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Exploring American Monsters: Louisiana

Named after French King Louis XIV, Louisiana (Land of Louis) is a hodgepodge of cultures, a mixing of French, African, Spanish, and American. Claimed as a French territory by explorer Robert Cavelier de La Salle in 1682, it changed hands to the fledgling United States in 1803. It is birthplace of the National Football League’s Manning brothers, musician Louis Armstrong, and “Suicide Squad’s” Joker Jared Leto. The state’s geography is split into two parts, the lower alluvial region of swamps, marshes, and tiny islands where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The northern part of the state is composed of mainly prairies, hills, and forests. All great hiding places for monsters.

The Rougaru.

The Rougaru.

The Rougaru

This human-like monster with the head of a wolf prowls the swamps, and streets of small town Louisiana looking for human prey. From Louisiana’s French influence, early settlers brought stories of the loup-garou (French for werewolf), and maybe the werewolves themselves.

The Rougaru is a cursed man who must turn into part wolf for a year and a day or until transferring the curse to another from a bite, or by simply not talking about it. Appearing sickly in human form, the Rougaru is a large, ferocious beast when it changes. It is nearly ten feet tall, with dark fur, and fiery red eyes.

Some legends claim the monster maintains human form until it can lure an unsuspecting victim into an isolated place before turning into a wolf man. Other legends have this Louisiana werewolf hunting Catholics who don’t observe Lent. Hint: If you want to turn into a werewolf, just break Lent for the next seven years.

The dead end Grunch Road is no place to spend a Saturday night.

The dead end Grunch Road is no place to spend a Saturday night.

The Grunch

Based in Eastern New Orleans, the Grunch is a group of small humans that live in the woods on a dead end road on the outskirts of the city. Having interbred for decades, these albino dwarves are stunted, and appear barely human. The Grunch also have a taste for blood. Area farmers talk about missing goats, and other small livestock, only to later find them dead, and drained of blood.

Some say the deaths attributed to the Grunch are local predators, others the Chupacabra. Although a terrifying tale local teens tell before cruising out to Grunch Road at night, these Louisiana goat suckers are similar to Melon Head reports from around the country.

Fisherman Martial Ogeron's sea monster?

Fisherman Martial Ogeron’s sea monster?

Sea Monster

Newspapers in the 1800s were rife with tales of water monsters in North America. Louisiana wasn’t any different. In 1856, a Louisiana newspaper reported a local man named Martial Ogeron killed a “monster” in the Bayou Lafourche in the south-eastern part of the state, according to “Regional Sea Stories-Close Encounter With A Creature of the Finny Tribe,” by Brasseaux and Hoese.

Ogeron encountered the sea monster at the mouth of the Bayou Lafourche, where it was eating small fish on the bottom of the river. Ogeron shot the monster in the head, hooked a rope to it, and towed it to shore. The fisherman estimated the beast to be 14 feet long with a six-foot tail, and a three foot, six inch mouth. Ogeron had begun to butcher the animal when a storm hit. Its skin resembled “more that of an elephant than anything else to which we can compare it,” and its liver “was the size of a rice cask.”

The storm increased to the point Ogeron had to abandon his catch and find shelter. After the storm abated, Ogeron discovered the monster had been washed away. Historians speculate the monster could have been a manta ray, or manatee.

A plaster cast footprint of the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

A plaster cast footprint of the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

Honey Island Swamp Monster

In 1963, a retired air traffic controller began the legend of a large, hairy bipedal creature in Honey Island Swamp, a 108.1 square mile wildlife refuge filled with snakes, alligators, and maybe monsters. Honey Island itself, named because of a once impressive population of honeybees on a nearby island, is between and fifteen and twenty miles long, and three and seven miles wide. It is covered in heavy timber. The retired controller Harland Ford claims to have seen the monster when fishing in the area. He quickly left and brought back a friend, Bill Mills, and made plaster casts of the beast’s footprints – the feet had three webbed toes. Debunkers claim those footprints were left by an alligator, but the prints were almost too large for a gator.

Ford wasn’t the only one to see the creature. A local man, Ted Williams, also saw it. In a television interview, Williams said the monster was about seven feet tall, and covered in dark grey hair. The creature jumped into the swamp when it realized Williams was watching it. In another instance, Williams claims to have seen two of the beasts, with “broad shoulders, arms hanging down below its knees, hands looked almost like a humans.”

One of the local legends about the tall, hairy manlike creature involved a train wreck at the turn of the 20th century, when a number of circus chimpanzees supposedly escaped, and bred with alligators.

The last official sighting of the monster was in 1974.

Next up: Maine.