In Episode 100, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger drive around Glastonbury, Connecticut, in search of the Glawackus — a creature witnessed by hundreds of people back in 1939. Farm animals go missing, pets are killed, and hunters take up rifles in search of this strange beast. Then the media gets involved and the rest is legendary history. We see the maps of sightings, hear from the witnesses, and explore how the Glastonbury community embraces the weird!
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
RAY: Glastonbury, Connecticut. Just a bit southeast of Hartford. And we’re driving around looking for a what?!
JEFF: Ray, it’s some kind of creature.
RAY: That’s not much to go on, Jeff. A creature? Big? Small? Does it fly? Swim?
JEFF: I’ve heard some reports that it’s got the head of a dog, and the body of a lion. Maybe even a horn on its head.
RAY: How does something like that hide in Glastonbury?
JEFF: I don’t think a creature like this has to. We’re on the hunt for the Glastonbury Glawackus.
JEFF: Hi, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to Episode 100 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: That’s 100 episodes in 100 consecutive weeks without missing one. Thank you to everyone who has been there from the beginning, and thank you to those of us joining us for the first time today.
RAY: A very big thank you to our patreon patrons who helped us make it this far. If you want to become a bigger part of the movement, head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends and for as little as $3 bucks per month you’ll get early access to new episodes plus bonus episodes that no one else gets to hear.
Jeff: You can also email us anytime at email@example.com if you’ve got some feedback or a story idea for us. Which is exactly how we heard about this week’s strange tale. We got an email from Eddie Guimont (Key Mont with a hard G – Ghee Mont) from Galstonbury, who mentioned the creature, and we ran with it.
RAY: Speaking of strange tales… does the Glastonbury Glawackus have a tail?
JEFF: In most versions of the story… yes it does!
RAY: Let’s head back in time and see if can sort this out.
RAY: It’s early January of 1939 here in Glastonbury, Connecticut. The population is about 3,800 people in the 52-and-a-half square-mile farm town. And that’s about what the population was a hundred years earlier. Meaning, things here haven’t changed much.
JEFF: About this time, something strange is happening on Glastonbury farms. Animals are being attacked.
[SFX ANIMAL RAGE NOISES]
JEFF: Farm animals are turning up mutilated, and the farmers are left scratching their heads as to what caused it.
RAY: We have to remember that farm animals do get attacked by dogs, coyotes, foxes, bears, and all kinds of other animals. It happens, the farmers know it, and they know what those attacks looks like, but this… this seems different.
JEFF: Pet dogs are being killed, others are clawed and left bleeding, a goat or two goes completely missing, wild animals are found dead, and now everyone is spooked.
RAY: That’s when Nat A. Sestero, a young newspaper reporter for the Hartford Times, gets wind of the animal attacks and writes up the story for the newspaper. After all, this is news. Locals need to be aware that something is terrorizing area farms.
NAT: I wrote it as a straight news story.
RAY: Sestero said of his article. And that may have been the end of things, just a curious news story about animal attacks, but then another writer at a competing Hartford newspaper called the Hartford Courant, sees Sestero’s article, and decides his readers might like a different take.
JEFF: That would be a man named Pelton Ferry from the Hartford Courant. He’s a stringer, meaning he’s paid by the column inch of words published. He starts writing these sensational articles about an unknown beast roaming the countryside of Glastonbury killing animals and pets. And readers only want more. Now, two newspapers are doing their best to scoop each other on sightings of this strange animal.
NAT: There were all sorts of theories about what kind of animal it was.
JEFF: Sestero said.
NAT: One was that it was a catlike creature that had escaped from some kind of circus. Several people said they had seen something, but the descriptions varied widely.
RAY: Reports are coming in every few days, and more articles go up. People are describing what they saw. People like Joseph Bonvouleir of Hartford.
JOSEPH: I’m positive it was a black, powerful beast. I shot at it Saturday morning with my double-barrel shotgun. The left barrel fired, but missed. The right barrel failed to discharge.
JEFF: Then more witnesses come forward with more information. Like Rhoda Herrick of Hartford who is also a hunter.
RHODA: Late Wednesday afternoon I saw a slinking animal on the New London Turnpike at Ten Curves. It was a dark, tawny color. It was about three feet long and two feet tall with a cat-like head.
RAY: People are describing what looks like a panther. Black panthers are typically found in Africa and Asia, and then there’s black jaguars which are found in Central and South America. Where they’re definitely NOT found is North America and especially New England, which leads some to speculate that maybe this animal escaped from a zoo or carnival and is now roaming Connecticut.
JEFF: While the escaped animal theory would easily explain everything, it doesn’t close the case, because other witnesses come forward describing a larger animal the size of a lion, with a more canine head. And the newspapers are eating it up.
RAY: What happens next will propel with story from strange animal sighting into the stuff of legend. Local radio personality Lowell Thomas broadcasts that an unnamed Connecticut scientists has identified this beast and given this creature a name.
JEFF: What name would that be?
RAY: The Glawackus.
JEFF: I like it. It sounds almost Latin.
RAY: As you can imagine, other folks in the media start to question who this unnamed source is.
JEFF: (INTERRUPTING) Accusing the radio host of fake news?
RAY: Exactly, and that’s when the Courant comes clean. The term Glawackus was made up by the paper’s assistant state editor Frank King. King admitted he made the term from Glastonbury, Wacky, and Us.
JEFF: The Glawackus.
JEFF: And now this creature has a unique name, differing eyewitness reports with on-going sightings, and Glawackus fever strikes Glastonbury. Now people are hunting this thing. The Hartford Courant prints a hand-drawn map marking where the sightings and animal attacks have occurred and speculating as to the path the creature is taking through Glastonbury.
RAY: The eyewitness accounts are getting stranger as well. There’s talk of horrible, blood-curdling screams coming from the beast that echo through the hills of Glastonbury.
JEFF: Another person claims it cries blue tears. Another says it has a single horn on its head.
RAY: The Glawackus fever is spilling into every part of life in the Greater Hartford area. And newspaper advertisers don’t plan to miss this boat. Jeff, check out some of these ads from the January 24, 1939 Hartford Daily Courant.
JEFF: (LAUGHING) This is great! This ad is from Plasikowski Incorporated, 73 Pratt Street in Hartford. They make clothing from animal pelts. The headline of the ad reads: We will gladly take the Glawackus pelt and make a Glawackus coat or scarf at our regular rates!
RAY: (LAUGHING) Here’s another from the Laurel Oil Company. It reads: Be ready for a quick get-away from the Glastonbury Glawackus by using Laurel Oil Esso gasoline and a new Atlas battery!
JEFF: These are amazing. Here’s an ad from The Binee salons that says: Don’t look like a Glawackus! Get yourself some permanent waves for $2.95 to $3.45 – I guess the price depends on how Glawackus-like your hair is at the time.
RAY: (LAUGHING) Okay, one last ad. This one is from Mohican Market and Bakery. There’s a tiny line at the top that reads: We cannot agree to supply you with… and then in big, bold letters it says: Glawackus Steaks, then goes on to read: they’d be much too tough and stringy to please you. Instead, they’ll sell you sirloin, cube, or round steak for 33 cents per pound.
JEFF: The Glastonbury Rifle Club creates a mock-up of the Glawackus that its members can shoot at on the range, and then the whole town decides to throw the Glawackus Ball. A town-wide dance where you can come shake a leg in honor of a weird creature that no two people seem to describe in the same way.
RAY: As winter melts to spring of 1939, locals get tired of Glawackus fever and just move on.
JEFF: Do the sightings stop? Is the creature killed?
RAY: Nope. The sightings continue. Many people all over town continue to report seeing the thing, and even though some 200 hunters have searched for this beast over the winter, no one has claimed to hit it with any bullets.
JEFF: So pretty soon the newspapers move on as well and stop reporting the sightings, and the town goes about its business until this creature is a memory.
RAY: But it never completely goes away. In 1966, seven horsemen riding in Deep River, Connecticut, which is about 20 miles south of Glastonbury as the crow flies, report they see something strange and immediately think of old stories about the Glawackus. The town’s First Selectman is among those riders, and says when the creature stood on its hind legs, it was as tall as a man.
JEFF: After a second splash in the mid-1960s, eyewitness accounts of the Glawackus go silent as the creature drifts into legend, only to get dug up again every few years in those “remember when?” newspaper features.
RAY: So driving around Glastonbury today, you don’t think we’ll see any kind of lion creature roaming the streets?
JEFF: I don’t.
RAY: What do you think really happened?
JEFF: I think something weird and abnormal was lurking in Glastonbury in 1939. Too many farm animals and pets were killed by some predator, and there were way too many eyewitness accounts to dismiss it. But as the legend grew, as the newspapers printed any crazy account someone brought to them, the beast quickly evolved from some kind of escaped zoo animal, to a horned beast no one has ever seen before. Maybe it was a black mountain lion?
RAY: Okay, mountain lions do make it down to Connecticut on occasion. Even today. But I looked into this, and while some experts accept the possibility that a mountain lion could be melanistic, or black in color, there’s never been a confirmed case of that variation on the animal.
JEFF: Oooo the plot thickens!
RAY: Yes it does.
JEFF: Then I only have one possible explanation for what this creature was.
RAY: What’s that?
JEFF: A Glawackus.
RAY: It’s a good a name as any. Congratulations on 100 podcast episodes so far, Jeff.
JEFF: Congratulations to you too, Ray! We debated whether we should have some kind of extravaganza show to mark 100 episodes, but in the end we agreed that as with all of our episodes, this one could be someone’s first. We’d rather you experience what we do each and every week. If you want to see our entire archive of shows, plus links to the New England Legends television series on Amazon Prime and PBS, and dates for my upcoming story tour, visit our Web site at ournewenglandlegends.com.
RAY: If you enjoy what we do, please tell a friend or two. Post about us on your social media, or give us a review on iTunes. Those reviews really go a long way in helping others find us.
JEFF: We’d like to thank Eric Altman for lending his voice acting talent this week, and we’d like to thank John and Beth Judd for also lending their voices. That would be the same John Judd who composes and performs our theme music each week. Thanks John!
RAY: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think!
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