A century ago, it was
not uncommon to find tales of toads falling from the
sky and cows barking like dogs in the local
Since then, journalists
have done away with reporting lore and gone with
telling stories based on facts. But those
headlines have been brought back to life by
Wisconsin author Chad Lewis.
The Eau Claire native
has compiled the strangest headlines and newspaper
stories in his book "Hidden Headlines of Wisconsin:
Strange, Usual, and Bizarre Newspaper Stories
"Part of that research
was digging through some old archives and finding
out the history of places and people," he said.
"I would stumble across these really weird articles
and would print them out really for my own
He began to actively
seeking weird and quirky headlines and stories.
It was an arduous task, Lewis said.
"There's no index that
you can type in 'woman wears shoes made from human
skin,'" said Lewis, who had to search microfilm for
newspapers that were printed 150 years ago.
"They were almost impossible to read. They
were very difficult to read."
"Part of that research was
digging through some old archives...I would
stumble across these really weird articles and
would print them out really for my own
Lewis spent five years
digging through old newspaper archives throughout
the state and retyping those that he found
"Part of the fun of this
book is for the reader to question for themselves
whether or not they believe the story," said Lewis,
who found 200 stories to put in the book.
Lewis remembered one
story in particular that caught his attention.
The headline in the Marinette newspaper was "A Human
Monster; Half Boy, Half Dog."
The newspaper described
the young boy as having a dog's snout and covered
with hair. Lewis said that it was likely an
exaggeration of the boy's deformities or a birth
"The paper went on to
write that the mother was scared by a dog in her
last month of being pregnant," Lewis said. "It
was a common belief back then that if the mother was
scared by an animal or came in contact with certain
animals while she was pregnant, the child would come
out looking like that animal."
Another story that
caught the author's fancy concerned a young woman in
Madison who made a pair of shoes and a matching
purse out of human skin. The woman, Lewis
explained, received the skin of a man murdered in
Chicago, from a friend who was studying medicine.
Lewis said he noticed
that journalists went out of their way to establish
some credibility in the stories by attributing facts
to local officials. They also went out of
their way to sell newspapers, which were a form of
entertainment back then when radio and television
"The story might be a
lot less exciting than the headline," Lewis said.
"I think maybe 80 percent of these stories really
happened and the other 20 percent were either made
up by a journalist or certainly embellished."