Cryptid Profile: The Steinthal Monster
It goes without saying that monster stories are an interesting thing. They can be found anywhere in the world, from the most heavily populated areas, all the way to the most barren places with the fewest people on the planet. It seems that wherever people gather, stories of monsters pop up as well. These can range from the terrifying and haunting, to the amusing and comical. It seems there are no set guidelines on how a monster story is supposed to go, what requirements it needs to be considered memorable, and what boxes it needs to check in order to be thought of as possibly true. But sometimes, the story of the monster is overshadowed by an even bigger story, one that involves tragedy, and one that gets rid of the monster forever.
A tragic story such as this took place outside the city of Kiel, Wisconsin on Saturday, October 1st, 1966. The same day that the beast known as the Steinthal Monster seemed to vanish into obscurity. But let's not start with the ending, let's rewind back to the beginning when the Steinthal Monster started and take a look at exactly what it was before getting to the tragedy that followed it. This is an obscure one too many residents in the state of Wisconsin, let alone most of you readers out in the world. So needless to say, I think most of you are here for the monster talk, and to that I say, let’s begin.
As mentioned above, the story of the Steinthal Monster exists entirely within the state of Wisconsin. But not in the city of Kiel as stated up top, but rather the town of Steinthal. Actually, I take that back, Steinthal is not a town, but actually an unincorporated community within the town of Eaton, a small town in its own right. Both Steinthal and Eaton are part of Manitowoc County, and for those of you who would like more information on where it is located within the state, Steinthal is roughly 107mi (2hrs) Northeast of Madison. And for those of you who want even more information, like how far it is from Janesville (my city), it is 139mi (2hrs 23min) Southwest. But honestly, that last part doesn’t matter at all to this story, so we are moving on.
It is said that in the fall of 1965, the Steinthal Monster simply popped into existence. It wasn’t deep within a treacherous swamp filled with hidden dangers, or miles back hidden among unexplored caves within the spooky woods where those who first saw it claimed it lived, no. This supposed creature was said to make its home around the run down and abandoned farmhouse once owned by a welder named Leo Schweitzer and his family. You see, a year prior to all the monster spotting, the Schweitzer family actually lived on the farm, but one night, a mysterious fire destroyed the barn and ruined one side of the family home. After that, rather than rebuild, the family moved off the property and resided elsewhere. But before they left, in order to help somewhat protect their land, Leo put up ‘Private Property’ and ‘No Trespassing’ signs at the main entrance to the farm. But as well all know, signs can only do so much to stop those who are already determined to see what lies behind the barriers.
Not long after the Schweitzer’s left the property, the desolate area became a good spot for the local youth to get together and “park”. The location was well known to the teens in the area as a place where most people didn’t go as there was nothing there to occupy one's time. That is if you don’t count the other person they brought with them. But I digress on where I am going with this, so back to the monster.
The setting, which offered seclusion and privacy due to being located at the end of a quarter mile dead end road, also offered a spooky sense of danger to all those who arrived. The remnants of the burned up barn laying out in the open and the imposing sight of the vandalized home could easily unsettle anyone who trespassed during daylight hours, but to those who arrived at night and saw the state of the property under darkness and moonlight, the location took on a much more ominous tone. And it is because a majority of the youth arrived only after the sun went down, that a handful of creepy stories started to be created involving the property itself.
The classic tales of a haunted house or maniac lurking around the dilapidated homestead began to spread from teen to teen. Not long after the stories were created, cars that once only carried two occupants to enjoy the privacy of the property, now carried as many that could fit inside. Dares were being created and spread among the youth which required one brave member to exit the vehicle and approach the home, touch it, and then run back to the safety of the waiting vehicle. More extreme dares sometimes required a scared teen to not only approach the home but to also go inside for a set amount of time before allowing them to come back to the vehicle. One can only imagine that the poor soul who was chosen to complete this task was assured by all others in the car that they had already performed this challenge just days before, and that the current victim should totally believe them without questioning it. Because if they really want to be a part of the group, they had to do it.
As time passed, more and more people became aware of what was happening at the Schweitzer property. Even Leo himself was aware of what was going on and stated that while he personally didn’t mind locals going to his land for an evening of good fun, he did wish that those who were arriving just to vandalize the property would stop. He went so far as to ask the local sheriffs department to help keep an eye on those who arrived and even check for damage every now and again. But even with the increased amount of visitors and local monitoring, nobody could really prepare for what would take place next at the farm. You see, as with all stories and local legends, those that involved the Schweitzer property were naturally evolving and growing larger and larger with every retelling. So it only makes sense that the final telling of these tales would evolve to reach monstrous proportions.
As we’ve alluded to multiple times from above, this is where the creature finally makes its appearance, and in true monster fashion, it is said to have first arrived at exactly midnight on a dark and cold fall night (whether it was stormy or not is unknown). Now, nobody remembers who the first person was to have claimed to see the creature, but once word spread that a monster was now calling the Schweitzer farm home, everybody was hoping to catch a glimpse of it. Cars full of teens making their way to the abandoned farm all started claiming to have seen something monstrous while out on the property. The once-standard dares for one member to get out of vehicle faded away and impromptu monster hunts took over. Entire groups of local youth would pack themselves uncomfortably into cars only to all get out minutes later and huddle close together while pointing multiple flashlight beams in every direction on the property just hoping to get a glimpse of the fabled monster.
Now, most of the time, nobody saw the monster in person, which is typical in a majority of monster cases. There were always those who claimed to have seen something out of the corner of their eye, but whether it was the monster or even the ghost that was rumored to dwell within the house, they couldn’t be sure. But as soon as someone got spooked in any way, the entire group would run back towards the car, cram themselves inside, and make their way away from the farm as fast as lighting. The next day they would boast of how they survived the Steinthal Monster and managed to narrowly escape. These stories would, of course, inspire other groups to go out to the property and repeat the process over. But while most saw nothing, every so often someone would see something, and that is where we get the few and far between descriptions of what this monster supposedly looked like.
As you probably noticed in that last sentence above, we wrote “descriptions” and not “description”, this was intentional as there were actually quite a few different ways this monster was said to appear. The first was that it was a large, hulking, hairy creature that stood over seven feet tall and had two gigantic green eyes that were nearly two ax-handles apart and shined as bright as flashlights. The second was that the creature was nearly nine feet tall, was covered in thick hair that hung down from its body, and had one giant green eye directly in the center of its head. The last description of the beast states that the creature was anywhere between six feet and nine feet tall, once again covered in dark hair and was said to have not one, not two, but three green eyes in its head! As you can tell, monster hunting teens of the ’60s were not that creative when it came to thinking of monster features.
Along with the bizarre descriptions of the Steinthal Monsters overall appearance, there came the rather boring retelling of what the creature was most often seen doing. According to those who were lucky enough to catch sight of the beast, the monster was typically seen just standing there off in the field or sort of lumbering around the property. It doesn’t appear that anyone ever claimed the monster charged them or took them by surprise. It just sort of seemed to be there and caused fear in these teens just simply by existing. So in the grand scheme of things, when compared to its more monstrous cousins found around the world, this beast was pretty tame.
A typical spotting of the creature would go something like this; a car full of would be monster hunters would arrive on the property. Depending on the bravery level of the party, they would either get out of the vehicle or remain safely inside. Flashlights would scan the areas of field and trees, out by the remnants of the barn, or around the sides of the house. Occasionally the beam of a flashlight would catch the eyes of the creature and bright green illuminations would reflect back towards the terrified witnesses. If not already in the vehicle, the group would run back to the car and take off away from the property at breakneck speeds. Because apparently when fleeing a dangerous situation, it's required that you put yourself in an even more dangerous situation.
The group would then arrive back in Kiel and start talking about how they spotted the monster. An adult resident of the community would often overhear these tales and they would go out to the property to have a look as well. Repeat the process with the light and the illumination and they would also leave. But instead of returning back to town, the over 18 crowd would often stop at the tavern by the crossroads and would tell their story over a cold beverage (Remember, US laws regarding the legal drinking age changed from 18 to 21 in 1984).
Others inside the bar would then leave and go check out the property themselves and the whole thing would start over again. And this is all true by the way, this exact scenario was recounted in newspapers from around the area during this rash of sightings. It became an exciting event that many in the area wanted to take part in. It also significantly raised the popularity and business at the tavern as it was one of the closest gathering points to the farm in which people claimed to have seen the beast.
For a while, the Steinthal Monster seemed to be nothing but good fun. A sort of breath of fresh air that the small community needed to bring life back into it. Nobody seemed to be doing any harm and nobody was getting hurt, so it seemed like this was something that could continue on for a long while. That is until the tragedy that took place on October 1st, 1966 brought the entire thing to a sudden halt. It was one of those moments in life that proves just how quickly things can be completely turned upside down.
The tragedy in question, the one that we have eluded to since the beginning of this article, ended up taking the lives of three youth and nearly claimed a fourth. While the Steinthal Monster was not directly responsible, it did play a part in why the accident occurred, specifically the location. It just so happened to be in an area that put them in the wrong place at the wrong time. But enough with tiptoeing around it, I should probably just tell the whole thing.
From what I have gathered from local reports of the day, two teen couples from Kiel were out on a double date which involved both a movie and a trip to Schweitzer farm for a little monster spotting. The couples included John P. Carr (17) and his girlfriend, Vicky Kay Freis (15). Vicky’s brother Jeffrey U. Fries (18) made up the second couple along with his girlfriend, Carol Marie Schneider (15). After seeing the movie, the teens made their way to the farm where they took part in the standard monster “hunting” procedures. They scanned the area, looked for the eye shine, and then made their way back. It is reported that they were only there for around 15 to 20 minutes before leaving. The boys were said to have playfully teased the girls with frightening, albeit made up, stories involving the monster.
During this same time, a man by the name of Gerald J. Krupp (26) was enjoying a beverage at the local tavern mentioned above with his cousin. It is said that Krupp is believed to have had around three to six drinks during the hour-long stay at the tavern, but he was not visibly intoxicated to the bartender upon leaving. Krupp was seen exiting the tavern without his cousin and after getting into his vehicle, was witnessed heading towards the junction of State Highway 32 and County X, the exact same location that the teen couples were heading to after departing from the Schweitzer farm.
As Krupp made his way down the highway around 60 miles per hour, the car driven by Carr was approaching from the opposite direction just as fast. Where Krupp drove alone with nothing but his radio to occupy his time, the teens were enjoying the company of one another and filling the vehicle with laughter and stories about the dreaded monster of Steinthal. Little did they know though, that their fun evening out was about the be the last one that three of them would ever have again.
The vehicle driven by Carr arrived at the junction first and was said to have stopped at the posted stop signs before continuing through. The vehicle driven by Krupp though, it did not come to a stop at the sign but instead hit the vehicle which contained the four teens with enough force that both vehicles ended up flipping over and over again until coming to a rest in a field located to the southwest of the intersection. The very same intersection that was only a short time earlier labeled as hazardous by the county police department and which was being looked into for possible restructuring by the State Highway Commission.
But the inquiry into the intersection was too late, the hazard proved correct and John P. Carr, Vicky Kay Freis, and Carol Marie Schneider lost their lives at that very spot. Jeffery U. Freis was critically wounded but ultimately survived. Gerald J. Krupp was reported to have been in stable condition.
Not long after the crash, which was described as the worst accident in all of Manitowoc County in 1966 which involved the loss of life, nearly all mentions of the Steinthal Monster came to a stop. It was still spoken about quietly among the youth of the surrounding areas, but for the most part, it became associated with the tragedy involving the three teens. People started to look at the whole thing differently and came to realize that while nobody was purposely putting themselves in danger, they unknowingly stepped into it as soon as they fled the farm. Nearly all cars that would speed away from the Schweitzer farm would do so at alarming speeds and nobody would really stop to think about others on the road during that time. They were often times just thinking about the monster and where they would head to next.
So the once busy community started to go quiet yet again. The tavern at the crossroads started to see a slight drop in business and the youth in the surrounding communities naturally shifted their focus to something else to help occupy their time when not under constant supervision. The accident it seemed, managed to nearly erase the creature completely from existence after taking hold of the area, not even a year prior. But that doesn’t mean it faded into obscurity entirely, people in the area would still talk and theorize about what the Steinthal Monster actually was, even though they were no longer actively looking for it.
Some of the best explanations for what the monster was came from local hunters and trackers who were active in the area. One man, a tracker, stated that the former home of the Schweitzer’s was located not too far from a few natural springs, small swamps, and quagmires. These areas were filled constantly with deer and he believes that some of these deer started hanging out regularly in the old farm fields after they were abandoned. So it was his personal opinion that what people were seeing was nothing more than deer jumping over some of the downed fences. He went on to explain further that if these deer were jumping at night while the amateur monster hunters were scanning the fields with their flashlights, the eyeshine reflected back would make it appear that it was coming from a creature much taller than it actually was.
Another man, a bow hunter this time, claimed that while he believed the creature responsible for the monster hysteria was also a deer, his theory on how it pulled off the con was considerably different. He stated that while he also often caught the eyeshine of many deer swaying back and forth as they walked and jumped across the soft, spongy ground, what he believes people actually witnessed was many of these deer standing on their back hind legs trying to pull down crabapples from trees close to the abandoned farm. This is a plausible theory as a deer standing on its back legs can reach heights of over 7ft and the eye shine can still be seen while doing so. Depending on the angle, you may see both eyes or only one, and if there were more deer doing the same thing at the exact moment, their eyes may also been seen and this could explain the description stating the Steinthal Monster had multiple eyes.
The third theory comes from some locals in the area that claim the beast was nothing more than a rogue black bear that had been seen in the area prior to the monster showing up. While black bears are not commonly found in Manitowoc County, their noted distribution range stops not too far from its borders. Official wildlife charts even recognize this area as being an occasional destination for transient bears. This theory also makes sense because when you are not expecting to see a bear in your area, and you see one in the wild while at night, it can register as a monster. Not to mention if the bear was standing on its hind legs when seen, which could put it at almost 7ft, it would appear much more alarming. Also, a bear sighting would help verify the descriptions of the monster being covered completely in dark hair.
Finally, we have the fringe theory that what these teens saw was an actual Bigfoot-type creature. But honestly, this one can be and should be tossed out right away. It is clear from the reports and statements regarding the monster that it evolved from stories meant to build up the spooky nature of the abandoned property. The creature was not seen prior to the Schweitzer’s leaving and it was not seen again after the accident. So because of this, it is safe to assume that this theory can remain comfortably in the fringe camp.
So there you have it, the history of the Steinthal Monster. An interesting case involving a creature made up for fun, but yet went on to become real in its own unique way. A truly unique piece of Wisconsin history that has, sadly, been lost to time for far too long.
One part of this story that is interesting to think about though, at least for us, is that because so many people in the area contributed to bringing this monster to life, we wonder if the accident on October 1st had never occurred, what would this story have evolved into next? Would people still be talking about it to this day the same way they talk about other famous monster cases? Or was this one naturally destined to fade into obscurity? While fun to think about, we honestly will never know.
But one thing we do know though is that this story should be taken seriously in the sense that the three people who lost their lives and became forever linked with the monster, were real people. These were three kids who were just out trying to enjoy a good story, just like you are currently doing. So to that, we say, wherever your spirits now reside John, Vicky, and Carol, we hope the stories are good there and that you are doing OK.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
Image Credit: https://www.newspapers.com/clip/16331268/29_sep_1965_monster_hunting_keeps/