Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Books: HODAG!

The University Press of Chicago is offering a taste of historian Joshua Blu Buhs's (real name, swear to God) new book about Bigfoot, everybody's favorite Fortean missing link. The online marketing includes a neat little interview with the author.

The book excerpt not only discusses the origins of the Bigfoot story, but it also briefly recounts the story of the fearsome hodag – which should always be said with near ecstatic excitement: HODAG! – "The Rhino of America's North Woods." Pictured below.

From Blu Buhs's new book:

Lumberjacks, hunters, trappers, and other working-class men had long told stories of such prodigies. For decades, seasoned veterans had funned greenhorns with tales of sidehill dodgers and mosquitoes so big that they sucked cows dry and by having them fetch the equally legendary left-handed wrench. Or they sent them to hunt snipes. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Eugene Shepard, a Wisconsin lumberjack, raconteur, and prankster, announced that he had caught a hodag, the rhino of America’s north woods. Shepard photographed a group of friends killing the beast with picks and axes. The picture was made into a postcard; hundreds of thousands were sold; tourists flocked to Rhinelander, Wisconsin; reportedly, the Smithsonian even expressed interest. Seeing is believing. But the hodag was just a woodcarving. It was all a humbug. American history is rife with such practical jokes, stories of giant turtles and panthers, jackalopes and sea serpents, agropelters and snow wassetts—an entire bestiary of legendary animals. The tradition continued long after the frontier closed. In 1950, for example, the men’s adventure magazine Saga introduced a feature called “Sowing the Wild Hoax” and encouraged the blue-collar men reading it to send in examples of “particularly fiendish” and “unusually funny” practical jokes.


monsterscholar said...

This reminds me of a Discovery Channel special I watched about Hogzilla, the wild boar-swine hybrid shot and killed in Alapaha, Georgia. Though it wasn't a hoax, Hogzilla was considerably smaller (800 lbs) than the hunters initially claimed (1,000+ lbs). As for the HODAG! I'm going to start using it as an expletive when I stub my toe.

Sasquatchan said...

I feel I have to make some comment to defend my reputation here.. Just not sure what I should say. .

CRwM said...

Screamin' Sassy,

Not to mention the hurt feelings of your pet HODAG! Hoax indeed!

JoshuaBBuhs said...

Hi! My name's Josh and I'm the author of Bigfoot. Thanks for noticing the book, and for your enthusiasm about hodag. It does make a great expletive.

One (slight) correction. While my undergraduate degree was in zoology, I'm a historian, not a biologist.

CRwM said...


Thanks for stopping by. I make the necessary correction in the article. Can't believe I messed up that detail. HODAG!