Friday, September 23, 2011

The devil went down to Maryland (1909)

From the Denton (Md.) Journal, January 30, 1909:
The “what-is-it” that made its first appearance in Greensboro on or about January 16th has been the subject of a great deal of speculation. What is the thing whose tracks are so much like those of a horse or mule, and travels where horses and mules cannot possibly go? Some of the footprints seemed to show that the hoof making them wore an iron shoe, even to the nails in the shoe. Many of these tracks were observed in Greensboro on the 17th inst., and were viewed carefully by many good-thinking citizens of the community, including Messrs. Joseph B. Orrell, R.D. Clark, William Sipple, Rev. J.H. Beauchamp, and a number of others. Nearly every garden in Greensboro bore marks of the presence of the strange animal. Some people are afraid they will meet it along the road, but many regard the thing as a myth, although none can give any explanation at all of the presence of the tracks. It is said it has but little use for some colored people, and dogs are so afraid of it that they will not go near its tracks. The animal, the writer was told, passed through a porch near town, knocking out the watch-dog, but was so swift in its movements that it could not be seen. It left traces of remarkable speed all about the place.

That the “air-horse” did not confine his operations to Greensboro seems to be proven by a Goldsboro correspondent, who writes: “The 'what-is-it' kept our people guessing for a week or ten days, and some of our timid and nervous ones in of nights. None, however, had the opportunity of making its acquaintance or of meeting it in combat.”

The accompanying drawing was made by Mr. J.V. Hauck, the Philadelphia Bulletin artist, from descriptions given him. The animal, bird or devil is said to be about three feet and a-half high, with a head like a collie dog and a face like a horse. It has a long neck, wings several feet in length, and back and legs like a crane, with horse's or mule's hoofs. It walked on its hind legs and held up two short front ones, with paws on them. Those who saw the creature said it didn't use the front legs at all while they were watching.

For some time after the jabberwock's tracks appeared it is said several well-known citizens did not like to leave the fireside's cheerful glow after the shades of night had fallen. If they were called away late in the afternoon they did not tarry; they wanted to go home – and they went.

One theorist has it that these strange visitors are from the fathomless caverns deep in the earth, and that the upheavals caused by the great earthquake in Southern Europe set them free, and that they are thus, as Shakespeare says, “doomed for a while to walk the night.”

The Centreville Observer last week said: “Rivalling in mystery and wonderment the days when hobgoblins and grotesque figures followed in the wake of giants that were then supposed to abound, is the strange animal which for the past few days has infested the districts of Barclay, Sudlersville and Roberts. Although evident everywhere by its tracks, not a single person has laid eyes upon the creature, human or supernatural, whatever it may be. The tracks first became noticeable after the snow of last week, first in Sudlersville and afterwards in the two other towns. In Sudlersville and Barclay the tracks were mostly in open fields close to woods, althoguh they were seen right in the heart of the former place. Upon coming to a woods the tracks vanish, leaving the impression that the animal might be a gorrilla [sic] or some climbing creature. At Roberts only was the size of the creature anywhere near ascertainable, and then the facts were brought out so vividly and startlingly that the tracks were soon abandoned by curiosity ridden hunters. The tracks came from the woods near Roberts, passed across an open field and under a bunch of brush only about two feet high, without disturbing it in the least, and passed between two trees not more than six inches apart. The prints are almost eight inches apart and are shaped like a hoof, being about 2 ½ inches wide and a little longer. Some have believed that it is the evil one prowling about in their vicinities, but as yet no signs of horns, pitchforks, or other necessary accompaniments have been discovered. Persons of a less superstitious nature think that it is some animal that has escaped from a passing show and spent the winter there.”

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