St. George he was for England
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.
—Gilbert Keith Chesterton
In 1882, the Cincinnati Enquirer (May 29, p. 2) reported a huge snakelike animal terrorizing the residents of Waynesville, Ohio—a veritable dragon, as weird and terrifying as any monster described in the writings of Aldrovandi. The following is a verbatim transcript of the article:
Waynesville, Ohio, May 29. Although this is an old settled neighborhood, and the primitive snakes in the main, have long since disappeared; except the black, garter and rattlesnake and occasionally some of other species, we are once in a while greeted with the report of some monster of this uncanny tribe.
For several years it has been reported that the track of one above the town, of unusual size, had, on different occasions, been seen in the dust, where it had crossed the pike. This report made the timid fearful, while the generality of the people did not seem to fear or care anything about it; and it has been reserved until yesterday to develop one of the most remarkable specimens ever seen, in or out of snake season, and the story thereof is so well authenticated that the more incredulous of the neighborhood on big snake stories are forced at last to lend an attentive ear.
About one mile north of this place is a little village called Crosswicks, in which several colored families reside. Among the rest is John Lynch, who has two boys, Ed. And Joe, aged respectively thirteen and eleven years. These boys were at a small creek on the south side of the village fishing, yesterday. After sitting on the bank a short time they heard quite a stir among some old reeds, grass and brush behind them, and on looking round they saw a huge monster approaching them rapidly. They screamed and, paralyzed almost with horror, started to run, when the snake, or whatever it might be—for they never saw aught like it before; came close up to the older one, and suddenly throwing out two long arms, or forelegs, seized the boy in its slimy embrace, simultaneously producing two more legs, about four feet long, from some mysterious hiding place in its body, and dragged the boy some one hundred yards down the creek to a large sycamore, twenty-six feet in diameter at the base, hollow, and with a large opening on one side. Through this aperture the monster attempted to enter with the boy who by this time was almost dead with fright and unable to make any resistance.
Three men—viz., Rev. Jacob Horn, George Peterson and Allen Jordan—were quarrying stone a short distance above where the boys were fishing, and hearing their screams and seeing the creature yanking one off, hurried in an attempt to rescue the child. They reached the tree just as the snake, who, failing in its first attempt to drag the boy into his den, became alarmed, probably by the cries made by its pursuers, unfastened its horrible fangs and dropped the more than half dead child to the earth. The little fellow was picked up and carried home, and Dr. L.C. Lukens, of Waynesville, summoned to attend him.
In the afternoon about sixty men, armed with clubs, dog, axes, &c., gathered around the sycamore-tree and concluded to cut it down and destroy its fearful tenant. They began cutting, when, becoming alarmed for his safety, the formidable snake leaped from the aperture, threw out its fore and hind legs, erected itself about twelve or fourteen feet, and, with the velocity of a race horse, crossed the creek and ran up a small hill, climbed over a rail fence, breaking it down, and, continuing north a mile, followed by the pursuers, until he reached a hole in a large hill under a heavy ledge of rocks. Some of the men and dogs were so terrified at the beast’s first appearance that they only thought of getting out of the way. But the braver portion followed until the frightful thing made good his retreat underneath the ground.
It will be watched for and killed if possible. It is described as being from thirty to forty feet long, sixteen inches in diameter, and the legs four feet long and covered with scales the same as the body. Feet about twelve inches long and shaped like a lizard’s, of black and white color, with large yellow spots. Head about sixteen inches wide, with a long, black forked tongue and the mouth inside deep red. The hind legs appeared to be used to give it an erect position, and its propelling power is in its tail.
Dr. Lukens said this morning that the boy, his patient, was badly bruised and scratched, horribly frightened, and that he lay in convulsions and spasms until three o’clock this morning, when he fell asleep, but frequently wakened with fright and terror, yet the Doctor thinks he will recover in a few days.
The foregoing is vouched for by the persons whose names are given above, and many more can be given if necessary the material points having been furnished your correspondent by Judge J.W. Keys, one of our oldest and most influential citizens.
Although the actual existence of some of the witnesses (Dr. Lukens, Judge Keys, the Lynch family) named in the article can be confirmed from the 1880 census, the Enquirer seems to have published no follow-up stories for this report, a fact that appears to cast the whole report into doubt. Surely their readers would have wanted to hear more about this tremendous man-eating monster lurking in the nearby countryside?
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