Maryland’s Snallygaster And Dwayyo
Stationed at Ft. George G. Maryland in 1979, I never left Maryland after being discharged. I lived there for over twenty years, and I hadn’t heard of any Maryland cryptids. The only one I had heard of was Chessie, named after The Chesapeake Bay. Chessie looks a lot like The Loch Ness monster, AKA Nessie. Chessie, like Nessie, quickly became a household name.
So, when I researched Maryland’s cryptids this week, I expected Chessie to show up. She did, but so did another cryptid with a fascinating history, the Snallygaster.
The Snallygaster has been around since the 1730s when German settlers came to America. Traveling to their new homeland, they brought their folklore with them. The Schneller Geist is a half-reptile, half-bird creature. Schneller Geist means “Quick Spirit,” and the name evolved to the Snallygaster. The picture I chose is an Image by kalhh from Pixabay.
Although the folk tale has been around almost three hundred years, the first sighting wasn’t until 1909. On February 12, 1909, T.C. Harbaugh living in Casstown, Ohio, reported seeing a half-bird half-reptile creature. He mailed a letter of his sighting, which was published by the Middletown Valley Register.
Harbaugh claimed he saw the giant monster flying towards Maryland. Soon after, reports of a flying monster flooded newspapers from all over Western Maryland. Also, in February, an article claimed a winged creature seized a man. Then it sank its teeth into the unfortunate man’s jugular, drinking all of his blood. After draining the poor man, it dropped his body on a hill before flying away.
If seeing a monster wasn’t bad enough, a couple of rumors got started about eggs. One story is that the Snallygaster laid an egg at Crampton’s Gap. Another story more exciting but less likely is someone tried to incubate the egg. That story got so big it captured the interest of President Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt was planning to go to Africa for a long-awaited safari until he heard about the Snallygaster. He briefly entertained the idea of canceling the safari and going Snallygaster hunting. In the end, Roosevelt decided a trip to Africa is more important. How the rumor got started is unknown.
The tale of the Snallygaster’s alleged egg at the Gap suggests that Snallygaster’s are procreating. If this is true, why hasn’t there been more sightings?
Snallygaster sightings continued over the years. In 1923 a Middletown resident told his tale to a Cumberland Newspaper. Charles Main, who owned Main’s Ice Cream, claimed he saw a flying creature. Main said, “its wing spread appeared to be between 12 and 14 feet. At times, he said, it threw out long streamers like the arms of an octopus, but would draw them in again.“
Then in December 1932, an article appeared in the Hagerstown Morning Herald. A report claimed that noxious fumes first overcame the Snallygaster. Then he drowned in an alcoholic vat of moonshine. Frog Hollow citizens found the drowned bird-like creature in a 2,500-gallon vat of alcohol.
The Middletown, MD, newspaper reported that a ten-year-old hunter killed the Snallygaster. Yet, neither newspaper had pictures of the dead creature. The residents of Frog Hollow accidentally blew up the still containing the bird creature.
How does one accidentally blow a still up, especially one with evidence of an unusual creature?
Another source states that moonshiners didn’t blow the Snallygaster up. Instead, two revenue agents showed up at the still with dynamite. The agents blew up the still and the Snallygaster.
If the revenue agents did blow up the still, why didn’t they report seeing the Snallygaster? If I had seen a monster, I would have said something. Then again, maybe they didn’t because nobody would have believed them.
There are some theories that the Snallygaster appeared because of political turmoil. There were no physical sightings in the 1730s when German immigrants moved to the United States. Sightings started in 1909 around the time of WWI and prohibition.
The government appealed the prohibition amendment in December 1933. A short year after the mysterious death of the Snallygaster, the prohibition ends. Speculation is that Snallygaster was brought to life to protect bootlegger’s alcoholic stash. The flying creature represented the moral compass for that era.
Reports say that Moonshiners brought the Snallygaster to life to scare revenue agents away.
Maryland author; Ed Okonowicz wrote “Monsters of Maryland.” He stated the Snallygaster liked to steal children and animals at night. With all the attacks happening at night, this could explain the reason for the lack of sightings. It made sense. Unless you are out at night a lot, you wouldn’t see this Chimera like creature.
Attacks continue with a woman claiming the Snallygaster attacked her physically. The woman suffered minor injuries, but Bill Gifferson wasn’t as lucky. The Snallygaster attacked Gifferson, and as his frightened friends watched, the Snallgaster ate him.
The Snallygaster returned in 1948, seen flying over Westminster, Maryland. Scholars liken the Snallygaster to the Native American “Thunderbird” figure. German farmers painted “Hex” signs on their barns to ward off the Snallygaster.
In 1973, Maryland State Police started searching Sykesville, Maryland. They were looking for a “for a huge, hairy monster described by residents as a cross between a Dwayyo and a Snallygaster,” The Baltimore Sun reported.
The good citizens of Sykesville reported the monster to the police. Witnesses say it stood 6 to 7 feet with a big bushy tail and black hair. This description doesn’t match the Snallygaster, which is supposed to be a Chimera.
The Dwayyo is another Maryland cryptid, more a Werewolf type creature. According to Maryland lore, a Dwayyis hatched from Snallygaster’s eggs. Another witness told the newspaper she heard the monster first cry like a baby. Then she heard it scream like a woman.
The Dwayyo is a wolf-like creature that stands upright like a man. Legend has it that the Dwayyo is the only creature that can destroy a Snallygaster. Then you have the lore where a Dwayyo comes from a Snallygaster egg.
There have been stories about the two cryptid’s interactions over the years. Folklore says there is a connection between the two, but nothing definitive about what that link is.
So, if you are driving through Southern Maryland and you see a shadow fly overhead. Or if you hear screeching in the night air, be careful; it could be the Snallgaster. The Dwayyo may not be far behind. The picture I chose is an Image by kalhh from Pixabay.