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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Swamp Tales (Danette Wilson)

New Orleans and Hexfest 2016 was a moveable feast. Highly recommended. I just did not have the time to totally share everything that is fascinating about New Orleans and beyond on the June 17 Desperate House Witches show! I returned home with so many memories and stories.

I decided to share a few of the legends shared with me on my journey, here with you, I hope you enjoy.

The rougarou is a legendary creature in Laurentian (Quebec) French communities linked to European notions of the werewolf.

According to Cajun folklore, the tale of the rougarou is a common legend across French Louisiana. Some people call the monster rougarou; others refer to it as the loup-garou. Both words are used interchangeably in southern Louisiana.

Loup is French for wolf, and garou from French garulf, with English werewolf.

Loup Garou
In the Cajun legends, the creature is said to prowl the swamps around Acadiana and New Orleans, and possibly the fields or forests of the regions. The rougarou most often is described as a creature with a human body and the head of a wolf or dog, similar to the werewolf legend.

A common blood sucking legend says that the rougarou is under the spell for 101 days. After that time, the curse is transferred from person to person when the rougarou draws another human’s blood. During that day the creature returns to human form. Although acting sickly, the human refrains from telling others of the situation for fear of being killed.

Other stories range from the rougarou as a rabbit to the rougarou being derived from witchcraft. In the latter claim, only a witch can make a rougarou, either by turning into a wolf herself, or by cursing others with lycanthropy.

In Native American folklore, the creature, spelled rugaru, derives from Native American legends, though there is some dispute. Such folklore versions of the rugaru vary from being Bigfoot (Sasquatch) creatures to cannibalistic Native American or Native Canadian Wendi. Some dispute the connection between these folktales and the French rugaru.

As is the norm with legends transmitted by oral tradition, stories often contradict one another. The stories of the wendigo vary by tribe and region, but the most common cause of the change is typically related to cannibalism.

An example, is that if a person sees a rugaru, that person will be transformed into one. Thereafter, the unfortunate victim will be doomed to wander in the form of this monster.

Wolves are not native to Louisiana, so many times the beast in the story is replaced with other animals such as dogs, pigs or cattle, and generally appear as being pale white in color. As the story goes, the rougarou will wander the streets at night searching for a savior amongst the crowds of people. It will run through and cause havoc to each individual until somebody eventually shoots or stabs the creature.

Honey Island Swamp Monster

The first documented sighting of the creature took place in early August of 1963. Harlan Ford, a retired air traffic controller, and his friend Ray Mills came home from the swamp with an incredible story. The pair of veteran hunters claimed that while out in the swamps they came across a large creature standing over the body of a dead boar. The strange creature had apparently ripped the boar’s throat completely out. Harlan described the creature as being covered in dingy grey hair, with longer hair hanging from its head. The two estimated the creature weighed close to 400 pounds and stood about 7 feet tall. The creature’s enormous size and hair was frightening enough, but the amber colored eyes and horrible stench that reeked from the creature were the two things that stuck in Harlan and Ray’s mind from this unbelievable encounter.

While news of this story spread like wildfire, the locals knew that stories of this ferocious creature go back hundreds of years. The Native Americans of the area called the creature Letiche, and described it as meat eating, human-like creature that lived in the water and on the land. The Indians from this area believed that the swamp monster was once an abandoned child who was raised by alligators in the deep dark regions of the swamp.

The Honey Island Swamp Monster, also known as the Louisiana Wookie, is said to be covered in a thick coat of matted gray or brown hair and swamp weed. Its yellow eyes are seemingly reptilian, and the smell it emits has been called the stench of death.

This primitive creature has long been blamed for the deaths of livestock and the mysterious disappearances of children in adjacent areas. Popular lore in the region is that the Honey Island Swamp Monster might be the horrifying product of a union between a chimpanzee and an alligator. And in the darkly primordial swamplands that must look much the same now as they did thousands of years ago, the existence of almost any creature seems possible no matter how ominous.

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