Exploring American Monsters: Wisconsin

 Jason Offutt Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland, is a state in the Upper Midwest bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and two of the Great Lakes, Superior and Michigan. It’s called America’s Dairyland for a reason. The state of Wisconsin produces more than 13.5 billion kilograms of milk per year, which is equivalent to the milk production of the United Kingdom. It also produces cheese, lots and lots of cheese; more than 1 billion kilograms per year. Fans of Wisconsin’s National Football League team the Green Bay Packers are affectionately called “cheeseheads.” In terms of size and population, Wisconsin hovers around the middle of the United States for both. It’s the 23rd largest state with the 20th largest population. The state is composed of plains, and hills covered with farms. There are forests, though, a lot of them; roughly 16 million acres that cover 46 percent of […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: West Virginia

 Jason Offutt West Virginia has always been a rebel. During the American Civil War, fifty counties of the Confederate state Virginia split off to form their own state West Virginia. This was the only state admitted to the Union during the war, and is the only state to have separated from a Confederate state. The Appalachian Mountains make up two-thirds of West Virginia, covering most of its 24,230 square miles in forested peaks and valleys. Bordered by the northern states Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and the southern states Virginia, and Kentucky, West Virginia is simultaneously considered the northernmost Southern state, and the southernmost Northern state. It’s the ninth smallest state and has the twelfth smallest population, but West Virginia is scrappy. The state is known for coal mining and logging, as well as outdoor recreation like white-water rafting, and mountain biking. West Virginia is home to the first Mother’s Day […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Washington

 Jason Offutt Washington state, the most northwest of the contiguous United States, is bordered to the north by Canada, the south by Oregon, and the east by Idaho. It is the eighteenth largest of the United States, and has the thirteenth largest population, although most of that population lives in and around the city of Seattle. The geography of Washington is diverse; there are lowlands, fjords, rivers, glaciers, and mountains (which include several volcanoes). All of these varying landscapes have one thing in common. Trees. Lots and lots of trees. An estimated 40.7 per cent of the state is covered in them. Famous Washingtonians include game show host Bob Barker, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, guitarist Jimi Hendrix, and TV’s Batman Adam West. Washington state is the only state to be named after a president. It’s also the only state with a Batsquatch. Batsquatch Mt. […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Virginia

 Jason Offutt The commonwealth of Virginia began in 1607 as the Colony of Virginia, the first permanent British settlement in the New World. It was also one of the original thirteen colonies to declare its independence from England. Virginia’s General Assembly is the oldest law-making group in the New World. Virginia was also the capital of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. Virginia and Maryland donated the land that became Washington, D.C., and because of that proximity to the nation’s capital about one-fourth of Virginia workers are employed by the United States government. Virginia’s geography includes the Appalachian Plateau, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and coastal plains; the easternmost part of the state is bordered by Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. And there are trees, lots and lots of trees. Sixty-two per cent of the state is forested, which makes up about 15.7 million acres. […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Vermont

 Jason Offutt Vermont is small. At 9,616 square miles the entire state could be dropped into Africa’s Lake Victoria. Not many people live there, either. According to U.S. Census data, Vermont is the second least populous state (behind Wyoming) with 626,042 residents. It is bordered by New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and the Canadian province of Quebec. There are mountains in Vermont, along with forests. What Vermont lacks in human population, it makes up for in trees. The state is 78 per cent woodland with 4.46 million acres of forest. The state’s firsts include the first state to join the original thirteen colonies, the first state to abolish slavery, and it’s first on the list of maple syrup producing states making 40.7 per cent of the country’s favorite pancake topping. Famous residents include President Calvin Coolidge, Mormon leaders Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, blacksmith and plow manufacturer John Deere, […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Utah

 Jason Offutt Utah, the Crossroads of the West, became the forty-fifth of the United States in 1896. At 84,916 square miles, Utah is the thirteenth largest state, but has one of the least dense populations. Early settlers to Utah include mountain men, adventurers, scientists, and Mormons persecuted for their religion. The headquarters of the Mormon Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is in Salt Lake City. The geography of Utah is 33 per cent true desert, 40 per cent steppes, three per cent humid continental, and 24 per cent mountainous. Of the numerous mountain ranges in Utah, the only mountain peaks greater than 13,000 feet are in the Uinta Mountains, and there are twenty-four. Utah’s largest lake, the Great Salt Lake, has a length of 74.56 miles, an area of 1,699 square miles, and is the largest salt-water lake in the Western Hemisphere. Famous Utah residents […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Texas

 Jason Offutt Texas is the second largest state in the U.S. It’s big. Really big. Texas’ one-time tourism slogan, “Texas – It’s Like A Whole Other Country,” is apt. At 268,580 square miles, the state is slightly bigger (and more polite) than the entire country of France. It boasts four city areas (Dallas-Fort Worth counts as one) that rank in the top ten most populous cities in America. There are still cowboys in Texas, as well as oilmen, and for some reason hipsters. Texas calls itself the Lone Star State to celebrate the fact that it was once an independent republic even though it’s also been under the flags of Spain, France, Mexico, the American Confederacy, and the United States. Famous people from Texas include actress Carole Burnett, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, jockey Willie Shoemaker, Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, aviation mogul Howard Hughes, […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Tennessee

 Jason Offutt The southeastern state of Tennessee is the birthplace of bluegrass music, Mountain Dew soda, miniature golf, the tow truck, and Jack Daniels Whiskey. It’s tied with Missouri as the state that borders the most other states (eight). It’s also the 36th largest state, but the 17th most populous. Famous Tennesseans include singers Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin and Tina Turner, actor Morgan Freeman, director Quentin Tarantino, former vice president Al Gore, TV mogul Oprah Winfrey, and pro wrestling legend Ric Flair (Woooooo). Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was established in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project that produced the first atomic bomb. This 440-mile-long state features plains, lakes, rivers, and mountains, and is the perfect home for the Tennessee Wildman. Tennessee Wildman In the late 1800s, residents of McNairy County, Tennessee, encountered a creature that wasn’t quite a man, but not quite a Bigfoot. The beast was reportedly […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: South Dakota

South Dakota is a state in the Midwestern U.S. It’s the seventeenth largest of the United States, but the fifth least populated. Famous residents include TV game show host Bob Barker, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, TV journalist Tom Brokaw, and Charlie’s Angel Cheryl Ladd. It’s also home to Wall Drug Store. Located on the edge of the Badlands in the town of Wall, people as far away as France, Afghanistan, Australia, and Antarctica (mostly a few hundred bored climate scientists) know how many miles they are from this tourist destination. The store that originally attracted travelers with free water as far back as 1930s has more than 3,000 signs around the world. If you haven’t seen one, you haven’t looked very hard. The state’s rolling plains to the east are covered in fields and ranches, eventually giving way to the stark beauty of the Badlands, and the Black Hills. The […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: South Carolina

South Carolina, one of the original thirteen British colonies, was the first to ratify the original U.S. Constitution (the Articles of Confederation) in 1781, and was the first state to vote to leave the United States during the Civil War in 1860 (don’t worry, it came back). South Carolina is known for many other firsts for the U.S.: the first round of golf in the New World was played in Charleston, the first symphony orchestra was organized in the state, as was the first public college, and the first museum. Famous people born in South Carolina were U.S. President Andrew Jackson, the Godfather of Soul James Brown, comedian Chris Rock, and baseball great Shoeless Joe Jackson. It’s not a big state (fortieth largest), or the most populous (ranked twenty-third), but the geography consists of sandy beaches, marshes, the Piedmont Plateau, rivers, and lakes, so what it lacks in size […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest of the United States. In size, literally fiftieth out of fifty at 1,545 square miles (the same size as a single county, Marathon, in Wisconsin). It’s forty-third in population density at a little more than a million. One of the original British colonies, it is called an island because the colony began on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay, and Rhode because the colony was once referred to as “Isle of Rodes.” The state is home to the Ivy League Brown University, and the fictional city of Quahog in the adult television cartoon, “Family Guy.” It is also the home state of “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, actors John Huston and James Franco, Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan, and maybe, just maybe, Bigfoot. Bigfoot hunter measuring a footprint. Photo courtesy of North Kingstown Patch. Bigfoot With only 393,000 acres of forestland in Rhode Island, it isn’t the […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania, one of America’s thirteen original British colonies, is a treasure trove of important points in United States history. Independence Hall in Philadelphia is the building in which the Declaration of Independence, as well as the U.S. Constitution were signed. Philadelphia is also home to the Liberty Bell, a symbol of American independence. Author, inventor, statesman, and founding father Benjamin Franklin died and is buried there. More modern famous residents (at least more modern than Ben Franklin) include artist Andy Warhol, actors Will Smith and Bradley Cooper, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and singer Taylor Swift. Pennsylvania isn’t a small state, nor is it large, ranking thirty-third in size. Its geography is diverse, containing everything from mountains to inland shores, and, of course forestland. Lots and lots of forestland. This gives Pennsylvania plenty of room for unknown creatures to lurk. The Squonk In the old growth forests in northern Pennsylvania […] Read More

Exploring American Monsters: Oregon

Oregon is nestled in the northwest corner of the United States between California and Washington. The state (the ninth largest) has 363 miles of Pacific coastline, the Cascade mountain range, forests, high desert, and beautiful expanses of water, from the Columbia River, to Crater Lake (with an average depth of 1,148 feet), to the 620-foot-tall Multnomah Falls. Mount Hood is the tallest mountain in Oregon, reaching 11,249 feet. Famous people from Oregon include “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, actor and greatest living man Bruce Campbell, director David Fincher, inventor of the Erector Set Alfred Carlton Gilbert, The voice of Gumby and Tony the Tiger Dallas McKennon, and “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk. Then there are the sea monsters, and if Groening had drawn them they would all have overbites. Wally The surface of Wallowa Lake is 4,372 feet above sea level in the Wallowa Mountains. The lake, carved during the […] Read More