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When you think of West Virginia and cryptids, the Mothman comes to mind. The Mothman is the most popular cryptid in West Virginia, with sightings reported since the 1960s. Point Pleasant, West Virginia, is home to this beastie. There is a statue of the Mothman in downtown Point Pleasant.

I wrote an earlier article about the Mothman haunting O’hare airport in Chicago. So, I wanted to write about something different and found the Snarly Yow. Yes, that is what it’s called: Snarly Yow.

This exciting creature likes to haunt Harper Valley, West Virginia. It is a dog-like beast that walks on two feet like a human. In the 1700s, German immigrants settled in the Potomac Valley area. Soon after, sightings of the Snarly Yow started. The German settlers brought their stories of this creature with them.

It got its name because of the yowl it makes through a mouth filled with teeth. What is unusual about this cryptid is that it isn’t physical. Somehow, it appears and disappears at will. It sounds like a ghost or spirit, right?

Except this ghost haunts multiple areas, whereas most ghosts haunt a single location. There have been sightings in West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. It likes the mountains, as the reports are from Blue Ridge, South Mountain, and the mountains of Harpers Ferry.

Tales the German settlers brought with them tell of a dog-like beast that appears out of thin air. It can change its size and then disappear instantly. Legend says the beast lurks on the old roads leading into town, waiting for that unsuspecting motorist driving home late at night. Then it leaps out in front of the poor driver. Numerous reports from witnesses tell of how they thought they hit the beastie—then seeing it in their rearview mirror standing on their hind legs staring after them.

There are many stories from the 1700s about run-ins with the critter—people out walking or riding horseback report when the mysterious dog-like creature appears. It follows them while they are walking and spooks the horses when they ride. Sometimes it appears briefly and then disappears. Variations of the story report scared hunters have fired at the beastie. Thrown rocks and sticks at it, but everything sailed through its body.

The one constant theme is that the Snarly Yow disappears in front of them. More modern reports are about how drivers run over a dog and get out of the car to check the damage and look for the animal. Except, there is no damage and no body. Even scarier is that the dog-like creature appears near them and sometimes snarls at them.

Talk about shock. Can you imagine thinking you ran over a dog and then seeing it behind you? That would scare me. An interesting fact is it has never attacked anyone. It appears, and it chases cars, paces horses, but has never attacked anyone.

It also seems to like sites of conflict, appearing at sites of several civil war battles. Harpers Ferry is one of these many sites, and there are many civil war sites from West Virginia to Maryland. This story is similar to how the Mothman appeared before the Silver Bridge collapsed in Point Pleasant.

plaque by the road at a local battle site near Boonsboro, MD, says, “Beware of the “Snarly Yow.” Legend has it that the shadow of a black dog used to prowl the heights of South Mountain. One night, a huntsman, famous as a sure shot, encountered the beast. He aimed and fired his rifle. The shot went right through the animal with no effect. He fired again and again, each shot passing through the shadowy beast. Finally overcome with dread, the huntsman fled.” 

I have to admit, if I shot at something and the bullet went through it? I would have run too. The story ties in with the same reports from West Virginia. The Snarly Yow appeared at the civil war battle site Turner’s Gap in South Mountain. Turner’s Gap is the site of the “Battle of Midnight.” It would confront whoever dared to travel Route 40 and scare the bejesus out of them before disappearing.  Hundreds of startled witnesses reported seeing the critter at Turner’s Gap.

It confronted another poor man who was returning home after completing his errands. He was leaving Boonesboro and approaching South Mountain when the Snarly Yow appeared, blocking his way. The poor guy froze in his path, and after a staredown, he tried to move around it. Except, every time he tried to get past the beastie, it paced him.

The Snarly Yow fits the description of other urban myths like the British Black Dog. In those tales, the black dog-like creature usually appears when someone’s death is imminent. This unusual beastie captured the imagination of Sir Author Conan Doyle. His novel The Hounds Of Baskervilles is based on this legend. He tried throwing rocks and sticks at it, but they went right through it. The critter snarled at him before baring his teeth, then loped into the nearby woods, disappearing.

It also fits the Beast of Bray Road in Wisconsin. A black wolf-like creature that haunts Bray Road in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, was first sighted in 1936. The critter doesn’t seem to like people, as there have been reports of scratches on the driver’s cars. Witnesses tell of seeing a red-eyed wolf-like creature chasing their vehicle and of animal mutilations in the area.

Who or what the Snarly Yow is was never discovered, and reports trickled away to nothing. Until, 1975 when the reports picked up again, and more sightings occurred. The most impressive one is about a busload of children returning from a field trip to the Washington Monument. They were returning to Middleton when a black dog chased the bus down. It ran in front of the bus, but the driver didn’t have enough time to stop.

The passengers heard the thud and felt the bump as they ran over the dog. They stopped further up the road and got out to investigate, shocked to see it standing in the middle of the road unharmed. It bared its teeth at them before disappearing into thin air.

Did this critter follow the European settlers arriving in America to establish a new home? There have been paranormal reports of ghosts haunting people even when they move. Could it be the same with the Snarly Yow?

Whatever the reason, this critter isn’t going anywhere. So if you ever find yourself in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, make sure the windows are up. You might also want to keep the doors locked, and whatever you do? Do not get out of the car unless you want to meet the Snarly Yow.


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