Legend Says this Illinois Cave was Once Home to a Massive Bird
It's one of the more interesting Native American legends in Illinois. It's a cave that stories say once was home to a massive bird known as the Piasa.
The cave in question is a part of the limestone bluffs near Alton, Illinois. There's a painting on the walls outside which are not original. They are replicas of what Native Americans painted on the walls which greeted early European explorers in the region. It's the entrance to the Piasa cave.
As Wikipedia tells it, the Piasa is "a Native American mythical creature depicted in one of two murals painted by Native Americans on cliffsides above the Mississippi River". As the story goes, Father Jacques Marquette said this about the cave when he came upon it in 1673:
We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made us afraid, and upon which the boldest savages dare not long rest their eyes. 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...
Imagine seeing the original version of this back in those times. Freaky.
This past Fall, a couple of guys managed to get into the caves and shared video of what they found.
I find it sickening that there is now so much graffiti inside this historic cave. It's hardly surprising considering how close this area is to downtown Alton.
Did a Native American chief and 20 warriors really defeat a massive Thunderbird-like creature nearly 500 years ago? No way to know obviously, but hard to argue with a legend like this that has stood the test of time like the Piasa has.