Greetings From the Land of the Make-Believe Species
Postcards provided proof of lake serpents, jackalopes and assorted curious monsters
- By Peter A. Smith
- Smithsonian.com, March 29, 2012
The postcard once provided a fast, reliable means of communication. The images on the cards carried strong implications of objectivity, underscored by concise captioning. Among these postcards emerges a unique flowering of the beastly taxonomic tree: dozens of distinctive, little-known species spotted by solitary farmers, hunters and fishermen, lurking all across the country, creatures that came alive through hyperbole, exaggeration and the perceived authenticity of postcards.
(Courtesy of Loren Coleman, International Cryptozoology Museum)
Seven feet long, 265 pounds, the ferocious hodag bristles with Triceratops-like horns. Long the stuff of lumberjack lore, the beast was finally captured by Eugene Simeon Shepard, a naturalist in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, in 1896. He kept it in a pit behind his house. (The pit reportedly still exists.) When outside scientists and zoo officials came to check it out, they found an equally intriguing creation made out of wood and ox-hides, bull horns and bent steel rods.