In Episode 258, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger explore the hilly woods of Hamden, Connecticut, searching for a giant named Hobbomock. For centuries the Quinnipiac people told the story of a pesky giant who plagued their people. A giant who could change the course of rivers, and devour the local delicacies. The giant was ultimately tricked, and today you can still see where he lies sleeping in Hamden.
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[WALKING IN WOODS]
JEFF: Ray, do you remember the story when you were a kid, about Jack and the Beanstalk?
RAY: Of course! He trades a cow for a few beans. The goose that lays the golden eggs. Fee Fi Foe Fum….
JEFF: That’s the one. Spoilers… at the end, Jack bests the giant, chops down the beanstalk, and the giant falls to the ground dead.
RAY: Right. Somehow my mom told it better than that when I was a kid.
JEFF: That’s fair, we did that story no justice here today in Hamden, Connecticut.
RAY: Other than to trash a classic children’s story, why did we come to this forest in Hamden?
JEFF: We’ve come to Hamden looking for a REAL giant, Ray.
RAY: You’d think a giant would be hard to miss.
JEFF: This giant is so big that we’re too close to see it. We’re in Hamden, Connecticut, searching for the Sleeping Giant, Hobbomock.
JEFF: Hello, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to Episode 258 of the New England Legends podcast. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time.
JEFF: We’re a community of legend seekers always on the trail of monsters, ghosts, aliens, roadside oddities, strange history, and the just plain odd. We love it when you get involved. You can start by subscribing to our podcast, because it’s free. And please consider posting a review for us on Apple podcast. And tell a friend or two about our show. It’s how our community grows, and considering so many story leads come from you, the more listeners, the more weirdness we can bring your way.
RAY: Before we go hunting for a giant in Hamden, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
JEFF: Ray, it’s the height of summer.
RAY: It is.
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RAY: Okay, Jeff, so we’re looking for a giant in Hamden, Connecticut?
JEFF: We are. As I said before, we’re too close to see it right now here in the wooded hills. But if we head back a couple of miles over by the banks of the Quinnipiac River…
[WALKING IN WOODS]
JEFF: Okay, now take a look.
RAY: Okay, yeah I see it! It’s pretty clear that over to our left, or west, there’s a head, then it comes down a bit to a neck. As I scan to the east, it rises up again for the chest, then it tapers down again toward the legs and feet.
JEFF: The whole ridgeline of the Sleeping Giant feature is a little over one mile. The forehead is the highest point at 739 feet above sea level.
RAY: That’s a big giant! But clearly this is just like finding shapes in the clouds, right? No one actually believes there’s a giant under there, do they?
JEFF: It’s a complicated answer, Ray. Before we head back to figure it out, I brought a topographical map of Connecticut.
JEFF: You can see Connecticut doesn’t have a lot of big mountains.
RAY: No, it doesn’t.
JEFF: But there’s rolling hills and things like that.
RAY: Right, the most obvious are the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains in the northwest corner of the state. And there are more hills in the northeastern portion of the state.
JEFF: Right. And it’s easy to see that almost all of Connecticut’s hilly features run in a north/south direction.
RAY: Yeah, when you glance at the topographic map, that’s pretty clear.
JEFF: Most of this is trap rock that was formed 170 million years ago from volcanic activity. It runs north and south, and tends to break at 90-degree angles which can look almost like large stair-steps. But if you look closely at this ridge here in Hamden.
RAY: Huh… this one runs east and west.
JEFF: Right. It sticks out. Not only does it look like a sleeping giant, the ridge lies in a different direction than almost any other you can find in the entire state. Clearly something is different about this one. So let’s head back to the year 1422 and meet this giant.
RAY: It’s the summer of 1422 here in this lush valley by the river. This is the home of the Quinnipiac people who have lived here along the coast and in the river valley for centuries.
JEFF: This land is not only fertile, with abundant fresh water provided by the river, it also sits in a valley, offering some added protection from the weather. Then there’s the abundant food offered by the ocean that sits to our south. Plus, a number of important trade routes intersect here, allowing the Quinnipiac to trade and sometimes intermarry with other communities in the region. It’s a great place to live… now.
RAY: Yet, like any community, there are good days and bad. Sometimes food is abundant, and other times it can be hard to find. Sometimes the weather can turn sour and dangerous. Then there are marauding outsiders who occasionally get into the community and wreck havoc.
JEFF: That’s the worst! When times are bad, we can’t help put look for reasons beyond random chance.
RAY: Which is why when hard times seep in to their lives, the Quinnipiac people need only to gaze at this hillside, and repeat the story they’ve been telling for generations about the horrible giant that lies sleeping underneath that hill, and the good god that was looking out for them in times of trouble.
JEFF: For as long as the Quinnipiac have lived here, they’ve had to contend with a menacing giant named Hobbomock.
RAY: Hobbomock isn’t necessarily the embodiment of evil, but he does like to get his own way. He also has a weak spot for oysters.
RAY: Oh yeah. He’s been known to lurk on the coast and eat every oyster he can find, leaving none for the local people. And if he doesn’t get his way, he throws a temper tantrum. Just north of here he once approached the mighty river.
RAY: And stomped his foot so hard that it caused the river running through this region to change course! Several villages were flooded, and many Quinnipiac people were killed.
JEFF: So Hobbomock is a big problem.
RAY: A VERY big problem.
JEFF: One day, after Hobbomock had eaten every last oyster on the coast, he walked north…
[HUGE ECHOING FOOTSTEPS]
JEFF: To right here in the valley, where he laid down for a nap.
RAY: That’s when the creator-god, Keitan steps in to help the Quinnipiac. Now, because Hobbomock is a divine creature, Keitan can’t simply kill him. But he sees the giant asleep there in the valley, and seizes the opportunity. Keitan casts a spell on Hobbomock, so the giant will sleep forever.
JEFF: The spell works, and peace returned to the region.
RAY: Over the course of many years, grass and then trees began to grow over the sleeping giant until he was completely covered. Though it takes a little distance to get the right perspective, you can still see Hobbomock sleeping under this range of hills. And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: It’s worth pointing out that there is an alternative version to the story of Hobbomock.
JEFF: In another version, Hobbomock is a kind of misunderstood giant who was the spiritual leader of his people. He preached about balance with the animals and nature. So when his people began to lose their ability to communicate with the animals, Hobbomock grew angry and began punishing them, trying to get them back to the old ways. When you’re a giant, and your people are human-sized, that punishment can be brutal. So one day a village elder figured the only way to stop the destruction and wrath of Hobbomock was to present the giant with a platter of oysters that had been laced with a potion to make the giant sleep forever.
RAY: Got it. And the end result is the same… a giant lying west-to-east, asleep under a range of hills.
JEFF: Exactly. Today, you can walk all over Hobbomock, as there are 30 miles of hiking trails inside Sleeping Giant State Park. And seeing the profile of the sleeping giant doesn’t take too much imagination.
RAY: No, it’s pretty clear, especially from a distance. I love these old creation stories. You’ve got this geological feature that sticks out, not just because it looks like a giant, sleeping person, but because it runs east and west, and every other range of hills runs north and south. It begs some questions.
JEFF: It did then, and still does today. The Sleeping Giant stands as a testament that though there are monsters bigger and stronger than us, just like Jack, we too can still outsmart the giants, and leave behind a story worth telling again.
RAY: If you’d like to see a photo of the Sleeping Giant of Hamden, Connecticut, just head over to our Web site and click on episode 258.
JEFF: And that brings us to After the Legend which is sponsored by our Patreon Patrons!
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Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.