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This article contains information relating to a hoax. According to Cambridge dictionary a hoax is "a plan to deceive a large group of people; a trick."
In 1893, newspapers reported the discovery of a Hodag in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It had "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". The reports were instigated by well-known Wisconsin timber cruiser and prankster Eugene Shepard, who rounded up a group of local people to capture the animal The group reported that they needed to use dynamite to kill the beast.
A photograph of the remains of the charred beast was released to the media. It was "the fiercest, strangest, most frightening monster ever to set razor-sharp claws on the earth. It became extinct after its main food source, all white bulldogs, became scarce in the area."
Shepard claimed to have captured another Hodag in 1896, and this one was captured alive. According to Shepard's reports, he and several bear wrestlers placed chloroform on the end of a long pole, which they worked into the cave of the creature where it was overcome. He displayed this Hodag at the first Oneida County fair. Thousands of people came to see the Hodag at the fair or at Shepard's display in a shed at his house, where he charged 10 cents for admission. Having connected wires to it, Shepard would occasionally move the creature, which would typically send the already-skittish viewers fleeing the display. In addition, Shepard would often tell the curious customers that the Hodag was especially angry that day. In order to convince people that he was telling the truth, he would go into his shed, supposedly in an effort to calm the Hodag. While he was in the shed, Shepard would change into shredded clothing to make it look like he had been attacked. He would also have his two sons make a lot of noise behind the shed to make the attack sound more convincing.
As newspapers locally, statewide, and then nationally began picking up the story of the apparently remarkable, living creature, a small group of scientists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. announced they would be traveling to Rhinelander to inspect the apparent discovery. Their announcement spelled the end of Shepard's gimmick, and he was then forced to admit that the Hodag was a hoax.
The Hodag became the official symbol of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It is the mascot of Rhinelander High School, and lends its name to numerous Rhinelander area businesses and organizations. The Hodag also lends its name and image to the Hodag Country Festival. The city of Rhinelander's web site calls Rhinelander "The Home of the Hodag." A larger-than-life fiberglass sculpture of the Hodag, created by a local artist, is on display at the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, where it draws thousands of visitors each year.
In Popular Culture
- An army of Hodags serve the Jersey Devil in the children's book series The Adventures of Casey and the Jackelope.
- The Hodag appears as a monster in one of the dungeons of the video game Magical Diary, released in early 2011.
- The Hodag appears as a monster in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game's Bestiary 3, released in late 2011.
- The Hodag was used as a villain in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "The Hodag of Horror" with its vocal effects provided by Dee Bradley Baker. The episode debuted in Great Britain in June 2012 before appearing in the United States on the Cartoon Network in July 2012.
- The Hodag was featured on an episode of the Travel Channel series, Mysteries at the Museum in 2013
- It appears as one of the monsters from the Harry Potter franchise