It’s been 45 years since the sightings of the creature that came to be known as the Dover Demon, and it still remains one of Massachusetts’ truly great mysteries and one of the world’s great cryptid cases.

On April 21 and 22 of 1977, a small, gangly, hairless creature with large glowing eyes was spotted on three different occasions in a span of about 25 and a half hours.

Back in 2007, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, who was the first person to investigate the reports when the sightings occurred, appeared on WBSM’s Spooky Southcoast program to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Dover Demon sightings. He explained what was reported by the three different teen witnesses.

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Bill Bartlett’s Sighting of the Dover Demon

Bartlett, 17, was driving with two friends in his Volkswagen down Farm Street on the evening of April 21, 1977, at about 10:30 p.m. when he spotted a strange creature in his headlights.

Bartlett recounted his experience to author and researcher Jeff Belanger in an exclusive clip that was played on Spooky Southcoast on the 30th anniversary of the Dover Demon sightings.

“I see something ahead on the stone wall, I wasn’t sure if it was a cat or a dog,” Bartlett said. “My headlights were hitting this thing and the eyes were glowing, just like when you see an animal, its eyes were glowing.”

“As I got closer, I got a real good look at what this thing was. It turned more toward me, and I saw hand-like things grasping onto a rock. I still didn’t believe what I was seeing,” Bartlett said. “I was like, ‘Holy (expletive),’ and I asked my friends, ‘Did you see that?’ They didn’t see it but I was kind of freaking out at that point.”

Although Bartlett’s sighting was only about an estimated seven or eight seconds, he was blessed with both a photographic memory and artistic ability, so he went home and drew what he saw. That sketch has become the famous image of the Dover Demon, with him writing right on the sketch, “I, Bill Bartlett, swear on a stack of Bibles that I saw this creature.”

Original sketch by Bill Bartlett via Wikipedia
Original sketch by Bill Bartlett via Wikipedia

Coleman interviewed Bartlett a few days after the sighting and got a much more in-depth description than what Bartlett recalled 30 years later with Belanger.

“He said the creature appeared to be walking on all fours, and had strange little feet and hands with long digits,” Coleman said. “The creature, the way he described it, had two large, round, glowing, glassy, lidless eyes, shining brightly like two orange marbles. The head was also shaped like a marble and was the same size as the rest of the body. He noticed the body was peach-colored, and described the skin as like shark skin, like sandpaper.”

John Baxter’s Sighting of the Dover Demon

About two hours after Barlett’s sighting, at around midnight, 15-year-old John Baxter was walking home from his girlfriend’s house on the south end of Miller Hill Road.

“Up in front of him, he saw this thing, this shadowy figure, walking upright like a little human,” Coleman said, and Baxter noted the being’s large head. “He knew a friend in the neighborhood had a head that was bigger than normal, and he thought it was his friend, so he started yelling out ‘MJ, is that you?’ but it wasn’t him, and the creature didn’t respond.”

Coleman said Baxter and the creature kept walking toward each other until they were about 15 feet apart.

“Baxter asked, ‘Who is that?’ and the creature all of a sudden took off, ran into a gulley, up a little slope and leaned against a tree,” Coleman said. “All he ever reported was it was a creature that stood upright against the tree, and it had the same shape, the big head, the spindly fingers around the tree trunk. He saw the eyes glowing faintly but not with any color.”

Baxter, although not known to be an artist, did make a drawing of what he saw, and it was very similar to what Bartlett drew – even though the boys were not close friends and had not spoken about Bartlett’s sighting earlier that night.

Abby Brabham’s Sighting of the Dover Demon

The next night, almost exactly 24 hours after Baxter’s sighting, 15-year-old Abby Brabham was in a car with her boyfriend driving down Springdale Avenue when she saw presumably the same creature the two boys had seen the night before.

“Abby saw something in the headlights,” Coleman said. “The creature was on all fours, crossing the road. It looked like, to her, some sort of monkey. It had a body that was hairless, and it was beige or tannish-beige, with no nose, ears or tail.”

Coleman noted that all three of the reported sightings described it the same way, as having a featureless face except for the large glowing eyes – although Brabham described the eyes as a green color, differing from Bartlett’s sighting of orange eyes and Baxter’s report of colorless glowing eyes.

Investigating the Dover Demon

Because the sightings happened during school vacation week, and three teens didn’t really know each other all that well, Coleman said “they had not contaminated each other by talking about it,” and that he feels their sightings were genuine.

“It was only the next week, a couple of days before I interviewed them, that they really each started to figure out that more than one of them had seen the thing,” Coleman said.

Bartlett said in his interview with Belanger 30 years after the sighting that he found the close proximity of the sightings – all within a mile and a half of each other – was intriguing.

“The strange coincidence was, if we take a map and put a ruler on the map, the points (where the sightings happened) lined up almost in a direct line,” Bartlett said, noting they all happened around the same time as well.

So What Was the Dover Demon?

Almost immediately, people tried to dismiss the Dover Demon sightings with mundane explanations. Some suggested it could have been a baby moose, despite the fact that moose sightings are extremely rare in Massachusetts and even a baby moose would have been much larger than the creature reported.

Another theory was that it was a horse foal.

“At the time, there was a population of about 5,000 individuals. There were more horses in the town of Dover than there were people,” Coleman said, noting that there were no animal tracks discovered and no reports of missing foals.

Some have also suggested what the three teens saw was nothing more than a common animal that was suffering from mange, like a dog or a fox.

“I don’t think it was an extraterrestrial creature. It was probably something earthly,” Bartlett told Belanger. “But it wasn’t any animal I had ever seen, and I know everything that could be mangy. This thing was larger (than those animals).”

In his 2013 book Monsters of Massachusetts: Mysterious Creatures in the Bay State, Coleman pointed out that the Dover Demon does not “fit the known patterns of ghosts, fairies or ufonauts. The Dover Demon is a true enigma, an animate anomaly that intersected the lives of four credible young people that lone week in April 1977.”

In just a little over a day, and in the briefest of sightings, the Dover Demon became the stuff of legend. It has never been seen again – but don’t fool yourself into thinking that it isn’t still out there somewhere.

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