It’s so thrilling to have the podcast back on the air for a “season 2.” We kicked things off this season with an epic showdown between two local legend contenders. As I say in the intro to this podcast episode, we love folklore and legends at Tea’s Weird Week. There’s so many small towns across the country that have some story about a monster lurking in the forest, creeping a country lane, or swimming in the local pond. For many of these towns, their monster story is their main claim to fame– consider, for example, Mothman– who has made Point Pleasant, West Virginia a tourist destination.
This episode talks about the Hodag, monster celebrity of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the Snallygaster of Fredrick County, Maryland.
I’m very well familiar with the Hodag. My parents took me to Rhinelander during a trip “Up North,” just so I could see photos and a sculpture of the monster in the Lumberjack Museum and they got me a t-shirt and a plush Hodag. People are still make a pilgrimage to Rhinelander to get souvenirs, as I found when I talked to Ben Brunell, proprietor of the Hodag Store (thehodagstore.com) for this episode. But what the heck is a Hodag? Well, I wrote an entry on it for my book Wisconsin Legends & Lore (2020, History Press) and here’s an excerpt:
Perhaps the most uniquely Wisconsin monster in this list is the Hodag, a fearsome animal with giant horns, fangs, and a row of spines down its back. It’s frightening and yet also a sign of civic pride in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, where the Hodag story originates.
The Hodag, I hate to spoil so quickly, was a hoax. It was created by one of Wisconsin history’s most colorful characters, Eugene Shepard, who worked in the timber industry as a land surveyor and later in life ran a resort near Rhinelander. He hung around lumberjack camps, and as you might recall from the last chapter, claims to be the originator of Paul Bunyan folklore. He was an early circulator of the tall tales, but taking his word on anything would be hard to do as he was also a well known practical joker.
Among his many pranks were fooling people at a resort he ran into believing he had a unique, rare breed of scented moss on the property (which was regular moss doused in perfume) and a fake muskie he had rigged up to leap out of the water to entice guests into taking fishing trips. He liked to enlist a friend to pinch people’s legs on public transportation while he imitated a growling dog to fool them into thinking they had been bitten. To be in Shepard’s vicinity was to be a practical joke victim in waiting.
Shepard’s hoax with the longest-lasting impact began in 1893 when he claimed he had encountered a Hodag, a beast based on lumberjack folklore. A Hodag, lumberjacks believed, was the ghost of a disgruntled ox. In 1896, Shepard claimed he had captured the beast (by putting chloroform at the end of a long pole and knocking the monster unconscious). Several other details about the life of the Hodag were embellished and reported by Shepard and others—the Hodag preferred to dine on white bulldogs, for example, or that its young were delivered from a set of 13 eggs.
While scrolling through Instagram, I discovered the American Snallygaster Museum and was delighted by the story. The Snallygaster is a weird bird/octopus/dragon hybrid– depictions have varied slightly, some show it with one eye or three eyes, tentacles on it’s mouth or body, etc. The legend came with German immigrants who settled in Frederick County, Maryland. It’s not a story as well known as the Hodag or Mothman, but Sarah Cooper, creator of the American Snallygaster Museum (snallygastermuseum.com) is hoping to change that. She’s assembled art and other artifacts that’s she’s been displaying as a pop-up, but is working on a permanent location.
The Hodag Store and the American Snallygaster Museum– two spots to add to your monster road trip!
Tea’s Weird Week, S2, Ep02: Hodag vs Snallygaster: In addition to talking to Ben Brunell (Hodag Store) and Sarah Cooper (American Snallygaster Museum), me and Heidi had a lot of catching up to do on weird news– Miss Information is back with a trivia question (answer to win fabulous prizes), and we close the episode out with a beautiful track from Mere of Light, “Moon from a Well.” Additional music: “Mecha vs Titan” by Kaijusonic/T.Reed/ Tao X Productions and “Demon Business” by Android138.
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There’s many things I like about the Tea’s Weird Week podcast, but one reason it is dear to me is that it’s been a part of my social time, a chance to talk to cool, interesting people, some I’ve known a long time, others I’ve just met. After wanting to do a podcast for years, the pandemic downtime finally caught up to me and like a million billion other people, I got that podcast rolling. TWW has a great crew– my co-host Heidi Erickson, sound engineer Android138, and trivia host Miss Information. We did a 13 episode inaugural season that ran January through April. Like a lot of things I do, it was a case of building an airplane while flying it, but I think it turned out well.
In season one, we had some really fun original music by Android138 and other music guests, an interesting array of interviews with people like writer and UFO podcaster Ryan Sprague, the yodeling dominatrix Manuela Horn, Lake Monster expert Scott Mardis, and Patch O’Furr, a furry investigative journalist, just to name a few. We also did things like an episode based on audio from my 2017 tour of the Luxury Survival Condos.
I love having a weekly discussion with Heidi for the Tea’s Weird Week News segment about topical stories and classic strange cases; a couple people won big answering Miss Information’s trivia, and we closed out each episode with a track by an awesome indie band. I guess the podcast follows a sort of weirdo late night show format– opening monologue/interview, weird news talk, bonus skit stuff (like some of the music bits and the “Comedy Roast of Zorth“), trivia question, song. We try to have fun and inform you about the very weird world around us.
You can listen to the entire season on your preferred platform choice– find the episode list and links to all platforms here: Tea’s Weird Week Podcast | (teakrulos.com)
We’re working on a new 13 episode season 2 (summer season) right now and we’ve got a lot of great stuff going. I’m going to tell you about the first 3 episodes we got in production and some of the ideas we have beyond that.
(S2, EP01.) Hodag vs. Snallygaster. We love local lore at Tea’s Weird Week. Many small towns across the country have some story about a monster that lurks in the woods, stalks a creepy country lane, or swims in the local pond. We talk with the proprietors of the Hodag Store in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and the American Snallygaster Museum in Frederick County, Maryland about their homespun monsters. (airs 5/21)
(S2, EP02.) The Marvelous Miss Fit. I met Miss Fit– bodybuilder, charity fundraiser, and Real-life Superhero star of The Adventures of Miss Fit while working on my book Heroes in the Night. A stereotype of Real-life Superheroes is that they are dorky, delusional Batman-wannabe white dudes. Miss Fit bench-presses that idea, then body-slams it, then puts it in a headlock. She’s just rad, is what I’m saying. (airs 5/28)
(S2, EP03.) Lost in the Schroeder’s Books Vortex. Imagine a bookstore that looks like something out of an episode of Hoarders, run by a mysterious and eccentric woman, a hodgepodge tsunami of books ranging from the worthless to the priceless. Well, you’ll have to imagine because the West Allis, Wisconsin Fire Department shut Schroeder’s Books and Music down years ago, but we get one last look as the store is being cleared out and remember the sights and smells of the store, plus a dramatic reading of some of the store’s Yelp reviews. (airs 6/4)
After that I’m not sure what order these might appear, but we have episode ideas in the works that include interviewing Nick Redfern about his new book, a visit to our friends at Dead by Dawn Dead & Breakfast in Manitowoc, a Bohemian Grove episode, and much more, plus some great music and intriguing trivia.
After that, we’ll take a short summer vacation and then season 3 will really be all out because it will be our fall season– lots going on. As I wrote in a 2019 Tea’s Weird Week column, “October is Mad Boo-Business.” We’ll be recording live from some events, doing our own live events, some ghost investigating.
You can see me and Heidi do the news segment live in the Tea’s Weird Week Facebook group (and hopefully I’ve figured out how to hook Streamyard to YouTube), we’re going live this Friday, May 14, 5pm CST for S2, ep01.
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