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What you need to know about the Piasa

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The Piasa, now depicted on limestone bluffs near Alton, looks like a dragon from long-ago Indigenous culture with wings, a beard, deer antlers, a scaled body and a long tail ending in a fork like a fish. 

However, that depiction of the Piasa is not in keeping with the actual Indigenous legends. Instead, what John Russell, a professor at Shurtleff College and fiction writer in 1836, created from a description by French explorer and Jesuit missionary Father Jacques Marquette, is likely another indigenous cryptid from around the middle of the continent and which has appeared everywhere from Pictured Rocks near Lake Superior to South America, the underwater panther. According to a speech given to the East Central Illinois Archaeological Society on Jan. 15, 2015 by Duane Esarey, director of the Illinois State Museum Dickinson Mounds, the underwater panther across the country is now classified as a Piasa incorrectly.



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So the name isn't supposed to be Piasa, because that actually refers to some supernatural dwarfs.

But the creature on the cliff doesn't appear in any to be a panther. No good description of a underwater panther is given though I'd imagine it would be very panther like..

So what is the creature on the cliff?

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Don't trust anything that claims to be the underwater version of something else. Sea monkeys, catfish, sea cucumbers, Aquaman...

My thought, based on two minutes of online searching, is that it's an imaginary creature, taking bits and pieces of other creatures--sort of a Cohokia Chimera, and about as pleasant. It was never intended to be real, but gave them something to hate and blame for problems. I'm probably totally off-base, though; I might dig deeper into this thing. I've heard of it before, but never really thought about it.

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