Oneida County is the heart of the north woods of Wisconsin. Located deep in Oneida County is Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Rhinelander has a population of about eight thousand, however, it is the retail hub of northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan. When retail shopping is at its peak, the town boasts a population of over twenty thousand. Rhinelander is also famous for being the home of the Hodag.
What is the Hodag? you might find yourself asking. The Hodag of Rhinelander is a cryptid creature reported back in 1893. It is often described as being a weird combination of a frog, dinosaur, and an elephant.
In 1893, the first Hodag discovery was made by Eugene Shepard, a prominent Oneida County land surveyor. He eagerly returned to town to collect up some local townspeople to return to the last spot he had seen the creature in an attempt to catch the beast.
He told them he had spotted something in the woods that had the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs with huge claws, the back end of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end. Although his story seemed so far fetched that no one wanted to believe it, their curiosity got the better of them and they followed Eugene back into the woods.
Rumor has it that Eugene led the men, brandishing weapons of all types, back to the area he had last seen the monster. After tracking it a few hundred feet, they managed to stumble across the monster near a cave. They estimated that the creature likely lived in the cave. The group was horrified to see the bodies of what appeared to be dozens of dogs scattered about the cave. Upon closer inspection, it appeared the creature was opting to specifically feast on white bulldogs.
Eugene Shepard, upon returning to town with his newly acquired beast, that it took his entire team and loads of dynamite to finally kill the cryptid creature. Rhinelander residents were in an uproar over the capture of the beast. When Eugene shared what he had found in the cave, many of the local “lost dog” posters were removed and families knew they could stop looking for their lost Fido.
In 1896, Eugene Shepard made news again. This time, it was for capturing a live Hodag. After hearing reports that a similar creature was lurking about the land, Eugene set out again to try his luck a second time. This time, he found a second cave. He claims his second adventure was the Hodag was even more intense than the first as it required a bear wrestler and himself to work together to place chloroform on the end of a long pole and push it into the depths of the cave. Eventually the creature succumbed to the chemicals.
This time, Eugene brought his treasure back alive. It became part of a traveling show and was a featured side show act. Residents of the area tell stories about Eugene hooking the creature up to wires to move it around and frighten already hesitant visitors. Many went running from the tents in terror.
Residents were not the only ones interested in the story. The Smithsonian were interested in viewing the Hodag and conducting further research on the creature. The story was picked up by local, state and national newspapers who reported on the Hodag.
The Hodag’s history lives on in Rhinelander. Featured in the front of the Chamber of Commerce, the Hodag serves as the official mascot and symbol of Rhinelander who call themselves “home of the Hodag.” There is even a large country music festival named the Hodag County Festival in the creature’s honor.