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Friday, July 27, 2012

The Dover Demon

Continuing my cryptozoological kick, I wish to take a look at yet another rather elusive cryptid that made a small splash on the paranormal scene and left just as suddenly as it appeared . Even years later the witnesses are stunned by what they encountered that night. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a trip back in time to April 21, 1977 and the town of Dover, Massachusetts.

Around 10:30 pm the night of April 21, 1977 three teenage boys were driving along an area outside of a bar when their headlights illuminated a bizarre creature that appeared to be crawling along a wall near Farm Street. Originally one of the witness, Bill Bartlett, thought that they were looking at what could have been a dog or cat. Yet as he got a better look at IT he quickly realized this was no creature he had ever seen before. Later Bartlett would be quoted as saying

It was not a dog or a cat. It had no tail. It had an egg-shaped head. It looked like a baby’s body with long arms and legs. It had a big head about the same size as the body, it was sort of melon shaped. The color of it was… the color of people in the Sunday comics.”

Bartlett's sketch

The witness was unable to see anything that resembled a nose, ears, or a mouth on the creature. It's also interesting to note that evidently the driver, Bartlett, was the only one of the three in the vehicle who was able to see the creature as his two friends were too busy laughing and talking to notice it. Once Bartlett had returned home he drew a sketch of the creature that he had seen.

This was not to be the last sighting of the mysterious creature however. About an hour after Bartlett sighted the creature, John Baxter aged 15 was walking home from his girlfriends house when he saw what he at first took to be a child. The thought initially struck Baxter that it could be a local child that he knew who suffered from a disability. He began to follow it seeing if the child perhaps needed help of some kind. As he attempted to catch up to the “child”, he soon lost sight of it. After stopping a moment in order to catch his breath, Baxter looked across at a gully and finally caught sight of the “child” he had been trying to catch up to. The creature that his eyes fell on matched in description exactly that given by Bartlett. The long, slender armed and fingered creature with the giant bulbous head. In his own words Baxter had this to say:

As I was looking really close there I could see the eyes it was looking at me I just stared at it for another few minutes and then I just got all these thoughts that maybe it was something really strange. ‘Cause, you know, nothing ever happened to me like this before, so I didn’t know what to think.”

Artist's sketch based off of Baxter's description
So I finally got the thought that maybe it wasn’t as safe as it looked, ’cause the way it was staring at me it just seemed like it was– I don’t know. I got all these feelings that it was thinking to itself, or waiting to spring, or whatever, you know? And so I backed up the bank kind of fast, and my heart started beating really fast!” (Source

The final sighting of the creature occurred the following night, sometime around midnight. Will Taintor, 18, was driving his girlfriend Abby Brabham, 15, home when Abby spotted something on the side of Springdale Avenue. According to Brabham:
As I looked at it… it kind of looked a minute like an ape. And then I looked at the head and the head was very big and it was a very weird head It had bright green eyes and the eyes just glowed like, they were just looking exactly at me”

Abby Brabham's drawing of what she saw
Within a week investigators Loren Coleman, Ed Fogg, Walter N Webb were on the scene investigating the sightings. In fact Loren Coleman, who not only investigated all of the primary witness firsthand, is credited with giving the creature its name “Dover Demon”. After interviewing all of the witness, the investigators came to the following conclusion on the events:
‘‘We have a credible case, over 25 hours, by individuals who saw something. Nothing quite like the Demon has been reported seen before or since. The Dover creature does not match the descriptions of the Chupacabras, or of Roswell aliens, or of the bat-eared (Hopkinsville Goblins) said to have attacked a family in Hopkinsville, Ky., in 1955… it doesn’t really fit any place. It’s extremely unique. It has no real connections to any other inexplicable phenomena. I think the Dover Demon’s mystery lives on. ’’
Loren Coleman also appeared on Animal Planet's Lost Tapes television show that discussed the Dover Demon. Below is a clip of that show for you to check out.

The final piece of information I will leave with is this Boston Globe article from 2006 in which the then 46 year old Bartlett was interviewed about the strange sighting that he had had some 29 years prior. From that article:

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 chupacabra. 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.’’

Writing in the 1999 2nd edition of his Unexplained!,Jerry Clark notes that Martin S Kottmeyer has a possible explanation for what the teenagers saw those nights. Clark writes:

Martin S Kottmeyer has suggested that the witnesses were seriously mistaken about what they saw, and he knows what the Dover Demon may have been: a young moose .... He notes, “Bartlett's placing o fthe eyes matches the placement just above the hip of the muzzle on a moose's head. The lack of a discernable nose and mouth is easily laid to the fact that nostrils and mouth are very far down on the muzzle. A drawing of a young moose presents ears swept back along the line of the head and would not discernably stick out, thus accounting for the absence of visible ears.” (pg 415)

So what do you think? Was it a misidentified, but still wholly mundane, animal? An alien out for a little recon mission? Personally I'm not sure what to make of it. Unlike many of the cryptid stories that have circulated for years the Dover Demon had a mere 25 hour splash on history. Whereas Bigfoot has been seen for hundreds of years, if not more, to the best of my knowledge the Dover Demon was only sighted over the period of April 21 to 22 and no more. I don't think the kids made it up, after all it seems to have had a profound impact on Bartlett at least. I'm keeping an open mind on this one for now, be sure to let me know what you think in the comments section below!


Loren Coleman said...

Jerome Clark has revised his entry you quote above about that ill-conceived "demon moose" theory in his new edition of his book. He now mentions that in my 2006 edition of Mysterious America, I completely demonstrate how the "moose" explanation is worthless and holds no biological basis.

Ah, the Dover Demon is a classic "unknown," and I still don't know what it was. But I certainly know what it wasn't, and it wasn't a moose, a mangy raccoon, a hairless dog, or a foal.

Thank you for this trip down memory lane.

Tony Morrill said...

Hey Loren, thanks for the reply!

I was not aware of the updated information. It doesn't surprise me that the moose explanation doesn't really hold much water. I don't feel that it adequately matches the description of what the witnesses reported seeing.

It's a very interesting story and one of the stranger cryptid stories I've heard. Especially considering that it only showed up for such a short time.

You're quite welcome for the trip down memory lane!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mannegishi ?

alanborky said...


Here's a curious coincidence.

Struck by the Grey-like critter's proximity to a tree I found myself wond'ring if we might be dealing with something along the lines of a dryad.

Then I was go'n'o argue since we might be dealing with a tree spirit maybe we should dub it the Dover Soul!


Ah suit y'self...

Anyway as I'm googling up dryad up pops pictures of the Japanese equivalent the kodama which does somewhat resemble the demon though I find myself wondering if this image development's post the Dover demon because a much earlier pic shows it assuming the form of an old man.

[My money's on a boundary critter though ie something from another realm which's found itself inadvertently making an incursion here (or witnessing an incursion there) courtesy of the Janus the 'Door' God like power of cracks/pauses/breaks/stops/bardo points in any continuum/octave to permit new or different in/conceivable possibilities].

Tony Morrill said...

Hey Alan, thanks for the response!

I had not heard of the Kodoma before but after doing some googling I can say that I'm pretty shocked by how similar the depictions of it are in comparison with the Dover Demon sketches. Could this be what the teenagers had seen that night? I don't know for sure. I do know that I have a lot of homework to do this evening in order to read up on this spirit.

Whatever the "demon" was I agree with you that in some fashion it only appeared in our reality temporarily, either as an accident or on purpose. Perhaps it was on it's way to a Dover Demon convention?

ccherot said...

Interesting! I lived on Farm St. in Dover for a while as a kid and knew about the Dover Demon but I never knew it was a based on actual sightings. We always used to say 'There's the Dover Demon!' when we drove by a certain marshy area off to the side of the road. I always thought it was just an entirely made up local legend.

Milord said...

My first thought after reading the report and viewing the drawings was of a severly malnourished, hydrocephallic chimpanzee or orangutan.

Tony Morrill said...


Thanks for the response! That's pretty cool that you had such a firsthand history of the creature. Though it would have been better if you could have gotten a chance to talk with those that witnessed the creature. Still awesome though!

Tony Morrill said...


Thanks for the response. I have to say that, at least to the best of my knowledge, there were no reports from any local areas of a diseased or encephalitic orangutan or chimpanzee being loose in the area. An interesting thought, but it doesn't seem to hold water. Thanks for the reply anyway!

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