The Hodag of Rhinelander, Wisconsin


In 1893, newspapers reported that a creature, known as a Hodag, with "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" had been found in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  The cause of these reports can be attributed to lumberman and known hoaxer Eugene Shepard, who actively promoted the existence of the beast to locals.  Shepard went so far as to organize a Hodag hunt, the members of which claimed to have used dynamite to kill the creature.  He even produced a photograph of the creature's corpse, while at the same time declaring the Hodag to be extinct, "after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area."

Shepard's surprisingly convincing Hodag photograph.

Shepard's surprisingly convincing Hodag photograph.

Later, in 1896, despite earlier reports of its extinction, Shepard claimed to capture a live Hodag specimen, which he displayed at the first Oneida County fair.  The display attracted national media attention, as well as thousands of curious fair goers, many of whom were startled to see the Hodag move in its cage.  The captive creature was soon discovered to be a hoax manipulated by wire, though, as Shepard quickly admitted his deception when scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. announced that they were organizing an expedition to examine the purportedly living animal.

The Hodag remains a popular mascot in the Rhinelander area, and the city itself boasts several Hodag statues, as well as proclaiming itself "The Home of the Hodag."

Tobias Wayland