Swamp Tales

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 Witch 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.

Rougarou

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.

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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.

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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.

One of the strangest legends surrounding the Honey Island Swamp Monster revolves around a train wreck which allegedly occurred near the Pearl River in the early part of the 20th century. According to this legend, the train was full of exotic animals from a traveling circus, which fled into the swamps after the train derailed. While most of the creatures would soon parish in the harsh swamp land the legend goes on to tell us that a troop of chimpanzees managed to survive and even went as far as to interbreed with alligators. The result was a strange colony of reptilian like mammals. However, this is impossible, because monkeys and alligators cannot interbreed.

The honey island swamp monster is allegedly to have a foul stench as other cryptids specifically in the Hairy Hominids category (Bigfoot, Skunk ape, Missouri monster, etc.) possibly due to the marsh’s natural smell.

The Legend of the Fifolet

Tales of buried pirate treasure are prevalent in the South, especially in Louisiana. As tradition states, before a pirate such as William Kidd or Jean Lafitte would bury their treasure, they would kill a member of their own crew to throw into the hole along with the chest. Doing so would bind the slain man’s spirit to the treasure, restlessly guarding the hoard until the crack of doomsday. This spirit would then take on the form of a ball of light, known as a Fifolet. Other names for the Fifolet include will ‘o the wisp and jack-o-lanterns. Usually a light blue color, stories and sightings of the Fifolet are prevalent in Louisiana.

One such story involves two men working on the railroad along Lake Pontchartrain. One night, a soft blue light moving through the trees awakened them. Having already heard the legend from the local people, the men grabbed their shovels and ran after the spirit, their minds on the fabled treasure. The light finally stopped, sinking into the ground. The two men dug furiously, with thoughts of a carefree life away from the railroad etched into their minds. After a few minutes, they struck something hard. Using their hands, they brushed away the dirt to reveal the top of a large wooden chest. At this point, one of the men got greedy, and struck his companion over the head. As the assailant began to pull up on the chest in an attempt to get it out of the hole, the ground around his feet began to sink. He tried pulling his legs free of the quicksand, but the more he struggled, the deeper he sank. As the other man started to awaken, he saw his friend’s last moments, screaming in terror as both he and the treasure sunk into the ground. Frightened that he might share his friend’s fate, he ran back to the camp, where he crawled back into his tent and waited for the morning. He returned when the sun had risen, but the only thing that he found from the previous night’s encounter was he and his friend’s shovels. The ground where both his friend and the treasure had been was solid once more. As he left the swamp, he could hear the sound of laughter in the wind, mocking him.

One can learn much from a visit to a Louisiana bayou. The spectacular sights of the various flora and wildlife, some of which are indigenous only to this state, would certainly make for an informative field trip. But if the reader should ever behold a light blue light zipping through the trees, think twice before pursuing it for its fabled hoard.

Legend of the Parlangua

The song “Legend of the Parlangua” was recorded by a Colorado based band named Cahoots.

Because the lyrics of the Legend of the Parlangua deal with the theme of the Louisiana Swamps, many people think it was recorded by a Cajun band.

The lyrics of Legend of the Parlangua are:

Down in the bayous of Louisiana,

Where the swamp moss grows on the back of your hand.

Papa set out from our one-room shack,

Said he went fishin’ but he never came back.

And Mama said “Son, don’t you ever go out

To Leroux swamp when the sun goes down.

Creature down there called the Parlangua,

He got your brother, now he’s got your Pa.”

Chorus:

The Parlangua’s the swamp boogie man

Half alligator and the other half man.

Son don’t go when you hear the call:

Of the swamp water booger, the Parlangua.

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