West Virginia cryptids spotted in Wisconsin

Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster sure do get around.

West Virginia’s two most-famous cryptids are currently enjoying renewed interest at their second home these days, in fact.

In northern Wisconsin.

“Oh, yeah,” Alex Burkeland said. “We have kids all the time who buy both. Cryptids are a big deal.”

For the uninitiated, “cryptids” are those animals or creatures — deemed to be of this world or otherwise — that defy characterization.

The name is derived from the practice of cryptozoology.

Is it science, or pseudoscience? Depends upon your degree of cryptid conviction.

Bernard Heuvelmans, a zoologist who traveled the world seeking the origins of the above creatures prominent in local lore, came up with it.

The Loch Ness Monster, of Scotland, is a kindred cryptid. So too is Sasquatch, a proud resident of the Pacific Northwest, when he isn’t starring in beef jerky commercials.

The inimitable Yeti, who haunted the Himalayas for generations as The Abominable Snowman, is most definitely in the cryptid camp.

Here in West Virginia, there’s the Flatwoods Monster, also known as “Braxie.”

That’s in honor of the Braxton County town where the extraterrestrial visitor was said to have terrified a mom and her kids following a purported UFO crash in 1952.

And there’s Mothman, the Mountain State’s cryptid, klieg-light media star.

Mothman was a creature with enormous wings and red eyes known to frequent Point Pleasant, which hugs the banks of the Ohio River in Mason County.

His appearance may have foretold the devastating collapse of the town’s Silver Bridge.

A Hodag — at home

Back to Burkeland, though.

Civic, cryptid connections are what got him into all this.

Burkland hails from Rhinelander, a popular vacation spot nestled in Wisconsin’s rugged Northwoods region, about a three-hour drive from Milwaukee.

Two years ago, he and his wife Ashley founded Northwoods Bricks, a toy shop and brick-building company — as in LEGO — in their hometown.

Thank the Hodag.

The Hodag is Rhinelander’s resident cryptid.

If, say, you swirled the DNA of an ox, an elephant and a Stegosaurus into a radioactive Petri dish, then let all sit for an eon or two, you just might hatch one.

Hodag sightings go back to the 19th century, when Rhinelander was primarily a logging town.

The cryptid started out being scary, but he’s now quite commonplace in Rhinelander, said Rachel Boehlen, an event-planner and program coordinator for the town’s chamber of commerce.

“We’ve got his image on our water tower and on the sides of our police cruisers and public utility vehicles,” she said.

There’s the Hodag Dome and the fighting Hodags of Rhinelander High School, she added.

“If you grew up here, you also grew up with Hodag,” she said. “He’s everywhere.”

He was also the first product of Northwoods Bricks.

“It was really popular for us,” Burkeland said of the DIY Hodag.

Country (cryptid) Roads

So popular that Burkeland, a cryptid enthusiast from way back, then turned to West Virginia.

The Flatwoods Monster and Mothman, in particular.

Here at home, you’ll find the company’s kits for both at Cryptid Mountain Miniature Golf in Morgantown and the Loving WV store in Fairmont.

Mythical Pizza in Berkeley Springs stocks them, and they also populate the shelves at the Flatwoods Monster Museum in Sutton and Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant, as well.

You may also order your West Virginia cryptid kits online. Visit https://www.northwoodsbricks.com/ for details.

The packaging of said kits contains a biography of the places where the sightings occurred, which Burkeland loves.

“Kids have fun building them, and they learn, too,” he said.

Burkeland likes the shared kinship of rural Wisconsin and rural West Virginia, he said. Good, friendly people populate both locales, he said.

“We have Rhinelander kids now who know all about Braxton County and Point Pleasant.”

He got to know about Point Pleasant in person when he visited the town’s Mothman Festival last year.

There, he regarded the famous statue.

And, its equally iconic backside.

“Yes, I have seen Mothman’s ‘shiny-hiney’ up close,” he said, laughing.

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