Michigan disc jockey shares story behind the Dogman legend
It took disc jockey Steve Cook only half a day to create the song that helped make famous Michigan's very own monster, the Dogman.
"The Legend of the Dogman" stirred hysteria in the northwest after being written and played by Cook at radio station WTCM-FM in 1987.
Cook said he intended the song to be an April Fool's joke but was shocked when an overwhelming amount of callers shared their Dogman sightings to the station. Cook's song and related documents describe the beast as being 7-feet tall with the torso of a muscular man and a howl similar to a human's scream.
It's written the creature's activity comes in a 10-year cycle restricted to years ending in seven. The year 2017 would be prime time for a Dogman to appear, according to legend.
Could this year be the year to spot the fabled dogman? Cook says — maybe.
CM Life: What led you to create "The Legend of Dogman Song"?
Cook: I’ve always been very interested in unknown creatures, mysterious animals, ghost stories and that sort of thing. We wanted to come up with an idea that would make a good April Fool’s prank.
I created a poem about the Michigan Dogman. The Dogman himself is sort of an algorithm of a whole bunch of different creatures, like Bigfoot, the New Jersey Devil, Chupacabra and all of those things.
I wanted it to be sort of personalized to the state of Michigan. All of this time having no idea I was actually building a character that already existed in folklore of this area for thousands of years prior to my song.
How did you react when people shared their own encounters with the Dogman?
One thing that it did is tended to open my eyes in a couple of different ways. We can’t always rely on science to give us all of the answers. Sometimes there are things in nature that holds a mystery.
What was your favorite Dogman story?
My personal favorite was the very first one I heard back in 1987. It was told to me by one of the very early callers that had rung up the radio.
(The caller) was at the time in his mid to late 70s and had an encounter when he was 17 years old back in the 30s during the Great Depression in Paris, Michigan. He noticed these wild dogs come out of the woods. They started circling him, which is the way wolves would hunt.
He had a .22 rifle with him he had taken hunting so he felt like he could protect himself. He fired a shot into the air and the dogs all scattered except one, which he said stood on its hind legs and stared at him. His exact quote was that, "I may have been imagining at things but I was aware that dog was smiling at me."
For nearly 50 years he didn’t tell his wife or anyone what he saw. After he heard the song he felt that he had maybe some sort of explanation for what he saw.
What is some interesting folklore related to the Dogman?
Native Americans tend to be very vivid in their descriptions. They tend to be very, very realistic when it comes to their description of creatures in the forest. The Chippewa and Odawa tribes talk about a creature that was half man and half dog.
If you dig really deeply into it you’ll discover that there was a third tribe that has gone extinct with no evident traces of them. The warriors of their tribe were said to commune with the creatures of the forest to a point where they could take on the shape of any animal they chose.
What does your Dogman look like?
I kind of created this creature based on the Bigfoot and the El Chupacabra, which is sort of a doglike creature and of course the classic werewolf everyone used to be frightened of.
Do you believe there's room for the legend to expand?
I think it has reached it’s limit because it tends to be more regionalized and I think also because a lot of it started as an April Fools Day prank. I do think though that as time goes by, the story will continue to be told through the generations and as most folklore stories be acknowledged. It’ll always be something that is Michigan and northwestern.
Do you believe in the Dogman?
It’s like the UFO phenomenon. There’s a tremendous amount of evidence that UFOs exist but there’s never been an actual real, face-to-face, physical encounter that compelled me to say absolutely, that they do exist.