What is an argopelter? According to American folklore, it is a rather xenophobic creature that is said to inhabit hollow trunks of the dense stretches of pine tree forests from Maine to Oregon. Since I live in a state that was once a home to the lumbering industry, it was interesting to come across lore of this cryptid. I can imagine the argopelter nestled into a darkened hollow of a tree in the great forests of the UP. Waiting for the unwary trespasser.
Folklore states that the argopelter is fast, so quick that it could launch a tree branch at you and take off into the woods before you even knew what hit you, if you were lucky enough to survive. It’s primary target was often the lumberjacks sent to cut down the trees of its forest. Most tree limb related deaths of lumberjacks, were often chalked up to accident and a common hazard of the trade. However, a survivor of a such an “accident” claimed that a reclusive, little known creature was the perpetrator.
Big Ole Kitterson had been searching for lumber along the upper St. Croix river when he encountered the creature.
“It had a slender, wiry body, the villainous face of an ape, arms like muscular whiplashes, with which it can snap off dead branches and hurl them through the air like shells from a six inch gun,” he had said, managing to catch a glimpse of the critter after the failed attack. The branch chucked at him had been pulpy and rotten so, instead of killing him, it burst apart into slivery pieces when it smashed against his head.
But there is another, less menacing version of the argopelter (also known as a forest monkey). The story goes that once there was a critter, a sort squirrel-monkey hybrid, that occupied the untouched forests of the United States. This creature was gentle and friendly. It would often come out in the open, curious and eager to make friends. They became companions for the lonely lumberjacks, who were often far from home and family. However, the argopelter was a target of hunters and their population teetered on the edge of extinction until the lumberjacks taught them to defend themselves using branches or rocks. From that day on, the argopelter only attacked in self-defense, ready to hurl rocks and branches at anyone foolish to get too near.
The argopelter is said to give birth only on February 29th and always to a litter that contains an odd number of offspring. It eats “woodpeckers, hoot owls, high-holes, and rotten wood”, which might explain why the creatures are so rare. However, another theory states that if those animals are suddenly gone from your area, the argopelter may be the culprit. So be careful out walking in the woods and don’t go poking your head into tree hollows, you never know what you may encounter.
A note of appreciation and on resources: The photograph of the argopelter at the top was courtesy of Nicholas Osburn, my brother and fellow cryptozoology buff, thanks again Nick! The other two are mine. There were several interesting sites where I found the majority of my information. The first version I stumbled across on Wikipedia which led me to find “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods” by WM. T. Cox and is free to read online on a website commemorating the book’s 100-year anniversary. The second version I found on Let’s get creative, a website by Bruce Van Patter, a illustrator and author. Both discuss other cryptids besides the argopelter.
Oh, and I don’t know what a “high-hole” is so if any of you do, please let me know. Thank you.