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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

Marquette's Man-Eater

Title:     Marquette's Man-Eater
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

Until it was worn away by the elements a curious relief was visible on the bluffs of the Mississippi near Alton, Illinois. It was to be seen as late as 1860, and represented a monster once famous as the "piasa bird." Father Marquette not only believed it but described it as a man-eater in the account of his explorations, where he mentions other zoological curiosities, such as unicorns with shaggy mane and land-turtles three feet long with two heads, "very mischievous and addicted to biting." He even showed a picture of the maneater that accorded rudely with the picture on the rocks. It was said to prey on human flesh, and to be held in fear by the Indians, who encountered it on and near the Mississippi. It had the body of a panther, wings like a bat, and head and horns of a deer. Father Marquette gave it a human face. The sculpture was undoubtedly made by Indians, but its resemblance to the winged bulls of Assyria and the sphinxes of Egypt has been quoted as confirmation of a prehistoric alliance of Old and New World races or the descent of one from the other. It has also been thought to stand for the totem of some great chief-symbolizing, by its body, strength; by its wings, speed; by its head, gentleness and beauty. But may not the tradition of it have descended from the discovery of comparatively late remains, by primitive man, of the winged saurians that crawled, swam, dived, or flew, lingering on till the later geologic period? The legend of the man-eater may even have been told by those who killed the last of the pterodactyls.

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Charles M. Skinner's short story: Marquette's Man-Eater