A Strange Hike Near Hartford, Wisconsin

Last Sunday I was hiking the Ice Age Trail near Hartford, when I found these peculiar marks on a tree limb. This area has a history of strange creature sightings ranging from Goatman, Bigfoot, and canine/bruin hybrids.

Strange markings in a tree along the Ice Age Trail.

The second photograph shows how high in the tree the markings are. There were no other strange markings on or near the tree. My hand barely reaches the first marking and I’m 5’8″. And before anyone asks, the critter on my tee shirt is Mr. T (Rex). He pittys the fool.

Me with my eyes closed, attempting to demonstrate scale.

Earlier in the day, a mile or two farther down the trail, I heard a repetitive tapping, it sounded like two large logs being slapped together, in a continuous, repeating pattern close to the trail, across a kettle, but I couldn’t find the source despite their being no leaves on the trees. After about two minutes the sound stopped and never returned. A peculiar day in the Kettle Moraine Forest!

The Next Book

I write books about monsters. I lead walking tours past, and occasionally into, locations said to be haunted. If someone calls me or the rest of the Paranormal Investigation and Research Society (PIRS), claiming a malevolent shadow person terrorizes the hallways of their home, I grab my gear and charge half-cocked into an unfamiliar and potentially dangerous situation. I do not write under any pseudonym. The name on the cover of this book you’re holding is who I am. To borrow a Jimi Hendrix lyric, “I wave my freak flag high.” I chose said lyric, because often a freak is exactly what some people think I am, in more conventional social circles. In a way, perhaps they’re right. After all, it takes a certain sort to do the things I do.

But no matter what sort of societal situation I’m in, be it a dinner party with the stuffiest of stuffed shirts, or a paranormal convention in a cheap hotel bar surrounded by my fellow Fortean enthusiasts I’m always asked the exact same question when they learn of my unconventional vocation—“have you ever had any paranormal experiences?”—and each and every time I struggle for an adequate answer.

That tidbit of information speaks volumes about my lifelong inability to prepare for even the most anticipated of chitchat, but it is the truth. I will stutter, and stammer, and then I will draw a complete and total blank. When this happens, I quickly blurt out something to the effect of “Oh, I’ve seen a shadow or two out of the corner of my eye, but nothing terribly dramatic.”

One of two things invariably will occur. Either the person will crush me with a groundswell of disinterest and wander away to find the crab dip, or they’ll enthusiastically tell me about some unexplainable episode from their own lives, ever so pleased to find out that a Fortean author and ghost hunter has somehow managed to lead such a thoroughly unremarkable life compared to their own.

After such occasions, I find myself lying in bed hours later, replaying the interaction in my head unceasingly. Because mere moments after such conversations conclude, my mind is flooded by a torrent of thrilling and unexplainable personal experiences. Then I get out of bed, unable to sleep, and in disgust, order pizza. Yes, I have problems. This new book will chronicle my various personal experiences, including but not limited to:

  • A pack of terrifying, and potentially spectral black dogs that chased my friends and I away from a haunted country lane in Cleveland, Georgia.
  • A Germantown, Wisconsin investigation where I captured an audio recording of a ghost chastising my fellow investigator for talking during an EVP session.
  • The large scratches I found on my shoulder after getting ill during a tour of Louisville’s Waverly Hills Sanatorium.
  • The time a sepia tone woman’s face materialized right in front of me in Mammoth Cave National Park.
  • Phantom footsteps following me in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. The site of the infamous John Brown insurrection that was meant to end slavery, but instead ended in slaughter.

I intend to post regular updates regarding my progress on this as yet unnamed book, both to keep you informed, and me motivated to continue my writing. Watch this blog, subscribe to my email list (the subscription box is to the left of this blog), or follow my Facebook Page

I’ve had many puzzling experiences that have left their mark on me. Some of which have actually showed up on camera. Now, back to work.

Scratches from a ghost during a tour of Waverly Hills Sanitorium
Scratches I seemingly received during a visit to Waverly Hills Sanitorium.

An Encounter with a Ghostly Hookman

In my latest book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? I make note of a peculiar link between American Goatman legends, and the Hookman urban legend. In most areas where high school students tell stories of the legendary half-man, half-goat creature, a different clique of students will often claim the area is haunted by a crazed killer with a hook for a hand! This own link is apparent right here in Washington County, Wisconsin, where I first began my Goatman research. Some 1970s high schoolers say Goatman lived in a particular dilapidated house on Hogsback Road, while others said that was were the Hookman hung his hat.

The Hookman, as portrayed on TV’s “Supernatural.”

While Goatman legends are an odd blend of urban legends and actual eyewitness sightings, Hookman is firmly established as a perennial Lover’s Lane urban legend. Where kids park to make out, you’ll hear stories of a crazy hook-handed killer lurking just beyond the treeline. I’d never heard from anyone who’d actually encountered Hookman, that is of course, until this past October when I received the following message from a reader here in Washington County, Wisconsin.

Back in the early 1980s we had an urban legend [on Hogsback Road] called the Hookman. Now deceased, his small cottage was at the end of a narrow gravel driveway thickly lined with trees on both sides. My friends and I were pretty freewheeling back then and loved to drive about with beer in the car. One night our friend Mark wanted to show off his new Buick so we bought a couple of six packs and the six of us decided to park the car by Hookman’s old cottage.

It was a blustery night with a full moon. Each time the wind would blow we’d lose the moonlight. We could hear the wind whistling through the trees even with window up. We were laughing and talking about nothing in particular when I heard a loud “screeee” noise scraping against the left rear window that I was sitting next to. In the light I could see a distinct 4 inch gouge in the window that was clearly visible in the moonlight. We all just totally freaked! Mark almost had an accident as his wheels spun in the gravel getting out of the place. A really strange thing about that gouge? It seemed to gradually fade out of the window the same way a scratch heals itself on someone’s arm. That was over 30 years ago and I believe it still affects me to this day.

An impressive, unsettling story! Has anyone else had an experience similar to this?

Goatman Hoof-Print Caught on Camera?

While writing Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? I quickly learned physical evidence of these strange, hoofed bipedal creatures is almost non-existent. No alleged hair samples, scat, or footprints of the animals have been collected, that I’m aware, unlike other anomalous creatures like Bigfoot. Because of this–and their strange ability to occasionally disappear in a blinding flash–I’ve always assumed they were more closely related to paranormal entities than some undiscovered animal.

Imagine my surprise when a local investigation group called WPI Hunts the Truth sent me the following photograph from an anonymous source in Oak Creek, Wisconsin!

Goatman hoof print in Oak Creek, Wisconsin

This photograph is impressive for various reasons. Notice how extremely large the print is– the size of a grown man’s hand. But more interesting is the back half of the print. It almost resembles an enormous human being’s heel. I’m at a loss to explain it. While it doesn’t prove a Goatman is wandering around Oak Creek, I can’t explain precisely what could have made such a puzzling impression in the autumn muck. Have any of you witnessed tracks like these before?

Ireland’s Mutant Centaur

Centaur in Ireland

While digging through musty old books and obscure Fortean journals researching my book Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? I came across many exceedingly peculiar sightings of “mythical” creatures. While searching for satyr sightings, I’d stumble across the occasional encounter with a centaur!

Centaurs were liminal beings from ancient Greek mythology that were most often depicted as horses with a human’s upper body sprouting from the withers. According to myth, these hybrid beings ultimately came into being when Apollo, the God of Music and Light, impregnated Stilbe of the nymphs—a race of feminine nature spirits. Twins were born. One named Lapithus, grew into a valiant warrior. The other, Centarus, was deformed and took to mating with mares in the countryside. The result of these unnatural copulations, were the centaurs, which would forever be at war with the descendants of Lapithus.

But despite this less-than-honorable origin, centaurs played dual roles in Greek myth. Their human/animal qualities led to them being depicted as fierce, and untamable, much like a force of nature, probably because of their relation to the nymphs. Contrarily though, given Apollo’s status as an intellectual deity, they just as often played the role of teacher in many tales. Perhaps the most famous centaur was Chiron, who taught many mortal boys art, music, and war. Among his students was Achilles, the famous hero who fought and slayed Hector during the Trojan War, as well as Jason, who quested with the Argonauts to retrieve the Golden Fleece.

Graham J. MacEwan’s work Mystery Animals of Britain and Ireland contains a description of a very peculiar sort of centaur. In the spring of 1966, John Farrell and Margaret Johnson were driving through the Irish countryside of County Louth, just outside the city of Drogheda, when they came upon an enormous quadruped blocking the road. It resembled a huge horse, except for its hairy, manlike face and grotesque bulging eyes. The creature blocked the road for a full two minutes, while Farrell and Johnson were paralyzed with horror. Eventually the thing vanished, allowing them make an escape.

I’d rather see a satyr. Somehow, that’s less freaky. Somehow.

Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? a Critical Success

Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? by J. Nathan Couch

Though Thanksgiving already seems like a distant memory in the midst of this Arctic-like Wisconsin January, I believe I’d be remiss if I didn’t publicly state how thankful I am that Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? has thus far been a critical success.

I was a nervous wreck immediately following the publication of Goatman on October 07, 2014. My one previous full-length book Washington County Paranormal: A Wisconsin Legend Trip, while available both nationally and internationally, was of mostly local interest, and was read by individuals who likely viewed it through rose-tinted glasses, since they were likely reading about their respective home towns.  Goatman was my first attempt to write a book intended for a broader audience than one Southeastern Wisconsin county.

Goatman was also a vastly different topic then I’d ever attempted. This was no mere collection of ghost and monster stories to put into order. Instead it was a complex mess of folklore and Fortean phenomena that needed to be sorted out and made sense of. Needless to say, it was a huge relief when positive reviews began to trickle in.

Sean Whitley, director of the documentary Southern Fried Bigfoot commented that “this was a very entertaining read and an incredibly thorough look at one of America’s urban legends. Highly recommended.”

Michael A. Kleen, author of Haunting Illinois declares that “Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? is a solid and original work in a genre where substance and originality is increasingly difficult to find.”

Lyle Blackburn wrote in his Rue Morgue column, Monstro Bizarro that ” Couch’s writing is smooth and easy to read while maintaining a good balance between skepticism and open-mindedness. He goes where the research leads, allowing his conclusions to reflect only that which can be drawn from the evidence.”  He continued that Goatman is an “enjoyable read that provides new insight into these cases whether you’re interested in the cryptid aspect or simply monster folklore.”

Dr. Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog at Strange History claims, after a lot of thought provoking musing, that “one of the reasons that the book works so well is that the author is not just a Fortean, he is also a folklorist (by temperament if not by training). And a case like this is a wonderful example of where Fortean techniques come, unassisted, crashing to the ground: in a case like this the Fortean approach is, frankly, a blunt stone trying to open a can of beans. Folklore reminds us, instead, how humans create myths as spiders spin webs.”

Ken Gerhard, author of  Encounters of Flying Humanoids, declared “… Thoroughly enjoying this book at the moment. Extremely well researched and written. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in mysterious and seriously weird creature accounts.”

John Rimmer of Magonia writes “[J. Nathan Couch] understands the liminal landscapes in which these creatures lurk, and knows that a suburban lot can hold as deep a terror as the remotest forest. This is a fascinating account of a search for mystery, a real search involving the author travelling to some of the weirdest spots in the US, not just clicking ‘search’ on a computer screen. This is Fortean writing at its finest, and recommended to all… ”

Monster Hunters author Tea Krulos writes “Couch does a good job of entertaining the [legends], but not endorsing them as them as fact. Because the idea of a half goat, half human stalking through the woods to head butt you is ridiculous…(wait a minute—do you hear that horrible bleating sound?)…or is it?”

And most recently, Loren Coleman, author of Mysterious America and the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum placed Goatman on his list of the Best Cryptozoology books of 2014, bestowing it with the title of “The Best Weird Cryptid Book of 2014.”

If you’ve read Goatman, and would like to offer your opinion, please consider leaving a review at your favorite website. Reviews (either negative or positive) would be appreciated at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, or GoodReads.com.

Thanks everyone, for all the support, and I hope everyone reading this has a wonderful 2015.

Bigfoot-like Creature seen at Holy Hill

If you’ve been following this blog with any regularity you’re likely aware of a bizarre creature sighting at Holy Hill this past September. The creature was 4-feet tall, hairless, muscular, and had backwards bending legs like a goat or a dogs.

Following that blog post, numerous individuals came forward with similar sightings from all around Southeastern Wisconsin. Another individual has stepped forward with a peculiar encounter.

A gentleman named Spence posted about a strange creature sighting near Holy Hill on one of the older blog entries. His experience occurred in autumn of 2006 or 2007:

“It was about 9:00 or 9:30pm and I was traveling east on Highway 167 towards Holy Hill. There is a winding section of road just about a mile west of Holy Hill Road that has some rather large embankments. The creature I saw must have stood between 6′ 5″ and 7′ feet tall,  approximately 200-300 pounds. The creature was large enugh to bound down the embankment acrross the road and down into the ditch in about 4 strides and its hips were as tall as the hood of my truck. I do have quite a few lights on my vehicle but it was dark and i was going aproximately 40 to 45 mph. I know those are not the best circumstances, but I could not deny what I saw.”

Spence invites others to come forward with any encounters they’ve had. FYI, during 2006 there was an outbreak of hairy hominid and anomalous bruin sightings across Washington County and surrounding areas, with the initial sighting taking place a few feet from the entrance of Holy Hill, on Highway 167.

More strange creature sightings available in Goatman: Flesh or Folklore?.

Bigfoot
Photograph of a Bigfoot statue.

Goatman of Herrin, Illinois

Having now written two books about Fortean subjects, I’ve discovered the most rewarding experience is when your work can inspire people to come forward with their unexplained, and often completely unsettling, personal experiences. Following the publication of my regional book Washington County Paranormal a legion of people in my Southeastern Wisconsin community have shared their own ghostly encounters.

Now that Goatman:Flesh or Folklore? is published, I’ve had the fortune of being contacted by several individuals who’ve had experiences with creatures matching the description of these bizarre satyr-like creatures that are occasionally encountered across the United States.

Last week I received an email from an Illinois man named Brian Harring, who shared the following traumatizing experience in the hopes of understanding precisely what happened to him.

“I was hearing you on [the MysteriousUniverse.com podcast] today, and realized that you were talking about something that chased me through the woods a long while ago. I live in Southern Illinois outside of a town called Herrin, IL. There’s a small unrecognized community called Paineville just outside of Herrin. Leaving this neighborhood there are train tracks a small distance away from a trestle that has collapsed and the location of the Herrin Massacre; aka Bloody Williamson. Recently the remains of an ancient indian burial ground was also unearthed nearby.

“It was here that I saw this thing. It was night and I had walked up the road from my neighborhood. There’s a long dark stretch of road leading from this neighborhood without any street lighting. It gets so dark you can barely see the ground. It leads up a hill exiting the neighborhood. Crossing the main highway from here are the tracks. This is where I spotted it. I’m nearsighted, so I got just close enough so that I could see what it looked like. It was standing near the tracks facing towards a body of water. It looked like it had grayish skin, but I could hardly tell the true color under the moonlight. What I did see is that it was very tall, and had a hairless muscular upper body, stood upright and it had hooven hairy legs. It also had very large horns. That’s all I needed to see before I felt very vulnerable and scared and began running for the hill. I turned to my left and watch it jump the small pond and head into the woods that spanned the road back into my neighborhood. I could hear stomping and heavy breathing as if a bull or large buck were running. It followed me a very long way, until it ran into an area cluttered with abandoned cars and other miscellaneous junk. I ran faster than I ever have in my life. It felt like I was about to lift off of the ground and lose my footing. I was tired at the hill, but terror kept me going. When I finally made it home, I couldn’t catch my breathe and almost threw up. I’ve never seen it again, but it was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen.”

To my eyes, a couple of tidbits from Brian’s experience stand out. The first is that this sighting took place near a former Native American burial. Several strange creatures have been seen at sacred Native American locations here in Washington County, Wisconsin, such as Holy Hill where a creature similar to a goat-man was seen this past September. Also, numerous Native American effigy mounds resembling goat-men once dotted portions of the Midwest.

Another is the overwhelming panic that Brian experienced. This seems to be the most common reaction reported by goat-men witnesses. Rarely, if ever, does a goat-man witness express a sense of mystery or wonder, as does the like of UFO or Bigfoot witnesses. This could also be telling. According to mythology, encountering the Greek god of the Wild, Pan (himself satyr-like in appearance) in lonely, wild places,  would cause a maddening fear to take hold of the witness. The word panic, is of course, derived from Pan’s name.

If anyone else has encountered anything along these lines, please contact me. Perhaps, together, we can figure out exactly what these strange goat-men are.

An artist’s depiction of Pan
An artist’s depiction of Pan.

Holy Hill Creature Update

Back on November 1st I published a blog about a strange creature sighting near Holy Hill, an area outside of Hartford with a history of anomalous activity.  Essentially, a woman by the name of Mindy Rossette reached out to me in late October about an extraordinary experience she and her teenage daughter had while driving near County Highway K and Highway 167 at night on September 17th. A 4-foot tall, hairless, bi-pedal creature with backwards bending legs ran in front their car.

Goatman sketch
Eyewitness sketch of a mysterious creature that dashed in front of a moving car near Holy Hill. By Mindy Rossette.

Mindy and her daughter were very upset by this encounter, and asked if I was aware of any creature like it. Because of the backwards bending legs, I was immediately reminded of the Goatman, a legendary creature that allegedly occupies nearby Hogsback Road. Mindy has never heard of Goatman, but remarked that the legs reminded her of a canine, while her daughter remarked there was something almost extraterrestrial about the entity. To sum up how deeply disturbed these two were from their encounter, Mindy remarked “It’s something we’ll never forget. The vision of this thing is etched in our lives.”

At the end of that blog, I asked that anyone with information regarding the sighting or the strange thing the Rossettes witnessed contact me. If nothing else, knowing someone else has seen such a peculiar thing can alleviate much of the stress that comes from such a puzzling experience.  Its always heartening to know you aren’t alone.

To my delight, several individuals responded with their own encounters.

Andre LeMieux: “Golfing at Ironwood [in Sussex, WI], the eastern most part of  the course. Saw what appeared to be a large dog over road kill when it stood up on hind legs and walked into small grove of trees going out of sight. A friend of mine said he saw a similar creature at his brother’s backyard which is not far from there… . My sighting was about 6:30 pm with full sunshine in summertime about three years ago [2011]. Appeared to stand about 4 to 5 feet tall on hind legs.”

Josh Hughes: “My father and I experienced something very similar to this [strange creature] while hunting in the area. It happened [around 2006] when all the Sasquatch sightings were going on. [Mindy’s story] brought up the old memories and I thought it might be good to share with you.”

Salem: On the night of December 27th, 2006 a friend and I had an encounter with what I can only describe as a supernatural creature, that resembled a wolf/dog in the Menomonee Falls area of Wisconsin. We got a pretty clear look at it too.”

Not all of the stories involved strange animals. Luther Banks shared some details regarding a UFO he witnessed. Certainly not off-topic since so many people have noted the alien qualities of Mindy’s sketch.

Luther Banks: “On October 30, 2014 I saw an object in the sky shaped like a falcon. It was metal and dark, took tight curves like it was looking for something. Tip of the craft was dark, no movement of the wings. The sun hit it right and I could definitely tell it was made of some sort of metal. [This happened at] approximately 0940 and was visible for no longer then a minute till it quickly was out of vision. This was sighted from the ground from the outskirts of Watertown, WI.

After reading Luther’s message, I myself was reminded of 4 glowing, amber orbs of light that I, and more then 50 bus tour patrons witnessed flying near Jackson, Wisconsin, on September 12th, 2014 during a Washington County Historical Society event. The orbs were flying in a rough V formation, and changed directions several times before we lost view of them. This sighting occurred just 5 days before the Rossette encounter. Of course, none of these experiences explains exactly what the Rossettes saw, but it does prove their incident was not isolated.

 Some responses were skeptical.

 Vintage Basil: “I have lived in the Holy Hill area for almost 37 years. There is a man who lives out in the wilderness up near Holy Hill. He wears all kinds of hats on his head to keep warm, and also carries all of his belongings with him. He stashes his stuff wherever he decides to spend the day and walks around at all times of the day and night. The Carmelite [friars] have tried to help him, but he has some mental issues and prefers to live outside. He has caught my eye from a distance, more than once. He doesn’t look human until you get up close and see him. They probably saw him. Night time, darkness, wilderness…all sounds like a fairy tale creature, but most likely, it’s not.

 Chris: “I’m just wondering why hunters haven’t gotten any pictures or eye witness. I am a hunter in the area just a little west of Holy Hill am curious but in disbelief. Mapleton, WI had a cougar for 5 years. It had a tracking collar on but that’s it for anything out of the ordinary. I’d like to know more.”

 A few people on social media sites theorized that it was a deer.

 A deer never, ever runs or walks on two legs, and an eccentric loner in a funny hat doesn’t have backwards bending legs. As for Chris’s question, I can’t speak for all the hunters in the Holy Hill area, but if I put myself in the Mindy’s shoes, this how I think it would go: I’d never be driving while using my phone, especially at night. After I swerved to avoid the creature, and got over the initial surprise, I’d have to get into my pants pocket for my phone, type in my four digit access could, and find my camera app. By the time all that happened, I’m sure any frightened animal/humanoid would be long gone.

 The mystery remains just that, a mystery. Once again I extend an invitation to readers: I’ve you’ve experienced anything usual that may relate to the Rossette’s experiences, please comment below or email me. If enough people come forward, perhaps we can at least try and guess at what is going on.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Hi All!

With the Downtown West Bend Ghost Walk season officially over and Goatman: Flesh or Folklore? officially published, I’ve been able to actual LEAVE MY HOME, a risky venture I rarely attempt.

This year I traveled to the far flung mid-Atlantic to visit some good friends in Frederick, Maryland. I despise airports, so my wife and I decided to turn it into a road trip. Frankly, I’d rather  drive for 12 hours then deal with the TSA.

I had a lot of fun was had once we arrived. We visited several infamous American Civil War sites including Gettysburg, Antietam, and Harper’s Ferry. I had a couple of paranormal experiences while at some of these locations. Some of it will appear in upcoming articles at CultOfWeird.com, while other experiences will end up in a new book I’m working on (details coming as soon as I know what the hell I’m doing).

No road trip is complete without stopping along the way for some roadside weirdness. On our way past Pittsburgh, PA I realized we were about fifteen minutes from Evans City, PA, the location where they filmed much of the 1968 George Romero classic Night of the Living Dead (NOTLD). As most people know NOTLD, created the zombie film as we know it–flesh hungry corpses risen from the grave. There would be no The Walking Dead without NOTLD.

We stopped, and I quickly found several of the tombstones that appear in the film, and I quickly had a geekgasm.

Evans City Cemetery Sign
Evans City Cemetery Sign.
Gravestone from Night of the Living Dead
Me, doing my worst Judith O’Day impression. This was the same tombstone she fell against sobbing as Bill Hinzman (the first actor to play a flesh eating zombie) shambled after her.

The drive back home was just as thrilling. We dipped down into West Virginia so I could visit the Mothman Museum. For those who don’t know, in 1966 this small town had a series of bizarre sightings that ranged from a winged humanoid with glowing red eyes, to UFOs and Men In Black. The entire flap ended when the Silver Bridge collapsed on Christmas Eve, killing dozens. It’s generally believed all those strange events are connected.

Mothman statue in Point Pleasant, WV
Me alongside the Mothman Statue in downtown Point Pleasant.
Mothman Museum
This Mothman cut out is worth the price of admission alone.
Mothman plushie
My favorite Mothman Museum souvenir. A Mothman plushie.

But vacation is over. Even though tour season doesn’t start up again until Spring, I’ve been hired to write a comic book script (details coming soon) and I’ve several new books I hope to write (details coming sort of soon), I’ve got lots of blogs and research to do, and I’ll be on several radio shows and podcasts promoting Goatman. Watch this space, like my various Facebook pages, or subscribe to my email list. There is lots of exciting stuff coming up!