By Mary Lipsey and Debi DeLoose. In the late 1800’s an iron truss bridge was…
Happy Halloween, Burke! This is not your typical BHS blog post about historical events and persons of note. Rather, it is to pose a question to you, Dear Reader: Shouldn’t your inner child be allowed to come out to play at least once a year?
Each year thousands of people gather in various towns and cities throughout the United States to celebrate our country’s most beloved cryptids, urban legends, mythology, and fantastical folklore.
- Cryptid: an animal (such as Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster) that has been claimed to exist but never proven to exist.
- Urban Legend: a humorous or horrific story circulated as though true.
- Folklore: traditional beliefs and stories of a community, passed through generations by word of mouth.
- Mythology: a set of stories or beliefs about a person, institution, or situation, especially when exaggerated or fictitious.
Our region features numerous examples. Below are a few prominent cryptid cases that have moved beyond mere storytelling and evolved into large-scale carnival-like annual gatherings.
Mothman, for example, is a red-eyed winged cryptid claimed by Point Pleasant, West Virginia.On November 12, 1966, five men who were digging a grave at a cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia, claimed to have seen a man-like figure fly low from the trees over their heads. This is often identified as the first known sighting of the Mothman. On November 15, 1966, two young couples from Point Pleasant told police they saw a large grey creature whose eyes glowed red when the car’s headlights picked it up. They described it as a “large flying man with ten-foot wings”, following their car while they were driving in an area outside of town known as “the TNT area”, the site of a former World War II munitions plant. This cryptid has spawned a book, a movie (starring Richard Gere), and, what the heck, the town has even erected a statue of the Mothman.
Mothman Festival is now an annual event held every third weekend in September in Point Pleasant, West Virginia to commemorate the 1966 sightings of the Mothman. People from all over the world gather around Point Pleasant’s charming Main Street to celebrate their favorite cryptid.
Bigfoot, it seems, is “big” in our region as well as in other parts of the United States. In Marion, North Carolina, the WNC Bigfoot Festival is another annual street festival event in September that celebrates the legendary “Sasquatch” creature in downtown Marion, which is located about 36 miles east of Asheville. In addition to Sasquatch-themed items, you will find a variety of local craft and food vendors. I understand they have even added an indoor Bigfoot expo.
Snallygaster is a cryptid in our region that dates back to the 1700s. Itis a dragon-like beast said to inhabit Central Maryland, the Washington, DC, metro area, and particularly the Middletown area of Frederick County, Maryland. The creature is said to be half bird and half reptile that swoops down and snatches up small livestock and children. The story is told to children when they are misbehaving. Kind of like, “you better behave or the Snallygaster will get you.”
Snallygaster Beer Festival is an annual October event in downtown Washington DC devised by beer and fun loving entrepreneurs. Naturally, the Snallygaster cryptid is the mascot of the Festival, which bills itself as “the district’s beastliest beer festival, bar none.”Festival goers can expect an array of no fewer than 400 highly sought-after craftbrews on draft from 150+ of the finest American and international producers set against a backdrop of local food trucks and two stages of live music.
The Bunny Man, while not technically a “cryptid” is our very own Burke, Virginia backyard scary urban legend that originated from two real hatchet-wielding-bunny-costumed-man incidents that occurred 50 years ago in Burke, Virginia along Guinea Road (October 1970). Bunny Man’s story has since been told and retold, exaggerated, embellished, and spread throughout the Washington, D.C. area. In just 50 years the Bunny Man has evolved into a scary urban legend about an escaped mental patient that kills people and then hangs their bloodied bodies from a bridge. Story tellers have gradually woven the Bunny Man out of his original “haunt” in Burke, Virginia and into a much creepier location. The Bunny Man story has now migrated to an unlit one-lane railroad underpass bridge in Clifton, Virginia. The legend has many variations, but most involve a man wearing a rabbit costume who attacks people with an axe or hatchet, so the core of the story retains a grain of truth.
Bunny Man Festival? Nope. Not yet anyway. But stay tuned! Our favorite Bunny Man urban legend already has spawned several cheesy horror movies, a song entitled “the Bunny Man Boogie”, and a specialty beer named “The Bunny Man Hoppy Red Lager” that was released in 2017 by the BadWolf Brewing Company in Manassas, Virginia. Also, last year during the Clifton Days celebration in Clifton, Virginia, I did note that Bunny Man T-Shirts were available for sale at the local corner store. Moreover, I observe that Axe Throwing Leagues have gotten popular around the DC area over the last few years. And bunny ears are a perennially popular and easily accessible Halloween fashion accessory at local costume stores. So, I conclude that it is only a matter of time until an annual Bunny Man Festival emerges to combine these elements!
Happy Halloween from BHS!