Exploring American Monsters: Massachusetts
Many American Indian mythologies have stories of little people. The Wampanoag of Massachusetts’ legend is of the Pukwudgie. Jealous of the affection the Wampanoag showed the giant Maushop (well, the giant did create Cape Cod for them), the Pukwudgie began to torment the Wampanoag Indians, playing tricks on them, stealing their children, and burning their villages. Pukudgies are described as humanlike, two to three feet tall with large noses, and ears. Their skin is grey.
The Pukwudgie can become invisible, use magic, and create fire at the snap of their fingers, but their most dangerous antics involve shooting poison arrows (with which legend says they used to kill Maushop and his five sons), and turning into a half-porcupine/half-troll. These diminutive human-like monsters have been known to lure humans to their deaths either by poison arrow, or pushing the human off a cliff. Afterward, the Pukwudgie can control the souls of their victims.
In modern times, people have reported encountering Pukwudgies in Freetown-Fall River State Forest, which includes a reservation in the Wampanoag Nation.
Another American Indian legend, the Thunderbird is an enormous bird that’s name comes from the thunderous beating of its giant wings. Seen over the centuries across the continent, the thunderbird closely resembles a family of bird called the Teratorn that existed between the Miocene and Pleistocene periods. These monster birds (Teratorn is Greek for just that, “monster bird”) had wingspans of eleven to twenty feet and weighed anywhere from thirty-three to 176 pounds.
American Indian stories of these flying terrors across North America are eerily similar. Thunderbirds can create storms, and shoot lightning bolts. They have been known to swoop low and scoop up children and animals for food.
Sightings of Thunderbirds have occurred all over Massachusetts, including this one from Easton as reported in The Boston Globe from a story written by famed cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. According to the article, police Sergeant Thomas Dowdy drove home from his shift during the summer in 1971 when a bird about six feet tall with wings twelve feet long lifted from the side of the road and soared over his vehicle and disappeared into the night.
An account on about.com by an anonymous author who posted as “Bob,” involved what he thought was a hang glider in the sky around dusk one autumn in 1995 near Weston, Massachusetts. Bob drove over a hill, and saw the “glider” heading straight toward his vehicle. Bob slammed the brakes, and saw something he couldn’t believe. The flying object wasn’t a glider; it was a bird with a wingspan of around twenty feet.
According to a story at cryptozoologynews.com, in August of this year, two men working near Blandford, Massachusetts, saw a huge bird they at first thought was a small airplane. They realized it was not an airplane when it began to flap its wings.
For a few days in the spring of 1977, the town of Dover, Massachusetts was terrorized by a demon. At around 10:30 p.m. 21 April, seventeen-year-old Billy Bartlett saw a four-foot-tall humanoid creature standing near a wall on Farm Street. The creature had a head like a watermelon, and glowing orange eyes, but no mouth or nose. Bartlett told The Boston Globe in 2006 the demon was real. “I have no idea what it was,” Bartlett told The Globe. ‘‘I definitely know I saw something.’’
Five more witnesses came out claiming to have seen the demon in 1977, including fifteen-year-old John Baxter who stood within fifteen feet of the monster on Miller Hill Road at 12:30 a.m. as he walked home from his girlfriend’s house. The next day, fifteen-year-old Abby Brabham saw the demon sitting on Springdale Avenue.
Carl Sheridan, a former police chief in Dover, told The Globe the story has always bothered him. “I knew the kids involved. They were good kids … The whole thing was unusual.”
Beast of Truro
During autumn of 1981, pets and livestock were slaughtered by an unknown creature around Truro, Massachusetts, a small town on the northern tip of Cape Cod. The first victims were dozens of cats found torn apart in an area of the small town. Various deaths continued through 1981 and into 1982 when hogs were found injured, their “flanks ripped by deep claw marks,” according to a story in The New York Times. People suspected a pack of wild dogs until the sightings began. Locals reported seeing a “large furry creature that they did not recognize,” according to The Times.
The clearest sighting was from a married couple from Truro, William and Marsha Medeiros, who were taking a walk near Head of the Meadow Beach. “It had a very definite long ropelike tail like the letter J,” Marsha Medeiros told The Times. “We figured it was about as tall as up to our knees and weighed 60 or 80 pounds.” The animal had a catlike face and short ears. Marsha Medeiros was convinced they had seen a mountain lion.
Others reported seeing something that looked like a mountain lion, although the last reported mountain lion in Massachusetts was in 1858. Despite numerous sightings, footprints were never found. Eventually the sightings, and animal deaths faded.
Gloucester Sea Serpent
The first report of the 100-foot-long serpent in the harbour of Gloucester occurred in 1638 when British traveler and author John Josselyn wrote the tale of a “sea serpent, or snake, that lay quoiled (sic) up like a cable upon the rock at Cape Ann; a boat passing by with English on board, and two Indians, they would have shot the serpent, but the Indians dissuaded them, saying that if he were not killed outright, they would all be in danger of their lives.”
In 1817, fishermen claimed to see a snake-like reptilian beast with the head of a horse and a foot-long horn from the center of its head. It poked its head above the surface of the harbour, and looked around before sinking back into the depths. That was by no means the last sighting. Two women claimed to see the creature on 10 August 1817. By 1818, seamen and clergymen said they saw the monster.
Sightings have continued through the decades. Although the number of encounters has decreased over the years, two of note occurred in the 1960s, and in 1997.
Next up: Michigan.