not match the descriptions of the chupacabras, or of Roswell aliens, or of the bat-eared goblins said to have attacked a family in Hopkinsville, Ky., in 1955.

‘‘It doesn’t really fit any place,’’ Coleman said. ‘‘It’s extremely unique. It has no real connections to any other inexplicable phenomena.’’

Is it possible the teens actually saw a foal, or perhaps a moose calf, as some have suggested? Coleman said he canvassed local horse owners after the incident and none reported missing a horse. Moreover, it was not foaling season, he said.

As for the moose theory, only two moose were reported in Massachusetts in 1977 and 1978, both of them in Central Massachusetts, he said. A yearling moose by that time in April would weigh more than 600 pounds and be ‘‘bigger than the Volkswagen Bartlett was in,’’ said Coleman.

‘‘To have a bipedal moose with long fingers and orange skin and no hair and no nose would be more of a phenomenon than the Dover Demon,’’ he said.

So what did those teens see?

‘‘It’s OK to say we don’t know,’’ said Coleman.

‘‘I think the Dover Demon’s mystery lives on. It’s an unknown phenomenon whose fame has stretched worldwide, and I think Dover should be very proud.’’

In Dover, a quiet community dotted with horse farms and one of the richest towns in the state, people are still not quite sure what to make of the story.

‘‘That thing has haunted me for 29 years,’’ said Carl Sheridan, a former police chief. ‘‘I knew the kids involved. They were good kids . . . pretty reliable kids.

‘‘God only knows’’ what they saw, Sheridan said. ‘‘I still don’t know. Strange things have happened. The whole thing was unusual.’’

He got calls from all over the world when the case made the news, the former chief said, and he still does, from time to time.

‘‘The thing will not die,’’ Sheridan said. ‘‘I’m telling you, the thing will not go away.’’

In Town Clerk Barrie Clough’s office at Town Hall, municipal reports share shelf space with a file of materials related to the Dover Demon case, including a book titled ‘‘Weird New England’’ and a newspaper clipping headlined ‘‘Bizarre four-foot creature with orange skin and glowing eyes stalking a town.’’

‘‘Every once in a while people will come in and ask about it,’’ said Clough. ‘‘I have no idea if it’s true or untrue.’’

Downtown Dover was decorated recently with pumpkins as children arrived for a Halloween fair, and a steady stream of regulars bought coffee and newspapers at Isabella’s. Located in the old Dover Pharmacy, now with an Italian deli counter added to the old soda fountain, the grocery remains a town hub.

Behind the counter at Isabella’s, Scott Bielski, 17, of Dover, a senior at Dover-Sherborn High, said the demon gives his small town a unique claim to fame.

‘‘ ‘Home of the Dover Demon’ has a nice ring to it,’’ he said with a smile. As far as he knows, the creature had never stopped in to the soda fountain. ‘‘Let us know if he wants anything,’’ he said.

A customer who gave his name as Jimmy said he has lived in town for four years but has yet to see the demon. ‘‘Maybe I will some day,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m one of those realists — if I don’t see it, I don’t believe it.’’

Customer Ed Tourtellotte of Dover said: ‘‘I think it’s probably as real as the Easter Bunny, but it’s fun.’’

Nearly three decades after seeing something very strange on Farm Street, Bartlett has decidedly mixed feelings about the experience. ‘‘It was my 15 minutes of fame, without wanting it,’’ he said.

‘‘It was little embarrassing. It still is.’’

He said he hasn’t talked much to his two children, 8 and 5 years old, about the creature: ‘‘I don’t want to scare them.’’ And the professional artist has never drawn another picture of the thing he saw. ‘‘I don’t have enough memory of it,’’ he said. ‘‘I haven’t wanted to. I’m a serious fine-arts painter. I don’t want people to think I’m some freak.

‘‘I don’t usually tell anybody. I shouldn’t be embarrassed, but you see these people on TV and they’re made to look like idiots,’’ he said.

‘‘I really do wish that I had made it up. I might have profited from it. It’s a great story.

‘‘I wish it was seen again so everyone would know it was true.’’

More about the Dover Demon is available at the Strange New England website, or at Loren Coleman’s website.

Dover Demon

Dover Demon

+++

The Dover Demon is featured in an expanded chapter in the new edition of Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation’s Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures (NY: Paraview Pocket/Simon and Schuster, 2007). I note with amusement that, via some coincidental humor imp, the publication date for this new edition of Mysterious America comes within the midst of the 30th anniversary of the Dover Demon case and investigations, on April 24, 2007.

The fourth witness was Will Taintor, 18, who was driving along Springdale Avenue with Abby Brabham. He did not see the creature in as much detail as Ms. Brabham, but he conf
irmed an unusual animal crossed in front of their car.

The appendix of Creatures of the Other Edge, first published in 1978, and now contained in the Anomalist Books 2006 edition, contains the first appearance of the specifics of the Dover Demon in book form. The Mysterious America chapter is the detailed, updated record of the event.

Loren Coleman – has written 5491 posts on this site.
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.


12 Responses to “Dover Demon 2006”

  1. busterggi responds:

    Now I believe that these folks saw something just like the folks in the earliest Mothman reports saw something.

    But how these transient ‘creatures’ with zero physical evidence, no previous or follow-up sightings ever became icons in cryptozoology is beyond me.

  2. Mnynames responds:

    I think the more bizarre the entity, the more likely it is to capture the attention of both people and the media. Their bizarre nature I think also lends itself to becoming iconic- how could the Onza, or even a Saber-Toothed Tiger, become iconic, when they essentially just look like known animals (Big Cats) with a twist? But Mothman, the Jersey Devil, the Chupacabras, they don’t really look like anything else, but are more of a pastiche or chimera of various animal features. They’re memorable, unique, and would not be at all out of place featured next to a Griffin or Dragon or Manticore in some Medieval bestiary.

    It might also be worth noting that those ancient bestiaries held other monsters such as Centicores, Gulons, and Hippocerfs that few remember today, probably because unlike Griffins and Manticores, they are not very iconic, but instead seem more like twists on known animals (In some cases, of course, they WERE known animals, just misreported).

  3. sasquatch responds:

    A baby bigfoot with some physical defects? Maybe abandoned by it’s mother?

    It had fingers, its arms are longer than the legs, it could stand up, its head was egg shaped, its eyes glowed in the dark. These are all characteristics I’ve seen associated with Bigfoot sightings. The hairlessness could be a defect and associated with lack of nutrition. Just a possibility I’ve never seen raised.

  4. Spoon Nose responds:

    Raccoon suffering from heavy metal poisoning. No hair–I’ve seen photos of raccoons suffering from that condition. That would explain the hairless body. Large eyes, well, raccoons have large eyes, which would look even larger without hair. Eye shine with the presence of car headlamp light would also make the eyes look bigger. Google “racoon skull” and tell me that a raccoon skull, with skin wrapped around it, wouldn’t look like the “Dover Demon”‘s head. Large, spindly fingers, just like a raccoon’s. I’ve also seen raccoons in every one of the poses described in the photographs. Do an image search on “raccoon” and take a good look–there’s your Dover Demon. Nocturnal, seen at night, just like a raccoon. Physical size is about right.

    I grew up with the DD mystery, but now it just seems tragic. Something was probably poisoning wildlife out there and the poor thing probably died some time later. Someone should go back into the county records and see if there was a Superfund site nearby.

    The only problem I can think of with the theory is the lack of a tail. It’s possible the eyewitness missed it. I know he said it wasn’t a tailless cat or dog, but what is more likely: that we’re dealing with a poisoned animal whose appearance is altered (the likes of which is fairly well documented) that the eyewitnessed missed just one key detail on, or some kind of strange being?

  5. Bob Michaels responds:

    Now I know what the Dover Demon is or isn’t? I never paid much attention too it, but at least I know the origin of this paranormal event.

  6. Sky King responds:

    Fort would have offered that occurrences such as Dover Demon, Flatwoods Monster, Phantom ‘Roos, Evil Clowns, etc., seem to be intended to draw us out from the artifice of our too-carefully reasoned existence. They are a signpost pointing towards the marvelous. If you struggle towards any strained explanation, you’ve totally missed the point! Let go of your preconceptions about the true nature of “reality” and hang on for the ride… because WHATEVER you think reality is, it’s destined to be wrong! The punchline is you.

    PROPHECY, this AIN’T!!

  7. Spoon Nose responds:

    Sky King’s post raises an interesting issue: can Forteans and cryptozoologists coexist on the Internet without driving each other crazy?

  8. Sky King responds:

    “Spoon Nose Says:

    Sky King’s post raises an interesting issue: can Forteans and cryptozoologists coexist on the Internet without driving each other crazy?”

    I consider myself BOTH, and have no trouble reconciling them with one another.

    If there’s a problem with that, there must certainly be a solution, if you’re (editorial “you”) willing to try!

  9. Labyrinth_13 responds:

    Ah, the old Dover Demon case, brings back so many great memories! I remember first reading about the Dover Demon in the old print edition of Strange Magazine. It was also my first introduction to this interesting Fortean investigator named Loren Coleman (and yes, I bought all of your books afterward Loren and have been hooked ever since).

    I have never really felt that the Dover Demon was quite so easily explained by some sort of known creature, such as a raccoon with heavy metal poisoning, but I suppose that anything is possible. Like so many other things in the Fortean/cryptozoology world, exactly what William Bartlett saw will never be proved definitively until we get additional evidence of some sort or another.

    Until such a time comes around, I’m just glad to have “gotten to know” such a great entity as the Dover Demon (and am thankful for the avenues that it opened for me).

  10. Shihan responds:

    I think that quantum physics/mechanics could explain a lot of these types of sightings – now, if we could only understand how it works!

  11. YourPTR! responds:

    This has always been one of the more intriguing and memorable cases and I believe they really did see what they saw. Fascinating stuff and nice to read an update about it.

  12. Basek responds:

    Thats it!!
    My friend and I were talking about freaky things thats happened to us and I told her a story about when I was 10 and saw THAT thing!
    She asked me to find a picture and I found this website.
    I Can’t believe it, Thats it!

    I woke up one night I’d say 1am, in my Cottage in Canada, Ontario. I had to go to the bathroom so I got up from my bed and looked forward and there it was! It had light brown skin, Glowing red eyes! I’m sure of it! Looked 100% Like those pictures!! I rubbed my eyes and thought it was a figment of my imagination. It had picked up a plastic knife from one of my Kids games. I fell back on to my bed and stared at it and it back at me for a good minute, I was so Scared I couldn’t even speak.

    It started to move towards me then ran out the door and that’s the last I ever saw of it. No one believed me, Said I Was dreaming! But there was no way I could dream that! I couldn’t go back to bed!! It stared at me for so long!! It stood right in front of me, It’s burned in my memory, 7 years ago and after reading all that I’m scared to go to bed even now.



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