A TRIP TO WEREWOLF COUNTRY: The Hodag, Part Three—Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hodag

The Ojibway Indians, aka the Chippewa, called it Mishebeshu or Mishipeshu or some other variation thereof. Another name for the creature is “Water Panther.” The physical descriptions of the Water Panther are varied depending on the location and the tribe in question, but there are certain constants, traits that tend to be repeated: a long, prehensile tail; a furry body; horns or antlers; spikes down its back; sharp claws and teeth. The creature sounds like a cross between a shaggy large cat, like a mountain lion, and a dragon. The Mishipeshu is the same creature the people of Rhinelander, Wisconsin today call the Hodag.

These are genuine fossilized Hodag claws!

In multiple stories, the Mishipeshu/Hodag is of a nasty temperament, residing in water and using its tail or claws to drag people under to drown or devour them, but in some tales it could be helpful to humans. (The Rhinelander Hodag is said to be downright friendly.) But whether seen as good or bad, to the Indians the Mishipeshu was REAL. And not just the Indian peoples reported encounters with it. Here is an account written by a French missionary named Jacques Marquette in 1637: “While skirting some rocks, which by their height and length inspire awe, we saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. They are as large as a calf: they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish’s tail.” There ya go, people! And this from a missionary, too. You know a missionary wouldn’t be tellin’ no lies. The Hodag is real!

By The Evil Cheezman

WAYNE MILLER is the owner and creative director of EVIL CHEEZ PRODUCTIONS (,, specializing in theatrical performances and haunted attractions. He has written, produced and directed (and occasionally acted in) over a dozen plays, most of them in the Horror and Crime genres. His first novel, THE CONFESSIONS OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER: WEREWOLF, is available for purchase at


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