Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hoult River Monster of Northern WV

The Ohio and Monongahela Rivers of Northern West Virginia may hold a dark secret.  It is said that this is the home to a 444 pound beast known to the Iroquois as "The Ogua."

Early settlers to the Hoult area (near Fairmont) tell tales of a monstrous beast, bigger than a bear, with a 15 foot long tail.  The monster was said to be amphibious; it would live in the waters of the Ohio and Monongahela by day, and by night, come to land in order to hunt deer.  Lashing at the deer with its massive tail, it would then pull the prey into the water to consume it.

Perhaps the first recorded incident of the monster comes from a letter sent by a young man staying at nearby Fort Hamar.  The letter, which is now housed in WVU's Manuscript Collection, tells of an incident where another man at the fort was out one day and came upon a creature resembling a turtle, but with two heads, attacking a deer.  The man rushed back to the fort, and together with a band of men, rushed back to the spot where the creature was spotted.  The creature was located, and the men clubbed it to death.

A further tale comes from two other early settlers.  The Taylor and Nichols families settled along the Monongahela River around the year 1745.  Both built adjoining cabins on what is a prehistoric stone floor.  On October 22, 1746, the twelve year old son of Nichols was fishing in the river when he was pulled in and dragged off by something described as being bigger than a bear and with the body of a turtle.

The next day, Taylor found a large curved bone wedged between two trees.  This bone was widely believed to be belonging to one of the creatures, who by this time were said to live in mud holes along the river.  Several days after that, the Nichols' teenage daughter was awakened by the sound of something rubbing up against the cabin.  As she peered through the cracks, she saw what she described as a large, hairy creature, bigger than a sow.  Both families packed up and left shortly thereafter.

According to folklore, the tale of the Hoult River Monster was borne from the nightmares of Chief Hiawatha as a way to scare off the white settlers.  However, during the chief's reign, there were very few white settlers in the area, so its believed that the monster is more likely a tale concocted by the local Delaware or Shawnee tribes to serve the same purpose.

Whatever its origins, there are striking similarities between the Ogua and other river monsters of lore.  The Japanese have the Kappa, which as one of its many forms, can show up either hairy, or as a turtle.  The Celts also have a legend of a water monster called a Kelpie, who would drag its human prey below the water and devour it.

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