To Wisconsin residents, the Hodag is nothing more than a favorite legend, a hoax for gullible tourists. As for the Hodag, well perhaps he’s just a shy guy who doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about, quietly making his home in the woods of northern Wisconsin.
The legend of the Hodag is not a new fad or an urban legend. The first mention of the Hodag in print was in the Rhinelander Newspaper in 1893. Unlike other cryptids around the world, there isn’t much disagreement about the Hodag’s physical description. In fact, even modern sculptures, paintings, and stuffed toys don’t stray far from the original reports that sparked the Hodag frenzy in the late 19th century.
So, what does a Hodag look like then? The 1893 newspaper article covered a sighting of the creature by Eugene Shepard, a local real estate and lumber businessman, who described an animal weighing two hundred pounds and stretching over seven feet long. Shepard was quoted as saying it had “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.”
Indeed a terrifying sight that would frighten even the faintest of heart!
According to historians, the story of the Hodag sparked interest among local hunters who took off after it. Into the forests they went, in large groups, bravely following their dogs. Now, here’s where the story gets a little fanciful.
Unfortunately, the hunters underestimated their prey, and when cornered, the Hodag viciously tore apart the dogs. To their dismay, the creature was also impervious to rifle fire. As a last resort, the hunters set the area on fire and burned the Hodag alive. While an old black and white photograph was taken purportedly showing the charred remains of the Hodag, skeptics dismiss it as a hoax. However, the reason may surprise you. Skeptics claim the image is fake because Hodags are fireproof, naturally one couldn’t have been burned alive. It all has to do with the supernatural origin of the Hodag, and these folks take it very seriously.
We love tall tales, but the origin myth for the Hodag is particularly fun. As the story goes: the original Hodag rose from the ashes of cremated oxen abused by a particularly nasty and cruel lumberjack. After the last of the oxen was burned to ash, the anger and cruelty absorbed by those mistreated animals rose up in the shape of a Hodag!
Despite the questionable origin myth and attempts by locals to trivialize the existence of the Hodag through commercialization, reports of Hodag sightings continue to pour in.
One thing is for sure, if you decided to go on a Hodag hunt of your own, no one would blink an eye about it. People have been traveling to the small town of Rhinelander for over one hundred years in pursuit of the creature.