Q&A: The Man Behind Michigan’s Dogman Legend

Twenty-one years ago, an April Fools’ trick by a Traverse City radio station launched an epic Michigan myth. Looking for a way to prank his station’s morning listeners, WTCM production director Steve Cook wrote and set to music a poem titled "The Legend," about an imaginary creature he dreamed up and named dogman. It was just a joke, he says—until the sighting reports started coming in. We caught up with Cook to get the scoop on one of the North’s eeriest paranormal stories:

So it all started on April Fools’ Day.

We’ve always done April Fools’ pranks on the radio. That’s a tradition, radio-wide. This was unique, though, in that it wasn’t an orchestrated prank. It was just slipping something different and interesting on the radio.

How was the plan hatched?

We were short on ideas that year. It was getting late in the season, and the morning man [Jack O’Malley] said, "We really need something." I’ve always been a collector of folklore stories; I’ve always loved Big Foot, Loch Ness … So I decided it was time to create a creature that was unique to Northern Michigan.

And you wrote a poem about it.

I laid the poem on top of a song. I put this thing together and Jack O’Malley listened to it—he wrinkled his brow and said it was more Halloweenish than April Fools’. But we played it on air anyways. At first there was no response … but then we started getting these calls from people saying, "My uncle has seen one of those things" or "I’ve seen one of those things."

So, this fictitious character you conjured up became, in a way, real. What were you thinking when the calls came in?

At first I thought it was just kind of funny. I never really believed in all of these oddity creatures; I thought they were figments of people’s imagination. But now I don’t know. My quotable line is: Enough credible people have told me incredible stories. Maybe there is something going on out there and we just happened to hit the right note.