Origins of the Hodag
The year was 1893 and a fantastical creature was making history! Newspaper headlines were being filled with a tale of what was being called a HODAG!
The amazing discovery was being reported from Rhinelander, Wisconsin and was said to be a ferocious beast! It had the head of a frog, a grinning face of a giant elephant! It’s short legs were thick and it had huge claws! It’s back resembled a dinosaur and it had a long spiked tail with boney spears at the end!
A popular timber cruiser, land surveyor and Rhinelander local prankster, Eugene Shepard, was the first to ever lay eye’s on this sightly beast! His tales of this beast that he stumbled upon in the northwoods sparked fear and fascination in the local towns people! Shepard claimed this beast had a sweet tooth for white bulldogs but, only on Sundays! Soon the white bulldog population dwindled in the northwoods! The beast had to be DESTROYED!
It wasn’t long before Shepard was leading a group of brave men from the town deep into the Northwoods forest all armed with sticks of dynamite, pitchforks and clubs! They were determined to protect their town from the most frightening monster to ever roam northern Wisconsin!
Soon they were able to corner this ferocious beast and lobbed dynamite at it! They had the local photographer with them and photographed the charred remains of this unbelievable creature!
Just as the Hodag hysteria started to die like a charred Hodag, Shepard was in the spotlight once more! In 1896 Shepard claimed to not only have found another Hodag but, this time, was able to capture the monster ALIVE!!!
According to Shepard, he and several of his bear wrestling friends set out into the forest with a chloroform soaked rag tied to the end of a long pole. They found the Hodags cave and stuck the end of the pole right into the opening!
Shortly the Hodag was overcome from the chloroform and Shepard had his beast… ALIVE!
This living, breathing Hodag was displayed by Shepard himself at the very first Oneida County Fair. Thousands came from far and wide to see the unusual and frightening sight! Shepard would even let people view this fantastical creature at his home in a shanty he had designed just for his Hodag. Viewers skiddishly entered the shanty hoping for just a peek but, when the Hodag would growl and move, they would flee in terror!
Soon the story of the Hodag and Shepard gained national exposure and peaked the interest of a small group of scientists from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.. Learning that these scientists were about to visit Rhinelander to inspect this unknown creature, Shepard had to come clean and admit that the whole Hodag story was a complete hoax!
Shepard admitted that the Hodag photographed in 1893 was nothing more than a carved stump that he had covered in ox hide. He had used horns from cattle and oxen for the Hodag’s horns and spikes. Those claiming to have seen the Hodag move and heard the Hodag’s growl with their own ears were especially pranked as the movement was done with wires and the growls were nothing more than some growling supplied by Shepards own children who would hide inside the “lair” for dramatic effect!
Today the Hodag is the official symbol of Rhinelander, Wisconsin and the mascot of the local high school. People still come from far and wide to experience the mystical allure of the Hodag, searching the northwoods for this creature just in case the Hodag might really exist beyond legend… just keep your white bulldogs at home…
Enjoy some free coloring pages and activities for your Hodag hunters.
Bob the Hodag Book Series Comes to Life!
Though the Hodag started as a tale of a frightening monster pursued by angry townsfolk, the myth of the Hodag has grown in many different ways. Rhinelander has embraced the Hodag, no longer feared but, adored! When Thomas Barnett first moved to Rhinelander, WI he was approached by his kid’s school principal to paint a Hodag themed mural on the wall of their school. Since there were many young kids in the school, Tom suggested he come up with a “kid-friendly” Hodag. As Tom was finishing the mural, a fifth grader named, Kayla came up to him and said, “Bob…I am going to name him Bob.” With that Bob the Hodag came to life and Tom went home that night and started writing his first book, “I brought a Hodag to school” Featuring his own son, Tony as the boy who finds this loveable Hodag on the way to school. After a very successful launch of the first book, Tom continued the series with “I brought a Hodag home”. You can find the popular books and Bob the Hodag swag in the drawing board shop! If you happen to run into a Hodag on the way to the shop, don’t worry…he’s friendly!