Hiding in relative obscurity, the Dover Demon has actually had it’s fair share of media coverage since it’s initial 1977 appearance in the sleepy little town of Dover, Massachusetts. Considering there were only three sightings of the creature over a 25-hour period, it’s actually quite amazing that it’s held the public’s attention for so long. Especially so when you realise that the main witnesses were teenagers.
As the story goes, three 17 year olds were driving through Dover at 10:30pm on April 21, 1977 when they saw something out-of-this-world! Or as columnist for the MetroWest Daily News, Mr. Know-It-All reports, the boys were travelling north on Farm Street in their Volkswagen, when the vehicle’s headlights illuminated a strange creature standing near a low wall of loose stones next to the roadway.
Bill Bartlett, the driver, was travelling with his friends Mike Mazzocca and Andy Brodie, but Bartlett was the only one of the three to see the creature. Bartlett described it as having a large watermelon-
shaped head resting atop of a thin neck. Except for its oversized head, the creature was thin, with long spindly arms and legs, and large hands and feet. The skin seemed hairless and peach-coloured and appeared to have a rough texture, “like wet sandpaper.” It stood 3-½ to 4 feet tall, and its body was shaped like a baby’s, but with long arms and legs.
Later that evening, 15 year old John Baxter encountered the creature on his walk home from his girlfriend’s home, which was near the first sighting. Startled by the creature but not scared off, Baxter briefly chased the Dover Demon into the woods adjacent to the roadway and then having thought better of the idea of being alone in the woods with a creature he returned to the road and continued his walk home at a hurried pace.
Baxter’s description was very similar to Bartlett’s, differing only by saying that the creature’s head was “figure eight” shaped. Like Bartlett, Baxter claimed that the creature had no mouth, nose or ears, but that its eyes were eerily luminescent.
The third and final sighting took place only moments later; Will Taintor, 18 and close friend of Baxter, was driving with Abby Brabham, 15, along Springdale Avenue when they spotted the creature along the side of the roadway. Taintor claimed to have only gotten a brief glimpse of the creature while Brabham was able to see much more detail.
Brabham described the creature as thin and monkey-like with a large, oblong head, no nose, ears or mouth. She said the creature was hairless and its skin was tan or beige in color. The facial area around the eyes was lighter and the eyes glowed green.
As the story broke in 1977, famous cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who at the time lived in the neighbouring town of Needham, was the first investigator to look into the sightings. He conducted interviews with the teens and is credited with coining the name Dover Demon (though some sources credit the local newspaper for coming up with the name). Bartlett, Baxter, Brabham and Taintor all drew sketches of the creature which showed significant continuity between them, and Bartlett included with his sketch the phrase: “I, Bill Bartlett, swear on a stack of Bibles that I saw this creature.” Though it’s doubtful he actually placed his hand on a bible, let alone a stack of bibles, one does appreciate his conviction.
Coleman brought in famous UFOlogists Joseph Nyman, Ed Fogg and Walter Webb (the then Assistant Director of the Hayden Planetarium at Boston’s Science Museum) to assist with the investigation, but the case remains officially unsolved.
The Dover Demon has made appearances in several books over the years, not the least of which is Coleman’s Mysterious America: The Revised Edition, and is considered to be a classic cryptid, among such others as Sasquatch and the New Jersey Devil. The creature was never sighted again, but the believers still believe.
Skeptics have tried to explain away the sightings as that of a possibly deformed and disfigured infant moose, though one can hardly imagine a deformity that would make a moose look like the described creature. The initial investigators noted that none of the teens were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the sightings, and no evidence could be found to support the idea that they were collectively perpetrating a hoax.
Although the evidence in this case is purely anecdotal, cryptid experts such as Coleman view the case as genuine, but they offer no explanation for what the creature was. It remains a mystery. Was the Dover Demon an alien, a ghostly apparition or a seriously deformed baby moose? In the case of the latter, one is reminded of the recent case of the decomposed Sasquatch foot found somewhere in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Pictures floated about the internet claiming that proof of Bigfoot was finally in hand, though none of those who believed had bothered to compare the so-called Sasquatch foot to that of a decomposed bear paw, which, in fact, it turned out to be.
Without offering undue support to the auto-debunkers out there, how many of these cryptid hunters have studied images of deformed infant moose in comparison to the Dover Demon sketches? Probably fewer than you might imagine.
What are your thoughts on the Dover Demon? Was it an alien, or an example of vivid imagination? Voice your opinion in the comment section below.
 Loren Coleman, Mysterious America: The Revised Edition (NY: Paraview, 2001, ISBN 1-931044-05-8)