Boss Snakes Observed

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 28th, 2008


Attention to Chad Arment’s newest book, Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America will be worth your time.

First, let’s start with the obvious.

Big snakes do exist. But various cryptozoological questions remain: Are there unknown species? How big do they get? And where are they found?


Fluffy, above, who is thought to be the longest captive snake in the world at 24 feet long, drew record fans (1.53 million) to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in 2007. The reticulated python is 15 years old and weighs 300 pounds. It will keep growing, and may live to be 50 years or older. But, it’s a known species, of course.


Other beautiful snakes, such as this partially albino python, give more attention to the displaying of huge reptiles, as well. Big snakes are hard to ignore.


Ian Stewart, left, and Carrie Hoover visit Fluffy at Columbus Zoo. Can you imagine how popular the discovery of a giant unknown species would be?

There is no doubt that giant snakes are engaging and interesting. But are there truly giant snakes? And do they haunt North America?

Boss Snakes is one of the more intriguing cryptid-specific volumes of the year. Giant snake reports and sightings involve many levels of cryptozoology ~ actual unknowns, misidentifications, known species, eyewitness mistakes, folklore, archival news accounts, and escaped pets.

I like to read books by people that obviously enjoy what they are writing about, and Chad Arment shows that he likes and appreciates reptiles. He’s a herper, that’s apparent. But, I had to ask him, what kind of snakes does he keep.

He answered that while he owns “no giant snakes, unfortunately,…I do have about a dozen snakes. Some native species (various ratsnakes, coachwhips, western hognose, mole kingsnake), a six or seven foot boa, and some South American rearfangs (false water cobra and a couple others).”

I think that personal experience with snakes shows in his book. His newest volume appears well-suited to his special skills and passion.

Readers who wish to be taken aback by the title of the book are missing a chance to grasp where this book takes one within its pages.

In Arment’s introduction, he says precisely: “You won’t find a boss snake in your herpetological field guide….That is a name, about a century in disuse, for any large snake that dwarfed its scaly brethren. The possibility that such snakes might exist today should be examined critically and carefully, without dubious argumentation, but examined nonetheless,” (p. 11).

Arment is a scholarly researcher, who has done his chores and craft laboriously to create this work. For those interested in long passages on theories about what each giant snake encounter might mean, or a classification system dividing sightings into what snakes might fit with what accounts, this is not the book for you. But for casual fans of giant snakes, followers of cryptid wonders, and detailed researchers of large unknown snakes, this book will be a treasure trove of information that you will be devouring for years.

The book is a virtual file folder of every historical case that Arment seems to have been able to gather, reproduce, and share in its completeness, for your perusal and investigation.

boss snakes back cover

Above: The back cover of Boss Snakes.

The tome’s “broad view” thoughts, certainly, are presented in the introduction, and Arment’s framing comes to an apex, I found, in his chapter three, “The Potential for Unknown Species.” Meanwhile, he skeptically dwells on sample cases, for starters in “Hoaxes, Tall Tales, and Paranormalism,” in his first chapter.

In his largest self-authored section, Chad Arment allows himself to stretch his legs and gives good insights on “Known Species: Native and Exotic Snakes” in chapter two.

What I am saying, in essence, is that if you are looking to read Chad Arment’s own thoughts and words, you will find, like in his The Historical Bigfoot (Coachwhip Publications, 2006), he has allowed the unedited data to do most of the talking. But that is not a shortcoming of this book; it is its strength.

The Historical Bigfoot

The majority of Arment’s giant snakes book, especially in the text between pages 77 and 384, is filled with article after article, carefully divided by location (state or province) and reproduced without commentary. Arment splits his two great sections between “Giant Snakes” and what he sees as a vastly different natural grouping, “Giant Rattlesnakes.” It works.

Arment’s volume is an amazing resource guide showing individual maps of each state and province, with indicators of from where each of the giant reptilian reports issue, and via two overview maps as well, such as this one:

snake map

This is one of Arment’s Boss Snakes maps that plots the localities of alleged sightings of Giant Snakes (8+ feet in length). The book’s other United States map details the Giant Rattlesnake sighting locales.

In addition to those two maps, I counted 52 individual maps of states and provinces, and seven USA range maps of known larger species. The book also contains over 25 photographs and drawings of snakes.

Boss Snakes: Stories and Sightings of Giant Snakes in North America, at 389 pages, pound for pound, lives up to its name, and I recommend it for your cryptozoological collection. If you want to learn more about the historical giant snake accounts from North America, and place them in the context of the known, the overblown, and the unknown, you can’t go wrong with Chad Arment’s book.

I predict it will become the cornerstone reference work for all future treatments, theories, and thoughts about cryptid giant snakes in North America.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

11 Responses to “Boss Snakes Observed”

  1. plant girl responds:

    This is another interesting topic to me since I like snakes. In my county there are black racer snakes. They are fast and i have seen them in corn fields along the road usually.

    I am unsure of their exact length but from a distance they look rather large. However, in recent years I have not seen as many possibly due to increase of housing in open fields.

  2. Bob Michaels responds:

    Thanks for the up-date, I will purchase the book.

  3. kittenz responds:

    Okay I have to have this book!

    Although I don’t currently have any snakes, I have had several over the years, and they have been some of my favorite pets. The largest snake I’ve owned was a female Burmese python. She was almost 13 feet long and weighed 77 lbs at age 4 years.

    I don’t see any reason that some of the large pythons could not reach 40 or 50 feet or more. No natural reason, that is. Snakes continue to grow all their lives (although the rate of growth slows considerably once they reach maturity).

    A big problem, at least for Old World snakes, is predation by humans. A very large snake is rarely preyed upon by other animals, but humans kill them for their skins and also for food. Big snakes don’t move especially fast, and it’s not that hard for people to kill them. For that reason, giant snakes are rarely found near human habitation.

    Still, there must be some parts of the larger snakes’ ranges that are relatively undisturbed, where they can live out their lives without much risk of running afoul of humans. In an area like that, assuming there is adequate food and water, I think it would be possible for snakes to attain truly gargantuan size.

  4. cryptidsrus responds:

    Thanks for the heads up, Loren!!!

  5. CamperGuy responds:

    Giant snakes are a type of cryptid I hope are just a myth.

    Are there any fossils of giant snakes?

  6. bill green responds:

    hey everyone this looks like a very interesting new book about snakes. good afternoon bill green 🙂

  7. Saint Vitus responds:

    It seems unlikely (but not at all impossible) that an unknown species of giant snake exists in North America. If there are any unknown snakes, they are probably very small, secretive burrowing species. In my opinion, giant snake sightings that do not fall into the escaped boa/python category are unusually large specimens of known species, and given people’s tendency to exaggerate the length of snakes, they are reported as being even longer than they really are. There are a few native species (indigo snakes, coachwhips, diamondback rattlers) that have been known to exceed 8 feet in length, and some common species like rat snakes have been known to reach almost that size. The Black Racers (Coluber constrictor constrictor) mentioned by Plant Girl have been known to reach over 6 feet in length, but the average size is usually about half that. Anyway, I plan on reading this book soon, it looks fascinating.

  8. sschaper responds:

    On the other hand, you have the appearance of a range in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, then another possible one in Iowa and surrounding counties.

  9. Ann Unknown responds:

    Snakes big enough to transport sea-containers on their backs like a train – how can you not love that! 🙂

    Just wish there were some sightings out here, in the middle of nowhere, where I live.

  10. Alligator responds:

    Looks like an interesting book. I notice a lot of these dots are in Missouri and Iowa. I find it curious that I and other herpers I know are completely unaware of these giant snake reports. I’m wondering if most if not all of these reports will date back to the latter part of the 19th century. I will say that occasionally we do run into larger boas and pythons and even an occasional iguana or caiman that are released because they get too big for some owners. Needless to say, unlike in Florida they are dead by first frost in the Midwest.

    I occasionally get called to get a snake out of someone’s garden or house. After 45 years of messing with reptiles, I’ve learned the following:
    1. All snakes on land on are copperheads or rattlesnakes that have lost their rattles.
    2. All snakes in or near water are cottonmouth moccasins.
    3. Divide the reported size of the snake by 50% and you usually end up with its real size.

    If I had $5.00 for every such episode above, I’d have a nice little nest egg. Unfortunately, giant snakes (technically, a 14 inch prairie ring neck is a giant) are hunted or persecuted nearly everywhere on the planet. Areas where I found snakes abundantly in my youth seem barren. I’ve heard guys say the same thing about the Everglades, the Okeetee area and other places once renowned as snake havens. We humans are simply not good stewards of the earth.

    You’ve got some areas of central Africa, South America and perhaps SE Asia that still harbor the giants, but they are all vulnerable.

  11. nephrite responds:

    I recall observing a snake over three feet with what appeared to be a white crown on his head swimming (down stream) in the middle of a wide stream in Virginia when I was a kid. That brownish colored snake looked scary and since he was moving fast I didn’t hang around.

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