THE DEMON OF DOVER
By Chris Pittman
This article is entirely derived from the report "Investigation Into The Reports of an Unknown Creature Seen In Dover, Massachusetts April 21-22, 1977" written by Joseph Nyman and dated January 28, 1978. Nyman was one of the original investigators of this case, along with Loren Coleman, Ed Fogg, and Walter Webb. They interviewed each witness and conducted on-site investigations shortly after the events. I am very grateful to Joe Nyman for his generosity in letting me copy the report.
At approximately 10:30 PM on April 21, 1977, 17-year-old Bill Bartlett was driving to his home on Walpole St. in Dover, Massachusetts, with two friends. They were in his Volkswagen traveling north on Farm St. when Bill noticed what appeared to be an animal climbing over the stone wall on the left hand side of the road. As he got closer, the car's high beams illuminated the creature. It was a strange being, like nothing he had seen before. Bartlett said, "It looked like a baby's body with long arms and legs. It had a big head about the same size as the body, it was sort of melon shaped. The color of it was... the color of people in the Sunday comics." He could see fingers on the creature’s hands. As he watched, it turned its head and looked at him with glowing orange eyes like glass marbles. It had no other facial features. Bartlett compared the texture of the thing's skin to that of a shark. His friends, engaged in conversation, did not see the thing as they drove past it going 40-45 miles per hour. Bartlett had the creature in view for about six seconds. Frightened, Bill stopped the car about ¾ mile down the road and told his friends what he had seen. They debated whether they should go back or not before returning 15 minutes later. Perhaps due to fear, they stayed in the car. They didn’t see any creature. Bartlett dropped his friends off at their homes, then went home and drew a picture of what he had seen.
About 2 hours later, around 12:30 AM, April 22, 1977, John Baxter, age 15, was returning home from his girlfriend’s home on Miller Hill Road in Dover. He had been walking for about half an hour and was less than a quarter-mile away from the intersection of Miller Hill Rd. and Farm St. when he saw a figure about 150 feet away walking towards him. Baxter noticed the figure’s enlarged head and thought it might be M.G. Bouchard, a boy he knew who lived on that road and had a deformed head as a result of a childhood illness. He continued walking down the road, getting closer to the approaching figure. Baxter said, "As I was getting closer I could see that it was very small... the only thought that came into my mind was this- it was this kid walking home from a party, or something, which he usually does at about 12:30, and I called out to him- this was at a distance, still of about fifty yards, and I just kept walking and there was no reply and whatever it was kept walking and as it got nearer and nearer I noticed- I could tell it wasn’t M.G. because it was much too small, and M.G. would have called out to me anyway, so I just kept getting closer and I was wondering, you know, 'who is that'... Finally, I was about 15 feet away from it when I stopped and it stopped [NOTE: this distance was later measured to be approximately 26 feet- CP]- well I stopped when it stopped- we just stood there- I was looking at it and I’m sure it was looking at me- I could barely see the shape of it... And I said one more time, 'Who is that?' And so I took another step towards it, the only thought I had was that it might be a very small person like a 4 or 5 year old, and as I took this step it just ran so fast into the woods on my left. It was just so fast, you know, one second it was there and another second it wasn't and I could hear it going through the woods, across a stream- a little brook. I didn’t hear the feet in the water so I didn’t know there was a brook there. And it continued up to the edge of a field which was about 25 or 30 feet through the edge of, like, trees... At the edge of the road there's an embankment that goes down- sort of like a small gully, 'cause then it rises up on the other side, and I did, you might say, pursue it. I went in the same way it went, down the hill, and I stopped- I almost went into the brook- and I stopped at the bottom of the bank, I could see it- it was about level with me in ratio with the height of it, you know, its head was about level with mine, because it was up a little higher than I was... It was standing on one rock that was about two or three feet from the tree, and it was leaning against the tree... and I could just barely discern the feet or whatever, you know, holding onto the rock sort of molding as I’ve said before to the shape of the rock..." He could clearly see the outline of the creature's body visible against the dark sky. It was then that he got his first good look at it. "All these thoughts going through my mind, you know, 'what is this? A monkey, maybe?'… As I was looking really close there I could see the eyes… it was looking at me… I just stared at it for another few minutes… and then I just got all these thoughts that maybe it was something really strange, 'cause, you know, nothing ever happened to me like this before, so I didn’t know what to think. So I finally got the thought that maybe it wasn’t as safe as it looked, 'cause the way it was staring at me it just seemed like it was- I don’t know, I got all these feelings that it was thinking to itself, or waiting to spring or whatever, you know, and so I backed up the bank kind of fast and my heart started beating really fast…" Baxter went to Farm Street and got a ride home. He drew a picture of the creature that night. It had glowing eyes and was identical in shape to the thing Bill Bartlett had seen.
The next night, at about midnight on April 22-23, Will Taintor, 18, was driving his girlfriend, fifteen-year-old Abby Brabham, to her home in Sherborn. They were going west on Springdale Ave. in Dover when Abby saw something crouched on the left hand side of the road at the edge of a bridge. She said, "As I looked at it it kind of looked a minute like an ape. And then I looked at the head and the head was very big and it was a very weird head… It had bright green eyes and the eyes just glowed like, they were just looking exactly at me." It appeared that the monster’s eyes were reflecting the car’s headlights. It had a tan, hairless body. The head was watermelon-shaped and looked featureless except for the round, green eyes. All Taintor saw was a brief glimpse of a tan figure crouched in the road. No movement was seen. The witnesses compared the creature's size to that of a goat. After they had driven past the thing, Taintor said, "Did you just see something?" and Abby said "Yeah. Lock the doors, let’s get out of here, hurry up." That was the last time the "Demon of Dover" (as it came to be known) was seen- at least for a while.
Part 2: The Aftermath
There is some confusion about when the witnesses first heard each other's separate accounts. In an interview on May 21, 1977, Will Taintor told investigators that he and Bill Bartlett were going camping on Friday, April 22 (the day of Taintor and Brabham’s sighting) when they picked up John Baxter hitchhiking. Taintor said, "We were all just talking and Bill happened to mention, 'Oh, did you hear what I saw?' And John goes, 'Well, what, because I saw something last night.'" And they both talked about what they had seen. Taintor said that he believed Bill because "I know he wouldn’t lie to me and it didn’t seem like a joke. He seemed really serious about it."
John Baxter gave a different story to investigators in his interview, also May 21. Baxter said that he hadn’t heard about any other sightings until the following Tuesday. He stated, "I was not aware of Bill’s drawing until... after when I told some people, I was talking to them, I think it was in school when we compared them... 'cause I was telling the story to a couple of kids and someone came up and looked at my picture which I was holding out and they said, 'That looks like the one Bartlett saw. He said he saw something like that', and I said naw, it couldn’t be."
Bill Bartlett was interviewed on June 11, 1977. Strangely, he presented a third, completely different version of events! Bartlett had a hard time remembering when he had first seen Baxter’s drawing. He said that he had seen John Baxter on Friday, possibly at the center of town, and Baxter had shown him his drawing. Then, Saturday night, there was a party, and Bartlett had his drawing with him, but he couldn’t remember if Baxter had been there or if they compared drawings. So the witness interviews leave some confusion as to when the witnesses first compared stories. [Note: Nyman's report does not address this apparent contradiction, but he includes Taintor's story about the meeting in the car on a timeline of the sightings, so it is apparent that he believes that story. To try to clear this up, I contacted Loren Coleman, one of the other three investigators. He told me that he believed that the witnesses had not compared stories until the following week in school. CP]
When Bartlett realized that other people had seen the thing, he had a friend make a stack of photocopies of his drawing. One of those copies wound up at the Dover Country Store, where Loren Coleman saw it, then spoke to the witnesses. Apparently this local publicity prompted police to speak to the four witnesses, because a May 15, 1977 article in the South Middlesex Sunday News about the sighting had glowing character evaluations of all the witnesses by an unnamed police officer. Other newspaper articles followed, and the Dover Demon received loads of publicity far and wide. The Boston Herald-American of May 16 ran an Associated Press story that mentioned that police had searched the area of the sightings but found nothing. The same day, the Boston Globe’s article mentioned that a watercolor painting of the monster was actually displayed in the police station! However, the May 16 South Middlesex Daily News quoted a police spokesperson as saying the reports were "pretty much of a joke," and the May 19 Dover-Sherborn Suburban Press quoted Officer Jim Brown as saying, "we have no reports at all and all we know is what we’ve read in the papers." Nyman did report that Police Chief Carl Sheridan was a long time friend of the Bartlett family, and he gave Bartlett a high recommendation.
There has been some confusion about whether the witnesses were friends or even knew each other. Nyman’s report makes it clear that Bill Bartlett and John Baxter knew each other only slightly before the sightings. Bill and Will Taintor, on the other hand, were close friends.
Nyman spoke with the witness’ parents and also talked to some students from their high school. Both the parents and students told Nyman that initially they thought it was a joke or hoax, then came around to belief.
Some of Bill Bartlett's teachers were also interviewed. A science teacher gave him high recommendations and was convinced of his truthfulness. Two other teachers, however, said that Bill was essentially a bad kid, and one of them said that Bill was just the type of person likely to perpetrate a hoax. He said that Bill and John Baxter frequently hung out in the school’s smoking lounge. This seems dubious, however, as Bartlett had strong negative opinions about smoking. Also, there was a two-year age difference between Bill and John, making mutual activities unlikely. Neither Bill Bartlett, nor John Baxter, nor Will Taintor, were good students, which may account for the negative teacher opinion.
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