The Singing Cryptid. The Haunting Legend Behind the Dogman Song

Introduction

The legend of the dogman refers to a mysterious cryptid said to roam parts of Michigan and the surrounding Great Lakes region. Known as Michigan’s own werewolf, the dogman is described as a hulking, bipedal canine, covered in fur and standing 7-8 feet tall. According to lore, descriptions of the dogman date back centuries in the Native American tribes of Michigan. However, the modern legend originated in 1987 with a radio DJ’s April Fool’s prank song about the creature. The song ignited widespread fascination and fear surrounding the dogman that persists today, with continued sightings reported annually.

History of the Legend

The legend of the Dogman originated in northern Michigan in 1987. Local DJ Steve Cook at WTCM-FM created a song titled “The Legend” which he played on April 1st as an April Fools prank. The song described a creature that was 7 feet tall with the body of a man and the head of a dog. It told the story of this creature terrorizing a small town in Michigan.

Initially, Cook didn’t think much of the prank song. However, in the following weeks the station received several calls from listeners who claimed to have encountered a creature just like the one described in the song. One caller even claimed to have seen the creature back in 1961 and had a Polaroid picture of it (Source).

This sparked Cook’s interest and he started doing some research into mythical creature sightings in Michigan. He discovered several reports of upright-walking wolf-like creatures dating back to the 1930s. The idea that the song had brought legitimate reports out of the woodwork led Cook to start taking the legend more seriously.

The Song

The song “The Legend” was written and recorded in 1987 by radio DJs Steve Cook and Roger Fox at WTCM-FM radio station in Traverse City, Michigan (Source). It was created as a novelty song about the local legend of the Michigan Dogman to play around Halloween. Though meant as entertainment, the song led to increased interest and claims of Dogman sightings in the state. The lyrics tell the tale of a creature that is said to roam the woods of northern Michigan each fall when the “moons are bright and full.”

Lyrics Breakdown

an artist's rendition of the upright dogman creature stalking through a forest at night

The song lyrics tell the mythical tale of the Michigan Dogman, with vivid descriptions of this cryptid creature. The songwriter Steve Cook provides an immersive narrative, bringing the legend to life through evocative lyrics. Some key lines that capture the essence of the Dogman include:

“In the north woods of the upper peninsula, a creature walks both man and fiend”

This opening line sets the scene in the remote woods of Michigan and establishes the dual human/animal nature of the creature.

“Seven feet tall with the body of a man, and the head of a hound”

This lyric paints a striking visual image of the Dogman’s physical features – an imposing 7-foot hairy humanoid with a dog’s head.

“Beware the stare of the Dogman’s eyes, for once you see them you’re dead”

These lines reference the common folklore that seeing the Dogman’s eyes spells imminent death, emphasizing the lethal danger of encountering this beast.

“I saw it dog the path alongside my van, under the light of the Michigan moon”

Here the songwriter recounts a first-person encounter with the creature, stalking in the moonlight. This brings an added sense of realism and peril to the lyrics.

Through vivid descriptions and cryptic warnings, the lyrics artfully capture the horror and mystery around the Michigan Dogman legend.

Pop Culture References

The legend of the dogman has become ingrained in popular culture, with references to it appearing in various media. The popular children’s book series Dog Man by Dav Pilkey contains many allusions to the dogman legend. For example, one book is titled Lord of the Fleas, a reference to the classic novel Lord of the Flies (Dog Man Wiki). There are also dogman characters featured throughout the Dog Man books (Dog Man Wiki). This shows the permeation of the dogman legend into mainstream children’s literature.

The legend has also been referenced in music. The song “Dogman” by Detroit band The Woolly Bushmen is about the Michigan dogman legend. Horrorcore rapper Esham has a track called “Dogman” referencing the cryptid. These songs demonstrate how the dogman has captured public imagination and become a part of Michigan folklore.

Beyond books and music, the dogman has been featured in TV shows and movies. In the Disney show Gravity Falls, recurring character the Multi-Bear is based on the Michigan dogman. An episode of The Secret Saturdays animated series featured a dogman-like cryptid called the Underworld Creature. Additionally, the movie Dogman focuses on a man who wears a dog mask while committing crimes, providing a dramatic interpretation of the dogman myth (Dog Man Wiki).

Theories on Origins

a map showing clusters of dogman sightings in northern michigan and wisconsin

There is much speculation about what real-world phenomena may have contributed to the legend of the Dogman. Some theories include:

Werewolves: The half-man, half-dog description is reminiscent of the mythical werewolf. Encounters with an unidentified creature could have led to comparisons to this legendary monster. The Dogman is sometimes referred to as the “Michigan Werewolf.”

Coyotes with mange: Mangy coyotes losing their hair can take on a strange appearance. Their emaciated bodies and abnormal vocalizations could seem eerie and otherworldly. Misidentifying a sick coyote as a Dogman may have sparked some sightings.

Misidentified animals: Sightings are often fleeting and happen at night. Cryptozoologists propose people may be misidentifying normal animals like bears, dogs, or wolves in poor lighting conditions. An upright canine spotted at night could get written into legend as a bipedal Dogman.

Hoaxes and folklore: Like many legends, tales of the Dogman may have been fabricated or exaggerated over time. Some propose the Dogman is an entirely mythical folklore creature with no basis in reality.

According to the Enquirer article, researcher Linda Godfrey suggests the Dogman may represent “a kind of cosmic journey rather than a flesh creature.” She theorizes it is a spiritual symbol or archetype, not necessarily a real creature.

Modern Sightings

There have been numerous alleged Dogman encounters reported in recent years, primarily in certain regions of the United States. Many of the sightings seem to originate from northern states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. According to one source, there is a history of sightings dating back to the late 1800s in parts of Michigan [1]. Other areas with multiple modern reports include Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

The sightings often share common details – a bipedal wolf-like creature standing 6 to 9 feet tall, muscular build, pointy ears, long snout, and fur covering the body. Many reports mention glowing or red eyes. In some cases, witnesses describe a pungent scent, snarling vocalizations, or the creature exhibiting threatening behavior. There are daytime sightings but many encounters occur at night or dusk when visibility may be reduced.

Explanations for the sightings vary. Some believe the creature could represent an undiscovered canine species or even a werewolf, while skeptics often dismiss the accounts as misidentification of known animals, hoaxes, or hallucinations. The lack of physical evidence contributes to the uncertain status of the Dogman in cryptozoology.

Explanations for Sightings

a photograph of a large canine creature taken at night, with glowing eyes

Many skeptics and scientists have offered explanations for modern dogman sightings that do not involve a supernatural creature. These explanations rely on misidentification, hoaxes, and folklore.

One of the most common explanations is that witnesses have misidentified large dogs, wolves, or coyotes for an upright creature. Trick of light and shadows could make a canine briefly appear to walk upright. Some skeptics point to the prevalence of feral dogs and coydogs in the regions where dogman sightings occur as an indication that regular animals are being misidentified (Wikipedia).

Other explanations cite hoaxes and viral folklore as the source for dogman accounts. The rise of the internet and popularity of cryptozoology websites in the 1990s and 2000s correlated with an increase in sightings. This suggests some accounts were fabricated or exaggerated. The original 1987 song also inspired later hoaxes and spread awareness of the Michigan Dogman legend (YouTube).

Some researchers believe the legend originated entirely from local folklore about Wexford County’s history as a lumber town. Stories of strange creatures in the forest could have combined with early 20th century myths about upright canines to create the modern dogman archetype over time (YouTube). This explanation posits that the dogman was always a fictional legend rather than inspired by any real encounters.

Impact and Legacy

The legend of the Dogman has had a lasting cultural impact, particularly in Michigan where most sightings occur. Though accounts of a dog-like cryptid existed before 1987, the release of Steve Cook’s song “The Legend” brought the creature into mainstream popularity.

According to https://creepypasta.fandom.com/wiki/The_Legend_of_Michigan%27s_Dogman, within one month of its release, “The Legend of the Dogman” became the most requested song on local radio and was even added into regular music rotation for a short time. The song sparked renewed interest in the creature and led to a wave of new reported sightings.

Modern sightings and rumors of the Michigan Dogman persist to this day. The legend continues to impact pop culture, with references in TV shows like The Secret Saturdays and appearances in horror games like The Forest. Dogman has become an iconic Michigan cryptid, now cemented as a staple of local folklore.

Though some skeptics exist, the widespread fascination and unease with the Dogman legend illustrates the song’s cultural legacy. The song brought a relatively obscure local legend to national attention, sparking waves of new sightings reports and a lasting impact on Michigan’s identity.

illustration of the dogman with lyrics from the song along the borders

Conclusion

The legend of the Dogman has clearly made a lasting impact in pop culture and folklore. While the origins of the myth remain uncertain, the continued fascination and reported sightings show that this cryptid still captures the imagination. The song brought the Dogman into the mainstream and remains an iconic campfire tune. While skeptics may dismiss the creature as fantasy, believers continue to search for evidence in the wilderness. Whether real or imagined, the Dogman endures as a legend passed down through generations, perhaps reflecting the human fascination with the unknown. Though shrouded in mystery, the Dogman serves as a cautionary tale, warning against the dangers lurking in the shadows.

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