March 01, 2015

The Pigman On TV: "Half Human, Half Hog, 100% Hideous"

Here's a little history about one of my favorite monsters, the Pigman of Northfield, Vermont. 

Way back in 1999, University Press of New England printed Green Mountains, Dark Tales by Vermont folklorist Joseph Citro. Towards the back of the book was a story told to Citro by Jeff Hatch, a resident of Northfield. The story was about a horrible humanoid monster that lurked in the woods outside town: the Pigman.

As his name implies, the Pigman has a humanoid body and the head of a pig. He is most often seen in a wooded area called the Devil's Washbowl, where he likes to menace teenagers at night. Jeff Hatch thought he was a missing a farm boy gone feral, or perhaps the "consummation of blasphemous backwoods bestiality." Joseph Citro estimated that hundreds of people in Northfield were familiar with the Pigman story.

That number was destined to grow. In 2005 Citro's book Weird New England was published by Sterling Publishing Company. Hard cover and filled with color illustrations, Weird New England was more widely distributed than Green Mountains, Dark Tales and could be found in bookstores across New England. The Pigman legend spread.

Soon, the Pigman appeared on the Web, often accompanied by the illustration from Weird New England or Citro's later book, The Vermont Monster Guide (2009). I've posted about the Pigman three times:

1. In 2011, the basic, original Pigman story. In 1971, teenagers drinking beer in the woods see something horrible - is it a missing farm boy gone feral? But if it is, why does he have a pig's head?

2. In 2013, I posted an updated Pigman story that was circulating on the web. According to this story, the Pigman was really a missing teenager named Sam Harris. Sam had gone out to cause trouble on Picket Night, which was the local name for the night before Halloween. He was never seen again, but something returned to his parents' house three years later, leaving madness and insanity in its wake...

3. In 2014, I found another Pigman account that was circulating on the Web. According to this story, in the 1980s a group of teenagers were camping overnight in the Devils' Washbowl when one was clubbed over the head and dragged into the night by a man wearing a pig's head. I had found the story on a website that presented it as true, but it turns out that particular story was actually written by horror writer William Dalphin. Fact and fiction are intertwined in the Pigman legend...

This February, the Pigman got his widest exposure yet when the TV show Monsters and Mysteries in America ran a segment on Northfield's favorite monster. With taglines like "Half human, half hog, 100% hideous" and "Where the man ends and the pig begins is anybody's guess", the show featured some of the familiar Pigman stories, but also included some that were new to me. For example, a young man making out with his girlfriend in the Devil's Washbowl is attacked by something that leaves claw marks on his stomach, and a group of teenagers encounter something pale and swine-like that tosses branches at them as they walk in the woods.

The Pigman stories have always seemed like they were shaped by basic horror movie tropes: misbehaving teenagers, dark woods, and sexual transgression. The Pigman himself is often described as naked, pink, hairy, and sometimes muscular. He's a terrifying walking libido. One older Northfield resident even says teenage boys would tell the story to get their girlfriends to cuddle a little closer. Anyway, Monsters and Mysteries presents these stories in an appropriately lurid fashion, or as lurid as a basic cable show can get away with.

I'm sure this isn't the last of the Pigman saga. Now that he has appeared on TV I'm sure that more stories about his porcine terror will pop up. Whether the stories are true or false, it's interesting to watch as a legend takes shape.

1 comment:

Joe Citro said...

Hi Peter-- I'm just catching up with your wonderful blog. You write 'em faster 'n' I can read 'em. But about that damn pigman. I was the first ever to write about him. Jeff Hatch told the story directly to me and I wrote the story; nothing prior had ever been written. Everything comes from that first telling in "Green Mountains, Dark Tales". Without getting into copyright issues, one of the many interesting aftershocks is that NO ONE has ever contacted me about the story. And most especially the the TV teams. I don't do TV for reasons that may be obvious, but the point is, how thorough can the various retellings be? Like any good folktale, people like to take it and run with it. Same thing is happening with a story Steve Bissette and I totally fabricated, the saga of "The Midnight Cow" in The Vermont Ghost Guide. It is starting to appear as a true story in may other publications, none of which checked with me first. And so it goes... --J