In Episode 267, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger cruise down Farm Street in Dover, Massachusetts, looking for a strange monster who made an appearance back on April 21, 1977. Bill Bartlett didn’t have a camera, but being an artist, he was able to draw what he saw. It was like no other creature anyone had ever seen before. By the following night, three more people witnessed this strange creature that Loren Coleman first chronicled and dubbed the Dover Demon. Was it a cryptid? An alien? Something else?
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JEFF: Okay, bear left on Farm Street up there.
RAY: Okay, got it.
JEFF: And we can park the car up here on the left at the Dover-Sherborn high school. We’ll walk from there.
[CAR STOPS DOORS CLOSE]
JEFF: From here we’ll take a stroll back down Farm Street toward the Dover-Sherborn town line.
RAY: This is a nice area of Massachusetts. Dover is a bit of an upscale commuter town located west of Boston.
JEFF: It is. The houses are nice, the yards are well-landscaped, and the quintessential New England colonial stone walls line the road.
RAY: Yup. Picture perfect. But something tells me we’re not walking Farm Street to admire the landscaping.
JEFF: No we’re not. We’ve come to Dover, Massachusetts, searching for a Demon.
JEFF: Hey! I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Welcome to Episode 267 of the New England Legends podcast. We now come in Pumpkin Spice flavor for autumn!
JEFF: How do we do that?
RAY: I’m not sure. I kinda just wanted to jump on the pumpkin spice bandwagon.
JEFF: That’s fair. Thanks for coming with us as we chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. We’re part of a great big community of people who are always looking for the strange, the unexplained, the ghosts, the monsters, the aliens, and all the other odd things that are croutons in the salad that is New England.
RAY: Before we go searching for the Dover Demon, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
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JEFF: Okay, Ray. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled along Farm Street here in Dover.
RAY: As we said before the houses are nice. They’re set back from the road with manicured lawns. Up ahead there’s woods on either side of the street.
JEFF: It’s only about three-quarters of a miles between the high school and the beginning of Farm Street, but it was here that a strange creature was sighted that made its way into the annals of New England Legends and lore.
RAY: Got it. And we’re looking for a demon? Should we bring Holy water or something like that?
JEFF: No, nothing like that. We’re still not sure exactly WHAT this creature is. So let’s head back to 1977, and cruise Farm Street.
[GENERIC CLASSIC ROCK]
RAY: It’s April 21st 1977. It’s spring break for Dover-Sherborn schools. Even though it’s a Thursday, it’s not a school night. So some buddies are out cruising looking for fun.
JEFF: Riding in Bill Bartlett’s 1971 Volkswagon Super Beetle are Bill, and his two buddies, Mike and Andy. The three attend high school together. So they’re out looking for something to do.
RAY: Cruising. Sure, we’ve all been there.
JEFF: It’s about 10 o’clock at night, and the guys are striking out. No one seems to be around, so Bill aims his car back toward Sherborn.
RAY: Bill pulls onto Farm Street.
JEFF/RAY: What the heck was that?!
JEFF: Did you see that?!
RAY: I did! It was the size of a monkey. But it was no monkey.
JEFF: Bill is shaken up. He got the best look at the creature. But Mike and Andy are laughing at him they didn’t see it. They’re goading Bill to turn the car around and go back for another look.
RAY: Bill is still shaken, but agrees. He’s turning the car around now.
JEFF: This is totally weird. I don’t see any sign of the creature.
RAY: Bill, can you drop us off up here by the school? (BEAT) Thanks.
[CAR DRIVES OFF AND FADES]
JEFF: Okay, Bill’s had a few minutes to process this. Let’s hit that pay phone over there are call him at home.
JEFF: Bill, what do you remember?
BILL: My friends and I were out hunting around looking for people to hang out with—you know, looking for the party. We couldn’t find anybody, so we were heading back toward Sherborn. I’m driving down Farm Street and I see something ahead on a stone wall. I wasn’t really sure if it was a cat or a dog. My headlights were hitting this thing and the eyes were glowing—just like when your headlights hit the eyes of an animal, they glow. These eyes were glowing bright orange. I didn’t think that was so unusual, but when I got closer I got a real good look at what this thing was, and it turned toward me and I saw these spindly-like hands grabbing onto a rock and I still didn’t believe what I was seeing. This was in a matter of, say, seven or eight seconds, and the rock wall was no more than six feet from the edge of the road. I was going about 40 miles an hour, and as I got closer I was like… what the heck is that?”
RAY: That sounds like no animal I’ve ever seen or heard of. Especially around here.
JEFF: Plus, human eyes don’t glow in the headlights like animal eyes do. From here, we’re going to head about a mile away to Miller Hill Road in Dover.
RAY: It’s about midnight. Miller Hill Road is quiet right now. The houses are pretty spread out from each other and there’s lots of woods here surrounding the homes. But there is a light on at the front door of that house over there. It looks like someone is coming out.
JEFF: That’s John Baxter. He’s 15 years old, and he’s just leaving his girlfriend’s house to walk home.
RAY: What is THAT?!
JEFF: Yeah, I can see something moving over by the tree line.
RAY: It looks like the outline of a person. But a really short one. Wait…
JEFF: That’s not a person….
RAY: No, it’s not. I can only see the silhouette, but it looks a lot like what we saw over on Farm Street.
RAY: Whatever that creature was just scurried back into the woods. What a strange night!
JEFF: A really strange night.
JEFF: It’s Friday. Bill Bartlett and John Baxter are both processing the weird things they saw last night. As evening falls again, we find ourselves on Springdale Avenue, just about a quarter of a mile outside of Dover Town Center.
RAY: There’s a car sitting there and two high school kids in the front seat. The boyfriend and girlfriend seem occupied with each other… yeah, they’re making out.
JEFF: Parking. America’s favorite pastime.
[THUMP ON THE METAL HOOD]
JEFF/RAY: What was that?!
RAY: It looked like some fleshy-colored child.
JEFF: I have no idea! But whatever it is it’s already gone.
RAY: The girl in the car would later describe it as a naked 10 year-old kid.
JEFF: It’s Monday, and the witnesses to this strange creature are buzzing about their sightings. And word is spreading quickly. Pretty soon, Cryptozooologist Loren Colemen catches wind of the story and comes to town to interview all of the witnesses.
RAY: Coleman is thorough. He finds out what kind of students these kids are. About their family lives, and so on.
JEFF: You know how when something like this happens you wish you had a camera?
RAY: Of course!
JEFF: Well, Bill Bartlett didn’t have a camera, but he’s the next best thing.
RAY: How so?
JEFF: Because Bill is an artist. He understands perspective and so on. So he draws a picture of what he saw on notebook paper. That image makes its way into the newspapers and into a forthcoming book by Loren Coleman called Mysterious America. Launching an international legend. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Before we end this phone call with Bill Bartlett. I want to ask when he made that drawing.
BILL_2: I went home and I think I told my parents about it and I did a drawing of it that night. And my parents knew that I had really saw something because I seemed visibly shaken to them. And my mom, who to this day doesn’t remember anything that happened in the last five minutes, but she does remember that back in those days I did really see something and I made this true account and I really drew something.
RAY: John Baxter also drew what he saw that night back in 1977 and his drawing looks an awful lot like Bill Bartlett’s.
JEFF: Today, Bill Bartlett is a fine arts painter. He’s won awards, and his work has been displayed in galleries all over. He didn’t have a camera, but when you see his work you realize Bill is the next best thing to a camera.
RAY: It’s funny how today if you had a sighting like this, no one would believe you without the photo because we’re all carrying cameras on us 24 hours a day in our phones.
JEFF: Good point. But even then some people won’t believe you. So, it’s Loren Coleman who names this creature the Dover Demon. Simply because it’s got a ring to it. If it was found in Boxboro, maybe it would have been the Boxboro Beast. Because of Coleman, the story takes root. The town of Dover starts to identify with this creature. At one point I owned a t-shirt sold by the Dover Historical Society that featured the Dover Demon on the front and the question: Do you believe?
RAY: That’s kind of amazing. Do sightings continue today?
JEFF: That’s the crazy thing. They don’t. You would expect copy-cat sightings if nothing else. But we don’t get those either.
RAY: So four people saw this thing 45 years ago, and we’re still talking about it today.
JEFF: Kind of incredible, isn’t it? And we get to ask questions and speculate as to what it could have been. It didn’t exhibit any supernatural powers or anything. It scurried like a scared animal. People told Bill Bartlett maybe it was an animal with mange. Something like a raccoon, but Bill dismisses those theories. Raccoons have tiny paws. This thing had long spindly fingers.
RAY: So some think maybe it’s some extraterrestrial alien. That could explain why it was never seen again. Because E.T. went home.
JEFF: Yes, that WOULD explain why there were no more sightings. But who knows?! It’s worth pointing out that this event occurred seven months BEFORE the movie Close Encounters came out. So it’s not like aliens were on everyone’s minds at the time. The Dover Demon pre-dates the real surge in E.T. themes in movies in popular culture that occurred in the years that followed.
RAY: Which makes you wonder if maybe there were a rash of sightings of weird creatures or UFOs that drove Hollywood to make these movies in the first place.
JEFF: Yeah, which came first, the cart or horse?
RAY: The Dover Demon may have been on the leading edge of a weird wave.
JEFF: A weird wave that comes and goes.
RAY: And that brings us to After the Legend where Jeff and I take a deeper dive into the story and often veer off course.
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If you want to see a sketch of the Dover Demon, head over to our Web site and click on Episode 267. And go ahead and leave a comment as to what you think it could have been.
Alien? Puckwudgie? Baby Bigfoot?
Half the fun is speculating.
I first wrote about the Dover Demon in my book Weird Massachusetts back in 2008. That’s when I spoke to Bill Bartlett.
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We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, thank you to our patreon patrons, thanks to Bill Bartlett, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.