The monsters of Alton (Cap-Rouge) according to Father Marquette

Reproduction of one of Alton’s two monstrous creatures (photo Mike Linksvayer)

In 1673, in Cap-Rouge (now Alton) near the mouth of the Illinois River, Father Jacques Marquette and his French-speaking companions saw two monstrous creatures painted on the Cape that first frightened them, and that their Native American allies did not dare to look at for too long.

According to the Jesuit Relations written records, Father Marquette described them as follows “They are as large as a calf; they have horns on their heads like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger’s, a face somewhat like a man’s, a body covered with scales, and so long a tail that it winds all around the body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a fish’s tail. Green, red, and black are the three colors composing the picture… for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately the shape of these monsters, as we have faithfully copied it”. Nowadays, one of the two monsters has been reproduced (above).

Piasa, the bird that devours men

Drawing of Piasa by Jean-Baptiste-Louis Franquelin, cartographer of the King in Quebec, from the written description of Father Marquette (1678)

According to the Native American people, the legendary creature at the foot of old Cap-Rouge was called Piasa, meaning “the bird that devours men”. Today, more than 345 years later, the frightening monster of ancient places and times near present-day Father Marquette State Park is a cryptozoological landmark for thousands of visitors looking for the experience of the fascinating historic facts of Colonial French Louisiana of yesteryears.