The Rhinelander Hodag

If you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, you’re sure to either hear about or see something about Hodag. This mythical creature said to roam the state’s Northwoods. According to the legend, it has the head of the frog, the face of an elephant, spikes down his back like a dinosaur, and a tail with even more spikes. His legs are short and stubby, but beware of his long claws.

The Hodag first made its appearance in 1893 when Eugene Shepard rounded up a group of men and supposedly killed the green beast with dynamite. The local paper printed a picture of the burned remains of the creature. Mr. Shepard was fortunate enough to come across the Hodag again in 1896. This time he managed to kill it with chloroform. He then proceeded to display the at animal’s body at several county fairs and then at his home where he charged ten cents for admission to see the beast. By rigging his wooden carving with bull’s horns and wires, he was able to make it look like the supposedly dead creature was moving. With the added effect of his sons growling in the other room, he managed to freak out many of his friends and neighbors.

Imagine Mr. Shepard’s surprise, however, when the Smithsonian Institute expressed interest in viewing the Hodag. Already a well-known prankster, he was forced to admit that the Hodag was nothing more than a hoax.

But Rhinelander wasn’t quite ready to give up their claim to fame. The Hodag is the local high school’s mascot. A large statue of the Hodag resides in front of Rhinelander’s Chamber of Commerce building. Each July, the small town plays host to the Hodag Country Festival. In fact, almost every event in Rhinelander is dedicated to the Hodag, including the home show and the mini triathlon.

Just be sure not to run into the Hodag in the dark. He is a fearsome creature.

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