Throughout the United States and the world, there are innumerous tales of beasts and monsters. From Bigfoot of the Pacific Northwest, the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, the Mothman of West Virginia, and the Yeti of the Himalayas, the Earth is teeming with creatures of wonder and mystery. New England also has its share of strange beings and according to one legend, the preserved head of one of these animals is currently residing inside a historic tavern.
Shirley is a relatively small community around 30 miles northwest of Boston with much of its historic atmosphere preserved including the Bull Run Restaurant which was originally built in 1740 and allegedly got its name from an argument and brawl that broke out among the patrons shortly after hearing news about the Battle of Bull Run in Virginia during the American Civil War. But perhaps the most colorful and unusual history of the Bull Run Restaurant is the peculiar guest that occupies the space above the taproom fireplace and perpetually stares at guests and visitors with its dark beady eyes, the Egopantis.
According to legend, the Egopantis was a mighty and terrifying creature that once roamed the woods behind the tavern instilling fear among the locals. One evening, a Captain named Nathaniel Smith spotted the creature wading through the Mulpus Brook and took aim with his musket. He fired mortally wounding the creature which charged across the brook before succumbing to its injuries. The colossal Egopantis had been felled with its head and the musket both on display ever since.
However, the story of the Egopantis doesn’t end there as centuries later a visitor, who himself was a soldier and a Captain, penned letters to the Smithsonian and the Americana Institute in New York City to examine the creature. A woman named Elizabeth Ryan was sent and despite her knowledge and expertise, was baffled by the creature. An effort is underway to bring her back to the Bull Run Restaurant funded by donations placed inside a pewter teapot labeled “Bring Elizabeth Ryan to Bull Run to view the Egopantis Fund.” Over the years reporters, writers, and journalists have also visited and pondered at the visage of the creature and despite many attempts to dispel it, the legend of the Egopantis lives on.
Did a frightening and horrific beast once roam the woods around Shirley? Like so many tall tales throughout history, it’s most likely just that and the legend of the Egopantis is probably a modern invention inspired by mythical creatures like the Jackalope or from folk stories of so-called “Fearsome Critters” told around logging camps in the early 20th century. But maybe, just maybe, when times were simpler and the Earth was younger, fantastical creatures like the Egopantis once ruled the wilderness. After all, seeing is believing and as the Bull Run Restaurant says, “The Egopantis is dead. Long live the Egopantis!”