As we start another year, I know there are at least a few among us who will look back at 2006 and say, “Whoa, what a weird year that was!” In fact, 2006 might be the year that puts the Coulee Region on the map … for weirdness.

By far the weirdest news of the year was something we haven’t reported on … UNTIL NOW! Now it can be told, the strange, bizarre and kinda spooky story of the Beast of Briggs Road, the Man Bat.

I have to admit that this won’t be news to some of our readers, especially those tapped into weird news sources. The encounter on Holmen’s Briggs Road between two area residents and a creature that combined features of a human and a bat was first reported in mid-October on a Web site published by author Linda Godfrey — www.cnb-scene.com.

Godfrey got her start writing about weirdness back in 1992, after the New Year’s Eve 1991 sighting outside Elkhorn, Wis., of a strange man-dog/wolf creature, something akin to a werewolf. Godfrey, a part-time reporter at the local newspaper, had drawing skills in addition to her writing chops. Being a slow news week because of the holiday, she latched onto the story and gave it a big splash in the paper: THE BEAST OF BRAY ROAD.

“We thought people would just get a chuckle and it’d go away after a few weeks,” Godfrey said.

It didn’t go away, though. That was the start of something big for Godfrey, who soon was getting calls from other people who had seen similar beasts. Now that she’s got several books out on cryptozoological phenomena and general weirdness, plus Web sites devoted to those things, she’s gotten the reputation as the person to go to with strange tales.

And that’s just what those two area men did after their Sept. 26 encounter on Briggs Road. Maybe they would have come to me first if they’d known I’d investigated a report of a ghostly cat-headed snake demon during my tenure at the La Crosse Tribune.

But they didn’t, so their tale comes courtesy of the interviews and on-site investigation Godfrey did several weeks after the sighting. (Godfrey said she would contact one of the witnesses and ask him to contact me, but there has been no word so far.)

According to Godfrey’s account, a 53-year-old La Crosse man and his 25-year-old son were driving on Briggs Road in Holmen at about 9:30 p.m. on that Tuesday. Suddenly, a creature that resembled the demonic vampire out of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” or “Van Helsing” flew right at their windshield, flying straight up into the night sky just inches from striking the glass.

In a written description, the older man — who would only give Godfrey his Cherokee name, Wohali — said the creature had leathery wings like a bag, only these wings stretched 10 to 12 feet from tip to tip.

The creature had pronounced ribs, human-like legs with claws for toes and arm-like appendages tipped with claws. The creature’s eyes glowed yellow, and the face had a snarling expression, with rows of sharp teeth.

To Wohali, the creature seemed hungry. It also seemed angry to have been seen and gave an unearthly howl as it flew out of sight.

Both Wohali and his son became violently sick to their stomach, and Wohali remained ill for a week after the encounter. The son was so shaken up by the incident that he would not talk to Godfrey about it, she said, but Wohali was willing to relive the experience for Godfrey because he wanted people to “know what is out there.”

Godfrey isn’t so sure exactly

“what is out there” on Briggs Road, but she hopes that news of the sighting will inspire others to come forward if they have seen a strange creature in the area.

“You can speculate until the cows come home — or until the werewolves come home — and you don’t know,” Godfrey said. “I don’t know and don’t claim to know what these creatures are.”

Wohali’s account and his sincerity convinced Godfrey that he had a “credible sighting” of something she has not heard described before.

“He certainly has nothing to gain by making it up” — or talking about it, she said. “He believes the more he talks about it, the more power it gives the creature.”

One thing’s for sure: Godfrey plans to include the Briggs Road episode in “Strange Wisconsin,” one of several books she has in the works. She expects the book to be out by next fall.

Although she can’t explain the weird experiences people around the state have reported, Godfrey said she feels it is important that somebody record those experiences. The Man Bat of Briggs Road ranks right up there as far as notable weird experiences.

“I do think this sighting that Wohali had is an extremely interesting and exciting sighting,” Godfrey said. “I do think it should have some serious consideration given to it.”

  • WEB BONUS: Here are some links to other stories about the Man Bat of Briggs Road:

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