The Bray Road Beast
Directed by Seth Breedlove | Small Town Monsters
When you think of Wisconsin, what immediately comes to mind? The Milwaukee Brewers and the Green Bay Packers? TV shows like Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley? Or my personal favorites, beer and cheese? Of course, those are all hallmarks of the state. And Wisconsin is also known for its hauntings, ghost stories, and the fictional Slender Man legend. But what if I told you that in a town less than an hour from Milwaukee, people have been seeing a large werewolf-like creature for decades? In the small town of Elkhorn, along a lonely road that cuts through the farmland, a monster lurks. Witnesses have described it as a large, hairy animal with the head of a wolf and the body of a man, which is often seen walking upright. That road is Bray Road, and Small Town Monsters is back to investigate the beast that prowls it.
The Beast of Bray Road is a relative newcomer to the world of cryptozoology and the paranormal, with the modern sightings only becoming widely publicized in 1991. Witnesses described a large creature resembling a werewolf, with glowing red eyes, a head resembling that of a wolf or German Shepard, claw-like hands, and usually bipedal. At times it was reportedly quite aggressive, chasing people and attacking their vehicles, leaving scratch marks on cars with its claws. Once the case was made public, other witnesses came forward, and some accounts of the beast date back to 1936. The monster was made famous by Linda Godfrey, the reporter who first published the accounts of the Bray Road beast, and she has since became the de facto expert on the phenomenon. Her collected works can be found in her book, The Beast of Bray Road.
In Small Town Monsters’ upcoming “The Bray Road Beast,” it is Linda Godfrey herself who takes us through the history of the town of Elkhorn, and how the monstrous legend came to be. Assisting her is cryptozoologist and natural-born narrator Lyle Blackburn, who also narrated the excellent “Boggy Creek Monster.” This installment kicks off with myths of half-man, half-animal creatures from ancient times, and then delves into the history of the town of Elkhorn. The scene is set with location filming and archived photos, and then it’s on to the legend itself, a bizarre mix of the natural and supernatural. The Beast of Bray Road is truly an oddity, a fact that this film doesn’t shy away from. While giant, undiscovered apes or a small population of surviving sauropods are unlikely but not impossible to imagine, the idea of a “dogman” seems too uncomfortable to even consider. It just doesn’t seem to fit into our understanding of the natural order of things. The initial reaction would be to dismiss this as a misidentification of an overgrown wolf, or perhaps even a Bigfoot, but the eyewitnesses talk about things that neither explanation really satisfies. The beast is described as having pointed ears, like a wolf, and a long snout with fangs. The legs allegedly arch backwards, more like a canine than an ape. The hands seem to be more like long fingers ending in claws, rather than paws or primate hands. And of course, most wolves don’t walk around on their hind legs. Reports of animal mutilations and Satanic cults also seem to be associated with the creature, and certain witnesses even felt that it had more of a supernatural or demonic feel to it, rather than it simply being an undiscovered animal.
Along with Godfrey, Bob and Larry Bray (descendants of the original owners of Bray Farm) are featured, along with John Fredrickson, who was the animal control officer who initially investigated the 1991 sightings. Fredrickson actually had a folder containing notes for his investigation, appropriately labeled “Werewolf,” which caught Godfrey’s attention when she was initially brought in. Pretty cool.
However, the last witness to be featured, Lee Hempel, provides this film with its most recent and bizarre accounts yet. It’s a very disturbing little twist that I didn’t see coming, and one that I wish had been given more time and explored more thoroughly. I would have gladly welcomed another 15 or 20 minutes added to the runtime in order to fully assess his findings. No spoilers, but be prepared to hit your pause button to examine some of the truly fascinating stuff presented during his segment. The implications of what he found, if authentic, are a bit unsettling.
“The Bray Road Beast” has everything we’ve come to expect from a Small Town Monsters production, while improving on every aspect of their signature style. The musical score is compelling and ominous; simply pitch-perfect. The art style and reenactments are suitably terrifying and visceral, and as always, the cinematography is top notch. This is a beautiful film to take in. And yet at the end, all we know for sure is that something was seen on Bray Road. Maybe it was just an overgrown wolf or dog. Maybe it was Bigfoot. Perhaps it was all a hoax, or a misidentification of another known animal mixed with growing fears of Satanic cults, all coalescing into a sort of mass hysteria wherein everyone was seeing werewolves. Or maybe, just maybe, there’s more to the story than we could ever imagine. Or would want to imagine.
“The Bray Road Beast” is available for preorder now, and will be released on DVD, Amazon, Vimeo OnDemand, and VIDI Space on October 5th, 2018.