Cryptid Profile: The Hodag
The Hodag is a cryptid creature of folklore that originated in the state of Wisconsin in late 1800’s. The location of origin comes from the city of Rhinelander which is located in the upper north of the state.
The story goes that in 1893, a creature was discovered that had a reputation for disrupting the work of the lumberjacks in the area. It was extremely vicious and enjoyed snatching up and eating the white bulldogs in the area. Reports of the creature describe it as having the “head of a frog, the grin of a giant elephant, short and thick legs that were adorned with huge claws, the back belonging to a dinosaur, and a long tail covered with spears at the end.” The reports to the newspapers and people of the area were instigated by a well-known Wisconsin land surveyor and prankster by the name of Eugene Shepard.
Shepard told the tale of how he rounded up a group of locals to chase and capture the creature. He reported that the Hodag was so mean that the only way to kill it was with multiple sticks of dynamite. After it was killed, a photograph showing “proof” of the creatures body was released to the newspapers. The townspeople went into a frenzy. The dead creature was described as the last of its kind and that it was the “fiercest, strangest, and most frightening monster to ever set its sharp claws upon the earth.”
Three years later, Shepard reported to the media that he captured another Hodag, only this time, he was able to take it alive. According to Shepard, he brought together a group of gigantic bear wrestlers and trekked into the woods to capture the creature. Upon discovering the creatures cave home, the men attached a rag soaked in chloroform to a long pole, stuck it into the cave, and knocked the creature out.
The men retrieved the creature, Shepard got it into a cage, and it was promptly displayed in multiple county fairs (as well as in a specially built shanty at Shepard’s house) which attracted thousands of people. Eventually the onlookers included scientists from the Smithsonian Institution from Washington D.C. who announced that they were coming to examine and study the creature. Soon, the Hodag would no longer be a unique creature local only to Wisconsin.
It was the visit from the Smithsonian scientists that ended the tour of the Hodag. Shepard announced that the creature was, and had always been, a Hoax. But stories of the Hodag are still told to this day in Rhinelander and the entire state of Wisconsin, where the people speak of their local hoax with pride.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Public Domain Image