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  • Illinois Lion Man April 26, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    lion man

    Imagine that there is a wild man out in the local woods. However, this guy is not your normal naked wimp, dirty with matted hair, who fell on hard times blah blah blah. He wears a lion mask, steals carpets and sports a nifty yellow black mini skirt: and this is 1874. Beach would put money on the following report being the product of a bored American journalist; as we have seen on previous occasions nineteenth-century States-side scribblers were sometimes, ahem, untruthful. But what invention!

    This ‘wild man’ haunts the forest growths of the neighbourhood [of Nashua, Illinois], and only emerges at sunset. When he does ‘emerge’ his appearance is positively frightful, and enough to throw the boldest into fits. His face is supposed to be dreadful, but happily is covered with a pasteboard mask, with lions [wth?!?]] painted on the cheeks. Singular are his actions, yet more singular is his costume. His dress is composed of cloth, striped yellow and white, and is painfully short, extending just below the hips. The too scanty garment is adorned with patches of rag carpeting fastened on with sharpened sticks and splinters.

    It is almost as if Salvador Dali has taken to the forests after a bad breakup.

    He was first seen in the early part of last month coming down the railway track near the Honey Creek Station-home, and while the station-master was gazing at him in mute horror the wild man made a dash a carpet and carried it off, it is presumed for purposes of personal adornment. He has long grey hair which covers his shoulders, and he has a disagreeable habit of walking on all-fours, and groaning and growling like bear.

    He also has superhuman capacities. Note this spring-heel Jack description.

    The other night he was chased by an organised party horseback, when he made the most extraordinary leaps over fences and completely baffled his pursuers.

    And who is he? Well…

    Some persons imagine that he is a philosopher, others a Communist, while others again maintain that he is an escaped convict. No one seems to know where came from, or where he expects to go to, but all are agreed that he is great nuisance, and that the sooner he takes himself from the township of Nashua the better. This, however he appears by no means inclined to do.

    The papers that pick this up credit the Oregon Register that does seem to have existed but that was, by definition, a long way from Illinois. Is there any chance this story has a local source? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com It would be a transcendent moment, proving that the universe rather than a journalist had a wicked sense of humour.

    Three comments here for 26 April 2015

    First overlapping and important comments on US geography:

    CC writes: I grew up in the Land of Lincoln, and had never heard of Nashua, Illinois, but I knew there was an Oregon, Illinois and assumed there was a nexus.  Investigating a little further, Nashua was a township (a unit of government that rarely makes the maps) in Ogle County in north-central Illinois up until 1993.  It was combined with neighboring Oregon Township to form Oregon-Nashua Township. The Illinois Newspaper Project has what one can only assume is a nearly definitive list of Ogle County newspapers here: http://www.library.illinois.edu/inp/county_results.php?county=Ogle. There are some contemporaneous “Registers” though none are from Oregon itself.  Still, I think it’s reasonable to assume that the newspaper in question came from thereabouts, rather than someplace 2000 miles to the west. I’ll leave to others whether the lion man existed or was made up by a “witness” or a bored reporter.

    Risker Writes: And Risker writes: Never thought I could add to your knowledge, BUT I CAN!!! Oregon, besides being a state, is also a city, small, but a city, in Illinois. Guess what is the name of the township it is in? I will tell you. It is in Oregon-Nashua township. So the source for the lions head story is, indeed, local! That doesn’t mean it is true, but still…

    Then Chris from Haunted Ohio Books has done some research on the clothes involved: Here’s the Daily Illinois State Journal [Springfield, IL] for July 29, 1874: p. 2. The interesting suggestion is made that the colors of his garment indicate he is an escaped convict.

    1 2

    31 May 2015

    Leif, an old friend of Strange History, writes:  Missed the Lion Man first time around. Nashua Township lies less than 40km west of my house, and I know the area fairly well. It is somewhat hilly and intermittently wooded, providing cover for someone who might want to hide– something one cannot take for granted on the Illinois prairie. 

    In the early days (the late 1830s), land speculators platted townships in hopes that towns might later develop. In Nashua’s case, this didn’t happen. 

    Neither the of the reports cites much which can be fact checked. The ‘Illinois State Journal’ mentions ‘Honey Creek Station’, a station agent named Wilson, a L.L. Mayberry and son, and Chaney’s meadow. 

    There’s a settlement where the rail line crosses Honey Creek, so it’s a safe bet there was a station there at one time. The 1870 census for Nashua lists two men named ‘Wilson’, while neither is listed as ‘station agent’, this would have been a part time position. No ‘Mayberry’ or ‘Chaney’ appears in the census. This, along with a non-existant source– the ‘Oregon Register’, would make one think that the story originated in the mind of a reporter who had a good map and a better imagination.

    But wait… The online census is not complete, and there is a ‘Rochelle Register’ which was published in 1874, according to the site cited above by CC. But for Oregon, Rochelle was the nearest town large enough to have had a newspaper, and if true, the story would surely appear there. Leif would visit the local library, but unfortunately he will (coincidently) move to the state of Oregon very shortly. 

    Cheers, Leif

     PS The association with a convict does not arise from the colors of the Lion Man’s costume, but rather its stripes, which resembled a prisoners’s uniform (see photo of my favorite convicts). 

    lion men

    28 Jan 2015: Stranger writes ‘Note that there are hundreds of these wild men from nineteenth century North America (literally hundreds). Many of these are subsumed into sasquatch by modern researchers: rightly or wrongly and I suspect wrongly! Then you have these strange, almost supernatural creatures like Lion Man here. We need a study of these, because local historians ignore them because they are nonsensical and sasquatch-searchers because they are, well, just not cryptid enough.

    25 Feb 2016: Ruththeunstoppablycurious writes ‘Just a further thought on this subject, I wonder if the reporter meant “lines” drawn on his mask, instead of “lion”? As in lion whiskers, maybe. Spelling in those days was still sketchy at times, unlike the beautifully spell-checked language of today. (NOT) I get a serious pain reading things, I think people are reverting to spell it like you want times.’