The Dover Demon was a cryptid that some teenagers reported sighting in Dover, Massachusetts, from April 21 to 22, 1977.
The reported sightings caused a stir in Dover and neighboring communities. However, the excitement subsided after there were no further reports.
People have since been debating the Dover Demon sightings and offering explanations about what the teenagers saw over two nights.
The witnesses all reported seeing a small-sized humanoid creature with a large spherical head and a short but thin neck. The head appeared oversized compared to its body.
William Bartlett’s description
William “Bill” Bartlett, the teenager who first reported seeing the Dover Demon on April 21, 1977, said it had large eyes with an orange glow. He reportedly recalled that the eyes were like “orange marbles.”
The arms and legs were thin and spindly, and fingers and toes “tendril-like.” Bartlett said the creature’s fingers and toes grasped around the stones on the top of the wall.
It walked on two legs as well as on all fours. It repeatedly switched from walking on two legs to walking on all fours.
The demon’s skin was bare and had a peach or rosy hue with a rough texture. None of the witnesses reported seeing it wearing any clothing or costume.
In an interview with cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, Bartlett compared the skin texture to “wet sandpaper.”
He added that the body looked like a baby’s but with long spindly limbs. He also told the cryptozoologist that it reminded him of young children with “distended bellies.”
The teenager estimated the height or length at about 3.5-4.0 feet.
In a 2006 interview with the Boston Globe (29 years after the sighting), Bartlett insisted he was sure he hadn’t mistaken a farm or wild animal for a humanoid creature.
He said he and his friends had not been drinking. He saw the Devon Demon from only 10 feet away. It was an eerily humanoid creature about 4 feet tall. It had a “watermelon-” or “egg-shaped” head, lidless eyes, and no nose or mouth.
He admitted he was somewhat embarrassed that his name continued to pop up in books, encyclopedias, TV shows, and conversations about monsters and weird creatures.
He added that he still received calls during Halloween.
However, he said he didn’t make it up and that he “definitely saw something.. weird.”
John Baxter’s description
The second witness, John Baxter, said the demon’s head was “figure eight-shaped” and its body looked like a monkey’s. It had large round eyes that glowed in the dark.
Based on the alleged eyewitness descriptions, some noted that the Dover Demon resembled depictions of alleged alien species known as “gray aliens.” But none of the witnesses associated the sightings with a UFO.
Sightings and Tales
Bartlett, 17, was the first to report seeing the Dover Demon. The alleged sighting occurred on the evening of April 21, 1977, at about 10:32 p.m.
The teenager was driving in the company of two friends on Farm Street at about 35-40 miles per hour. As he drove past an old stone wall, he noticed a creature standing on all fours on the broken structure.
At first, he did not pay attention because he thought it was a cat or a dog. He realized it was something else only when his vehicle headlights shone on the creature.
The cryptid stopped briefly under the glare of the headlights and looked over its shoulder. It stared unblinking at the unexpected illumination (see a description of the demon in the previous section).
The entire sighting under the headlights lasted only a few seconds. Strangely, only Bartlett reported seeing the demon. His companions did not see anything unusual.
He returned home after dropping off his friends. He told his father about the incident and provided a sketch based on his recollections.
One sketch showed the demon walking on all fours on a wall. The second showed it standing next to a tree.
Bartlett was willing to swear on a “stack of bibles” that he wasn’t making things up.
The Boston Globe noted that plotted on a map, Bartlett’s sighting and subsequent ones all occurred along a 2-mile-long straight line.
Later the same day, John Baxter, 15, reported seeing a similar creature on Miller Hill Road.
Baxter had spent the evening at his girlfriend’s house. He left around midnight and was walking home in the dark when he saw something approaching. He could barely discern the silhouette on a dark overcast night.
But he assumed that the short-statured figure was a local boy who lived on the street and had a deformed head due to a medical condition.
Baxter hailed the approaching figure but got no response. As he approached, the figure stopped abruptly. Baxter strained to get a better view.
Now in doubt, he stopped and nervously inquired who it was. Summoning up courage, the teenager took a few steps forward. The creature turned, ran off the road down a slope into a gully, and crossed to the other side.
Now curious, Baxter walked down the slope and stopped at the side of the gully. He saw the creature standing on the other side about 30 feet away. He could discern its silhouette as it stood a short distance from a tree (read a description of the creature in the previous section).
Now realizing it was something he had never seen before, Baxter was frightened. He retreated hastily and walked at a quick pace down the road to the Farm Street intersection.
There, a couple stopped in their car and drove him home.
Abby Brabham’s sighting
A day after the first two sightings, Abby Brabham, 15, reported encountering a similar strange monster on Springdale Avenue.
Abby was being driven home by her boyfriend at about midnight when she spotted a strange-looking humanoid sitting by the road.
Dover’s history of strange incidents
The reports caused a stir in the neighborhood. People were alarmed by the news that a mysterious creature was skulking around after dark.
However, the concerns gradually died down after there were no further sightings.
The excitement may have been partly due to the history of Farm Street.
The Devil riding on horseback
The Boston Globe reported that the Farm Street area where Bartlett reported the first sighting had a long history of strange incidents dating back to the 17th century.
In his book Dover Farms, published in 1914, Frank Smith reported that a man claimed to have seen the Devil riding on horseback in the vicinity of Farm Street.
Cryptozoologist Coleman, who investigated the Dover Demon sightings, and interviewed the witnesses, noted that Farm Street was close to where the apparition of the Devil on horseback occurred.
Local legend also made claims about buried treasure in the area.
Coleman–credited with coining the name “Dover Demon”–later suggested that a rock outcrop near Farm street may have had a history of its own. The cryptozoologist said the name of the outcrop, Polka, may have been derived from an old Celtic word, Pooka (Puca), meaning fairy, spirit, or ghost.
Previous sightings around Dover
According to The Boston Globe, Bartlett was not the first local teenager to report spotting a strange creature in Dover. There had been chatter among students at the local Sherborn High School since the early 1970s about strange sightings in the surrounding woods.
A resident, Mark Sennot, told the Boston Globe that in 1972 he and a couple of friends had a strange encounter at Channing Pond on Springdale Avenue. They thought they might have seen a demon.
What was the Dover Demon?
Since the Dover Demon sightings in the spring of 1977, people have debated what the teenagers saw. Many have offered suggestions based on the sketches they provided.
Some skeptics argued they might have mistaken a newborn moose, elk, horse, or mule for a monster. According to the argument, an unexpected brief encounter under poor illumination might have made the witnesses prone to misinterpreting what they saw.
However, critics of the moose/elk theory pointed out that Dover was not close to any known moose habitat. Massachusetts had reported only two adult moose sightings in 1977 and 1978, and they were not in Dover but in Central Massachusets, according to the Boston Globe.
Critics also noted that moose calves tend to be born from mid-May to early June, not in April. Thus, it was unlikely that a moose calf separated from its mother was running around the town.
Dover was an area with horse farms. Cryptozoologist Coleman reportedly questioned horse owners, but none reported missing a foal. They also told him that it was not foaling season at the time of the sightings.
Other suggestions since the sightings include a newborn puppy, a monkey, a gibbon, or a mutant animal. Some even suggested it may have been an alien species.
Was it a hoax?
There have also been suggestions that someone might have been playing a practical joke on the boys or that the boys conspired to create a hoax.
Suspicions that it might have been a hoax were because all the witnesses were teenage boys.
It appeared the local police also thought it might have been a hoax. According to the Associated Press, a police spokesperson said it might have been a “school vacation hoax.”
|Other Name/s||Dover Demon|
|Habitat||Cities, Countryside, Farmland, Human Society|
Where to find
http://archive.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/10/29/decades_later_the_dover_demon_still_haunts/, “Decades later, the Dover Demon still haunts,” accessed on February 7, 2023.
https://www.strange-new-england.com/2015/10/21/dover-demon/, “Strange New England: A Field Guide to New England Legends, Folklore, Curious Histor & Weird Destinations,” accessed on February 7, 2023.
Dover Farms; in Which is Traced the Development of the Territory, Frank Smith, Historical and Natural History Society (first published in 1914).
https://www.cryptopia.us/site/2010/03/dover-demon-massachusetts-usa/, “Dover Demon: Massachusett, USA,” accessed on February 7, 2023.
Featured Image: The Dover Demon was a cryptid sighted in Dover, Massachusetts , in April 1977. Pic credit: Pixaby