The Bizarre Legend Of The New England Cryptid, The Egopantis

Why is it that so many cryptids, backwoods beasties, and lurking creatures from local tales have such lame names? Bigfoot: That's a bit too on the nose — it's got big feet. Mothman: A man that's also a moth. Goatman: A man that's also a goat. Frogman: A man that's also a frog. The Jersey Devil: That one guy from "Jersey Shore" called "The Issue" or something. Maybe "Chupacabra" sounds exotic and cool unless you speak Spanish, in which case "goat sucker" isn't too intimidating. Olgoï-Khorkhoï the "Mongolian Death Worm" is better, until you realize it's probably just a snake. And then there's (drumroll) the Egopantis: A name that will never make sense no matter what way you slice it.

Here's the scene, as Atlas Obscura and the "Paranormal 60" podcast describe: Back in the late 1700s one Nathaniel Smith was fishing in the woods near Shirley, Massachusetts, a tiny town with a population of less than 7000 as of 2022. As the story goes, some "mighty and terrifying" creature had been hanging out in the area being generally scary. Smith, musket in hand, kicks in the door to the local Bull Run Restaurant and brandishes the head of the beast. "I did it!" he cries. "I slayed the ... uh ... Egopants — I mean pantis! I wounded it, and it charged at me from across the brook. And then I delivered the killing blow. You see? Just don't touch it, because the paint is still drying."   

Long live the Egopantis

To be fair, no one really knows what the — let's call it "head" — hanging on the wall at Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, Massachusetts really is. It kind of looks like a giant platypus, maybe a chunk of carved wood with some fur lining and marbles stuck on it for eyes, a failed attempt at taxidermizing someone's enormous leather shoe, or — yeah, who knows? But it's apparently been hanging in its exact, current resting spot over Bull Run Restaurant's fireplace for over 200 years. No one knows the exact year it arrived — when Nathaniel Smith valiantly rescued locals from its bill — or anything else at all. We do know that Bull Run Restaurant has been around since 1740 and looks like a pretty sweet old, wooden, cozy tavern if you're ever in the area. Beyond that, we've only got tall tales.

And to be sure: Those tall tales have served Bull Run Restaurant well. Aside from podcasts on sites like "New England Legends," blog posts on sites like that of writer M.A. Kropp, and entries in roadside attraction sites like Roadside America, the Egopantis has its own dedicated Bull Run Restaurant page. In full campy, self-aware, jolly fashion, the page dispels naysayers, writing, "Doubt flickers, rises, recedes. Legends grow. In 'boots off' comfort around our fireplace, YOU are the sole judge, as you have seen the Egopantis. And SEEING is BELIEVING! LONG LIVE THE EGOPANTIS!"

[Featured image by John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0 DEED]

Debunkers and investigators: give up now

Every source repeats the same condensed story about the Egopantis. M.A. Kropp's blog post repeats the tale, relayed by a waitress at the Bull Run Restaurant: There's a nearby brook called the "Mighty Mulpus;" Nathaniel Smith shot to kill; no more Egopantis. And in this iteration of the story, a quirky local eating a cheeseburger swears there's still an Egopantis hanging around nearby. All we need is Mulder and Scully and we've got the perfect setup for an "X-Files" episode. 

Despite all the goofy fun surrounding the Egopantis, the Bull Run Restaurant describes at least one attempt to debunk the story. There was apparently an unnamed military captain who unsuccessfully wrote to the Smithsonian Institution and Americana Institute in New York City to do ... something — it's not totally clear. Then there was Bull Run Restaurant "lady employee" Elizabeth Ryan, who investigated the alleged creature using "abundant and formidable encyclopedic volumes" but could find no clear zoological origin. Then there was a writer from the Boston Globe who visited and wrote about the Egopantis in an article that "has faded and all but disappeared" (and doesn't exist online).

But in the end, does the truth of the Egopantis really matter? No. It's just funny when people put an Uncle Sam hat on it, as musician Sophie B. Hawkins shows on her website. Sometimes that's enough. So check your ego (and maybe pants) at the door, and enjoy.