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January 15, 2009
The Snallygaster in Frederick County
Today’s topic is not some contemporary political piece attempting to cast one of our local leaders as a monstrous blood sucking, child killing, scary beast. While you can name your own candidates for that title, today’s article is about the historical newspaper accounts of the folk German beast schnelle geister as it appeared in our region’s tales and political life of the first half of the twentieth century.
In our world of urban myths and spam emails, Patrick Boyton’s revelations on the past are an easy thesis to accept. Leave the poltergeists and doppelgangers to the hoi polloi, we have our very own international sensation – the Snallygaster!
A Jungian, if they still exist, would interpret the various bouts of Snallygaster sightings over the years as a manifestation of collective psychic stressors seeking expression via an archetype – in this case, a scary monster myth, in all its glory and subterfuge.
But our local legend suggests a political dimension to our beast – it coincides with a couple cultural trends regarding the national and international presence of the war, prohibition and illegal whiskey, the nascent NAACP, and the voting rights of blacks – our snallygaster, said to snatch up children and blacks, was a fear agent to suppress liberal tendencies and African American voting power.
It was local agrarians who seemed to first see the beast, then it was found flying over a whiskey still – one might suppose that getting your corn from a bottle could cause such apparitions. The snallygaster of Frederick County was an inside joke among the ruling class of the place and time, a sarcastic play upon the control of local politics – historically, Middletown was a place of some political skullduggery, as recounted by Frederick’s own Judge Edward Delaplaine in his Roger Brooke Taney biography.
The suppositions of the book provide a telling reminder of the ways of culture and social control and political expression – all after its enjoyment of collecting and retelling the various historical accounts of this fantastic local legend – it is well worth a purchase and a good read!
Snallygaster: The Lost Legend of Frederick County. Check out the new book Here.
"For several hundred years, tales of the Snallygaster have terrified the people of Frederick County, Maryland. Described as being half-reptile and half-bird, this winged creature is said to live deep in the caves of South Mountain. Legend has it, this mysterious monster swoops down from the sky and steals children and chickens from unsuspecting farm folk. Some say it's real. Some say it's a myth. But when they see it coming, they all say... "Better run and hide...the Snallygaster's comin' to get ya!"
"Beware the Snallygaster" from the Frederick Gazette, October 2008
Frederick News Post article on Patrick's book, October 2008
Jack Lynch Campaign for Mayor of Frederick 2009 Here!
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