Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Famous Local Halloween Legend

This first photo has nothing to do with the Bray Road legend. Pure gratuitous atmosphere. If ever there was a spooky cemetery, this is it. So, if you're in the mood for a scary tale--read on.

(Click to enlarge)

Skywatch Friday (really Thursday) again. Click the badge to see skies all over the world.

When I first heard the story of the Beast of Bray Road it really sent goose bumps down arms. Walworth, Wisconsin isn't very far from me, maybe 50-miles or less. In the 1990's mysterious sightings were frequent and the people who claimed to have seen this beast seemed to be reliable and honest. A brief account of the reports was even given (tongue-in-cheek) on a major TV network news program. That's were I first heard of it. Linda Godfry who wrote the newspaper story below went on to write a book. Later a movie was made based on the legend.

Although I have never outgrown my love of a good Halloween tale, I'm pretty skeptical when it comes to ghoulies and supernatural beasties. Having said that, I have to admit, I wouldn't go for a drive down Bray Road alone at night.

The following account is from the the Walworth County newspaper:

The rumors floated around town for two years or so before Linda Godfrey heard them. A wolfish-looking creature that ran on two legs and had been seen around the Bray Road area, stealing chickens, eating roadkills and scaring the daylights out of locals who (sometimes literally) ran into it.

Although the stories seemed like grist for the National Enquirer's mill, they were consistent enough to be intriguing. A certain number of people, good honest working folk, had seen something-something unusual. Something scary. Something hairy that relished pavement patty dinners!

The logical place to start was the county humane officer, Jon Fredrickson. It turned out Fredrickson has a manila folder in his files marked "Werewolf," filled with note cards detailing six or seven such "sightings." One referred to unusual tracks, another to a hairy pointy-eared creature seen chasing down a deer on two legs.

Another described a Burger King employee who saw a man-like creature running in mid-November. The employee allegedly said he could not believe what a fast and powerful runner the thing was.

Fredrickson's best guess is that the mysterious beast is actually a coyote or even a wolf, both of which have been unofficially reported in the area.

There are at least two people, however who would disagree with Fredrickson. I found out about them through the grapevine, and both agreed to tell me their versions of what they saw. I'll call them Barbara and Pat, since both were reluctant to go public with their real names for understandable reasons. (It seems society is less than kind to people who claim to have seen werewolves.)

The two women are unrelated, but both saw the creature on different parts of Bray Road in the evening hours. Barbara is a working mother, age 26, and Pat is a high school student. And both are entirely serious about what they saw.

Here are their stories in their own words:

Barbara: I was driving home one night on Bray Road, and I saw this thing on the side of the road. As I came up to it in my car, its back was to me so I saw it had ears and the whole bit. It was kneeling!

Its elbows were up, and its claws were facing out so I knew it had claws. I remember the long claws. And it was eating road kill or something, and as I drove by and I saw all this, it looked right at me and didn't run. It didn't get spooked or anything.

And it had like glowing eyes, which probably were a reflection of my headlights. It was right on Bray Road, right before the Bray farm, on the curve. And I saw it.

He was brownish-gray ... and he had big teeth and fangs. And he looked at me. He turned his head to look at me.

It was about the size of an average man, 5-foot-7 maybe, about 150 pounds. It was holding the thing it was eating palms up, with the real long claws and the pointed ears. He had a big long nose and a long chin, like this on this picture (she pointed to a drawing of a "werewolf" from a library book).

This is exactly what I saw (the picture). This is it. This is what it looked like.

This happened to me two years ago. And after I'd heard that Pat had an incident with it, I decided to go to the library. I looked through a few books they had for a picture of what it looked like, and I found that picture.

The knees were bent in a kneeling position, like a human would do.

It was night, and it was quite large, but I know what I saw. You don't mistake something like that. I don't take Bray Road in the dark anymore.

(Click to enlarge)

Pat: It was October this year, on Halloween. I was going down Bray Road, and it was kind of smoggy out, and my front tire got lifted off the ground. I'd hit something. So I kept going about 50 or 60 feet, right before Sitler Road, and then I got out of the car.

I'm looking around the side to see what it was, 'cause I'm thinking I hit a small animal. I hit a bird the same night and so I'm thinking I just killed another animal.

There was nothing on the road, no blood or anything. I didn't see anybody, and I felt like if I hit it, it should have stayed there. I walked to the end of the car, and here comes this thing, and it's just running up at me!

You could see the chest of this thing because it was big, and it was hairy. It was fast, that's for sure, because I see this thing, I get in the car, and by the time I got inside the car the thing had grabbed hold of the car.

I just put my foot on the gas pedal and I started going. Maybe after I got going I looked back, but at the time I was more interested in leaving.

The way it was running, you could suggest that it was on two legs because you could see the chest so well and it was pulsating as it was coming toward me. It was hitting the ground hard. I've never seen a human run as fast as that and my uncle was a track star. (If he'd gotten me) I probably would have been dinner that night.

It was bigger than any dog I've seen around here. We had a couple of Rottweilers and we had one that was a real big one, and this thing was bigger than he was.

And he had more hair.

It was brown. You could see the hair; dark colored. It wasn't black, though. Long straight hairs.

Coyotes don't get that big. I've seen a coyote. They were suggesting it was a bear at my house but I told them it wasn't that big.

But it was bigger than any animal I've ever seen around here. When the nails hit my car it was like, mmmph! (she clapped her hands together forcefully). It hit the top of the trunk and it slid off. The fog made the car wet. But when it was going down it scratched (the car).

This did not look like a German shepherd. I swear to that.

I went to go pick up my mother's boyfriend's daughter, and on the way back she saw it, kneeling down eating or something. She's 11, and I picked her up from trick-or-treating, so it was around 9 p.m. She said, "Look at that THING!" I said, "Yeah, look at it," and I pressed on the gas.

The mind tends to play tricks on people after you've been scared, and I admit I was afraid. I'm not going to say it was a werewolf. I'd say it was a freak of nature.

It's weird because you don't think something like that exists ... but if you see a creature like that, it tends to leave the mind wondering.


Barbara's mother also had a story to tell. She said a neighbor of hers woke up at 4 a.m. because her dogs were "going crazy" barking outside. The woman said she went outside and heard a long, constant howling sound. "She said it was so scary," said Barbara's mother, "that she couldn't get back to sleep. And she does remember it was a full moon."

Barbara's mother also heard from a male acquaintance that he had seen some sort of creature that was bigger than a dog or wolf by a creek. He didn't know what it was.

One other family admits to seeing a mysterious creature. Karen Bowey, who lives on Bowers Road, said her daughter Heather saw it. Heather, who was then 11, was out playing with a friend two years ago when she came running home, frantic with fright.

"She said she thought it was a big dog, until it stood up," remembered Bowey. "We said, 'What do you mean, stood up?' She wanted us to go down there but we just blew it off."

Heather's memory of the incident is vivid. "It had silver-colored fur with brown in it," she said, "and its face was shaped like a coyote's. But the back legs were shaped differently. When it stood up, they looked bigger than a dog's or coyote's, like they could stand up and jump and stuff. It was looking at me.

Heather said the creature continued to stand and look at them, until the children realized it wasn't a dog and started running back to the house.

"I looked back and saw it running toward us kind of like a dog would run but with bigger leaps. It got halfway to the house, then turned around and went back into the cornfield," Heather said.

Bowey said Heather was not the type of child to lie or make things up. "I just think it's a very curious thing," said Bowey. "I don't think it's human. I think it's a mix and it gives the impression it's deformed."

There are other rumors that no one I contacted would own up to, such as the one that claims a local hunter found identifiable tracks on his land, or the one that says a woman and her two children saw a dark, hairy creature on two legs chase a deer out of the woods-and keep up with it!

Most people do seem to agree that something is out there. They just don't know what it is.

Fredrickson, the humane officer, still sticks to his coyote-wolf theory. "Sometimes when a wolf or coyote is ready to pounce on an animal," he explained, "it'll actually spring up, which gives the illusion that it's standing. So if they caught sight of the animal at just the moment it was lunging, it could have appeared to be on two legs."

Nevertheless, Fredrickson concedes there are a lot of people who really believe they've seen something out of the ordinary. And he doesn't know quite what to make of it.

He probably said it for everyone, though, when he made this observation -"The county is getting stranger."

Monday, October 27, 2008


Saturday dawned bright and brisk. The perfect autumn day to spend in the garden. With a chilly wind blowing but the sun warm on my back I took down all my wren houses. Time to bring them in and do some repairs and touch up painting before storing them over the winter. The wrens will be back next May and expect the houses to be clean and neat for their new families. Several larger birdhouses will be left up all winter. Birds like chickadees will be grateful to huddle inside them on cold winter nights.

The favorite and the first wren house occupied every year is the white one with the decorative cutouts. I guess birds have a sense of style too.

I decided to enlarge three flower beds so I spent a couple hours cutting out sod and re-edging. Today I'm feeling a few muscles I don't remember having. This is my favorite spade. I bought it probably 15 years ago. Perfect for edging borders, removing strips of sod, and especially moving perennials in and out of tight places. It keeps a very sharp edge all season.

Now that I've given myself a little extra space, I can get busy planting some spring bulbs.

My friend is giving me a toothy grin for the camera;)

Sunday blew in with a vengeance. I dug out the warm down vest and braved the 60-mile per hour winds to fill the bird feeders. As I watched the leaves swirling madly around me I felt the first ominous splat--a large wet snowflake on my face. The season's first snow. It didn't amount to much and lasted only about 10-minutes. Still, a reminder that good weather is to be treasured late in October.

In the afternoon, I took a scenic drive out to one of our local apple orchards. They have the best apple cider donuts served fresh and hot with glasses of fresh pressed cider. Brought back a dozen donuts and several gallons of cider to enjoy later.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Halloween ghost tale

As a child I loved ghostly tales, especially around Halloween. Of course, way back then, hauntings were a kinder, gentler thing. Nothing like the horrific blood and guts stuff kids hear today. In my youth there were no chainsaws or guys with razor blade fingers. Mostly ethereal vapors floating around that sometimes played ugly tricks on people. The old classics like Sleepy Hollow were told again and again and never failed to enthrall us.

Sometimes Mom would let my sister and I stay up late on Saturday night to watch the Spooktacular hosted by the Cruel Ghoul or some such goofy thing. Those old movies were never very violent and the special effects were corny. They hinted at doom but faded to black before anything terrible was seen. After an especially scary werewolf movie (where we only ever saw a woman's shoes morph into German Shepherd paws) we would go off to bed, shivering and whispering. My sister, who was younger, always made me look under the beds and in the closets;) Lucky for us, no ghosties ever hid in our bedroom.

There are not many tales of hauntings from my area of northern Illinois, in fact only four I have ever heard. I'll share one with you. Hope it raises a few goose bumps on your arms.

Click to enlarge and get the full effect.

(Click to look at skies all over the globe.)

Harriet Meyer was a meek and timid little woman. When she was only 17, she married a farmer, Walter Jackson, who was much older. They had only one daughter, Geraldine born the second year of their marriage. Walter had expected strong sons to help him on the farm. Years passed and it became obvious Harriet wasn't likely to produce any sons. Walter grew cruel and brutish toward his wife as time went on. The daughter, Geraldine, who should have been a comfort to her mother, instead became selfish and imitated her father's cruelties. One October evening in a drunken rage over some petty incident, Walter shoved his wife against the cook stove and she received a very horrible burn over a large area of her back.

The next morning, after doing the laundry and pegging it out on the clothes line, Harriet hanged herself in the root cellar.

A few weeks after her death, Walter told his friends at the tavern he had seen his wife's ghost in the kitchen of their farmhouse. The friends asked if he was afraid. No, he laughed, he wasn't scared of his dead, mousy wife. That night he managed to get himself home more than a little drunk. A ghostly Harriet met him at the kitchen door and proceeded to chase him through the house beating him on the head and shoulders with a cast iron skillet. It seemed the timid Harriet had developed a backbone after her death. Better late than never, I guess.

After that Harriet appeared quite often. She threw dishes at her daughter and on a few occasions Walter told people she threw knives at him. She stripped the beds of sheets and blankets, piled them in the barn and set them on fire. When Geraldine tried to cook, Harriet's ghost would dump the food on the floor. Neither farmer nor daughter knew what happened to most of their clothes. They just disappeared never to be found.

Of course no one believed a word of the wild tales Walter and his daughter told. Until the cold January night Harriet pushed her husband down the cellar stairs and locked her daughter outside in the frigid weather.

The Jacksons, father and daughter survived the assaults, but never set foot in the house again. Being fairly well off financially, they built a more modern house and barn across the street. Two years after the new house was built, Walter fell from the loft of his barn and died. Some say it happened on the very anniversary of Harriet's death.

Geraldine married a neighbor and the couple continued to live in the new house with their children.

To this day the old house remains locked and vacant. No one goes inside. It is said that Geraldine and her children were terrified to tear the old building down for fear the ghost inside would be set free to move across the road.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Veggie Garden Update

I actually have one photo to contribute to Tina's - In the Garden veggie report;)

My heirloom tomatoes. Still no frost and these things are going all out. This is an heirloom tomato, Cherokee Purple. Notice the pinkish tone instead of the orange we see with the new hybrid varieties. IMHO, this is the best of the best. The newer hybrids produce more fruit and of course are more tolerant of disease, but they don't have that wonderful taste. If you haven't tried some of the heirlooms, don't expect the perfect round or oval shapes. Many heirlooms are large but irregular shaped. I think you'll forgive their imperfections after the first taste;)
Thanks, Tina for suggesting this topic. Frankly I had nothing for today until I read your blog.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


This won't be the usual reuse and recycle propaganda. We all do our part in that field, right?. This is a trip back along memory lane to find a couple recycled places from my past.

I went to a funeral Tuesday. She was 101-years old when she died. She had a good life, but still, it was a sad event. Funerals always put me in a melancholy frame of mind. Afterward I went for a drive. Passed by the old home place (which was a mistake) . The old house has changed so much I wouldn't have recognized it. Gave me a hollow feeling, like a big part of my life had just disappeared.

I drove on by the site of my first school. A tiny one-room building that combined first and second grades. It's long gone now. Moved to another town and recycled into a wedding chapel. It looks better now that it ever did as a school house.

I was headed southwest toward the river when I saw another old one-room school house a friend of mine attended years ago. The little limestone building had been closed and sat empty on a corner lot under a pair of huge shade trees. Now a nice couple has bought it and turned it into a most charming house.

In the photos you can see the original limestone school with its wall of large windows. The new owners have added an enclosed entrance to the front of the structure and a wing of similar style alongside for a garage with rooms above. The overall appearance is cute and country. Altho it's quite modern, it isn't an insult to the simple old style building.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ole Buttermilk Sky

Here's a real corny oldie to sing while you visit SkyWatch sites and look at beautiful skies.

Ole buttermilk sky
Can't you see my little donkey and me

We're as happy as a Christmas tree
Headed for the one I love

Ole buttermilk sky
Don't fail me when I'm needin' you most
Hang a moon above her hitching post
Hitch me to the one I love.

~ lyrics by Hoagy Carmichael

Buttermilk sky above a glassy Rock River between Byron and Rockford

My neighbors to the west have white rail paddock fences. They stand out beautifully in front of the autumn colored maples.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The best-laid plans

o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley
- Robby Burns

My plans went a-gley this weekend. I had a huge to-do list, much of it outside.

When I stepped out the door Saturday morning I noticed the swarms of insects in the air. Asian lady beetles, hundreds of them. I ignored them for a moment, but that soon became impossible. They bite! Those tiny, vicious little monsters were eating me alive. With welts on my arms and neck, I retreated to the house in defeat.

These insects were imported in the 70's by the USDA. In the autumn they become a nuisance for homeowners. They swarm out of the fields and trees seeking shelter to overwinter. The insects invade homes, barns and garages and become first class pests.

I have to admit, the lady beetles must be doing their job of controlling aphids and scale. I haven't seen an aphid in my yard in years. I read an adult beetle can eat as many as 270 aphids per day. That's a lot of biological control.

The Asian beetles are larger than our home grown ladybug. They come in a multitude of colors, orange, red and yellowish, some with, some without black spots. Since they have no natural predators in the US, they are expected to spread aggressively until food sources decline.

Photo from Department of Entomology
University of Missouri

Friday, October 10, 2008

Welcoming friends with fall decorations

My friends did a wonderful job decorating their tiny cottage for the fall season.
An artist's eye for combining lots of color and texture into small spaces. This is the entrance. So cheerful and welcoming. Notice the little gourds tucked into the container add color and substance.

Images are clickable to enlarge

A couple pumpkins and some colorful kale transforms the window box into a celebration of autumn.

Only a postage stamp size yard but they make the most of it .

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


It's true that in the north, we don't have as many hydrangea varieties to choose from. Even if we did, Annabelle would be my first choice. So many good points to recommend this shrub. It is very long blooming. Her ivory flowers brighten shady nooks from July through October. Even into the winter, Annabelle holds faded ecru blooms above the barren stalks and stems of last season's garden. She has no pests or disease in my garden. She is reliably hardy with little or no die back even in the cruelest winters. Another bonus, Annabelle produces great flowers for cutting. The blooms last a long time indoors and dry well for additions to autumn arrangements. Her one drawback is her excessive thirst. Since water conservation is high on my priority list, the Annabelles in my garden must make do with rain water and the occasional 5-gallon bucket dipped from the 'rain barrel'.

Annabelle's showy clusters are about 6-inches in diameter. They make a visual impact from quite a distance. Flowers begin in pale green progressing through hues of white, ivory, cream and then ecru with traces of brown.

Carl Sandburg does not seem like the kind of poet that would write about hydrangeas--but he did. Instead of the lovely, ivory summer snowballs I see, Carl Sandburg's hydrangeas are rusting tin soldiers. In this instance, I'm glad I don't see with the eye of a poet. (Sandburg may have been referring to the native hydrangea arborescens; a pretty plant which is very hardy but does not have the substantial flower clusters of Annabelle).


- by Carl Sandburg

Dragoons, I tell you the white hydrangeas

turn rust and go soon.

Already mid September a line of brown runs

over them.

One sunset after another tracks the faces, the


Waiting, they look over the fence for what

way they go.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Miscanthus sinensis

Another plant I've come to appreciate with time. I still don't care for all grasses, the upright ones leave me cold. Miscanthus has a more rounded form. The arching grasses are so graceful it's hard not to love them. My favorites are the variegated ones. In some lights they look silver. I have Variegatus (below) and Morning Light which has very thin leaves with three white pinstripes.

I tried to capture the multi-hued effect this grass creates. Notice how the leaves seem to go from white to silver to green depending on the amount of sunlight and shadow.

Grasses left standing over winter give the garden some interest and help to eleviate that barren, abandoned feeling of a completely sheared flower bed.

I haven't noticed any pests or disease on my miscanthus. It is fairly drought tolerant and performs poorly if over watered or over fed. Altogether a pretty carefree plant.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A storm rushes across the fields.
For a brief moment a few rays of sun escape the dark clouds.

Click the photo to make it larger.

Please click on the link and visit SkyWatch.
Lots of beautiful sky photos to see.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More favorite plants - Autumn Joy and Agastache

Both were plants I actually disliked at first.

I thought Sedum Autumn joy rigid and graceless with a dull brick color that was totally unappealing. Maybe my philosophy of using pest free, drought tolerant plants has colored my view. I've come to appreciate it and even like that dull color.
I bought my first agastache a few years ago. Blue Fortune, I love blue in the garden. Well, it wasn't blue and I was quite disappointed when I found the blooms were actually gray. Fast forward about 4 years and now I really appreciate this tireless, effortless plant. No pests, just hundreds of butterflies. It still isn't blue, but the color blends well with almost anything. My agastache is just beginning to fade. It has bloomed continuously since July. Like Autumn Joy, it's a tough plant that doesn't want coddling or watering or fertilizing. It will grow in gravel-- in fact it prefers it. These are two plants that nature has designed to grow well in my area and I'm taking advantage of that fact.
I've mentioned my Volcano phlox once or twice before. It's in full bloom again. This little plant pumps out blooms like no other phlox I've ever seen. Absolutely no mildew, no insects, no watering. I want more of these, but would you believe I can't find any for sale? I'll continue to look, I don't think a garden could have too many.