Exploring American Monsters: Maryland

The state of Maryland, recognized as the birthplace of religious freedom in the New World, is the ninth smallest state in the Union at 12,406.68 square miles. However, that’s still larger than the entire country of Belgium. Although small, it has a lot of shoreline. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maryland has the tenth longest tidal shoreline in the U.S. with 3,190 miles. The lyrics of the national anthem of the United States, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” are taken from the poem, “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) written by attorney Francis Scott Key during the battle at Maryland’s Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. The state is the birthplace of baseball legend Babe Ruth, civil rights leader Harriet Tubman, and “Baywatch” star (and German singing sensation) David Hasselhoff. It’s also home to something called the Snallygaster.

Snallygaster

As early as the 1700s, Maryland residents claimed a giant reptilian bird soared through the skies above the state. The ravenous creature would swoop down and pluck pets, game, livestock, and sometimes children from the ground, disappearing with them into the skies. According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, Ed Okonowicz, author the book “Monsters of Maryland,” said German immigrants brought stories of the Snallygaster here with them, and maybe the monster itself.

“Among the most distinctive creatures to settle in and hide among the wooded niches of America’s Eastern mountains and valleys is the Snallygaster – a fearsome, dragon-like flying beast,” Okonowicz wrote in his book ‘Monsters of Maryland.’

Eyewitness descriptions of the Snallygaster sound like that of a pterosaur; an enormous flying monster with a wingspan of twenty-five to thirty feet, a long beak, and leathery skin that looks like a reptile. However, the Snallygaster also has tentacles, talons of steel, and carries with it the pungent scent of death. Its shriek resembles a train whistle.

Reports of the Snallygaster in Maryland continued until the 1930s when they became sporadic, appearing again in 1948, and 1973. A local man named James Harding was the first to lay claim to a Snallygaster sighting, describing the monster as having one eye in the center of its forehead.

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The Goatman

What is it with goats? Kentucky has its own legend of a goatman, as does Texas, and Missouri. So does Maryland. Prince George’s County, Maryland, so close to the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., residents can smell the corruption, is the home of a half-man/half-goat monster straight out of a horror movie.

Reports of an ax-wielding satyr-like creature chasing automobiles near Beltsville, Maryland, stretch through the years.

According to an article in Modern Farmer, the goatman legend has numerous beginnings. Either the entity was a goat farmer seeking revenge on teenagers who killed his livestock, a monster created by the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, or is a natural monster native to the area. The Modern Farmer article quotes University of Maryland professor Dr. Barry Pearson who said goatman sightings began in the 1950s, and became frantically popular in the 1970s.

A Washington Post story in 1971 about the death of a pet included quotes from locals blaming the goatman. If the goatman killed that pet, he must have been really maa-maa-mad.

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Chessie

Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary (a partially enclosed body of water attached to an ocean and fed by rivers) in the United States, is 64,299 square miles of water that stretches from southern Virginia to northern Maryland. It’s also the home to Chessie.

This sea monster is described as a dark, snake-like creature about thirty feet long that seems to simply watch people working or playing in the bay. Although seen for decades, he first solid photographic evidence came in 1982 when a family videotaped Chessie from Kent Island, Maryland, the largest island in Chesapeake Bay. The tape shows an animal fitting Chessie’s description. Same shape, same length.

Although most sightings of this creature occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, they continue today.

The Sykesville Monster

Bigfoot was popular in the United States in the 1970s. Missouri’s Momo, Louisiana’s Honey Island Swamp Monster, Arkansas’ Fouke Monster, all in the 1970s. Maryland was no exception. Enter the Sykesville Monster.

In 1973, the area around Sykesville, northwest of Baltimore, was stalked by a Bigfoot-like creature with encounters so terrifying, it was hunted by “police, a game warden, zoo officials, and professional paranormal investigators,” according to The Carroll County Times. Police took a plaster cast of a footprint that was thirteen inches long and seven inches wide.

Author and researcher Lon Strickler who posts his work at phantomsandmonsters.com, became interested in cryptozoology on a May morning in 1981 when he saw the Sykesville Monster.

Strickler was fly-fishing in the Patapsco River near Sykesville when he noticed a dog had wandering the banks. The dog simply sniffed the weeds near the water, and Strickler ignored it until the dog began to bark and growl. Strickler looked up and saw a hair-covered bipedal creature about eight feet tall standing in a thicket. Strickler froze, and observed the monster. The monster made a ticking sound, and smelled like fox urine. As Strickler moved to get a better look of the creature, it walked away.

Strickler returned to his vehicle, drove into town and called the police. Within an hour the area was filled with people hunting for the creature. They never found it.

Next up: Massachusetts.

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