The Quick 10: 10 Animals of Folklore

We all know about Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox - especially if you grew up in Minnesota, where images and statues of the gigantor lumberjack and his cobalt companion are as common as the Golden Arches and Starbucks. But how about the axehandle hound? I bet a few of you are familiar, but there is some folklore out there that isn't quite as, um, huge, as Paul and Babe. Here are 10 of them.

hound1. The Axehandle Hound. Haven't you always wondered where those unattended axe heads go? Like pens in your cubicle, those things seem to walk off of their own accord. But they don't - it's really the work of the axehandle hound. As you can see, it looks like a dog and subsists on a diet solely made up of blades and handles. You are what you eat, right? It seems that the axehandle hound is found mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
2. The Fur-Bearing Trout. Yes. There are two ways this furry fish supposedly came about: either the rivers in the area in question (usually Colorado, Montana, Canada, Wyoming and the Great Lakes) are so cold that the trout grew hair to adapt, or a shipment of hair tonic was dumped into the Arkansas River and resulted in the oddity. Those stories are bunk, obviously, but at least the story has some basis: a mold called Saprolegnia sometimes infects fish, and a lot of the infection does kind of look like masses of white hair. But in reality, it's just mold. I think that might be grosser than hair, actually.

3. The Hoop Snake. This guy dates all the way back to at least 1784, when it was mentioned in a book called Tour in the U.S.A.. Snakes are scary for some people to begin with, but when you imagine a snake that is intelligent enough to grasp its tail in its mouth and roll after prey quickly like a wheel, they get downright terrifying. Some versions of the legend say the snake rolls up on its victim incredibly fast, then straightens itself out at the last possible second and sinks its fangs in. The only way to escape the beast is to dodge at that last second, causing the fangs to sink into a tree instead. Despite a $10,000 reward offered for anyone who could produce physical evidence of a hoop snake, one has never actually been brought in.

4. The snallygaster, according to folklore, is a dragon sort of a creature that lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Maryland. He (or she, I suppose) dates way back to the 1700s, when the German immigrants there spotted a beast and referred to it as "schneller Geist," which is a word used to describe a fast-moving spirit responsible for slamming doors and sudden gushes of air. The German word eventually evolved into "Snallygaster" "“ you can see it, can't you? Reports started appearing in the Middletown Valley Register in 1909; it was even rumored at the time that Teddy Roosevelt himself was interested in hunting the thing. He popped back up again in the Prohibition Era, when more accounts of loud, strange screeches from the Blue Ridge Mountains surfaced. These days, snallygaster is sometimes used as a generic term for something scary, kind of like the bogeyman. To me, it sounds like something Roald Dahl would have come up with.

5. The teakettler is perhaps the feline counterpart of the axehandle hound. Also located in Minnesota and Wisconsin, this little guy is a mix of cat and dog, walks backwards, and emits a sound like a boiling tea kettle for a meow (or a howl). Oh, and steam does, in fact, pour out of its mouth when it makes this noise. They're very shy, so few first-hand accounts of the creature have ever been recorded, but lumberjacks know that whenever they hear a boiling teapot in an improbable place for an actual pot of tea, it's definitely the teakettler.

squonk6. The Squonk is another Pennsylvania native that sounds like it would easily fit into the Harry Potter world. It's a nasty looking thing "“ droopy skin covered in warts and boils. It's aware of its horrible appearance, though, and spends a majority of its time crying and hiding from the prying public eye. If caught, it simply dissolves into a puddle of tears.
7. The splintercat is always in a bad mood due to the constant headache it has from breaking trees open with its skull. You'd be a bit cranky too! Legend has it that to get access to bees and their honey, the cat flies through the air and rams the tree, knocking branches off, withering parts of it and splitting it through to the core in some places. It resides mainly in the Pacific Northwest; there's even a creek named after it in Oregon. Even Julie Andrews knows about the splintercat "“ she wrote a children's book called The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles that featured a splintercat who belonged to the Prime Minister of Whangdoodleland.

8. The Joint Snake. If you thought the Hoop Snake was a bit fearsome, this one is worse. You can try to kill it by chopping it into pieces, but it's just going to reassemble itself like the T-1000. In fact, if you cut it up and then leave the knife you used sitting next to the piece, it will be sucked up into the regeneration and become part of the snake. I bet even Samuel L. Jackson would even cower to a knife-wielding snake. However, there may be a little nugget of truth to this one "“ likely, people have seen a type of legless lizard called the Glass lizard (so called because they are easily "broken") that can drop their tails off when a predator attacks. The tail then breaks into pieces and continues moving to distract the predator while the real lizard makes a hasty escape. Ummm"¦ creepy. Cool, but creepy.

9. The Wild Haggis proves it's not just Americans who make up silly creatures. The Haggis scoticus is, well, what a haggis looks like before it's caught and prepared. It looks somewhat like a cross between a badger, a skunk and a long-haired dog, apparently. Some "reports" say that the wild haggis has legs that are longer on one side of the body than the other, making for quick movement but only in one direction. The side of the body varies, though. The Wild Haggis is native to the Scottish Highlands.

10. The Wapaloosie is another lumberjack tale (I'm getting the impression that they needed to amuse themselves a lot). It lives in Pacific Coast forests and can get as far east as northern Idaho. It's about the size of a wiener dog, but has the feet and toes of a woodpecker, which helps it grip tree trunks so it can climb them like an inchworm to eat fungus.

Of course, you've also got the jackalope, the hodag and the Wampus Cat, but I figured those are more well-known than these (especially since the hodag and the Wampus Cat are sports mascots). Got any other obscure folklore creatures? Let's hear "˜em! After all, we need to know what to watch for"¦

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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