Exploring American Monsters: Michigan

Bordering four of the five Great Lakes, home to 64,980 inland bodies of water, and heavily forested in the north, Michigan is fishing and hunting dream. The southern part of the state is home to Detroit, center of the United States automobile industry. Michigan is the largest state by area east of the Mississippi River, and has the tenth largest population. It has more lighthouses, registered boats, and public golf courses than any other state. Famous people born in Michigan include singers Stevie Wonder and Iggy Pop, NBA great Earvin “Magic” Johnson, tennis player Serena Williams (her sister Venus was born in California), actor Terry Crews, car manufacturer and entrepreneur Henry Ford, and lots of monsters. Oh, and Madonna. And monsters.

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Mishipeshu

The Mishipeshu, or “the Great Lynx,” is a water creature that appears in the mythology of many American Indian tribes of the Upper Midwest. Although it has the head and paws of a great cat, it also has the antlers of a deer, a body covered in reptilian scales with spikes running along the backbone, and a long, snakelike tail. The roar of the Mishipeshu sounds like running rapids. The Great Lynx lives in the deepest parts of lakes, and sometimes rivers, and often bring storms.

The Mishipeshu guards the copper deposits that surround Lake Superior. Any copper removed angers the Mishipeshu, and it has been known to sink boats in its fury.

A story told by a Jesuit Missionary in the 1600s involves four Ojibwa Indians who paddled to Michipicoten Island, (home of the Mishipeshu) to get copper. As soon as the Indians put boat back into water with the copper, the Mishipeshu attacked the boat from underneath, killing three of the four Indians. The fourth crawled home to tell the tale.

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Michigan Mermen

The Maymaygwashi is another Ojibwa water legend. The Maymaygwashi live in rocky cracks along the banks of Lake Superior, and in forest waterways. These creatures resemble children with hair-covered faces. French-Canadian trappers and fishermen who wandered the areas around the Great Lakes claimed to have seen the Maymaygwashi.

In 1812, travelling in Lake Superior with three Ojibwa Indians by canoe, a French-Canadian fisherman named Saint-Germain camped at an island for the night when he saw a creature in the lake that had the upper torso “of a child of eight. The face had a dark complexion and curly hair.” The lower body still in the water “seemed to be that of a fish.” Saint-Germain tried to shoot the merman, but the Ojibwa wouldn’t let him.

Later that night a storm struck the island, and didn’t abate for three days. The Indians blamed the storm on Saint-Germain’s rash act.

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The Dogman

Towering six to seven feet tall, the Michigan Dogman is a wolf-like creature that is said to walk – and run – on its hind legs. The Dogman was first seen in 1887 when two lumberjacks encountered the monster, according to an article in The Huffington Post.

More Dogman sightings began in 1928 in Paris, Michigan, when 17-year-old Robert Fortney was charged by a pack of wild dogs. He fired a shot over the pack’s head, but when the pack ran at the sound, one huge black dog with blue eyes stood its ground. Fortney shot another round over the beast’s head, then the monster stood on two legs, and stared down Fortney until it turned and disappeared into the woods.

Similar reports are strung through the years since the 1950s. In 2001, a man reported seeing the Dogman in Cass County, Michigan. The beast, black, the size of a bear but shaped like a wolf, walked near his house stalking something the man could not see.

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Sea Monsters

About 600 feet from shore near the Straits of Mackinac that connect Lakes Michigan and Huron, people witnessed two unknown creatures in the water in June 1976. According to The Grand Rapids Press, the local sheriff came to the spot on the beach where people saw the monsters, and he saw something he’d never seen before. “I’m looking at something 20, maybe 30 feet long, swimming just below the surface,” he told The Grand Rapids Press. “I was amazed. I didn’t know what it was, but it sure wasn’t a publicity stunt.” The creature would occasionally rise to the surface of the water before diving back into the depths.

According to the article, the creature could have been an enormous fish, or eel, although the reported length of maybe thirty feet makes that unlikely.

Next up: Minnesota.

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