Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk are known for their “Road Guide” series on haunted places in Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, which I consider to be excellent resources. Published by On the Road Publications in 2011, The Wisconsin Road Guide to Mysterious Creatures is a solo project by Chad Lewis.
It shares many of the same features as previous Road Guides, but focuses entirely on crypto and mythological creatures. This makes the book particularly interesting, since the prospects for running into an unknown creature are slightly better than an ethereal specter.
Although organized by case number and not in any explicit order, the chapters in The Wisconsin Road Guide to Mysterious Creatures do seem to be arranged by type of creature. The first three chapters are devoted to evil beings, the next seven to aquatic monsters, then aliens, werewolves, gnomes and halflings, bigfoot, and finally, a vampire.
It seems Wisconsin has its share of nearly every type of mythological creature, some of which are clearly influenced by the heavy concentration of residents with German and Scandinavian heritage. Each chapter includes directions, a summary of the lore, a short history, and an investigation log explaining what the author encountered when he visited. There is eyewitness testimony when available, and even sketches and photos.
One problem that plagued the Road Guide series, and is present in this book as well, is the low quality images. Many of the pictures are low resolution and appear pixelated. This is made up for by the sheer number of images, which goes a long way toward painting a clear picture of each location in the reader’s mind.
One of the most unique stories in the book concerns a rural road called Chicken Alley. Not only do motorists report encountering a phantom snowmobile in the area, but they also claim to have seen phantom chickens crossing the road (I’ll spare you the corny jokes)! I have read about sightings of ghosts of all kinds, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of ghostly chickens. According to Chad Lewis, there are no poultry farms in the area.
The stories of gnomes are also enjoyable. As a former resident of Illinois, which sadly lacks gnome-related stories, the appearance of these Old World beings seems particularly fantastic. The adult in me says to dismiss the sightings completely, but the kid in me wants to make the three hour drive to try and see them for myself.
In his introduction, Lewis writes, “Cancel your travel plans to Transylvania, postpone that adventure to Loch Ness, and forget about having to venture out east to Salem, because this guide will show you that Wisconsin has more bizarre creatures than nearly anywhere else in the world.”
And that is what makes The Wisconsin Road Guide to Mysterious Creatures so enjoyable: it demonstrates that encounters with the fantastic are waiting in your own backyard, if you only know where to look.