In the shadowy corners of Maryland’s history, lurking in lush forests and meandering rivers, lie tales of mysterious creatures that have captured the imagination of locals and visitors alike. Spanning from hauntings to old-world-styled monsters, Maryland’s folklore is rich with stories of the unknown.
Teddy Roosevelt and the Snallygaster
The Snallygaster is a legendary creature said to roam the hills and valleys of central Maryland. Sightings of the Snallygaster would eventually spread throughout Maryland and even into the Washington D.C. area.
Described as a chimera combining the features of a bird and a reptile, or a dragon-like beast with sharp teeth and tentacles, it is one of the most famous cryptids in the state. Reports of the Snallygaster in Maryland originate in the 1700s when it was popularly known as the “Schneller Geist,” German for “Fast Ghost.” In 1909, after a spike in reports of the Snallygaster, Theodore Roosevelt, fresh from his term as President, allegedly considered canceling his African Safari in order to travel to Maryland to join the Snallygaster hunt. Although he didn’t encounter the creature himself, his alleged belief in and involvement in the search lent credence to the myth. Over the years, sightings and stories of the Snallygaster have persisted, keeping this cryptid very much alive in Maryland’s folklore.
The Goatman of Prince George’s County
The Goatman is another chilling figure that haunts Maryland’s woods. This cryptid is said to be a humanoid creature with the lower body of a goat and the upper body of a man, reminiscent of the mythical faun. Tales of the Goatman have circulated for decades and are often associated with local legends of strange happenings, disappearances of dogs, and axe attacks in the forests surrounding Bowie and Prince George’s County. Some say the Goatman was once a scientist who, through a tragic experiment gone wrong, transformed into this nightmarish creature. The legend has become an integral part of Maryland’s spooky campfire stories.
Our Own Nessie: Chessie!
In the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, another cryptid lurks, Chessie, the sea monster. Witnesses claim to have seen a large, serpent-like creature swimming in the bay’s depths. Descriptions of Chessie vary, but it’s often likened to the Loch Ness Monster. Sightings have been reported for nearly a century, with the earliest record dating from 1936. While Chessie has not yet been found, both locals and tourists remain fascinated by the possibility of an aquatic cryptid residing in Maryland’s own backyard. Who knows, maybe Chessie has found its way to the Inner Harbor and befriended the Trash Wheel family.
Black Aggie: The Haunting Statue
While not a cryptid, Black Aggie is a chilling legend that has haunted Maryland for generations. Black Aggie is a statue once situated in the Druid Ridge Cemetery in Pikesville, Maryland, where it marked the gravesite of sculptor and Civil War veteran, General Felix Agnus. Its dark history is shrouded in eerie tales of supernatural occurrences. Black Aggie is said to be cursed, and those who touch or disrespect the statue may suffer dire consequences. Ghostly apparitions and unsettling events are often linked to this monument, making it a staple of Maryland’s spooky folklore. Luckily, for the superstitious, and unluckily for the legend-trippers among us, the statue has been relocated to Washington D.C. Its pedestal remains but is hardly great fodder for folklore.
Why Should You Care?
Firstly, the stories are fun! But regardless of how much stock you put into stories of cryptids, there is reason to study the stories. Local folklore can tell us a lot about local culture and history and the people who have shaped them. Many have posited that the creation of monsters within a cultural context reflects the anxieties and concerns preoccupying that particular culture. For others, studying monsters is a means to study what it means to be human.
Whatever your interest, the library has resources to help you learn more about cryptids and monsters in a way that progresses the academic understanding of folklore and the stories we tell to and about each other.
Some of these are: