The Beast of 92
By Tobias Wayland with images by Emily Wayland
There is a monster that haunts the wooded hills of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Known colloquially as the Beast of 92, referring to nearby Highway 92, it is described as a tall, bipedal, thickly-proportioned humanoid, covered in long, dark reddish brown to black fur. By all accounts, this creature matches precisely what has become known popularly as a Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
Although rumors of the creature abound, and the locals do seem to be aware of it, the only two recorded sightings I could find were documented by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO). The first incident took place back in late September of 1989, and is the more interesting of the two, since it involves an actual visual sighting of the beast. The witness was out bow hunting in the woods between Springdale and Mount Horeb, and decided to head home for the night. He had packed up his gear and was waiting for his friend near the edge of the forest, when he heard a rather large creature crashing through the brush in front of him. He called out his friend’s name, but received only a loud, guttural growl in response. The creature strode off, moving parallel to the edge of the woods, and could be tracked audibly by the sound of branches breaking in its wake. It was dusk, and the woods were thick, so nothing was seen that time; but that hunter went back a few days later.
This time, what he experienced was much more threatening than a growl:
The hunting friend that was with me from the earlier time was also there along with my sister's boyfriend. We split up with about 3 hours of hunting time left. It was really quiet for about the first hour, but then things started to change. I heard all sorts of noises that I can't explain nor identify that happened in front of me from about my 10 o'clock position to about my 2 o'clock position. I did see what appeared to be something walking into the thicker part of the woods. This looked like the arms and legs of something going from the more open part of the woods, to the more thicker part and was about 40 yards away from my location. After seeing the arms and legs of whatever the things were, the tops of the smaller trees started swaying violently back and forth. This went on and off for about a [half an hour] to 45 minutes. What really scared me was when the rocks started to be thrown in my direction. The size started out as about golf ball size, and by the time that I “turned tail” the size was about softball size. I would describe the color of what I saw of the arms and legs to be about a rather dark red to almost black.
And after that incident, he never went back. Personally, I don’t blame him. Black bears were a lot less common that far south in Wisconsin back then, and they certainly don’t throw rocks or walk on two legs. Nor do I believe this was a prank played out by his companions; the witness was clearly upset, and pranks usually end with an explanation and gloating, yet no such closure exists here. So, is it possible a Sasquatch really roams the hills around Donald Park? It was a sunny and warm May afternoon when Emily and I went to find out.
I’ve been out to Mount Horeb plenty of times before, and yet I’m always surprised at how quickly the landscape is overtaken by forest outside of Madison. Donald Park is maybe thirty minutes away from the city, but it might as well be another world. From the small, gravel parking lot, we can see nothing but hills heavy with trees spreading out in every direction; the only break in nature is nearby Highway 92, and the occasional rural homestead.
Emily and I disembark my old Pontiac and gather our hiking supplies. Our two-year-old pointer mix, Bullett, is anxious to explore the park. He’s an active dog, built for adventure, so naturally we bring him along when we can. I check Bullett’s leash, grab my walking stick, and we head off onto the trail.
The main trail leading into the wilderness area meanders through tall grasslands before eventually crossing a creek just before the edge of the woods. The bridge over the creek is the site of the more recent eerie experience regarding Donald Park's resident beast. According to the witness’s testimony to the BFRO:
My experience happened in early fall of 2011. It was warm that year and this happened right before Halloween. I was out walking at [Donald] County Park with my boyfriend, his friend and my youngest son who was 3 at the time. We walked back past the corn field and worked our way to the bridge that crossed a creek just before you hit the heavy wooded area. I was tossing leaves in the creek on one side of the bridge and Ethan would run to the other side to look for it floating down stream. I heard a series of loud knocks from the woods, I looked at my friends and they heard it too. It was suggested that it was probably just other people out walking. So I shrugged it off. We started back towards our car because it was starting to get dark and I heard a loud scream. It was nothing I had heard before, too clear to be human. and too loud for coyote. It did give me the creeps, my friends acted as if it was nothing and we kept walking. A few minutes later I heard a loud scream again only this time it was closer. At that point I picked up my son looked behind me and all I could see was tall grass. Nothing there, my friends made a joke about it being a bigfoot and we worked our way back to the car. I have never heard a yell like that before and could not point it to any animal that I know of. For the record it sounded nothing like the screams on “Finding Bigfoot” It was loud, higher pitched almost like a female scream but there was no strain to it. I believe what I heard was a Sasquatch.
And so, with this in mind, we head onto the trails and into the forest.
The main trail into the woods is fairly wide, with room for three adults to walk comfortably abreast, but the edge of the trail is quickly hemmed in by underbrush. Trees enclose us overhead to form an arboreal tunnel. Emily, of course, stops frequently to take pictures, and as she does, I find myself staring into the forest. Even this early in the year the growth is thick, and I find myself thinking that something could be standing twenty feet away from me, and if it weren't moving I might not see it. We follow the main trail to the right, and eventually out into a pasture.
It's a remarkably pleasant Spring afternoon, and we find ourselves ambling through this pasture, past a small pond, and across a small farming road into yet another pasture, on our way towards the next tree line. It becomes quickly apparent that the path we thought continued on the other side of the thin road is merely the worn tracks of some large vehicle. It’s easy enough to follow, so we decide to see where it goes. We find a severed deer leg in the wheel rut path, but imagine it must have been killed and dismembered by some local predator, possibly coyotes. Just out of sight of the road the path fades, at the very edge of the next wooded expanse. At this point the grass and weeds are knee high, and we've run out of path, so we turn around rather than take Bullet off of the trail.
Going back the way we came along the main trail, we take a different branch that leads up a hill and deeper into the woods. This is a hiking trail, so still plenty wide, and leads into a beautiful area of tall pines. The trail opens up at the bottom of the hill into the same pasture we had crossed earlier, but from a different angle. We spot people down by the pond with their own dog, and in the interest of continuing what has so far been a calm and relaxing afternoon, we take Bullett back up the trail from which we came.
This time, we pass by the bridge and take the main trail in the opposite direction. It leads into an enclosed pasture surrounded by wooden fencing, with a suspicious brick pit off to one side. Emily speculates that the pit might be a well, and I don’t know that it's not, so I casually agree and we move on. Across this pasture are the hunting trails. At the beginning of these trails is a remarkable natural spring, which I would recommend to anyone with an interest in uncultivated beauty. We decide to take a short repose by the spring, and then head into the hunting area.
It’s not any kind of hunting season, so I’m not particularly concerned about any accidents that might result from being mistaken for wildlife, but there is something I find unsettling about this area. The brush pushes in from all sides of the narrow, claustrophobic trail, and we must walk single file. There is something here I find deeply unsettling, as though I’m being watched. It seems too quiet. I express my concerns to Emily, but she does not share them, nor does Bullett seem upset; so I write it off as paranoia and we continue down the trail. It is with some relief, however, when we reach a break in the trail and I notice how low the sun is in the sky. I suggest we head back to ensure we reach our car before darkness overtakes us, and Emily agrees. And so we do.
I strain my ears one last time before we leave the forest, listening for any strange knocks or bloodcurdling screams, but hear none. As we cross the bridge and take the main trail out over the grasslands towards the parking lot, I am reminded of just how thick the brush was, and the feeling I had on the hunting trail. I still can’t help but think that something could have been practically on top of us and we wouldn’t have known it; maybe even the Beast of 92.