Friday, October 16, 2009

In Honor of Halloween, A Local Monster Story

The following piece was researched and written last summer for a local magazine (Gwinnett County, Georgia). I post it here in honor of the season. Sorry, no photos to post as yet. Those are currently trapped in storage in a malfuntioning remotedrive. I'll work on it.

The Wog (a true story)

Perhaps you are one of the many Gwinnettians who will be making the drive over to Athens this fall to attend UGA football games. Perhaps you are planning a late summer or early fall camping trip over at Fort Yargo State Park.

Perhaps, as you make the drive along Highways 78 or 316 one evening, you catch a glimpse of flashing red eyes from the side of the road. Perhaps, as you lay in your tent sleeping, you are awakened by a noise in the middle of the night. What of the flashing eyes by the side of the road? A deer, most likely. And what about the commotion in your campsite in the middle of the night? Probably a raccoon rummaging for food.

Probably. Maybe not.

Just three miles east of the City of Winder lies one of Georgia’s more unusual geographic oddities. Geologists refer to it as a peat bog, though there has been some discussion over the decades as to whether or not it might actually be a long-dead volcano.

Historical records indicate that the early white settlers to the area knew the place well. Numerous accounts are to be found which describe an area of some four to five acres of black muck that bubbled and boiled, and presented a hazard to man and beast alike.

The Creek Indians who inhabited this area referred to the spot as Nodoroc or, more precisely, Hell. The Creek believed Nodoroc a place inhabited by the Devil. Prisoners of war and criminals were sacrificed by tossing them into the muck. Occasionally, when no one else was available—and Nodoroc was particularly active spewing smoke—an innocent villager might be offered up as a sacrifice.

The Creek were concerned about appeasing the resident of Nodoroc. This fearsome creature, that the Creek believed to be the Devil, was called The Wog.

The Wog would go about at night, terrifying the local inhabitants, and devouring the bodies of their dead. When sacrifices were tossed into the bog, it was the Wog that would pull them under. Some of the victim’s ghosts are said to be heard screaming in the woods at night even to this day.

As white settlers moved into the area the story of Nodoroc and the Wog persisted, though in a somewhat less sinister form. Local histories recount settlers’ tales of the creature lurking about the countryside at night, sometimes frightening livestock to death.

Not unusual where myths and monsters are concerned, there was much agreement between the Native Americans and the white settlers as to what the Wog looked like. It was said to be the size of a small horse. It was covered in jet-black hair, and had a head that resembled a bear. Its legs were about the length of a deer’s, with the back legs slightly shorter than the front legs. It had huge, nasty teeth—so large that its ugly lips could not close over them. Not surprisingly, it had a long, forked tongue that darted in and out of its mouth, and red eyes.

Perhaps the Wog’s most distinguishing feature was its tail. It was said that its tail was long and had a wiry tuft of hair at the end. The creature continually swished its tail, creating a buzzing sound that could be heard at some distance. Settlers claimed to have heard the sound at night, and would occasionally see the forked tongue flicking in and out through the cracks in their cabin walls.

The Creek sold off the land of Nodoroc to white settlers (likely thinking that they were getting quite a deal). Over the decades, the bog was drained for agriculture. Still, it remained a hazard to livestock, though there are no records of the Wog having molested farm animals for some time.

On a recent visit to Nodoroc, my tour guides were Jimmy Hardegree, age 78 and a lifetime resident of the area, and his nephew, Andrew. Both are relatives of the man whose family has owned the property on which Nodoroc is located for generations.

Mr. Hardegree is a wealth of knowledge regarding local history. He even has his own “museum”, a recreated general store, behind his house and just down the road from Nodoroc.

A trail through the woods leads down to the bog. Our young guide, Andrew, points out a sign announcing Nodoroc. He says that the sign is a remnant of an Eagle Scout project conducted by his older brother years ago, when local schools would bring students over to see the site.

Today, Nodoroc is covered over by a growth of ferns. Still, there is no mistaking the dark, black muck. Even after two years of drought, the ground is spongy to walk upon. Andrew tells us that, when things (meaning “No drought”) are normal, it’s difficult to find a place on which to stand and not sink.

To illustrate, Andrew takes a large stick, maybe four feet in length, and easily pushes it down into the ground up to his palm. When he removes it just as easily, it is covered with a wet, black ooze, and makes a sucking sound as the stick is pulled out of the ground.

Mr. Hardegree talks about the area, how it was once covered in corn and how he farmed it himself years ago. He talks of mules and tractors having to be used to get cows unstuck from the bog. He speaks of other artifacts that have been found around the place and how, to his knowledge, no serious excavation has ever been conducted in the place once known as Nodoroc. Maybe people are too spooked?

Andrew laughs and tells about times when he has been down at Nodoroc and allowed his imagination to get the best of him. And how he was at a full run by the time that he got back to the house.

Neither Mr. Hardegree or Andrew have seen the Wog, though Andrew tells us that his brother and a friend did once see “something” off in the distance—something that was about the size of a deer, and was jet black.

That commotion in your campsite in the middle of the night—it’s just a raccoon going through your cooler.

But what’s that buzzing sound?

I'm thinking about going back to Nodoroc for a visit. I would like to see what the recent rains have done to revitalize the bog, and it seems like a Halloween thing to do.

RMR. And get spooked.