Flying Dragons, the Snallygaster being the United States version, have long been in the world’s different cultures. Ranging from China to Europe, and even seen in South America. This is North America’s flying dragon, the Snallygaster. Once known to roam in the wooded area of Central Maryland to Washington D.C..
The Snallygaster is said to live in the caves of Sugarloaf Mountain and sometimes to live in other areas such as the forests of South America. Come with us as we discover the dragon of the Americas.
Possible Origins and Descriptions
Described as a bird-reptile chimera, the cryptid creature is thought to be a myth handed down through the German immigrants that landed in the United States in the 1730s. At first, the creature was called a “Schneller Geist”, meaning “quick ghost” in German.
The Creature was thought to have been from Liberia or perhaps the West Indies. It traveled across the ocean for the lure of the “snoozeberries” to make itself a new nesting area relatively undisturbed.
The earliest descriptions of the cryptid describe it as having half-bird features and half-ghoulish features. Sorta like a siren mixed with a demon.
Some descriptions of the animal talk about it having a long pointed metallic-like bill. That was lined with a razor-sharp teethed beak that occasionally had octopus-like tentacles that came out of its mouth to grab victims easier. And like a monster squid, the creature could change its color like a chameleon.
It is also described as having claws like steel hooks, an eye at the center of its forehead, and enormous wings. The Snallygaster is thought to have two large feathered wings, a large horny head, and a twenty to thirty-foot-long tail.
The animal was said to have made screeching sounds “like a locomotive whistle”. The Snallygaster is thought to swoop down and silently grab and carry off its victims to drain them of their blood.
The Enemies of the Snallygaster and the Seven-Pointed Star
One of the mortal enemies of the Snallygaster is the Dwayyo. Known as the werewolf of the Mountains or Snarly Yow. These creatures have been in many epic battles over the years that began with the early settlement of the Middletown Valley.
The other known enemy of the Snallygaster is the Chilean Blue Eagle. Evidently, the Snallygaster and a Blue Eagle got into air combat against each other that was seen and heard in the Sugarloaf Mountain foothills and surrounding areas. Details later in this article.
The seven-pointed Star can be seen painted on many barns around the region in order to scare away the large creature. Even to this day, the tradition of having stars painted on the barn has been passed down through the generations.
Panic in 1909?
Newspapers ran wild in February through March of 1909 with stories of locals meeting against the Snallygaster in the woods of Maryland. Early in the issues, it seemed that the Snallygaster was seen and heard everywhere at once.
In the same year, in New Jersey, footprints in the snow made by the Snallygaster were discovered. Near Scrabble, West Virginia, the Snallygaster was close to snatching a woman but missed its chance. Near Sharpsburg, it was thought that the Snallygaster had laid an egg that was the size of a barrel in a farmer’s barn. A man in Casstown, Ohio, reported a strange creature that flew over his area and made terrible screeching noises.
These reports escalated when February 1909, the article proclaimed that a man had been snatched by a giant Snallygaster. That the creature had drained the man of his blood from his jugular and dropped his body against the hillside.
Near Cumberland, Maryland a man who operated a brick-burning kiln saw a sleeping Snallygaster. When it awoke it let out a loud scream and flew away.
In Hagerstown, which was south of Middletown, the Snallygaster was once again seen flying high over Lover’s Leap after laying another large egg between Gapland and Burkittsville.
The last reported sighting by the newspaper occurred in March 1909. Three men fought against the Snallygaster outside of a railroad station for an hour and a half. They managed to defeat the animal and it ran into the woods of Carrol County.
Rewards Offered and The Truth
This was disturbing the community so much that the Smithsonian Institution offered a reward for anyone who could bring in the hide of the beast.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was so convinced that the creature existed that he considered postponing his African Safari trip that year to personally hunt the Snallygaster.
However, all of this was for nothing as it was revealed that Middletown, Maryland’s Valley Register editor George C. Rhoderick, and reporter Ralph S. Wolfe had perpetrated a hoax on everyone because their readership had fallen and they were trying to rouse business for their respective papers. They used old folklore of the animals and parts of the legend of the Jersey Devil to use as a backdrop for the hoax.
Twenty-Three Years Later 1932
Twenty-three years later the Middletown Valley Register requested any information concerning any sightings of the Snallygaster to be reported for “scientific purposes”. This would have placed these ads in the newspaper in 1932. In the following months, the first of several reports were printed.
According to the Montgomery County Sentinel of December 2, 1932, the first reported sightings started happening around the Sugar Loaf foothills. The Snallygaster seems to have developed a taste for “tardy residents” of the area.
It is not explained how the Snallygaster learned that one of its mortal enemies, the famous Blue Eagle was in the area. However, according to the article in the Montgomery County Sentinel, the two creatures went to battle.
Residents of the Dickerson area and hundreds of motorists stopped to watch the aerial display in the sky. The Blue Eagle made several swoops. The Blue Eagle defeated the Snallygaster when it rammed its body and feathers flew and rained down all over Paris, Maryland.
The Snallygaster let out a huge shriek of pain as bloodied and exhausted it left in the direction of Brazil. It was reported that it was seen passing over Havana and heading toward the jungles of South America. It was believed that it would not return until the next Glacier Age.
One Year Later 1933
The next sighting of the Snallygaster comes to us from the Montgomery County Sentinel on August 17, 1933. The Cryptid had been spotted by at least 40 residents of Washington, Frederick, and Upper Montgomery Counties within a two-week span. The creature was usually flying low overhead in the Catoctin range near Braddock Heights in Frederick County.
It seems according to the newspaper, the war between Paraguay and Bolivia had disturbed its lair in the jungle. Or possibly an unknown egg of the Cryptid was not found in time and hatched.
However, on the Sunday before the 17th of August of 1933, the creature had been spotted in the sky flying at “60 miles a minute” by ten well-armed men. One man carried a bag of “snoozeberries” seeds that were supposed to be a powerful lure for the beast.
Ten hunters had seen the creature in its den. The time listed is this specific. It reads “Eleven minutes and eleven seconds after eleven on Sunday morning.” The report was that the creature was snoring in its cave on top of Sugar Loaf Mountain.
Wisdom ruled the day as they retreated from the lair as the creature was too far back into the cave to safely dispatch it. On their way through the towns, they warned the residents of the danger that lurked above them.
According to the Montgomery County Sentinel, the current creature was thought by scientists of the day to be hatched from the eggs of the creature that was in the area in 1909. It is thought that the reason that the creature was lured into the area was from the smell of the “snoozeberries” which were found only in the foothills of the Blue Ridge area.
Snallygaster Killed by Edward Lewis
According to the Worcester Democrat and the Ledger-enterprise on July 27, 1934, a man shot and killed a giant bird believed to be the Snallygaster. Edward Lewis who was a resident of Pleasant Walk, a residential area of Middletown Valley, relates the following story.
Lewis had noticed that he had started missing chickens from his flock for some time. He kept watching for the chicken thief. When Lewis shot the bird, it was badly wounded and made an attempt to attack one of his children. He made a second shot to kill the beast so that it could not kill his child.
Even though the eggs of the creature take 20 to 25 years to hatch, it was believed that the unusual heat of 1934 had caused the egg to prematurely mature. It was believed that the bird in question was a young Snallygaster. The creature measured 4 and 1/2 feet tall, had a bill of four inches in length and had a wing span of six feet from tip to tip. The unusual bird also had speckled feathers.
While the bird’s true identity is unknown, the residents of the time believed it was a Snallygaster.
We have always left it up to our readers to make up their own minds whether or not a story is fact or fiction. But we do have a few questions for our readers and listeners to consider. Are these people really seeing something in the Appalachian Mountain woods? Or could the myth of the Snallygaster be a story made up by a couple of journalists trying to sell more papers? Or did the newspaper journalist feel that they had to tell that they made up the story to save the reputation of President Theodore Roosevelt?
We cannot say if the cryptids exist or not. We can only say that others believe that they have seen, heard, or encountered these creatures. However, it is a legend that our Appalachian people hold dear, and who are we to say that they are wrong or right? But telling creepy and scary stories is a huge part of our culture.
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Snallygaster – Winged Creature of the Northeast
The Snallygaster of Maryland
A Flying Monster In Maryland
List of Newspaper Articles
Historic American Newspapers.
Library of Congress.
Montgomery County Sentinel. [volume] (Rockville, Md.), 07 March 1935.
Montgomery County Sentinel. [volume] (Rockville, Md.), 17 Aug. 1933.
Worcester Democrat and the ledger-enterprise. (Pocomoke City, Md.), 27 July 1934.
Montgomery County Sentinel. [volume] (Rockville, Md.), 02 Dec. 1932
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When we forget our past and who we are as a people, then we become who “they” say we are. ~~ David Sergent
I have attended the University of Kentucky. I have an Associates Degree from Hazard Community College and Technical School. I have also attended the University of Pikeville. I have taken several classes in Journalism as well as in the Appalachian History, Literature, and Sociology during my time at those schools.
I was born in Florida and grew up in Burdine, Kentucky. I have been married to David W. Sergent since May 4, 2013. I have two children and four grandchildren from a previous marriage. I currently live in Tennessee but my hope is to one day come back home to live in the beautiful mountains once more.