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'Midwestern Strange' Investigates The Heartland's Most Infamous Monsters & Martians

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Courtesy of University of Nebraska Press
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The book 'Midwestern Strange: Hunting Monsters, Martians and the Weird in Flyover Country' by BJ Hollars explores the roots and legacy of the region’s most infamous legends.";

Driving along back country roads at night seems to invite strange events. Maybe it's a shadowy figure in the distance, or an eerie light in the sky. Most people shrug, explain it away as a coyote or airplane, and they drive away.

But what about those people who stay to watch? Suddenly, that shadowy creature comes into sight as a half-man, half-wolf beast. The eerie light in the night-sky reveals a flying saucer, descending toward earth. And what do you do when that saucer opens up to reveal three small men, who hand you a stack of pancakes before flying away?

These are just a couple of the situations that allegedly happened to the people featured in the new book Midwestern Strange: Hunting Monsters, Martians, and the Weird in Flyover Country.

"The best thing we have as humans is our ability to believe in wonder and look beyond preconceived notions that really test our own critical thinking skills," says author BJ Hollars. "There might be more out there than we can see and feel and hear every day." 

"The best thing we have as humans is our ability to believe in wonder and look beyond preconceived notions that really test our own critical thinking skills."

But belief often comes with a price. In the book, Hollars investigates the origins of these myths and legends. He found that although these stories were beloved, the people who first reported these sightings were often vilified or seen as crazy. Hollars dubbed it "monster martyrdom," and he met with a few of these martyrs while researching the book. 

"The more I talked to folks, the more I really realized just how much they were putting themselves out there just by talking to me at all ... A lot of times, when people say they saw something, the next thing that other folks often say to them is, 'Well, where's your tinfoil cap,' " says Hollars. 

He continues, "But the reality is, a recent survey showed that 54% of Americans believe in extraterrestrial life in the universe and similar, kind of strange phenomenon." 

Hollars is also a professor at UW-Eau Claire. He's in Milwaukee on Thursday, Nov. 14, for an event at Boswell Book Company.

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Joy Powers joined WUWM January 2016 as producer for Lake Effect. Most recently, she was a director and producer for The Afternoon Shift, on WBEZ-fm, Chicago Public Radio.
Maggie Holdorf
Maggie Holdorf started as a WUWM Lake Effect intern in September 2019.