Legend of the Piasa 

By Dara Cook


In 1673 Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet chronicled their exploration of the Mississippi River.  During their travels they noted that near what is present present day Alton, Illinois they came into contact with members of the Illinois tribe.   

They were invited to the tribe’s village where they met the chief, ate and stayed the night.  The next day as they rounded a sharp curve in the river they noticed a strange painting up high on a bluff.  The Illinois had warned them of this and told them the following legend:

Before the village of the Illini, the mighty river swept to the south, clear and fresh. The surrounding woods were rich with game. The bluffs and the mighty trees shielded the Illini from the harsh winds that sometimes swept in from the north. Their village was a secure and happy place. Chief of the Illini was Ouatoga (Watoga). He was old and had led his tribe in the ways of peace for most of his lifetime. Ouatoga and his people loved their home and their way of life. Then one morning, as the sun began to climb towards the summit of its cloudless sky, terror touched the Illini. The village stirred. A number of younger braves were leaving on an early morning fishing expedition. Some were already on the river in their canoes, others preparing to embark, when suddenly the very earth seemed to shudder with the sound of an alien scream.


Out of the Western sky came a gigantic flying monster. Its body was much the size and shape of a horse; long, white fangs stabbed upward from the protruding lower jaw and flames leaped from its nostrils; two white, deer-like horns angled wickedly from its head. Its huge wings pounded the air with such force the trees bent; its stubby legs held dagger-like talons and its spiked tail wound around the grotesque body three times.
Almost before the braves realized their danger, the beast, soon to be named the Piasa Bird, swooped across the beach and carried one away. From that moment on, the Illini were terrorized by this incredible and blood-thirsty monster. Each morning and afternoon thereafter, the Piasa Bird came, shattering the peace of the village with its blood-chilling screams and the thunderous beat of its wings. More often than not, it returned to its lair with a victim.
The Illini looked to their chief, Ouatoga, for a solution to this menace. Time and time again he had led them through the trials of famine, illness, and the threat of warlike tribes. But Ouatoga felt helpless before this danger and the years weighed heavily upon him. The beast seemed invulnerable. His body was covered with scales, like a coat-of-mail. The best efforts of Tera-hi-on-a-wa-ka, the arrow maker, and the tribe’s finest archers were to no avail.
Then Ouatoga appealed to the Great Spirit. For nearly a full moon he prayed and fasted. Then in a dream he found the answer. The body of the Piasa Bird was not protected under the wings. After offering thanks to the Great Spirit, Ouatoga called the tribe together and devised a plan that could destroy the Piasa Bird. All that day Tera-hi-on-a-wa-ka sharpened arrowheads and painted them with poison while the tribe fasted and prayed. That night, Ouatoga and six of the finest braves crept to the top of the high bluff overlooking the Great Father of Waters. When dawn came only Ouatoga was visible, standing straight and firm in full view. The braves were hidden nearby behind a rock ledge, bows ready.
Suddenly, the scream of the Piasa Bird broke the silence and the winged monster swept into view. Immediately it sighted Ouatoga and with what seemed a shriek of delight, it pounced. As it did, Ouatoga fell to the ground and grasped the strong roots that grew there. The pain of the talons sinking into his flesh inspired him to grip the roots even more tightly. As the Piasa Bird raised its great wings in an effort to carry off its victim, the six braves stepped from their hiding place and shot six poisoned arrows into the unprotected place beneath the beast’s wings. Again and again the bird raised its wings to fly. But Ouatoga held fast and each time six poisoned arrows drove into the bird’s vulnerable spot. Finally, the poison did its job. With a scream of agony, the Piasa Bird released its hold on Ouatoga and plunged down the bluff to disappear forever in the swift waters of the great river.

  (Source: http://www.piasabirds.com)

After the great chief healed and the tribe celebrated a depiction of the great terror bird was painted onto the bluff high above where the creature fell to its doom.   Whenever the tribe floated past that terrible painting they would fire their arrows at it in tribute to Ouatoga.

So what was the great terror?  A dragon? A giant condor?  Perhaps that great legend was a Thunderbird?  Whatever it was the Mighty Mississippi keeps the secret in its deep and murky depths and old man river is not telling. 

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The Lost Colony Of Roanoke

By Dara Cook

 

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(SPOILER WARNING!! THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS ABOUT AMERICAN HORROR STORY SEASON 6! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!)

If you’re like me you’ve been anticipating season 6 of American Horror Story.  There’s been a lot of mystery, rumors, and hearsay surrounding the theme of season 6 and finally on September 14, 2016 we were introduced to the theme of AHS season 6-My Roanoke Nightmare.  

It’s centered around a couple who move into a creepy farmhouse in North Carolina.  It’s set to a docudrama format with dramatic reenactments and is every bit as tantalizing as I had hoped.

But why does the name Roanoke seem so familiar?  It’s not the creative genius of show creator Ryan Murphy that cooked up this particular legend.  No, my friends, as weird as it may sound something terrible really did happen on that island hundreds of years ago.

The colony of Roanoke was settled on an island off the coast of North Carolina in 1585. Sir Walter Raleigh sent about 115 souls to the island to settle it.  He charged a friend, John White, as governor and wished them the best of luck, but things were never that simple.

Earlier expeditions to the future colony had led to tensions between the explorers and the native tribes.  Soon, things became desperate after a man searching for crabs alone was killed by a native.

The colonists, fearing for their lives, begged Governor White to return to England to explain the situation and ask for help.  That left 115 colonists left behind and plus White’s newly born granddaughter, Virginia Dare (the first English child born in America).

Unfortunately, White sailed into England right at the beginning of the Anglo-Spanish war.  The ship he was to return to the colony on was commandeered to fight against the Spanish armada.

He was not able to return to Roanoke for 3 years!  White was worried about the lack of supplies and the angry natives that his colonists and family had to endure but he never would have guessed what he was to encounter.

On August 18, 1590 White landed on the eerily quiet island.  As he entered the settlement he was met with the sight of the abandoned village.  A quick search showed no trace of the 115+ colonists and no sign of a battle or struggle.  The houses appeared as if they had been taken apart piece by piece not destroyed by fire or weather.  The only thing White and his men did find was the word “Croatoan” carved into a nearby tree.

The Croatoans were a nearby native tribe.  White was unsure at that point if that meant that the Croatoans had helped the settlers and moved them to their island or if they had attacked the small settlement.

White would never find out what happened to the lost settlers.   A storm blew up and his men refused to sail out to the Croatoan’s island.  The next day White returned to England mystified and saddened.

To this day historians still speculate about the lost colony.  Were the colonists slaughtered? Was it a plague?  Did they leave?  We may never know and that is the most terrifying answer of all.

 

 

 

 

 

Wessie: Maine’s Giant Snake

Something is lurking in the woods of Maine and it ain’t a Stephen King story!

A giant snake is allegedly slithering around the edges of a small Maine town and someone has documented a giant snake skin.

Although the snake skin looks a little to perfectly posed, many locals have reported seeing the giant snake.

Allegedly it’s as long as a truck with a head as big as a soccer ball.  The locals have dubbed it Wessie (like Nessie) and it’s caused  a little bit of excitement! 
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2016/08/22/meet-wessie-maines-new-legendary-monster-mystery/89107932/

Shark Week Ooo-Ha-Ha

Kids are out of school, the public pool is full of rowdy kids and sunburned moms, and everywhere you go you can hear the whir of air conditioners.  That can only mean one thing-summer is finally here!

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Which means one of the best weeks of the year has arrived-Shark Week on Discovery Channel!  I am a BIG Shark Week geek!  I love the sea and all of its creatures but have always been most fascinated by sharks.  (I think it comes from being a Midwestern girl-stuck in the middle of the country hundreds of miles away from the closest beach.)

So in honor of Shark Week I will be posting all things sharks!  Look for some wicked shark facts and shark tales.  Hopefully, it will be a big splash! (rimshot)

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Shark Week starts Sunday June 26 8/7C

Man claims to have found Bigfoot skull

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Todd May holds object he believes to be a fossilized head of a Sasquatch.

A man from Utah believes he has found a fossilized head of Bigfoot.  While on a hike near his home in Utah in 2013, May, felt drawn to an area and found the object that he holds in the picture above.

However, Midwestern State University Assistant Professor Jesse Carlucci, Kimball School of Geoscience, said after viewing the object is, without a doubt, just a highly weathered rock.

Often, the natural fractures or joints in the rock are sites of increased weathering (chemical breakdown of the rock, as they interact with rainwater), where you have these types of depressions form. It’s not Bigfoot!” he said.

That opinion doesn’t seem to be holding May back.  He is touring the country with his find hoping to get the word out about his bigfoot fossil. 

This author can’t help but be reminded of the movie, Joe Dirt. 

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