Snake-human Hybrids

Quoted reports



The one seem’d Woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold.
—Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II
snake woman

I list every cross that’s reported, not because I think every reported hybrid is real, but because I use the name of a cross as a heading for a page that serves as a repository for all evidence I’ve collected about that cross.

A report of what, if real, would be a pair of extremely odd hybrids, recalls Milton’s Hell and tales of the Egyptian gods. It appeared on the front page, column 1, of the August 30, 1864, issue of the Cleveland Morning Leader, a newspaper published in Cleveland, Ohio (source):


A woman delivers twins with the heads of serpents

[From the Dubuque Herald]

Wonders never cease! and the greatest ever heard of in these modern times has just come to our knowledge from entirely reliable authority. It fully disproves the wisdom of Solomon when he proclaimed that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The facts related to us are:

About two weeks ago the wife of a market gardener, residing at Eagle Point, in this city, gave birth to twins which, instead of being provided with the head and features of the “human form divine” had each the head and neck of a snake! Besides the head and shoulders the children were of natural and comely form—from the shoulders up they presented the horrible shape and characteristics of the serpent! Immediately after the birth a consultation of physicians was held, at which it was very properly decided to bleed the monsters to death, which was, accordingly done. What disposition was made of the bodies we have not yet learned.

The cause assigned for the lusus naturae is that several months ago, shortly after the woman became enciente, her husband playfully threw a snake’s head into her face, which so frightened her that the foetus assumed the horrible shape into which they were brought into the world.

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strange hybrids The sky goddess Nut and the snake-headed god Geb
Image: E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians.

In another account we find a troubled physician tussling with a vicious serpentine delivery. The report appeared on page 3, column 2, of the June 19, 1868, issue of The Pulaski Citizen, a newspaper published in Pulaski, Tennessee (source):

    We have been informed that a child was born in this county a few days ago which was more snake than human. The lower portion of the body was snake and the upper part human. It came into the world hissing and striking about promiscuously after the manner of a snake. The humane physician who delivered it put an end to its existence immediately and without allowing the mother to see it.

A separate account of an alleged snake child appeared on the front page, columns 3 and 4, of the July 11, 1871, issue of the Public Ledger, a newspaper published in St. John’s, Newfoundland (source). The creature described was reportedly born on Cape Cod. So the story originally appeared in the Boston Herald, undersigned by a physician, Dr. J. H. Hanford of Reading Massachusetts, who wrote the following description.



(From the Boston Herald, Jan. 4.)
snake-headed godThe snake-headed god Nehebkau

During a recent visit to Cape Cod, the writer was made acquainted with a remarkable freak of nature, one illustrating the results of certain influences exerted before birth, in the person of a male child, known as the “snake child.” This is the son of Mr.___, of Harwick, a little more than three months old, and regarded as “more snake than human.” During the term of pregnancy, which was attended with various peculiar sensations, the mother was in an unusual frame of mind, and gratified a kind of monomania for killing snakes, never allowing an opportunity for an encounter with them to pass unimproved. On one occasion she fought two and a half hours with three adders in an arbor, at last conquering and killing them. On another occasion she came suddenly upon a large black snake, the ‘size of her wrist,’ which raised his head very high and ‘showed fight.’ True to her strange impulse, she commenced the attack and was the conqueror, instead of screaming, like most females, and leaving the spot in haste, though his snakeship presented a formidable, if not a frightful, appearance. This monstrosity, which weighed 13 lbs. at birth has the more general appearance of a human being in the outlines of the body, than in the head and limbs, though the shoulder blade is wanting, or very unlike the natural one. The head is very large having, at birth, the appearance, with the general expression of the face, especially the upper part, of a child at the age of two years. It rises high, the line of the front and back being nearly parallel, though inclining upward and forward with an arched appearance. The forehead is high, and projects considerably over the eyes. The ears, which are large, are located very far forward, and about one inch lower than usual, or about on a direct line with the chin. The eyes are large, snakish, elongated, protruding, and much in motion. The lower jaw has an unusual appearance, appearing as if double, while the roof of the mouth is narrow and deep. The mouth is open, save when nursing the bottle. The tongue as thick as some two or three ordinary ones, and is very smooth. The lips remain in one position, about a half inch in a straight line, above and below, with a gradual curve toward the angles. The nose is rounded at the tip, much depressed at the base, and the nostrils much distended, the whole looking snakish. Instead of the usual soft place in the top of the skull, there are two, one in the forehead, and the other far back, the skull between these more nearly resembling the back of a turtle than a child’s head. There are two bony projections in the forehead, over the eyes, like prospective horns, while between these and the eyes are deep cavities. The face, which is long and large, with the exception of the mouth and chin.—is proportionately small—has a mature expression, rather snakish, the chin being usually pointed. The feet and hands are the most remarkable, evidently presenting the deformity in its worst aspects. Both are unusually arched, and in other respects peculiar. The large toe is short, like a thumb, inclining downward and toward the hollow of the foot, with the small one also. The remaining ones, which are destitute of the usual joints, are enclosed in a kind of sheath, a thick skin and some flesh, all terminating at the ends in one broad and large n ail, inclining downward like a half tube. This nail, and indeed those of both the hands and feet, have a decidedly snakish look. The hands are still more peculiar, rather more arched than the feet. The bones of the hand are more distant, relatively, than those of the feet, with a deep cavity between, rather irregular. One of the toe bones is disconnected with those of the foot, passing instead, downward toward the hollow of the foot, there floating with no attachment. Others seem to be deficient in the usual connection in this respect. The palm is very deep, corresponding with the unusual arch both of the hand and finger sheath. The thumb and the small finger incline toward the palm, and are rather short, resembling the general construction of the corresponding members of the foot, though the small finger is more connected with the others by an arrangement resembling that of the web foot. The remaining three are almost in a form of a triangle, joining at the ends in one general broad and large nail. Extending down the sides of the fingers, almost enclosing them. I could detect no joints in these fingers, only the one joining them to the hand. The little fellow seemed unwilling to have his hand held long enough to have them carefully examined, making one feel that he was handling a snake. The general appearance of the hand, the form of enclosed fingers, the form of the nails, etc., are wonderfully suggestive of the snake. Indeed, one can scarcely look at this unique creature, observe the almost constant motion of the hands, feet, tongue, the turning of the head from side to side, and see the snakish aspect, without feeling a kind of shuddering, a wish to withdraw from his presence, so snakish is he in his appearance and movements.

J. H. Hanford, M. D., Reading Mass.

Another case of reported snake-baby appeared on page 2, column 3, of the May 8, 1867, issue of the Public Ledger, a newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee (source):


A Being Half Human, Half Rattlesnake

[From the Nashville Banner.]
We learned yesterday from a gentleman of undoubted veracity, and who is acquainted with the facts we are about to relate, of one of the most wonderful freaks of nature on record, which occurred in West Tennessee.
     The incident happened in one of the most respectable families in that section, and its features are so revolting that very few would readily believe that such a thing could possibly occur. Strange as it may seem, however, we are assured of its authenticity, and lay it before the public as it came to us.
Snake-human hybrid A Hindu snake-human deity
     A lady living near Trenton was, a few nights since, delivered of a child, the head of which, and the body from the abdomen up, were those of a living rattlesnake, while the lower limbs were those of a human being. The strange object has all the characteristics and appearances of a snake, is still alive, and will probably live and grow to its natural size. The lady is rapidly recovering her health.
     This startling lusus naturae is accounted for by the fact that the mother sometime previous to her confinement, narrowly escaped the fangs of a huge rattlesnake, and was so terrified by the occurrence that she became subject to fits.
     We are not permitted to mention any names in connection with this remarkable occurrence, the delicacy of the subject warranting us in omitting them.
An early report
Franci (Continuator temporis quinquennalis, 1599, p. 122) reports that on March 4, 1595, a woman at Bacharach (which now lies in Germany) gave birth to a living offspring that in its foreparts was like an ordinary child, but in its hind parts, like a snake.

Another snake-human hybrid slithered onto the front page, column 7, of the July 19, 1893, issue of the Alpena Argus, a newspaper published in Alpena, Michigan (source). This report ran in many U.S. papers that summer.

    A Marion County, Iowa, physician has a human monstrosity, a male child weighing nine and one-half pounds, which has a perfect snake’s head. It is preserved in alcohol and seldom exhibited.

The next report is copied from page 2, column 3, of the May 2, 1885, issue of The Comet, a newspaper published in Johnson City, Tennessee (source). The original source of the story was the Knoxville, Tennessee Journal.

A Monstrosity

    Sallie Carter, a colored woman residing in Shieldstown, an eastern suburb of this city [Knoxville] gave birth Sunday to a still-born babe. It weighed ten pounds, and the limbs and body, up to the neck, were perfect in shape and form. But resting upon the neck was a small head out of all proportion with the body, and shaped very much like a snake’s head, with the eyes set high on top, and all presenting a most remarkable appearance.
    The freak of nature is accounted for by the friends of the woman in the statement that she attended the last circus and became frightened at a large snake. The corpse was buried yesterday and the mother is reported as getting along very well.—Knoxville Journal,

Another such report appeared on page 4, column 1, of the August 25, 1900, issue of The Democratic Advocate, a newspaper published in Westminster, Maryland (source).

Child Like a Snake

    One of the most remarkable freaks of nature has just been removed from the Children’s Home in Washington, Pa., to the Polk Asylum. It is known as the snake child, and is 4 years of age. The name of the child is Hazel Black, born of negro parentage. She is unable to walk or talk, utters sounds like a snake and takes in food like the reptile. She is without vertebrae and lies continually in an apparently semi-conscious condition. The mother of the child died a few weeks ago.

The next report appeared on page 2 of the October 20, 1887, issue of the Rock Island Daily Argus, a newspaper published in Rock Island, Illinois (source).

two snake-human hybridsTwo nagas (Halebidu, India).

Delivered of Two Monstrosities

    Lathrop, Mo., Oct. 20.—About a month ago Mrs. Andrew Lettes, the wife of a farmer living about fourteen miles from here, was out in the garden with her son. Two snakes were noticed fighting, and she told her son to kill them. Taking the hoe he mashed both of their heads, Mrs. Lettes intently watching him all the time. Tuesday week twins were born to her. The heads of both were flat and resembled a snake, while their tongues are licking out continually. No attempt has been made to clothe the monstrosities, and they have been kept in separate boxes. The moment they are put together they commence to fight and lick out their tongues in the most disgusting manner. They are at this time alive and well, but the family have attempted to keep the facts in the case from the newspapers.

Lathrop is a town in northwestern Missouri.

The following news story, about the death of a woman with snakelike traits, is taken from the front page, column 4, of the February 20, 1890, issue of the Dodge City Times, a newspaper published in Dodge City, Kansas (source).

    Indianapolis, Feb. 18.—Viola Blackmore, aged 20, a remarkable colored girl, died here last night. Her entire life was spent on her left side in bed with her hands constantly clutched over her head. She was three feet tall, with many of the developments of an old woman, but her limbs were those of a very small child. She undulated in her motions and made peculiar noises like the hiss of a snake, and then mumbled and muttered in an incoherent manner. She had been the study and wonder of professional men for years. Just before her birth a huge blacksnake ran across the road along which the mother walked.

An old snake-human report >>

A relevant excerpt from Herodotus (The Histories, 4.8-9): Hercules came from thence into the region now called Scythia, and, being overtaken by storm and frost, drew his lion’s skin about him, and fell fast asleep. While he slept, his mares, which he had loosed from his chariot to graze, by some wonderful chance disappeared. On waking, he went in quest of them, and, after wandering over the whole country, came at last to the district called “the Woodland,” where he found in a cave a strange being, between a maiden and a serpent, whose form from the waist upwards was like that of a woman, while all below was like a snake.

In addition, in ancient times, Pliny the Elder (The Natural History, 7.3) wrote that “At the commencement of the Marsian war, a female slave was delivered of a serpent.” The Marsian War is an alternative name for the Social War, which was waged from 91 to 88 B.C. between the Roman Republic and several cities in Italy.

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Bibliography >>

Biology Dictionary >>

By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).

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