Opening the Wisconsin X-files
The truth is out there -- though as presenters at a conference for the paranormal will tell you, no one knows what the truth might be
04/20/06 - Wausau Daily Herald

If you believe the stories, Bigfoot could be stomping around the woods of north central Wisconsin right now, and a werewolf could be following in its tracks.


But you probably don't believe the stories.


There are, however, so many tales of the large hairy beast and the four-legged wolf-bear, and they come from such a variety of sources, that it's likely you've at least wondered about the creatures.


If you're really intrigued, you might want to drive to Stevens Point on Saturday, where the "Strange Stevens Point/Wausau Unexplained Conference" will be held. There, you'll learn about Bigfoot, werewolves, ghosts, haunted places in the area and the adventures of paranormal investigators.


Linda Godfrey, author of the newly released book "Hunting the American Werewolf" will be among the presenters. She also penned an earlier book, "The Beast of Bray Road."

In her books, she describes stories about a large wolf-like creature that's as big as a bear. Or maybe it's a mixture of man and beast. She first got intrigued with the creature when she worked on a story about it as a reporter for The Week, a biweekly newspaper based in Delavan.


"I think what keeps fueling this phenomenon is that people keep seeing it (the creature," Godfrey said. "There have been 70 sightings in Wisconsin alone."


If you think you're safe in Marathon County, think again. (There have been stories about people completely disappearing, Godfrey said. But there never have been reports of the creature hurting anyone, she pointed out.)


Wausau's Todd Roll, 41, is a reference librarian at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County. He's been interested in the paranormal and has collected stories about abnormal creatures for years. The wolf/bear creature first intrigued him when a Mosinee middle schooler approached him with a story.


Roll was talking about ghosts in Mosinee. After he finished, the kid told him that the kid's brother was playing paintball near Hatley when he and other friends saw an animal on the edge of a field. "(He said) it looked like a cross between a wolf and a bear. It looked mostly like a wolf, but the size of a bear. It had shaggy fur, and pointy ears," Roll said. "I said, 'Wow, that's interesting.' Then I started hearing these other stories from people."


A woman Roll worked with said her brother had seen a similar creature while hunting in the woods near Antigo. Others also came forward.


Bigfoot hasn't gone unnoticed in Marathon County, either. In the early 1990s, a town of Frankfurt couple reported a Bigfoot sighting to the Marathon County Sheriff's Department. When the Wausau Daily Herald tried calling the couple, their daughter answered. Her father had passed away, she said, and her mother didn't want to talk about it. Nor did they want their names associated with the story. "People are mean," the woman said.


That's a pretty common reaction, Roll said. A lot of people won't talk about their sightings when confronted about them.


"I've heard a lot of second- and third-hand stories from people, a cousin or a brother who saw this weird thing. I'll track them down, and the witnesses clam up on it," Roll said.


He neither believes or disbelieves. There isn't any real physical evidence to prove the creatures exist. But what if, Roll asks, "what we're seeing is something paranormal, perhaps a spirit? ... If you believe in the spirit world, maybe people are seeing spirits, something that really exists on a different plane."


Native American stories include witches and shape-shifters that take on the shape of a wolf, he said.


He needs something physical before he truly believes. But he doesn't think people are making up the stories. "They don't want to talk about it; they're ashamed of it," he said. "I can't imagine what they would gain from that."


Chad Lewis, 31, of Eau Claire is one of the organizers and will be a presenter at the Unexplained Conference. He has a master's degree in psychology and works as a grant writer for a nonprofit antipoverty organization.


People who are intrigued by all the creatures and ghosts and the unexplained will have a safe haven at the conference, he said, whether they believe or not. Lewis has investigated plenty of paranormal circumstances. "Some we've debunked," he said. "And (in) some, we haven't found a suitable explanation."


It's all a big adventure, Lewis said, and who doesn't want answers to the unexplained?

"I think people just love getting scared and frightened," Lewis said.

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