The Snallygaster: A Terrifying Creature of American Folklore

By Lumberwoods –, CC0,

Have you ever heard of the snallygaster? If not, you might want to think twice before visiting the rural areas of Maryland, where this fearsome beast is said to lurk. The snallygaster is a legendary creature that has been part of American folklore for centuries. It is described as a bird-reptile chimera with a metallic beak, razor-sharp teeth, tentacles, and a single eye. It can fly silently and swiftly, swooping down to snatch its prey and drain their blood. Some say it is real, others say it is a hoax. But what is the truth behind this mysterious monster?

The origin of the snallygaster legend can be traced back to the 18th century, when German immigrants settled in Frederick County, Maryland. They brought with them stories of a creature called a Schneller Geist, meaning “quick ghost” in German. The Schneller Geist was a half-bird, half-demon creature that haunted the forests and mountains. It was said to have a piercing scream and a penchant for stealing children and livestock. To ward off the beast, the settlers painted seven-pointed stars on their barns, which can still be seen today.

The legend of the snallygaster faded over time, until it resurfaced in the early 20th century, when newspapers began to report sightings of the creature across Maryland and nearby states. In February and March 1909, the Middletown Valley Register published several articles describing encounters between local residents and the snallygaster. The articles claimed that the snallygaster had enormous wings, a long pointed bill, claws like steel hooks, and an eye in the center of its forehead. It was said to make screeches like a locomotive whistle and to lay eggs the size of barrels. The newspaper also reported that the Smithsonian Institution offered a reward for its hide and that President Theodore Roosevelt considered hunting it personally.

However, it was later revealed that these reports were part of a hoax perpetrated by the newspaper editor George C. Rhoderick and reporter Ralph S. Wolfe in an attempt to increase readership. They invented the descriptions of the snallygaster by borrowing elements from existing German folklore and from the Jersey Devil, another cryptid that had been spotted weeks earlier. They also fabricated letters from eyewitnesses and experts to lend credibility to their stories.

The snallygaster hoax did not last long, but it left a lasting impression on the public imagination. The creature became a popular subject for books, movies, TV shows, and video games. It also inspired an annual beer festival in Washington DC called Snallygaster, which features hundreds of craft beers and ciders from around the world. The festival is named after the snallygaster because it is said to be “the beastliest beer festival” in DC.

The snallygaster may not be real, but it is certainly a fascinating part of American folklore. It reflects the fears and fantasies of generations of people who lived in or near the wilderness. It also shows how stories can spread and evolve over time, influenced by culture, media, and imagination. Whether you believe in the snallygaster or not, you have to admit that it is a terrifying creature that would make anyone think twice before venturing into the woods.


Snallygaster – Wikipedia
Snallygaster – Winged Creature of the Northeast – Legends of America
Snallygaster 2022 | Washington DC
Snallygaster 2022 in Washington D.C.

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