The Werewolf of Defiance

July 25th, 1972. It’s 4am in Northwestern Ohio. The moon is nearly full and a railroad worker is connecting up train cars when he spots two huge, hairy paws on the ground and looks up. What he will later tell the police he saw will spark a brief but intense bout of hysteria in the the small town of Defiance.

Defiance, Ohio, is located around 50 miles south of Toledo. The town enjoys warm summers and freezing, snowy winters. Notable people from Defiance include a 24-time World Horshoe Champion and actress Michelle Burke, who played Connie Conehead in the 1993 movie Coneheads. The town has a punk rock band named after it, Defiance, Ohio, and the City of Defiance website describes the town as “a great place to live”.

It was here where rumours of a man beast started circling in the summer of 1972. The story of the dogman of Defiance is always told in much the same way.

Railroad worker Ted Davis was on the Norfolk and Western train tracks near fifth street on July 25th when he encountered the creature. He was working when he spotted two large, hairy paws on the ground in front of him. He raised his eyes and saw a huge, hairy creature, 6-8 feet tall, hunched over slightly and wielding a large wooden board. The creature struck Davis on the shoulder before running off into the woods.

A few days later, on July 30th, Both Ted Davis and another railroad worker, Tom Jones, spotted the creature again. This time it was at a distance and they saw the beast crawling through some bushes. The thing ran away when it was seen and the men heard a scream coming from a nearby road in the direction that the creature had bolted.

The men reported these incidents to the local police, who began an investigation.

Less than a week after the initial encounter, a third sighting occurred. A grocery worker was driving home late one night when a large dog-like creature ran across the road in front of him.

These accounts were reported in two local newspapers, The Toledo Blade and Defiance Crescent-News. Once the story got out, people started feeling like the werewolf was behind every corner. A few frenzied reports of possible werewolf activity later and then just as suddenly as it started, the werewolf fever died down and the reports stopped.

The unusual thing that sets this sighting apart from other cryptid sightings of dogmen and werewolves was that these encounters were reported in newspapers and taken seriously by the police. While the police were not convinced that the assailant was a half-man half-dog creature, they did believe that there was likely somebody going around in a mask or costume trying to scare people.

Descriptions of the Dogman from various sightings describes it as:

  • Tall, between 6-9ft
  • Very hairy all over
  • Wearing dark blue jeans and a dark coloured shirt
  • Barefoot with large hairy paws and claws
  • Bipedal, but was often seen hunched over
  • “Ran from side to side like a caveman in movies” – Toledo Blade
  • Described as a man with an animal’s head, or like an upright wolf

The main sources used for the story are the articles published in the Toledo Blade. The first article, titled “Werewolf case in Defiance not viewed lightly by police(Continued.), written by James Stegall, used direct quotes from the witnesses to report the incident, although there are some inconsistencies even within this one article.

The feature in the Blade stated early on that “one man, a train crewman switching trains, said that he was approached from behind and was struck on the shoulder”. This man they are referring to was Ted Davis, which we know despite the Blade saying that the police were not releasing the name of the witnesses at this point, because the other train crewman (Tom Jones) only saw the beast from a distance.

Later in the same article, however, The newspaper used another quote from Davis after writing “When he first confronted Mr Davis the creature ran away before he (Mr Davis) could say anything. “I was connecting an air hose between two cars and was looking down, I saw these huge hairy feet then looked up and he was standing there, with a big stick over his shoulder. When I started to say something he took off for the woods.” “. It is unclear, therefore, whether or not the wolf man actually assaulted Ted Davis or if it simply ran away after scaring the man.

The follow up article in the Blade was titled “Defiance Residents Suspicious of Their Werewolf” and goes on to say that most people in the area didn’t believe it was a werewolf, but rather a man in a costume or “Just some nut running loose“. This article also adds to the confusion by stating that “One man said it hit him on the shoulder with a board.“, again referring to the Davis incident, as this was the only reported close encounter with the creature.

There are also included interviews from some residents of Defiance in the area where the werewolf was reported to be seen, which gives us an idea of what the atmosphere at the time was like.

“Police were called to one woman’s house adjacent to the traintracks. She had not seen it, but reports about it put her “in a state of shock” “

“They say he has hair all over and he’s about 7 feet tall. From what I’ve heard I can say this guy is ugly as hell.”

“If I see him (the werewolf) the police are going to find out who he is. That’s because they’ll have to take him to the hospital to get the buckshot out.”

The Defiance Crescent-news, another local newspaper, also published an report on the sightings on August 2nd. Written by Ellen Armstrong, this news story took a less serious approach to the incidents, opening with a quote from the 1941 feature film The Wolf Man and suggesting the police may be “armed with silver bullets and sharpened stakes“. Due to geographical reasons, I cannot access the original article myself, so have taken my information about it from sources that posted it online, such as Here and Here.

This version also reported that “one man was attacked and struck on the shoulder with a two-by-four“, making it unclear if Ted Davis was indeed assaulted or not.

The Crescent-News made statements such as “Two of the incidents occurred last week and one last night. None has happened during a full moon.”, obviously intending to further question the legitimacy of the claims by poking fun at the idea of a werewolf running around, but the first incident took place on July 25th, 1972, The day before a full moon. The Blade also wrote “Ted Davis … Said that the large figure which they said was between 6 and 8 feet tall has appeared twice under a full moon” and quoted Ted Davis as saying “When we’re working in Defiance, the moon is full“.

The Crescent-news also reported 3 more minor “sightings” on the 4th of August but none of these complainants actually saw a werewolf and it seemed to just be the product of panic in the community. One woman reported scratching at her door, telling the police that if whatever it was got inside, she would shoot it. This highlights the panic and hysteria that some people experienced as a result of these sightings, yet there have been many other residents who said that they hadn’t heard anything about the werewolf, or had heard very little and weren’t concerned.

Most other sites that summaries the events of the 1972 sightings state that the first man was attacked and hit on the shoulder, or possibly on the head, with a 2×4. Several other sites also say that the other two sightings were in fact attempted attacks, but the witnesses managed to escape. These could both be the result of storytellers telling the most exciting version of a tale, but it’s not completely without grounds as both newspapers at the time did report an attack at least once.

Despite the hysteria around the sightings, by mid-August all signs of the werewolf had vanished and no more incidents were reported. Was this because a person in a costume became too afraid when there were threats of violence towards them, with residents suggesting that they would shoot a werewolf on sight if it were to approach them or their property? Or did a real dogman simply move on from this area.

Defiance was not the first or last town in Ohio to report a sighting of these elusive dogmen. In the follow up article about the Defiance werewolf there was a brief mention of a man, Harold Annon, having spotted an ape-like creature walking upright on River Road, north of Tiffin, a town about 70 miles east of Defiance. It was “Covered in hair with wolf-like ears and fangs“, 6-7ft tall, and hunched over. When the site was later checked, no signs of tracks or disturbed vegetation were seen. Was this another sighting of the dogman, misinterpreted as a large ape man?

An episode of Paranormal Witness titled The Cabin focused on the possibilities of werewolves in London, Ohio. Dogman Encounters is a website used to report dogman sightings in the USA and features several contributions from Ohio and most other states. What is suggested to be archeological evidence of werewolves has been found and written about in a paper titled Werewolf Shamans in the ancient woodlands of the Eastern United States, and there have also been a few False Alarms.

Whether the dogmen are real or fictional, there have been many people who were inspired by the stories of them. The YouTube channel DOGMAN NARRATIVES is a channel that specialists in bringing stories like this to like by animating and telling them in an entertaining narrative. The author Linda S. Godfrey has written several books on the subject of werewolves and other cryptids, and on August 4th, 2016, the first ever Dogman Symposium was organized by Ken Gerhard and featured several expert speakers on the subject of dogmen encounters.

Featured photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash