Local folklore tells of a fearsome beast known as the “Snallygaster.” Reports of this creature reach back as far as the 1700’s and have popped up throughout the region in Washington DC, Frederick County, Westminster, and Sykesville.
Though sightings of the infamous snallygaster are few and far between these days, it remains an essential part of Maryland’s history and the legends that form our past.
The Origins of the Snallygaster
The Snallygaster first popped up in the 1700’s when German immigrants shared a harrowing tale of a reptilian creature that roamed the countryside. The Snallygaster was first written about in 1909 in the Middletown Valley Register. Their account described a flying monster of dragon-like proportions headed towards Maryland’s northern mountain range. Later on, another account was written about depicting a similar beast sleeping on a kiln before screeching and flying off.
Snallygaster is a #dragon-shaped flying creature hailing from #NorthAmerica. The easiest way to describe it is as a half #bird, half #reptile. Once #Snallygaster was considered a subspecies of the #dragon, but now it is known that it is a distant relative of the #Occamy. Snallygaster is not able to breathe fire, but has steel fangs, which tear off prey. To create the image of Snallygaster, I was inspired by a majestic #eagles, carnivorous #dinosaurs and ancient giant birds like #Phorusrhacos. Although Snallygaster is considered a flying creature, he flies poorly and hunts more often on the ground. Flight is needed for a quick journey through the desert and mountainous terrain in which this creature dwells. In the #Magic community, there is a special organization, the "Snallygaster Protection League", which erases the memory of all the #No-Majes who saw Snalligaster. However, in the nonmagical community this beast is a #cryptozoological creature (like #Chupokabra), according to the legends living in #Maryland. The first mention of it dates back to the 18th century. German settlers, who first saw this bird-dragon-like creature, called it Schneller Geist, which in means "fast ghost" in German. They described it as a cross between a reptile and a bird, with a steel beak with sharp fangs and tentacles. I assumed that they saw the long tongue of a bird and its tail as a tentacles. It's amazing how sometimes the world of #Magi and #No-Majes intertwines! #maryquizearts #fantasticbeast #harrypoterart #illustration #1page1week
At the time, the Snallygaster was said to snatch children, steal livestock, and generally cause havoc. In fact, the stories became so prolific that Teddy Roosevelt wanted to hunt for it and the Smothsonian Institute had a bounty placed on it, according to Weird Maryland. Hunters from Emmitsburg reported that they had fatally wounded the beast and stories about it faded out for a long while.
During the Prohibition era, more tales of the beast appeared claiming that it would snatch people who got too close to the northern mountains in Maryland where bootleggers did their work. Even the Baltimore Sun wrote about the Snallygaster during this period. At this point, the tales of the beast were used to deter people from messing with illegal distilleries in the mountains. The creature was said to have been slain later as Prohibition looked like it would come to an end.
The Modern Resurgence of the Snallygaster
In Sykesville’s main street, there are murals depicting the infamous creature and its story can be found throughout the area. The Snallygaster Project is a combination of a book and a mural project. The book is the work of Gate house Museum Curator Jack White. For a complete list of mural locations and more information about the artists who worked on them, click here.
There’s also a craft beer festival called “Snallygaster” that takes place in Washington D.C. The festival will take place on the 13th of October in 2018 and will definitely offer a day of wild fun. You can learn more about the festival here.