Now I’m reading Hunting the American Werewolf by Linda Godfrey and Mason has wanted to look at all the monster pictures. While flipping through the book, we came across a reference to my hometown. Apparently, in 1994, there was a sighting of a lizard creature sulking near the water front of the Black River near the Hardee’s of Clinton Avenue Bridge. What’s amazing to me is that this BLOCKS from the house I grew up in and where my parents still live.
According to Linda Godfrey the author of Hunting the American Werewolf, it all started when a man and his teenage son went walking with their dog and the dog slipped its leashed. They started hunting for the pooch, when “Suddenly, a movement near a tree caught their attention and they trained the flashlight in that direction, hoping to find the runaway hound. Instead, they were astonished to find themselves looking at a creature standing on two legs in front of a tree, something taller than a man and covered with mud-colored scales. Its eyes were yellow and slitted....”
Then she goes on to talk about all the mysterious drownings that happen near LaCrosse. Except, most of those drownings, while tragic, aren’t terribly mysterious. They tend to involve college kids who go bar-hopping – LaCrosse’s main bar street, Third Street, is as you might guess, a mere three blocks from the Mississippi – and wind up in the river. She makes a number of connections to the Mississippi and various Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) legends of monster snakes that drag unfortunate victims to watery graves, which would be a fine stretch, except the sighting of this lizard man was on the Black River. I know, because that’s the public beach I grew up swimming in every summer for nearly seventeen years.
Clearly, I have a lot of paranormal leanings, and I honestly believe that LaCrosse is a very magic town. A Menominee legends says that where three rivers cross there will never be a tornado. Despite the fact that the Midwest is plagued with tornados, LaCrosse (which is the junction of the LaCrosse, the Black, and the Mississippi rivers) has never been hit by one. There are gorgeous, wild Bluffs surrounding the town and undeveloped marsh land that cuts the city into the north and south sides. I could see how a magic creature could feel at home in LaCrosse and could, in fact, stay fairly undetected for a while.
But, I’m not buying this one.
I think the fact that Godfrey admits that she gets this story second hand and the fact that it happened in a place that I’m so intimately familiar with really stretches credibility for me. I will say that when I was growing up (70s and early 80s), the shoreline of the Black River was left undeveloped. I used to roam past the beach barriers and hike for miles through willow and weeds… and it was spooky. But, after I left, there was an attempt, I guess, to gentrify the area and the city clear-cut of all that wilderness. You’d think if there were a selkie or a lizard man living there, someone would have seen evidence of it, when the area was much more wild.