The following are stories I wrote as part of my “Intermediate Reporting” class at the University of Wisconsin.
Bigfoot in Wisconsin? Probably not. But a Bearwolf? Maybe.
By Mike Ewing
Steve Krueger had just stepped into his truck around 1:30 a.m. when he felt it shudder. It was Nov. 9, so he figured it was just the fall winds that blew nearby Holy Hill. But when it shook again, Krueger looked into his rearview mirror, where he saw a dark, 7-foot-tall animal with pointed ears clawing at a dead doe in the bed of his pickup. For five seconds he sat and watched, unable to move, unsure of what to do. When he regained his senses, Krueger threw the car into drive, speeding away as the animal pulled the deer from his truck.
Although Krueger, who was collecting deer as part of his job with the DNR, was shaken up by this encounter, he was even more confused about what happened next. Later that day, a local television station, WISN 12, reported on Krueger’s encounter under this headline: “Man May Have Spotted Bigfoot.”
Suddenly, the attention of national media, Bigfoot enthusiasts, and the community were drawn to his story, and they all asked the same question as CNN.com: “Bigfoot in Wisconsin?”
“This has to be the most incompetent journalistic behavior I’ve ever seen in my life,” Krueger said, responding to the coverage.
The origin of the Bigfoot reference is unclear to Krueger, who said that reporters have told him they found the reference in a memo or in the police report.
“I never said it was Bigfoot, the police report never said it was Bigfoot,” he said.
Nevertheless, Krueger said many reporters and Bigfoot seekers from across the country have been calling him to ask about his encounter.
“I’ve had people tell me I saw Bigfoot because they’re shape-shifters from another dimension,” Krueger said.
Bill Mitchell is the DNR warden for Washington County, which includes the area where the encounter took place. He said that Krueger didn’t encounter a Bigfoot, but either a bear or a wolf, even though sightings of either are uncommon.
“Just a year ago there was a bear in Milwaukee that traveled through Washington County to get there,” Mitchell said.
Another DNR warden, Bob Lee, recently discovered a pile of droppings nearby the scene that he suspects came from a bear.
Krueger doesn’t think what he saw was a bear, however, since it had pointed ears while bears have rounded ears. He said it looked more like something with the head of a wolf but the body of a bear.
Linda Godfrey, a former reporter for The Week in Walworth County and author of “Weird Wisconsin” specializes in mysterious encounters in Wisconsin. She said that Krueger’s description of the creature is consistent with sightings of creatures called “bearwolves” or “manwolves.”
“I think that he saw the same wolf-headed creature that over one hundred people have seen in Wisconsin and Michigan over the past five or six decades,” Godfrey said.
Like Bigfoot, the existence of “bearwolves” and “manwolves” is contested, and no truly conclusive evidence has been gathered to prove their existence, despite a long history of sightings and encounters.
Mitchell said that there have been no other reports like Krueger’s in the area before, however, and there is no official plan to investigate further, even though there are many unofficial investigations going on in the area.
Two competing Bigfoot research organizations, the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization and Searching for Bigfoot have both sent representatives.
Krueger even joined Godfrey and a local hunter one night in an effort to bait the creature by leaving raw meat outside with motion-sensitive cameras nearby. They never saw anything.
Mitchell said that there is a vast amount of private land nearby Holy Hill, and that the bear—or whatever it was—would have plenty of places to hide from anyone attempting to investigate.
But Krueger knows there must be something out there. He disagrees with any suspicion that he actually saw a person that night, since his deer pickup schedule is so irregular, sometimes taking as long as 48 hours. The deer he picked up by Holy Hill wasn’t even officially reported, he said.
“It would take one brazen SOB to sit next to a deer carcass in a gorilla suit for two days just to scare the hell out of me,” Krueger said.
Madhatters Hopefuls Belt Their Best
Students vying for the empty spots in the Madhatters, a men’s a capella group, got their first chance to audition Sunday night at the Humanities building.
Sitting outside the classroom where a panel of his peers waited to judge him, Mike Haggert insisted he felt confident about his upcoming performance.
He hoped to join the Madhatters because he liked the idea of singing in a group that strove for excellence outside of the formal school setting.
“They’re doing it to benefit each other, not just some teacher,” he said.
Brent Edwards, a UW-Madison freshman, said that he decided to audition because he heard the Madhatters were the premier men’s singing group on campus. He said that he also liked the benefits of a capella groups in general.
“It’s really something that allows for personal interpretation and expression, but still within a cohesive group,” he said.
Candidates who stepped into the music classroom faced the remaining members of the Madhatters, who listened as they sang scales until their voices cracked and did their best solo version of a popular song of their choosing.
As many as 80 students will audition over the next three days, competing for three to six positions opened up by graduating members, according to Brian Olsen, a UW-Madison senior and elder Madhatter.
In evaluating candidates, Olsen said, personality and stage presence are just as important as vocal skills.
“If they have an amazing voice, that’s very helpful, but if they’re a stiff, it’s a problem,” he said.
Phil Bridge, a UW-Madison freshman, had years of performing experience, like most of the potential Madhatters. He said that this performance felt different from his many forensics performances.
“They’re not looking to be entertained, you’re looking to impress them,” he said.
Kabir Daya, a UW-Madison freshman, said that even those with years of experience find auditions nerve-racking.
“Performing in front of your peers, let along auditioning, is pretty hard,” Daya said.
Bridge said that the relaxed, playful atmosphere in the classroom made the experience much easier.
“It could have been intimidating, but they seemed to go out of their way to make you comfortable,” he said.
A Unique “Sacred Feather” in State Street’s Cap
By Mike Ewing
While the heyday of the fedora has long since passed, Sacred Feather on State Street celebrated its thirty-first anniversary on Friday, thanks to its eclectic selection of hats that targets senses of both high fashion and novelty.
Hats like those worn by legends from John Wayne to Humphrey Bogart to Indiana Jones adorn the shelves of Sacred Feather. With names like “the reporter,” “Black Bart,” and “Colombo,” the wide variety of hats is bound to fulfill whatever image the customer is seeking.
“You’ll see customers come in, and with every hat they put on, it evokes a
different personality,” said Kara Felsman, a manager at the store.
This image isn’t solely serious, however, as plastic Viking helmets, joker hats, and of course, cheese head hats, also hang amongst the designer hats and leather goods.
“For a long time we were against the cheese heads,” Felsman said. “Then, eventually, you have to just cater to what sells if you want to survive.”
Felsman said that Sacred Feather gets a great deal of business around Halloween and other holidays, thanks to its novelty collection, and that this business allows the store to continue selling classic styles of hats.
The musky smell of decades spent selling leather bags, belts and jackets is potent within Sacred Feather, which began as a leather goods store and continues to provide a limited selection today.
Sacred Feather occupies the first floor of an old sandstone building, built in 1884, which once held a speakeasy in the basement. Felsman said that the small feel of its location draws customers into Sacred Feather as they explore the State Street area.
“I think in Madison it is an advantage to be smaller because people who go downtown want to go to small businesses instead of chains,” Felsman said.
Fedoras are still the most popular hat with the customers who head into Sacred Feather, according to Felsman, although cowboy hats and tweed caps are very popular amongst college students.
Sacred Feather is located at 417 State Street, and its catalog is also available at http://www.sacredfeather.com.