The snallygaster does not make it into Dahlgren's work by name. However the former is seemingly composed of the rich folklore that precedes it. For the caverns of South Mountain, where the monster is alleged to dwell, is home to yet another creature— the Eastern Racer. Not only does Dahlgren described these snakes in detail, but exclaims that, “of the various hair-breadth escapes that of snake stories is a favorite theme on this Mountain.” 1


An obscure newspaper item entitled: “Thrilling Encounter with a Den of Black Snakes in South Mountain, Maryland” tells of such a story. The article relates the exploit of Prof. J. Mitchell, a self-titled “South Mountain Wizard,” who intruded upon a mother racer nesting with her young. The article concludes that:2

“We have since been informed that this species of snake is very plenty in the mountains, and have frequently been known to attack persons who intrude in their dens.”



Remarking on the similarities between the snallygaster and racers hardly seems irrelevant considering:

◇ Mitchell’s account mentions the snakes, “gave a loud, shrill hiss or rather, a whistle.” The cry of the snallygaster is said to be comparable to precisely that. 3

◇ The snallygaster is renowned for killing chickens, racers are one of their natural predators.

◇ The snallygaster resides in South Mountain caverns, eastern racers make their dens in these very caves to protect their young from the cold.

◇ The snallygaster in at least one account is purported to have, “yellow black stripe” coloration. The common Racer found on South Mountain, the black racer, like all subspecies of Eastern Racers, has a dark beige to yellow underbelly.



cycloptopus1 Lastly, just as the snallygaster is said to be a massive monster with wriggling tentacles; given the right conditions, would not a racer hoard in dim light give the illusion of a single, hulking creature with squirming appendages? Such a play on nature is not unlikely with all things considered.

snakes But if snake hoards could account for the snallygaster's more eccentric attributes what of its cycloptic sight? An explanation hinted in Dahlgren's book is that this would appear to be some kind of spin on the myth of the “evil eye” (a term variously mentioned in the text). As for its unlikely pairing with cephalopod tendrils it should be noted that cycloptopi were rather a common facet in natural histories during the snallygaster's newspaper-hoax revival. It is more than possible that the editors at Middletown Valley Register drew a parallel between these two monsters. snakes
1. Dahlgren, 200.
2. J. Mitchell, “Thrilling Encounter with a Den of Black Snakes in South Mountain, Maryland,” The Weekly Perrysburg Journal, Aug. 02, 1867, 1. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
3. Boyton, 13.




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