Dover Demon: Massachusetts’ Mysterious Creature of the Night TAP TO GET PODCAST
It was like something out of an alien movie with its abnormally large head, round, glowing eyes, and thin, lanky body. And when three teenagers shared their own versions of the small creature, the small town of Dover, Massachusetts, would soon forever change.
Dover Demon: Encounter 1
Heart racing and trying to talk himself down a ledge, William began pacing back and forth in his bedroom. Shaking his head in disbelief, William had no idea how to feel about what he had just witnessed. Trying to get the image out of his head, he realized that the best way to convey what he had just seen was to draw it out. Scribbling down everything he remembered in detail, he realized that putting pen to paper only made him sound even crazier than before. While his father believed William’s story, he told his son not to tell a soul for fear of not being believed or, worse, being made fun of. But for William, that evening’s events would forever haunt him and his small town. So what exactly happened that night to stir up such a frenzy?
On April 21st, 1977, an hour before this strange occurrence, 17-year-old William Bartlett, or Bill for short, and his two best friends, Mike Mazzocco and Andy Brodie, were out late one night, cruising around town and discussing their future plans. With just a month out from graduation, all three boys wanted to soak in as much time together as they could before heading off to college. With the Volkswagen windows rolled down, blasting their favorite cassette tape, and enjoying their freedom, this was the perfect way to spend the evening in this small town.
At around 10:30 p.m., William was driving north on Farm Street, in Dover, Massachusetts, about a 40-minute drive from Boston. Looking out through the driver’s side window, William noticed something creeping along a low wall of loose stones. Chalking it up to a stray animal, he kept on driving. But when his headlights caught sight of the nearby creature, he quickly realized this wasn’t your typical neighborhood cat.
When the figure slowly turned its head and stared straight into the headlights, William noticed its two large, round eyes, which he would later describe as being “glassy, lidless” and shining brightly “like two orange marbles.” But that’s not all he noticed. Standing roughly 3-4ft tall, the creature had a thin body with “spindly arms and legs, large hands and feet with tendril-like fingers, and a large “watermelon-shaped head” that rested at the top of its thin neck. According to William its body was flesh-toned, hairless, and rough-looking, likening it to “wet sandpaper.”
But lasting only a few seconds, the creature quickly vanished into thin air in the blink of an eye. Cursing out of immediate panic, he asked his friends if they saw what he had just witnessed, but they both just shrugged their shoulders and denied seeing anything weird. While he was internally freaking out, he didn’t want to spook his friends any more than he already had, so he decided to call it a night and drive his friends back home.
After pulling into his own driveway a little while later, he quickly jumped out of the car and booked it to the front door. When his father looked up from the TV screen, he could see that William was quite shaken up. After getting up from the couch and asking his son what was wrong, William said that he needed a few moments to gather his thoughts but that he’d come back and tell him everything.
Sharing in detail about the strange-looking body, large marbly eyes, and awkward stature that seemingly vanished into thin air, William desperately wanted to be believed. In fact, on his original sketch, he penciled in the words, “I, Bill Bartlett, swear on a stack of Bibles that I saw this creature.”
And fortunately or unfortunately, William wouldn’t be alone in his experience. Although his two best friends didn’t see anything strange on their late-night drive, another Dover resident just a couple blocks away had their own bizarre incident.
Dover Demon: Encounter 2
On the south end of Miller Hill Road, about 5 minutes from where William had just been, 15-year-old John Baxter was leaving his girlfriend Cathy Cronin’s house around midnight. Since he lived not too far up the road, he was able to walk to and from her house. About a mile out, John noticed a small, dark figure approaching him. Since it was common to see his neighbors out and about, he didn’t think anything of it.
But when he called his neighbor out by name, there was no answer. Assuming maybe they didn’t hear him, he and the dark figure keep walking closer to each other until they were about 15 feet away. Staring each other down in the dark, John yells out once more and takes another small step forward when the figure takes off, running in the opposite direction.
Confused as to who this dark figure was, John chases after it across the gully. Winded after already walking a mile from his girlfriend’s house before this encounter and then chasing down the unknown figure, John stopped to catch his breath. When he looked up, he saw that the figure was eerily staring back at him once more, only this time, John was able to get a better look at who, or what, he was seeing.
As if the creature had its feet “molded” around the top of a large rock and holding onto a tree trunk with its spindly fingers, John described the creature as resembling that of a monkey’s, despite its “figure-eight-shaped head”. Later, John would also describe this creature as having two bright eyes that made him feel uneasy to look at. Though, unlike William’s story, John didn’t describe them as being large orange marbles or any other bold color for that instance.
Realizing that this creature wasn’t one of his friendly neighbors and afraid of what this creature might do to him if he got too close, John slowly backs up, still gazing toward the figure. After enough distance between them, he quickly picks up the pace and fast walks it to the intersection at Farm Street, where a couple offered him a ride home after seeing the fear in his eyes.
Once again, after John got home, contemplating his experience, he too made a sketch of what he saw late that night. And while neither William nor John previously spoke about what had just happened a couple of hours before, when comparing both of their sketches, the resemblance is uncanny.
Dover Demon: Encounter 3
Although these two encounters happened only a couple of hours apart, no other reports or sightings of the strange creature were ever documented from that night. And although William and John lived in the same area and went to the same school, it’s not like they were close friends by any means. These were simply two different encounters with two different individuals. But there’s still one more bizarre experience we’ve yet to discuss.
That very next night, on April 22nd, at around midnight, 18-year-old Will Taintor and his 15-year-old girlfriend, Abby Brabham, had been out driving when they stumbled upon something strange. As Will was pulling up to Springdale Avenue on the way to drop Abby back home, that’s when she spotted something crouching in the road. Trying to decipher what nocturnal animal was scurrying about, they quickly realized this wasn’t any normal animal after all.
As Abby described the being, she too pointed out the large head with long, spindly limbs and an ape-like stature. Although, when it came to describing its face, she insisted it was missing all its facial features except for two large, distinct bright eyes staring back at her. Despite William’s previous description of large, orange marbles, when talking to officials, Abby insisted that they were bright green. In her words, “it had bright green eyes, and the eyes glowed like they were looking exactly at me.”
As for Abby’s boyfriend, Will, he had only quickly glimpsed at the creature but went on to describe the being as having a thin, tan-looking body with a large head. Afraid of what the creature might do after being spotted, Abby begged Will to step on the gas pedal and take her home as quickly as he could. Once there, Abby also drew a quick sketch of the creature. And despite the minor discrepancies, her drawing also resembled the previous two drawings from William and John.
Loren Coleman and the Dover Demon
To me, probably the most bizarre part of this whole story is that all three teens had their own encounters, but when comparing all three sketches, each one looked exactly the same. And what’s crazy to think is that no sighting was ever documented before these two nights, and no official sighting has ever happened since. But that didn’t stop the small town of Dover from quickly spreading rumors of the unsightly creature. The cryptid in question? The Dover Demon.
If you’ve been a fan of this show for a long, then you’ve probably heard us mention the famous Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. We’ve mentioned his name a few times here on the podcast and have even shared pieces from his book, Cryptozoology A-Z, on social media. And there’s a good reason for this. Being one of the top industry leaders, with having authored over 40 books on the topic and the Founder of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine, Loren Coleman was one of the first people to investigate the initial sightings from the 1970s. Even going so far as giving The Dover Demon its name.
When Loren Coleman first spoke with William Bartlett, William recounted what went down late that night. In his words, “As I got closer, I got a real good look at what this thing was. It turned more toward me, and I saw hand-like things grasping onto a rock. I still didn’t believe what I was seeing,” William said. “I was like, ‘Holy (expletive),’ and I asked my friends, ‘Did you see that?’ They didn’t see it, but I was kind of freaking out at that point.”
And after the 30-year anniversary, Loren Coleman revisited this conversation with William and shared that William went on to say, “the creature appeared to be walking on all fours and had strange little feet and hands with long digits” When describing the creature’s skin, Loren also recounts William saying that it looked like “shark skin.”
When asked about the other two sightings from John and Abby, Loren goes on to say that John reported the creature as “standing upright against the tree” with a “head larger than normal,” and Abby described the creature as “crossing the road on all fours” with a “hairless, beige-colored body” and “having no nose, ears, or tail.”
Since there haven’t been any recent sightings of the Dover Demon, it’s hard to understand its origins. We have different sketches depicting each encounter, but that’s all we can base our assumptions on. It looks pretty extraterrestrial in nature, but there’s really no way of knowing for sure.
If you ask fellow cryptid believers, they would often liken the Dover Demon to something else known as the Mannegishi. According to Cree folklore, the mannegishi are “a race of trickster people similar in nature to the Memegwesi of the Ojibwa.”
Described as being “semi-humanoid” with “thin, lanky arms and legs, with a big head” and no nose. In comparison to humans, the Cree believed that the Mannegishi are “little people” who live between rocks in the rapids. Their behavior is often described as being very trickster-like due to their enjoyment of crawling out of the rocks to capsize while canoeing through the rapids and causing them to spin out of control.
Regardless of whether or not the Mannegishi is real or if the Dover Demon is of the same genus, it’s easy to point out the major differences in each of the teen’s stories. While 2/3 of encounters happened while driving, none of the teens were out canoeing. Although, there is something to be said about William and John’s stories of the creature sneaking past loose rocks. Maybe there are similarities, after all.
Whatever the Dover Demon actually was, we’re likely to never truly find out. But there are some other theories of what it might have been. Such theories seem more likely than underwater tricksters. And no matter how well-respected Loren Coleman is in his line of work, there are a lot more skeptics than believers when it comes to this specific mysterious cryptid.
One common belief is that the Dover Demon was nothing more than a baby moose. When you consider these creatures have gangly limbs, awkward-low-hanging heads, and brownish color in nature, it seems a likely explanation. Even the Hugag, a lumber woods cryptid from the northern states, resembles a moose-like figure. However, it’s worth mentioning that in the 1970s, moose sightings were extremely rare in Dover, Massachusetts. Not impossible, but not likely probable either.
Another possible explanation that even Loren Coleman suggests might be a foal or a baby horse. According to Loren, “At the time, there was a population of about 5,000 individuals. There were more horses in the town of Dover than there were people”. However, one thing to note about this theory is that there weren’t any animal tracks left behind, signifying a horse on the loose, nor were there any reports of missing foals.
One of the most widely believed explanations is that the teen’s encounters were nothing more than firsthand accounts of a mangy dog or wild fox. According to William, although he didn’t think it was an extraterrestrial creature, he knew it wasn’t any animal he had ever seen before. Knowing what mangy dogs look like, William believed this was a different type of creature as he described the being as much larger than your average mangy animal.
When it comes to the Dover Demon, I’m not sure exactly what to believe. We know that there were three different sightings from three different people. And the most peculiar thing being that they all happened in a two-mile radius in the same 24-hour period. But the possible explanations of wild animals are pretty likely.
We’ve seen time and time again where dark nights often distort our understanding of the world around us, only for the truth to be brought to light. Heck, there have been times when I thought I saw a strange creature off in the woods, only for them to just be a squirrel or even a deer far off.
It’s easy to fall victim to strange shadows, weird noises, and glowing red eyes late at night. Even on long, late-night drives, our car’s headlights can paint a completely different picture than what is actually happening. But I believe that in light of the Dover Demon, Loren Coleman said it best when he said, “It’s okay to say we don’t know.”
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Thanks for touring Cryptids Across the Atlas. Until next time, keep your eyes open. You never know what you might see just on the edge of the road.