Our official monster since 2011
I have this county certificate hanging on the door to my home office. It’s dated July 21, 2011, and it’s signed by the three county commissioners at that time. It declares the official monster of Clinton County.
Oh, you didn’t know there’s an official monster of Clinton County? Well, pay close attention, now, because there has been for a decade.
It’s the Giwoggle’s ten-year anniversary.
I first encountered the Giwoggle in the archives at the Ross Library. An old issue of Keystone Folklore Quarterly magazine, specifically. It was an article by George Rhone, who’d grown up in Keating Township, and he told of this monster his grandmother had described to him when he was a child.
The Giwoggle was a sort of hybrid animal, with the body of a wolf, bird claws instead of hands, and horse hooves instead of feet. It could walk either on all fours, or upright. This, according to legend, confused the hell out of anyone attempting to follow its tracks. If you think nothing like this occurred in nature, you’re not wrong — according to the stories, Giwoggles were conjured or summoned by witches, who routinely lived in Keating Township in the late 1800s.
Belle Confer, Rhone’s grandmother, told him and his siblings stories of the Giwoggle (and the man who hunted them, Loop Hill Ike) in the 1870s. I’ve been studying this stuff for years, and I’ve never yet figured out whether she was the creator of these stories, or heard them and passed them on. It doesn’t matter, I suppose — they’re a neat legend either way, this old story from the north end of Clinton County. I’ve studied cryptids and legends most of my life, and there’s nothing anywhere else quite like this one.
I first stumbled on the story sometime around 2006, and I looked into it a little. In 2008, I began writing for the Express, and eventually I wrote a few articles about the Giwoggle, too. I have received a lot of comments like, “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never heard of this thing before.” But my response is that you apparently never checked Keystone Folklore Quarterly, or read too many of my columns, up until now.
At first the Giwoggle was just something of a novelty for me, but eventually I began to see how this thing might be used for tourism, too. So I attended a July meeting of the Clinton County commissioners, and I pitched the idea that the Giwoggle be declared the county’s official monster. They were all open to that, largely because there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for that title. Maybe the Susquehanna Seal, in a pinch. (Don’t ask. We’ll talk about the Susquehanna Seal another time.)
A few years ago, I discovered some old articles from 1909. In the winter of that year, a Giwoggle apparently came down from the north end of the county. They weren’t kept up there exclusively, evidently. A man was on his way to work very early in the morning, and claimed to have seen a Giwoggle running around on a roof downtown. (It was 214 Vesper Street, in case any of you feel like checking.)
So Clinton County has had an official monster for ten years this month. These days, you can order a Giwoggle T-shirt if you know where to look. I have three of them. Also a Giwoggle mask that I had custom-made, you know, for work purposes. I mention the Giwoggle on a lot of my tours, and you can find a lot of articles I’ve written about it.
How do you celebrate ten years of an official monster? I actually don’t know, but I thought that writing a column about it would be nice. And I think back on a decade ago, when I wanted some way to advance tourism… and just like the witches of the old days, the Giwoggle was there when I needed him.
Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-660-4463.