by Gerald Musinsky

Snallygaster is an "oicotype" from the Frederick County region of Maryland, USA. Most likely corrupted German schnell geiste, a Pennsylvania Dutch term meaning "quick spirit," often associated with those drafts that slam doors, topple over lightweight objects, or scatter papers. The visual or physical appearance of the Snallygaster is confusing since there are several variation narratives, some of which where invented after the oral tradition, having roots in the dragon-lore of the early settlers. The Snallygaster often has similarities to dragons: green and scaled, and winged.

However, tales exist around the South Mountain region where the Snallygaster is a monstrous bird preying on young children. Literary accounts of the Snallygaster were printed in the local newspapers. These narratives were most likely invented tales by two rival editors. The end of this rivalry caused the Snallygaster's demise — it was sent plummeting headlong into a boiling vat of whiskey.

Of interest to scholars is the nature of the various tales likely invented, those which were patterned after dragon-lore, the absence of Native American influence (owing to the region once inhabited by Leni Lenape, Susquehannock, Cherokee and other Northeast tribes), and its connection to Pennsylvania Dutch lore.