Oral tradition got a little bit more ridiculous with the introduction of Fearsome Critters in Americana folklore. As we dive in, Amanda comes up with her own Roman senator names, we fall in love with a drunk cactus cat, and a reminder: You’re not a squonk. We’re proud of you.
This week, Amanda recommends Normal People by Sally Rooney.
Content Warning: This episode contains conversations about gaslighting/hazing, deforestation, colonialism, death, cultural appropriation, and depression.
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- Skillshare is an online learning community where you can learn—and teach—just about anything. Visit skillshare.com/spirits2 to get two months of Skillshare Premium for free! This week Julia recommends “Personal Branding: Crafting Your Social Media Presence”
- Mutant Pulp is all about paper and monsters and sci-fi/fantasy. From paper toys to pop ups, mutant pulp does it all. Get 20% off your next order with code “multitude20”.
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 137; Fearsome Critters.
Julia: Oh gosh, I say fearsome critters with such an accent so many times in this episode.
Amanda: It's a really good one, Julia. You outdid yourself here. I so enjoyed recording this and I can't wait to listen again when it comes out, which I don't always do.
Julia: Aw, I'm flattered. I really appreciate that you enjoyed the episode because I enjoyed putting it together.
Amanda: And do you know who I would enjoy listening to talk about any critter like fearsome or lovely?
Julia: Probably our new patrons, right?
Amanda: Our new patrons; Abby, Anna and Talia, welcome. You joined the ranks of such beautiful, wonderful creatures as Phillip, Uro, Skyla and Mercedes, Samantha, Danica, Marissa, Sammy, Josie, Neil, Jessica, and Philfresh, our supporting producer level patrons.
Julia: And of course, no campfire story would be complete without our incredible, amazing, legend level patrons, Ala, Cody, Mr. Folk, Haley, James, Jess, Sarah, Sandra, Audra and Jack Marie. Such wonderful folks. Just the best.
Amanda: Wonderful. And around that campfire, Jules, we would absolutely pour them a drink if they wanted one. And could you remind us what we're drinking this episode.
Julia: We are having the lumberjack cocktail, which I talk about more in the episode. You'll get a little bit more detailed, but if you're at our recipe card patron level, you'll be receiving a recipe for this one.
Amanda: Absolutely delicious. This one I can't recommend highly enough.
Julia: Speaking of recommending things highly enough, Amanda, read anything good lately?
Amanda: Yes, I was at a barbecue on the 4th of July, very sick with a sinus infection and so I basically just had to lay very still in a hammock under a tree as everyone else had a lovely barbecue, and they were all very understanding and just came over to bring me water. But I wasn't too sad because I was reading Normal People by Sally Rooney. Have you heard of this book?
Julia: I have not. Tell me more.
Amanda: So, Sally Rooney is like a young writer from Ireland and like a Wunderkind of Irish fiction. She is considered one of the next generation of great Irish writers. And so, I was so excited to read Normal People, which reminded me a little bit of Donna Tartt. It reminded me a little bit of E. Lockhart, some of these writers who put together such wonderful internal lives of young people who are complex and weird, and good, and bad all at the same time, like all of us are.
Julia: Wow, that sounds incredible.
Amanda: So, Normal People is absolutely wonderful. I can't recommend it highly enough. It definitely has some depiction and discussion of abuse, so please be kind to yourself and mindful if that's something that you want to think about before reading. But pick up an EBook, pick up the audio book, pick up a copy at your local Indie bookstore. It was absolutely wonderful. I read it in like 12 hours straight.
Julia: Since we're on the subject of talking about books and reading, and whatnot, I just want to remind everyone that we do have a good reads group. So if we mention a book in an episode in the beginning as a recommendation, you can always find it in our episode description and we also have the good reads group, easy to find. It's bit.ly/Spiritsreads.
Amanda: Or it's listed in every single episode description. Yeah, I recently went through all of our old recommendations and made sure they were all added to the good reads. People have discussions there, they recommend each other books. We list some of our favorite books about mythology or inspired by mythology, so it's a really lovely resource and if you're a good reads user, come on over and join us.
Julia: Yeah, please do. It's a great way to find all the things that we're currently reading or read previously.
Amanda: It totally is. But without further ado, everybody, enjoy Spirits podcast, episode 137, Fearsome Critters.
Julia: Fearsome Critters.
Amanda: Julia, I know that we're going to get into the mythology, but I have to tell you that I'm seeing Fucklahoma this weekend.
Julia: The Sexy Oklahoma.
Amanda: The Sexy, Sexy Oklahoma, which was my first Broadway musical and all my siblings and I know all the words to every song. So I'm extremely excited. But also I have to tell you, I must be doing the internet correctly because it has been so difficult for me to avoid videos of Oklahoma. I don't want to know anything. I want to go in. I want to be entirely like a new-born babe as I am on every episode of SPIRITS. And I appreciate and also resent that my internet knows that I need to see evidence of this musical immediately.
Julia: I know that it is very hot. Everyone who's in it is hot. There's some sick butch ladies. I'm super into it.
Amanda: I know nothing and I can't wait.
Julia: Okay. I will look forward to your review at some point.
Amanda: Oh, for sure.
Julia: So, recently we did our live show, speaking of performances, Amanda, and my contribution to that live show was a game show that I dubbed Creepy or Cool.
Amanda: Which listeners, you will hear. Don't worry.
Julia: September, you'll hear it in September.
Amanda: Or October, one of those.
Julia: One of those. So-
Amanda: Keep them guessing.
Julia: So this meant I did a lot of research about the just weird creatures that inhabit a lot of folklore and mythology. And a lot of these ended up being Yōkai from Japanese traditions because those are some of the weirdest things I've ever done research on. I loved them. They're my favorites.
Amanda: Extremely creepy. Extremely cool.
Julia: But during that research, I rediscovered something that I really only had a passing familiarity with and that was Lumberjack Folklore, and specifically, Fearsome Critters.
Amanda: Oh, well how does this go into Lumberjack Lore?
Julia: We will get to it. But first I want to talk about what our cocktail is for this episode.
Amanda: Oh yes, please.
Julia: So because we're talking about lumberjack folklore, I decided to cook us up a cocktail known as the lumberjack. So it reminds me of going upstate or up to New England for fall apple picking. So it's a combo of Pisco, apple preserves, lemon juice, maple syrup, surprisingly, crushed red chili flakes. It adds a little bit of heat.
Amanda: Oh damn, that sounds and tastes so good.
Julia: Yes. Yes, it is. You may now take a obligatory sip of your cocktail so that we can get started.
Amanda: I love it. I wanted to wait because it looks so intriguing for you to explain it to me and it tastes so good.
Julia: That's what I'm here for, babe. It's what I'm here for. So now we've already discussed American folklore and tall tales in the past. The fantastic David Rhinestone was our guest to talk about folk heroes of American in the past and how they came to be, but Fearsome Critters, one has two fantastic been named for us not to do a full episode on them. And two are a bit different from traditional stories that we see when we talk about oral traditions. So Fearsome Critters, every time I say it, I want to say it with a nice and like Fearsome Critters.
Julia: So Fearsome Critters developed as part of the oral traditions in lumber camps across North America. They're much newer than a lot of folklore that we talk about on the show with the exception of our Urban Legend episodes, obviously. Most of them date back around the late 1800s, early 1900s, so turn of the century. Unlike a lot of the folklore that we talk about as well, general consensus is that Fearsome Critters were invented as a way to pass the time, like how we enjoy telling scary stories around the fire or as a way of hazing people who were new to the camp.
Amanda: Yes, that sounds right.
Julia: Which I was just like, “Ah, yes.” Imagine you're sitting around the fire and someone goes, “Ooh, did you hear about the axe jog?” We'll talk a little bit more about that later. Anyway.
Amanda: And like the work is so extreme, you're going into new places like under the problematic context of like deforestation and colonialism, et cetera. And I can imagine though walking into a primordial forest with trees, maybe bigger than trees you've ever seen before. And to me, totally stands to reason that the sort of like Paul Bunyan and what does the Big Blue Babe, what is that? The babe, right?
Amanda: Yeah. And babe sized creatures, it's logical in a way.
Julia: Yeah. There was actually a certain song and dance, a ritual to this sort of thing. So a person around the campfire would bring up something strange that they heard or saw while they were out in the wild. And then someone in the know would join in agreeing like, “Oh, I saw the same thing.” Or, “Oh, I heard something similar while they were out in the woods recently too.” And they'd keep the tone very, very serious. So the goal of this is to make someone who is newer, claimed to have also heard or seen that thing next time they're in the woods and thus they're mocked and teased by the rest of the camp. Like, “Oh, this global pansy.”
Amanda: That's extremely funny. Like at a middle school party being like, “I met up with Becky, I met up with Becky. Did you meet up with Becky?” “Oh yeah. Becky doesn't even go here. There's no Becky,” God. I think I once told a kid that my name was not actually my name because he went to a different school and I was like, “I'm going to be a different person.” Oh yeah. That's exhilarating. I loved doing that. We've talked about my summers upstate alternation of soda. Yeah, yeah, yep. Totally.
Julia: So these stories would then spread because lumberjacks would travel from camp to camp for work. They would swap stories and they would spread them across the wilds of America. I'm using the terminology that is appropriate for this time period. Obviously there weren't like wilds of America because America was occupied before white people came here. Anyway, even then, these stories were designed to test the metal of new lumberjacks, but they were also used to explain, sometimes jokingly, sometimes seriously, strange occurrences that would happen in the woods, unidentified noises, loggers going missing, that sort of thing.
Amanda: This is so delightful.
Julia: They also varied in seriousness, though most tended to be more comical than frightening. So you'll see what I mean as we go through the various fearsome critters. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Amanda: I can't wait. I can't lie to you, when you say lumberjack, I do think of Apple Jacks and that's just going to be something I have to deal with during this episode.
Julia: Okay. I trust you to think of bearded men in flannel.
Amanda: I'm working on it. Okay.
Julia: So let's start with the side hill gougere. So this is a creature that was said to live solely on steep hillsides and cliff sides, and whatnot. It is said to have adapted to the legs on one side of its body are longer than the other side. So-
Amanda: Take it right back.
Julia: Well, this makes it easier for them to walk along steep hillsides. It means they can only walk in one direction, and if they were chased off the hillside, they would only be able to walk in circles for the rest of their days.
Amanda: Sad, tragic, horrifying. I hate it.
Julia: They were also said to burrow into the hillside and while they were identified as mammals, they were often depicted as laying eggs, like the platypus or the echidna.
Julia: Not all side gougers faced the same way though. So it's said that if a gouger meets another gouger that's situated in the opposite direction, they have to fight to the death because neither of them can get out of the other's way.
Amanda: No. What if instead they just kissed and then went around each other?
Julia: Because they can't go around each other because legs.
Amanda: But if they just adjust their paths a little bit.
Julia: I don't know. Physics was not the specialty of lumberjacks nor the side hill gouger.
Amanda: No. What if instead of fight, kiss.
Julia: I mean, always better option. I appreciate it. So this story actually originates out of New England with a specific Vermont version called the Wampahoofus. So it said that farmers in New England were rumored to breed their cows with gougers so that they could easily graze on steep hillsides and mountain tops.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: Very cute. Right? I know you don't like the imagery, but I think it is very cute.
Amanda: I mean, it's extremely sensible and I love that little touch of like it's not just a sort of fantastical story alone in the woods, but that overlapping with something known and like any cow you see might be half gouge or like that. That to me really is the selling point of a good telltale.
Julia: I also super appreciate that it's probably inspired by seeing those mountain goats just on the very, very thin sides of cliffs. And you're like, “How did you get up there-
Julia: -little dude? What?”
Amanda: Goats just like to stand, they just want to be on the tippy top of the tallest thing.
Julia: Same as the-
Amanda: Even if it's just a single rock in the field.
Julia: So how about we move onto the Goofus bird, which is one of the biggest moods I've ever heard in my entire life.
Amanda: I was just going to say, me too.
Julia: Amanda, the Goofus bird only flies backwards, specifically because it doesn't care where it's going, only where it's been.
Amanda: No, no, no. What a metaphor?
Julia: It has a Turkey like head and also I googled Turkey heads specifically for this bird, and those birds are so fucking creepy.
Amanda: Yup. Dinosaurs.
Julia: They just got the bumpy skin and just hate it. So the Goofus bird had a long green neck silver scaly skin, again, that bumpy Turkey skin and their right wing was black while their left wing was pink. So it was also known as the Filla-ma-loo bird or the Flu-fly bird, and it was reported to build its nest upside down.
Amanda: Oh my, this is very Alice in Wonderland. It's very dorky. I like it.
Julia: It's like the Dodo from Alice in Wonderland. You got it in one basically.
Amanda: Yeah. Or Dr. Seuss. This is hilarious.
Julia: I feel like 90% of these fearsome critters could have also been in the… if I ran the zoo, Dr. Seuss book.
Amanda: Oh yeah.
Julia: Almost 100%. So here's a cutie pie of a fearsome critter, out of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Axehandle Hound. Specifically he was said to be found close to the town of Linden Grove, Minnesota, near the Little Fork River by Voyageurs National Park. Very specific areas for some of these. So he resembled a dog that was as the name implied, axe-shaped. So he had a long stick like body and a head that that resembled an axe head blade.
Amanda: Oh, long boy.
Julia: He was a long boy. He's very skinny, long boy and then have big weird head. Like have puppies have like heads that are too big for their bodies.
Julia: Weirdly enough, most stories say that the only thing that it eats are the handles of axes that are left outside and unattended. So it would come into lumberjack camps during the night looking for its meal. And this story was almost definitely told to encourage newer lumberjacks not to leave their axes out in the open during the night. “Hey, maybe take care of your possessions.”
Amanda: I don't know. It's like World War II scrap metal propaganda, but instead for health and safety at the turn of the century.
Julia: “Don't be lazy, Karl, bringing your axe. God Carl, I knew where among trees, but you can't just like pick axe handles. Make them, God.” How about another cute pupper? This one is also out of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and it's known as the Tea-Kettler.
Amanda: Oh, does he make little hiss little howl like a Tea-Cow?
Julia: You got it. So he resembled a stubby legged dog with the ears of a cat. When he walks around, he makes the noise of a boiling tea kettle, that loudly pitched whistle.
Amanda: Oh my God. Amazing.
Julia: Much like the Goofus bird, it can only walk backwards and steam issues out of its mouth whenever it makes the whistle.
Amanda: I mean cute, but let these creatures walk forwards, man.
Julia: They're also very shy creatures, apparently, and thus not many have been seen by lumberjacks, but you can tell when one is nearby because you hear the whistle of a boiling kettle, but you can't find it anywhere.
Amanda: That is very good. That's very good. I mean the tea kettles is one of those noises where you're startled, but then you know what it is. And so, to have an option where it's like haunted tea kettle only, it's a creature, is so off putting.
Julia: That's why I like it.
Amanda: Like you can forget the kettle, but if you could forget the kettle and then also there could be a dog that makes that noise nearby, it's just like too many possibilities.
Julia: At least he don't like eat a person after.
Amanda: That's true. It's not going to eat you.
Julia: He's just around.
Amanda: He's just humidify your camp, which frankly is very nice of him.
Julia: It depends on the area that you're in. Like if you're in Florida, you don't want that humidified. You don't want it worse. Maybe somewhere with a dry heat or something.
Amanda: I suppose I picture loggers is happening in like the western forests, which are generally not humid.
Julia: That's fair. I don't know a lot about humidity across the United States, so I trust your abilities.
Amanda: I did just buy a humidifier for the office because our jungle of plants, they need a little tender loving and they need some more moisture in the air.
Julia: I just got a humidifier for my bridal shower, which was not something I've put on the list, but Jake did. He was very excited about it.
Amanda: He was delighted by the humidifier and the waffle maker, and I was like, “Yes.”
Julia: He's so excited about that waffle maker. I'm excited about the waffle maker because it means he's going to make us more waffles. Yeah.
Julia: So one of my favorite fearsome critters is the hide-behind. Oh, I would describe what it looks like, but according to the tell-tales, it has never been seen by a mortal man.
Amanda: Hate it.
Julia: Yeah, figured you would.
Amanda: Aha, this is bad.
Julia: It is a creature that preys on humans that wander through its territory in the woods. While it makes noise as it follows a person, it has the ability to hide itself behind basically any object so that it cannot be directly seen by its prey.
Amanda: That's both like some Pink Panther shit and also deeply horrifying.
Julia: So in some stories, it achieves this by sucking in its stomach so much that it could easily hide behind any tree trunk.
Julia: Yeah, [inaudible 00:17:50].
Amanda: Also, me getting into formal wear.
Julia: Very good. So it does this until it can catch up with its victim and catching them off guard. It then drags them back to its layer to devour them.
Amanda: I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. No.
Julia: Well, I do have some good news. So typically, it only eats the intestines of its victims. That's not the good news.
Julia: But according to some tales, it will not eat them if they have alcohol in their system as it finds the taste repellent. So more reasons to get drunk.
Amanda: Okay. Okay. Okay.
Julia: I figured you'd appreciate that. Take another sip of your cocktail. Enjoy it.
Amanda: I know, and in a world where the water you find out about might not always be potable. Just drink a lager, pull a colonial era, a new Englander, and just stay a little bit drunk all the time.
Julia: I mean that was most of just society as a whole. We didn't have a lot of super potable drinking water, so everyone was a little drunk all the time because the easiest way to make sure water was good to drink was to turn it into alcohol.
Amanda: Oh yeah. I thought you were going to say that's a little bit my college experience.
Julia: It wasn't.
Amanda: Me neither, but that is really in my opinion, the key to like weekends away. Like you got to just hydrate aggressively but also always have one drink in you, one drink in your hand. That's my wedding strategy. That's my camp weekend strategy. It's a good one.
Julia: I'm really excited for us to do that at Epcot. It's going to be very good.
Amanda: Oh yeah. Oh I can't wait. Oh boy.
Julia: Oh, we're going to drink around the world. It's going to be great.
Amanda: It will be August though, so we're going to have to like two to one, the water to beverage.
Julia: Extreme hydrate, I feel you. So we're actually going to go refill our lumberjack cocktails because I don't want the hype behind to get us. And then we're going to talk about some weird cats and snakes.
Amanda: Let's go get a refill.
Julia, we are sponsored this week by a listener, actually a listener in a small business called Mutant Pulp. So Griffin, our listener, made an absolutely beautiful custom like punch out paper Toy, a Wolper Tinger for our legend level patrons. He sent this out a couple months back. It was absolutely gorgeous, like a paper toy that you punch out, a really cool like heavy duty paper, put it together and it's like the best possible version of a paper doll. It bounced and everything. It was absolutely amazing.
Julia: It's very, very cool. And you might remember the Wolper Tinger from our 30 myths in 30 minutes episode.
Amanda: Yes. And at MutantPulp.com, Griffin makes monsters and aliens, and dinos. You can send your friends and new friends, get gifts for goofballs, nerds and Geeks like we know you are. And the tagline of the business is ‘Sometimes You Have to Make Your Own Friends', which I just think is so sweet and lovely. And trust me, you're going to want to go check out Mutantpulp.com.
Julia: Incredible. Yeah, go check it out. It's some beautiful, beautiful artwork.
Amanda: And Griffin's actually offering 20% off your order for fellow conspirators with the code Multitude20. So that's mutantpulp.com.
Julia: Mutantpulp.com, 20% of your order using the code Multitude20. Amanda, running social media can be hard sometimes, as you are well aware, as I'm also well aware. And sometimes you know it's something that's good for your business, but at the same time you just don't know where to start. You know what I mean?
Amanda: I do, like Facebook.
Julia: Yes. Oh God, like Facebook. So recently I stumbled across this class on Skillshare called Personal Branding, Crafting Your Social Media Presence by Kate Errands. And honestly, such a great way to get started into social media, learning about new things and being able to apply, instead of just tweeting cute memes, learning how to apply social media to my personal brand. And I wouldn't have been able to do it without Skillshare.
Amanda: Skillshare is amazing. They have thousands, tens of thousands of classes available. And for premium members, you get access to every single course that Skillshare has to offer. And Best of all, they are offering Spirits listeners two free months. Just go to skillshare.com/spirits2, the number two, to sign up for your free trial of two free months of Skillshare premium.
Julia: Yep. Again, that's skillshare.com/spirits2. You can get two free months of Skillshare premium.
Amanda: Jules, we are also sponsored this week by Stitch Fix, which this summer is feeding my absolute addiction to a long colorful pants. I feel like I've really just embraced the fact that what I call chicos style, like all of those just like flowy, like high waisted pants and like caftans that I see older women wearing in Florida. I'm jealous and I want them for me now. So I have a pair of beautiful high-waisted orange crepey pants that I got right from Stitch Fix.
Julia: Incredible. Can I tell you about my most recent Stitch Fix grab?
Amanda: You know you can.
Julia: So I just got my order in. I'm thinking about how we're going to be in Orlando in August for podcast movement. So I mentioned that to my stylist and she sent me the most beautiful flowy skirt that has palm frond pattern on it.
Amanda: Oh damn.
Julia: I feel like just a dad on vacation, but professional and also cute, and Stitch Fix just nailed it.
Amanda: Yeah, Dad but fem is my gender, I think. Oh, that's wonderful. And you know that stitch fix gets to know you. They send you unique pieces that fit your body, your budget, and your style. So it gets started today stitchfix.com/spirits to get 25% off when you keep all five items in the box that they send you.
Julia: Yup. Again, that stitch fix.com/spirits, get that 25% off if you keep everything in your box. I have been blown away by their selection many times where keeping everything was totally doable.
Amanda: Absolutely. One more time, that's stitch fix.com/spirits and now, let's get back to the show.
Julia: So let's talk about some cute danger noodles, Amanda.
Amanda: I love snacks.
Julia: I know you do. So first off, there is the hoop snake, which you might recognize because it's basically the North American equivalent to the oto bottose. So it is a snake that will bite its own tail and then roll after its prey like a wheel.
Amanda: Uh-uh, don't like that one at all. Nope.
Julia: When it catches up to its prey, it will straighten out like a spear and then stab them with its venomous tail.
Amanda: Whew, baby. Don't like that one at all. Snakes already shouldn't be able to move as fast as they do. They are very quick in water. They are very quick on land. No one should tell them about the wheel. No, no, no one.
Julia: That's why we invented tools, not the snakes.
Amanda: We need to keep that secret from them.
Julia: That's very good. So the best way of avoiding an attack from the hoop snake is to hide behind a tree at the last moment so it hits the tree rather than you. just kind of logical.
Amanda: So, the no see them hide behind a monster can get you instead?
Julia: I mean yeah, I guess. Maybe they're working in tandem, good point Amanda.
Julia: Did I make it worse?
Amanda: Oh that's worse. Yup.
Julia: So here's a great letter from 1784 that mentions the hoop snake. As other serpents crawl upon their bellies, so can this, but he has another method of moving peculiar to his own species, which he always adopts when he is in eager pursuit of his prey. He throws himself into a circle running rapidly around, advancing like a hoop with his tail arising and pointed forward in the circle by which he's always in the ready position of striking.
Amanda: Yeah, because then at the top of the circle, he can just launch himself straight like an arrow. I hate it.
Julia: It is observed that they only make use of this method in attacking, for when they flee from their enemy, they go on their bellies like other serpents. From the above circumstance peculiar to themselves, they have also derived the appellation of hoop snakes.
Amanda: It's very bad. I bet it was even worse in a world where kids played with the stick and-
Julia: The stick and hoop.
Amanda: What is that called?
Julia: Hoop and stick.
Amanda: There's some name. Hoop and… Okay. Yes.
Julia: It's like one of those.
Amanda: Yeah. Before we'd met at basketball and we thought about having hoop be parallel to the ground, they were only perpendicular and hence a terrible folklore.
Julia: Before we decided to put the hoop around our waist and then shimmy that's what happened.
Amanda: That's true.
Julia: So there were actually many offers for rewards for proof of the Hoop snakes existence, a naturalist named Raymond Ditmars offered a reward of $10,000 for the first person who could provide evidence of a hoop snake. But of course, it was never claimed.
Amanda: It's interesting. There's a Ditmar neighborhood near my house in Astoria, Queens. And I wonder if it was any relation.
Julia: He's probably like the distant relative of the Ditmars that that was named after.
Amanda: Could be.
Julia: It's just my guess.
Amanda: It's just a little hoops throw away from Boston, so that could be.
Julia: So some sidewinders and mud snakes, people argue, occasionally lie in loose hoop shapes that they think that might've perpetuated the myth. And there's also stories of snakes biting their own tails thinking that it's prey. So that also might've turned into the hoops myth.
Amanda: Sure, or just creative nightmares.
Julia: That's the best one. So there's also the joint snake, which is mainly told in the southern United States. So it is a snake that can break itself into pieces and then reassemble itself.
Amanda: Oh, oh, oh.
Julia: Other stories say that if you cut the snake into pieces, they'll re-join again. And in this case, if the knife that is used to cut the sneak is set down near the snake, the snake will re-join the pieces and include the knife with it. So it's a knife snake, he's part knife now. It's more dangerous than ever.
Amanda: I love that. That's great. Also, if you're trying to be out there killing predators and you don't burn them, like that's on you.
Julia: So according to some folklorists, the story of the joint snake, which is now the knife snake in my head, I can't unsee it, is either a modern interpretation of the hydro story or is a tell-tale based around stories of legless lizards that can regrow their tails.
Amanda: Yeah, I mean and the things we know about reptiles, that's not totally out of nowhere. It also of course reminds me of the famous divided… oh, join or die. That's the one.
Julia: Join or die. But also to be fair, Aesop's Fables was the first time that we stand divided, we fall was used.
Amanda: Oh really?
Julia: Interesting. Keeping on brand with Spirits podcast.
Amanda: Well, in any case, the knife snake does remind me of join or die.
Amanda: So very American in that way.
Julia: I appreciate it. So the next story is not really a snake, but I do want to tell you about the Hoedag of northern Wisconsin, specifically with its history rooted in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
Amanda: Listen, Wisconsin, Minnesota. I get that it gets cold, but you have cheese to make. You don't have to spend all your time making up horrifying, horrifying tales.
Julia: I mean, they're making such good cheese. I think that they get a pass on this in, my opinion.
Amanda: Okay. Okay. Okay.
Julia: So, the Hoedag is said to appear to be a creature that has the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant.
Julia: Thick short legs that set off by huge clause, the back of a dinosaur and a long tail that has spears at the end.
Amanda: Too much. Nope.
Julia: I know your favorite thing is animals joined with other animals.
Amanda: I think the weird part is the grinning face of a giant elephant, where often scary at this period of time to people. Maybe and maybe they mean the tusks, but little elephant's smile so cute.
Julia: Yeah, I know.
Amanda: Under that trunk, adorable little smile.
Julia: So, the Hoedag was first reported in 1893 by newspapers in the area and a local lumberjack rounded up a group of people to capture the animal claiming after their hunt that they'd used dynamite to kill it, so no trace of the animal, obviously. The man, Eugene Shepherd, claimed that 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?
Julia: This of course was a hoax even though he had the opportunity to display the second creature that he caught because he went out and did it again.
Amanda: Oh-oh, tracking the lie.
Julia: At the first Oneida County Fair, this is like an American girl doll novel plot where [crosstalk 00:30:11]-
Amanda: Almost definitely.
Julia: -your mistake is not lying, it's committing to the lie. I'll tell you how bad committing to the lie is. So he only revealed that it was fake when scientists from the Smithsonian and that's that they were going to travel to his home to inspect the creature.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: But the creature made such an impact that it's still considered the town mascot for Rhinelander, Wisconsin.
Amanda: Oh, good job y'all.
Julia: Somewhat similarly is the Snallygaster, which is from central Maryland.
Amanda: Oh, this is the best name so far for sure.
Julia: Really? Even with the-
Julia: -the Goofus bird?
Amanda: I'm too sad about the Goofus' plight. Snallygaster.
Julia: So it is a dragon like beast first reported by German immigrants who called it the Snallygast or the quick ghost. It was first reported as something close to a half bird siren creature, but later it would be called half reptile, half bird with a metallic beak and razor sharp teeth.
Amanda: See, okay. This animal pairing similar family, they go together. I'm okay with it. I'll permit it.
Julia: Also coming from the German tradition of having dragons be folklore creatures that would harass towns. I'm into it.
Julia: Some stories would even claim that it had octopus-like tentacles that would pluck its victims from the ground.
Amanda: Uh-uh, okay. That's very scary. Did you know Julia, that Octopi have individual control over each of their suckers?
Julia: Over each sucker? Huh? I was going to say, well, like arms makes sense. But I guess we have like we have control over each of our fingers. You know, that's not super weird.
Amanda: Yeah. But they have like hundreds of them.
Julia: Yeah, that's true.
Amanda: My new favorite show, The Aquarium Taught Me This, I love.
Julia: I love your obsession with the zoo and now with the aquarium.
Amanda: It's so good.
Julia: So the Snallygaster was a silent flyer and it would suck the blood of its victims. It could only be warded off by seven pointed stars, which would often be found painted in Barnes in the area to protect families as well as the livestock.
Amanda: Oh, I've seen five-pointed stars a lot in Amish country, and I wonder if there's a similar origin for them.
Julia: Maybe that's interesting. In the early 20th century, interest in the Snallygaster surged after local newspapers reported encounters that residents had had with it. So the Smithsonian actually offered a reward for its hide and even Teddy Roosevelt, president at the time, considered postponing an African safari to come to Maryland to hunt the beast.
Amanda: Oh yeah. That is teddy bait man.
Julia: Yeah, it's very, very good. I teddy low [crosstalk 00:32:45] we'd be so into murdering this creature.
Amanda: I love that the newly established Smithsonian was like, “Okay, let's collect all the stolen artifacts from other places in the world. it's great. Let's take rich people's things. Awesome. Love it, do it. However, most importantly, let's devote significant resources to proving and cataloging American creatures.” And I get it completely, but it is extremely charming. I'm just thinking about it.
Julia: So nowadays, apparently, there is a Snallygaster whiskey that is produced by Dragon Distillery in Frederick, Maryland. So please, please send some of this to Amanda. Thank you. Frederick Maryland.
Amanda: Yes. Damn. Very good.
Julia: Dragon Distillery hit us up.
Amanda: Very good.
Julia: We're always available for sponsorship.
Amanda: We're here, man. Our address is on the website multitude.productions.
Julia: So now, let's get into some wildcats for our fearsome critters.
Amanda: Oh, I've never met a cat I didn't like the idea of camping near them.
Julia: So first, let's talk about the Glawackus, which is a combination of a bear, a panther, and a lion.
Amanda: This sounds like an old timey Roman Senate leader. Glawackus Augustus.
Julia: It's the dumbest shit.
Amanda: Reddit Bros love quoting Glawackus Augustus.
Julia: So dumb.
Amanda: Ryan holiday got really rich off a book just quoting Glawackus Augustus.
Julia: Oh my God, Amanda, don't do this. Okay. So they're also called The Northern Devil Cat by some, and they've been seeing across the United States, specifically in Connecticut and Colorado. So it's best known for its screeching cry, which is similar to hyena's laugh according to those who have heard it. Because the creature is blind, it uses that screech to see via echolocation as well as its fantastic sense of smell. If you were to look directly in its eyes, however, it would wipe your memory like the Goddamn men in black.
Julia: I'm into that. So here's a quote from someone who basically named the Glawackus for the first time in a newspaper in Connecticut. So I was working as a young reporter on the Hartford current, that year when World War II was in the wings, but we were preoccupied with the developing story about this Glastonbury creature that held at night, slipped in and out of view and caused dogs, cats and small farm animals to disappear.
As the sightings grew in numbers, so did the variety of descriptions. First, it was a huge cat, then some people reported that it looked like a dog in back and a cat in front. Others saw it vice versa. One man called to say that he had seen a big animal in the pitch dark with eyes that glowed like embers. It was clear to us that this weird unknown animal needed a name. One editor coined the word Glawackus, Gla for Glastonbury, wack wacky, and us because it needed a proper Latin ending. It caught on like magic.
Julia: Glawackus is the son of Glawackus, so we weren't totally off.
Amanda: It's close. Words are difficult sometimes. Glawackus Aurelius.
Julia: Jesus, I hate this.
Amanda: I know like six names of Roman politicians and I'm just endlessly remixing them.
Julia: It's fine. That's how that works, right? They all have like the same name just mixed up.
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah.
Julia: It's like how everyone's named John. On the other end of the country is the cactus cat, which is a bobcat-like creature that is covered in hair-like thorns. So this one is also a mood because it reminds me of my favorite Pokemon Giltinan and also because of this next tidbit that I'm going to share with you. So apparently it will slash into Cacti in the middle of the night, letting the juices flow out of the cactus and exposing it to the air. After a few nights, it will return to the plant and drink the now fermented cactus juice. So they'll get hella drunk and then screech in the night scaring humans in the area.
Amanda: Julia, there's nothing better, right? So covered in thorns so no man can grab you, right?
Amanda: Always, not just drinking alcohol, but making your own, screeching in the night. There's nothing better. I love it.
Julia: So at night, it will also carve out the inside of a cacti and sleep through the day. So they're nocturnal. They're immune to scorpion venom and are extremely territorial. So if an animal or a person tries to invade their territory, they will leave the encounter with large puncture wounds or fatal stab wounds.
Amanda: This is the one I wish were real. Oh, I want them to just be out there living their life.
Julia: So actually, there's quite a bit of information about the cactus cat, and I know about the mating process of the cactus cat, which is interesting. So they'll live for about 20 or 30 years. They mate for life. Male cactus cats will break open those large Saguaro cacti and that'll attract females to the area with the smell of it. So any females that come across it will fight over the cactus and then the winner gets to climb up into the cactus, meet the male, get drunk on that cactus juice, and then produce a litter of kittens in the next few weeks.
Amanda: Amazing. Amazing.
Julia: Also, the kittens are blind at birth and they develop their cactus spikes later on in life.
Amanda: I bet they're super fuzzy.
Julia: Really, really cute. I love it a lot. They probably look like someone rubbed a balloon on some fabric and then held it to them. Very spiky. I'm into it.
Amanda: Yes, like Downey penguins. Oh.
Julia: That's very cute.
Amanda: Did I cry at the episode of the aquarium that involves two penguins that had been made for 25 years? I shared digitally. I shared it.
Julia: I'm sure they did. I would too. God, such devotion.
Julia: So there's also the splinter cat, which is a nocturnal feline typically found in Oregon, though it has spread throughout the Pacific Northwest. It will fly through the air at tremendous speeds hitting trees as it lands. And then the branches are knocked off from the impact and the tree will wither away. So it actually uses this method to expose raccoons and bees, which are its source of food. However, because it uses its head to do this, it constantly has a headache and that explains its foul mood and stormy demeanor.
Amanda: Oh, oh.
Julia: And the story is also used to explain dead snags in the forests of the Pacific in Northwest. Those kind of dead trees that don't have any branches.
Amanda: I'm also picturing like after a windstorm, you walk around and it really does look like a giant bouncy ball or flying creature just like knocked them all around.
Julia: In the same vein, I really want to quickly mention the ball tailed cat, which resembles a mountain lion, except it has a long tail with a mass at the end that it uses to strike a killing blow on its prey.
Amanda: I thought you said balls with a d, and I was like, “Oh, kitty has no fur,” but it just has a wonderful mace at the end of this tail.
Julia: Yes. Just a big mace cat.
Amanda: I just want these kids to be able to protect themselves and have a lovely life.
Julia: I wanted to mention the Wampus cat in this only because it's very often incorrectly considered a fearsome critter by some. It's actually used as a mascot by several schools across the United States, but it actually traces back to Cherokee traditions rather than lumberjack traditions. So according to Cherokee stories, there was the secret meeting among tribal elders from which others were banned from viewing.
However, a young woman secretly witnessed the ceremony hiding her presence by disguising herself under the pelt of a wild cat. She was however noticed by the elders who were said to curse her and transform her into a feline creature sometimes that was said to have six legs because her own legs and then the legs of the pelt of the wildcat.
Amanda: For sure.
Julia: It is very cool.
Amanda: I need this feature film immediately.
Julia: It's like how the original Werewolf movie, the original Wolf man movie was not about a guy turning you into a wolf man, but rather it was about a indigenous woman who was getting revenge for the white people that took her land.
Amanda: Exactly. I would like to support that project with my money.
Julia: Yes, so much. Let's do a remake of that. That'd be great.
Amanda: Let's finance it. Find some dope ass native filmmakers. Let's do it.
Julia: Hell yeah. So the last fearsome critter that I want to mention was the reason I wanted to do this topic in the first place. So Amanda, let me introduce you to the squonk.
Julia: So the squonk is found in the Hemlock Forest of northern Pennsylvania. It's unfortunately not the cutest creature. His skin is ill-fitting. He's covered in warts and blemishes. And because of this, he's said to be ashamed of his appearance.
Amanda: Oh no, hitting close to home. Same.
Julia: He will hide from sight whenever he can and spends much of his time weeping. Oh God, poor squonk.
Julia: If a hunter attempts to catch a squonk, he will dissolve into a pool of tears and bubbles in order to avoid being taken up. Supposedly, there's only one man who's ever able to capture a squonk if only briefly, a man named J.P. Wentling coaxed one into a bag using compliments, and when he attempted to carry it home, the bag lightened suddenly as the squonk had dissolved into liquid and dripped away.
Amanda: No, Julia, it's too sad. Why?
Julia: Because it's just, it's his whole life, it's all tears and crying, and sad.
Amanda: No, too close.
Julia: And I was like, “Oh, yeah, that's a real hard mood.” Oh no, I have to think about drunk cat cactus friend again, could be there's so much cheerier, and think of those cute kittens in the cactus, big old cactus. Just all cuddled up. But I just I wanted to end with the squonk because it's just a reminder that people have been going through the same shit we've all been going through for a very long time.
Amanda: That's true.
Julia: You might think you're a squonk, you're not. You're actually a cactus cat and we're all proud of you.
Amanda: Yeah, we are.
Julia: So Amanda, what did you think of these fearsome critters and their place in lumberjack society?
Amanda: I love them all very much/I'm completely terrified, which is my favorite emotional yo-yo to go between when we're doing episodes of Spirits.
Julia: And that's what I try to do for you babe.
Amanda: I think it's just at the end of the day, showing us the importance of local journalism.
Amanda: Because all of these newspapers, they're there, they're listening to people, they have resources, they have frequent publication and room for stories like this. And I'm only being like half facetious because I love these stories so much and I love that the Internet can do similar cataloging for us, but I love it. There are just so many sources and accounts of first-hand experiences that we can learn from here.
Julia: Yeah, it's a reminder of how good local flavor can be when it comes to folklore and oral tradition, and storytelling.
Amanda: That to me is the whole point of it. I know we love drawing out human relate-ability and human impulses from these stories, but that's only fun because it has the contrast of this extreme locality and I just love that interplay so much. And listen, the more regional, the more specific your urban legends are at listeners that you send us, the happier we are. So if you're something that you're like, “Ah, no, it's weird just for our town.” I want to hear about it, please.
Julia: Yeah, exactly. Like the best stories in this roundup are the ones that we can trace back specifically to that small town in Wisconsin or that newspaper that reported it for the first time in 1893. It's just the coolest thing to me, that we're telling these stories and we're perpetuating the idea that our ancestors put out that there are things that go bump in the night and sometimes we tell stories about them to make ourselves feel better.
Amanda: And no matter what story you tell yourself to get back to sleep, just remember, stay creepy. Stay cool.