The Defiance Dogman
"Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright."
-Curt Siodmak, "The Wolfman" 1941
Though there has never been any definitive proof that werewolves exist, they permeate our culture in many ways, and during the summer of 1972 they would capture the imagination of some who live in the small town of Defiance in Northwest Ohio.
What is a Werewolf?
Before we can look at the incident from 1972, we need to briefly discuss the history of werewolves and what exactly a werewolf is.
Lycaon, the king of Arcadia doubted that Zeus, god of the sky and thunder and ruler of Mount Olympus, was actually omniscient. To test Zeus, Lycaon sacrificed his own son, cooking him and serving his flesh to Zeus to see if he was truly all-knowing.
Zeus knew what Lycaon had done, and in a fit of rage he would transform Lycaon into a wolf and have all his children killed. Thereafter, a ceremony, called Lycaea, would be held from time to time to honor Zeus. This ceremony would involve human sacrifice and Lycanthropy, turning into wolves.
This is only one version of one possibly origin for the werewolf mythos. No matter where the legend originated, it is known that a werewolf is a man (or woman) who transforms into a wolf, typically during a full moon. When transformed, they cannot control their actions and will kill anyone or anything that gets in their way. The legend has grown over time and has even been used in the past as a defense for murder.
In 14th century France, Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun were burned at the stake for murdering children, using the defense that they were in fact werewolves and had no control over their actions while transformed. Burgot said that he had been transformed into a werewolf 19 years earlier when he was approached by 3 demon horsemen who had offered protection of his sheep if he would serve them. He and Verdun had both been involved in a ceremony after this where he would be transformed into a wolf and, along with Verdun who had summoned him to the ritual and was already a wolf, run the countryside killing children.
In more modern times there have been books written and even movies like 1941’s The Wolf Man (remade in 2010 - Original was better - Less gore than the remake).
The most well-known way to kill a werewolf is with silver, typically silver bullets but silver in any form will do. This is thought to be due to the fact that silver has been used in the past to cure infections, and since lycanthropy is an infection, silver can cure it.
Defiance is a small town in northwest Ohio with a population of around 16,000 residents. It was originally named for Fort Defiance, which was built by General Anthony Wayne in 1794 in preparation for the battle of Fallen Timbers during the Northwest Indian War. It was laid out as a town in 1822, becoming the seat of Defiance County in 1845 and an official city in 1881.
Fast forward to July 25, 1972.
Two railroad workers, Ted Davis and Tom Jones, were working the overnight shift for the N&W Railroad. This entailed many different kinds of tasks, and on this night they were working on coupling and decoupling train cars in the trainyard. As he was connecting an air hose between 2 of the cars, Ted Davis would have what would become the first encounter with the beast. He would recount his story in an interview with The Toledo Blade,
"I was connecting an air hose between two cars and was looking down. I saw these huge, hairy feet. Then I 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."
Ted would go on to say that the creature had run away in a way that reminded him of the cavemen in the movies. There was also a mention earlier in the same article of someone being struck by the 2x4 board that the monster was carrying, but no name is attached to this recollection.
Not even a week later, on July 30, another sighting would take place in the trainyard. This time, both Davis and Jones would witness the creature as it lurked in the wood line near the yard. They reported that it was wearing blue jeans and that when they spotted it, the thing took off into the woods.
Not long after, around 4 am, the creature was spotted crossing a road by a grocer who was on his way home from work. He also reported the thing was carrying a 2x4, but thankfully it only stayed in the road for a brief minute before running off.
Following this second set of sightings, the police began to take the stories more serious. Their main concern was that someone may be injured or killed, though there had been no indication to this point that whatever, or whoever, was behind the sightings would harm anyone.
Though an investigation would follow, no arrests were ever made, and no one ever came forward to say they were involved or knew who was involved.
In all honesty, it sounds like the most likely culprit was someone who was wearing a mask, or even a full costume, and playing a prank on the locals who happened to be out in the middle of the night. The main reason I draw this conclusion is that the sightings stopped abruptly when the police announced publicly that they would be taking the case seriously. That, coupled with the fact that no one was injured and there didn't appear to be any motive like robbery involved, points to this one being nothing more than someone having a little too much fun at the expense of a small number of night owls.
Although, the fact that no one has come forward in the past 50 years to claim responsibility is a little odd. Maybe there was a werewolf in Defiance, Ohio in 1972? Perhaps the limited number of sightings was because it was just traveling through and headed somewhere else?