|05-04-2007, 10:03 AM||#1|
Join Date: Apr 2001
'Demon' bewitches still, 30 years later
'Demon' bewitches still, 30 years later
By Kyle Alspach, Globe Correspondent | April 22, 2007
DOVER -- Do you believe in the Dover Demon?
This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the alleged sightings of the mysterious creature, described by several witnesses as about 4 feet tall with a thin body and arms, glowing eyes, and a huge, egg-shaped head.
Whether it's real or a hoax, the Dover Demon has gained notoriety among paranormal enthusiasts around the United States and the world. In conjunction with the anniversary, the Dover Historical Society plans to print T-shirts depicting the creature.
"The Dover Demon case is one of the most widely publicized creature sighting reports of all time," said Chris Pittman, a Franklin resident who presides over the Massachusetts UFO Resource Site, a website focused on the paranormal. "I don't think it would be possible for anyone interested in paranormal mysteries not to have heard of this case."
These days the creature is included in a number of books and websites about strange creatures right alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. For example, About.com (a website owned by The New York Times, parent company of the Globe) puts the Dover Demon on its list of the "Top 10 Most Mysterious Creatures of Modern Times," and a Japanese toy company has manufactured Dover Demon figurines.
The creature was reportedly seen on three separate occasions on April 21 and 22, 1977. William Bartlett , who was the first person to report seeing the creature, said he wasn't aware the Dover Demon incident was turning 30.
"I don't really think about it, unless someone calls me to ask about it," said Bartlett, an accomplished painter in the realist style who lives in Needham but grew up in Dover.
When asked, Bartlett stands by his story.
Bartlett, who was then 17, said he spotted the creature while driving his Volkswagen Beetle along Farm Street about 10 p.m. that April 21. He got a good look at the creature for 10 to 15 seconds, he said, and knew right away that it was like no animal he had ever seen.
The creature's head was nearly as big as the rest of its body, and it had long, spindly fingers, he said. It was walking on all fours atop a stone wall.
"As I drove by it turned its head to look at me," Bartlett said in a recent interview. "You get that moment where your eyes meet. I remember that happening. It freaked me out."
Bartlett said he went home, told his parents what happened , and immediately began sketching a picture of the creature. He was already an aspiring artist at the time and has always had a good visual memory, he said.
Bartlett's sketches have become the most-used representation of the creature.
His drawings attracted the attention of Loren Coleman , a cryptozoologist, or researcher of "hidden animals."
Coleman said he happened to see the sketches in a Dover store a few days after the sightings. Coleman learned that other teenagers had also reported seeing the creature, and he quickly assembled a team to look into the stories.
He found that 15-year-old John Baxter reported seeing a similar creature walking around on Miller Hill Road the same night as Bartlett's sighting. The next night, 15-year-old Abby Brabham and her boyfriend saw a similar creature cross the street on Springdale Avenue. The three sightings were all within about a mile of each other.
Coleman said he became convinced: The teens were not friends with each other and did not find out until later that others had made similar reports.
"These were kids that were not pranksters," Coleman said. "They just weren't kids that would have had any reason to be lying."
Coleman, who coined the catchy name "Dover Demon," has been writing and talking about the creature ever since. His most well-known book, "Mysterious America," is being rereleased this week with an expanded chapter on the Dover Demon.
Coleman said he believes the story has had staying power because it is unique: No one has ever reported seeing such a creature anywhere else in the world.
Besides being featured on U S television programs such as "Unsolved Mysteries," the Dover Demon has drawn interest from abroad. Coleman said he has spoken to media from such places as Japan, Russia, Austria and South Africa about the creature.
On Monday night he will appear on a nationally syndicated radio show, " Coast to Coast AM," and expects to spend much of the show discussing the Dover Demon.
"Who could've known that 30 years later, people would still be talking about it?" said Coleman, who now lives in Portland, Maine. "Who would've guessed that the story of those teens would become an international phenomenon?"
The town of Dover hasn't really embraced the story, according to Coleman. But a bit of enthusiasm appears to be surfacing with the 30th anniversary of the sightings.
Paul Tedesco, president of the Dover Historical Society, said the group's T-shirts commemorating the anniversary will be imprinted with Bartlett's famous sketch and the words "Do you believe?" They will be sold during the Dover Days Fair on May 19 as a fund-raiser for the Historical Society.
Tedesco also said he'd like to organize some sort of Demon-themed contest for the fair. "I've never believed it," Tedesco said. "But hey, people have fun with it."
For those who do believe, though, the question remains: What was that creature?
Coleman said he has never drawn any conclusions.
"For me, I'm happy saying I don't know what it was," he said. "I think it's enough to just acknowledge that it was an actual, real incident. It's a mystery, but it's a very real mystery."
Bartlett said he only knows what it wasn't: It wasn't a fox or some other animal. He had been accustomed to seeing those animals while growing up in Dover back when it was a farm town, he said.
"I honestly saw something," Bartlett said. "I wish I had made it up, and it was a hoax, because then maybe I could have profited from it in some way. But I didn't make it up. I know it was real."
More information about Chris Pittman's Massachusetts UFO Resource Site is available at his website, members.aol.com/soccorro64.
© Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company