Historic Flying Snakes

Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 18th, 2009

Do “flying snakes” exist? Roy Mackal and other cryptozoologists have investigated flying snake reports in Africa. Did you know there are files on airborne serpentine reptiles in North America? Here are four for your consideration. You will rapidly discover that there are varying levels of credibility in these articles. ~ Loren

Galveston Daily News
Galveston, Texas.

May 23, 1899


Has a Skull Like an Adder and a Bat-Like Expression.

New York Journal.

A flying snake five feet long has built its nest in one of the tall trees at Waterford, N.J., and when it is not setting on its eggs to hatch out a lot more flying snakes it is roving about intimidating the natives.

No amount of hunting in mere natural history books will reward the searcher with a glimpse of a picture of a flying snake or any information about one. The creature does not exist in any scientific work. It is found only in Waterford, where a party of indignant citizens are making a desperate effort to locate it before it eats some of the farmers.

Robert McDougall, who saw the flying snake, is perhaps the most prominent citizen of Waterford – a fact that the intelligent reader has already guessed, for persons who see sea serpents, flying snakes, wild men, or horned gazoozas are invariably described by their neighbors as prominent in order that the story may not be doubted and the town thereby indirectly reflected upon.

This gentleman was taking a short trip through the woods, cogitating as he walked as to the turnip crop, when suddenly the flying snake darted from the low branch of a [illegible] pine tree and flapped its wings with hoarse cries until it vanished from view. Its bearing was plainly vindictive.

“It had the look of a bat in its face,” says McDougall, “but it was a flying snake sure enough; one of the venomous kind, I should say. Its skull resembled that of a puff adder, but it had no hair, and it had a tapering tail and eyes that flashed fire, but never before did I see eyes on a monster like that,” and Mr. McDougall shuddered at his narrow escape.

On the following morning the Waterford vigilantes armed themselves and repaired to the lair of the flying snake. They found its footprints, not in the air, where it might be expected that a snake on the fly would leave them, but on the ground. They were web-like prints, something like those of a swan. The local indignation increased when it was thereby proved that the monster is amphibian.

Hiram Beechwood, who lives at a place called Elm, says he saw the flying snake at daybreak crossing a road near a swamp. As soon as it noticed it was observed[,] it exchanged looks of deadly hate with him and then, uttering an angry bleat like an exasperated sheep, unwound a pair of bat-like wings and slowly flew into the swamp, where it is feared it has a nestful of eggs.

According to the ornithologists of the place, flying snakes are an established fact. They stick pretty closely to the thick undergrowth unless driven out by forest fires or lack of food. They build in tall trees, Mr. McDougall says, and when in a good temper utter a note something like that of a robin who has just found a worm. When annoyed or frightened, however, they emit an angry scream that is very terrifying.

Some of the residents hold that the snake is a vegetarian and won’t eat Jerseymen. Others wisely say that this may be so, but still it might bite them, and they are going after it to put it out of its misery.


Logansport Pharos
Logansport, Indiana
March 25, 1885

A flying snake is on exhibition at Virginia City, Nevada. The reptile is four feet long and has two wings attached to its body, about four inches back of the head.


Greenville Evening Record
Greenville, Pennsylvania.
June 16, 1900

Venango county papers note the appearance of a flying snake and also a leathered snake. The latter was captured by Arthur Savage, of Canal township, and is said to have a fine coat of feathers and a head like a chicken. It is about three feet in length. It eats nothing but grain and drinks an abundance of water. Mr. Savage intends to take it to some zoological garden.


Alton Evening Telegraph
Alton, Illinois.
August 9, 1905

The moonshine whiskey business appears to be flourishing in Missouri. At least flying snakes are reported in several places in the Ozark Mountains region.

Thanks to Jerome Clark for archival input.

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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.

5 Responses to “Historic Flying Snakes”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I believe it was at Here Be Dragons (.com) that claimed the reason he began studying the possibility of dragons actually living (from a scientific realm) was because as a boy he visited a traveling “freak” show that had a winged snake. Looked like nothing more than an average garden snake with wings, but it got him studying dragons and their reported abilities from a scientific view. By the way, what are gazoozas anyway? The one with feathers almost sounds like someone was trying to prove the Aztec dragon. The biggest article talked about footprints. Either the creature in question was a dragon (sorry if anyone dislikes discussing them) or mass hysteria caused them to head that direction in their thinking. But what else is a flying snake? A serpentine creature with wings that allow it to fly. Sounds like a Wyrm. A dragon that is serpentine in shape with wings. Some have feet and some don’t. As Europe began industrialization and exploration of their homeland, I could see such creatures going elsewhere for solitude. I would love to find one some day.

  2. cryptidsrus responds:

    Great post. I’ve always had a “thing” for flying snakes.”
    Usually this was dismissed as “stuff carried over from storms.” Really? There were no reports of storms in the area at the time.
    And it just happened that it was snakes that were the only things “carried over” from the storm??? Uh-huh. 🙂

  3. D2K4 responds:

    Notice that the first account takes place in New Jersey and sounds less like any sort of snake than a description of the Jersey Devil.

  4. mystery_man responds:

    Cryptidsrus- I’ll put aside the issue of the credibility of these reports in general and focus on one thing you mentioned. Yeah, I’ve never really bought the whole storm hypothesis either for these accounts either, as I’ve mentioned in the past. The whole idea just doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Storms, tornados, waterspouts, and other related weather phenomena simply do not pick and choose what they are going to pick up and hurl around. Then you have to account for instances where there are no storms reported. Obviously this would be pretty noticeable to any witness if it involved winds strong enough to lift up and send animals airborne. Even a small snake would require a large amount of wind power to send it completely airborne for any appreciable amount of time. This is hard to reconcile with flying snake sightings that make no mention of such weather or even describe clear weather.

    If one is to accept the storm hypothesis in these cases, then they are leaving the door open to the idea of stealthy storms that willfully choose to pick up only snakes, which is rather absurd.

    Then you have descriptions of snakes flying in a fairly linear manner, or even vertically straight up into the air, and the storm explanation falls apart even more. A snake being thrown around through the air by a storm would likely look less like a snake flying under its own power in a controlled manner and more like, well, a snake getting flung about by a storm.

    Now, I’m not saying that these reports are necessarily actual cases of flying snakes. There may be other mundane explanations to explore in the case of flying snakes, but I would say it is highly doubtful to me that they are the work of storms.

    Personally, I find some basic underlying problems with the idea of self propelling flying (not gliding) snakes that show little sign of outward wings or something of the like, with regards to the biology, evolution, and physiology of such proposed organisms. I tend to think there may be some sort of animal (although not a literal flying snake) that originated the reports, but am also interested in other possibilities such as misidentification of known objects under strange circumstances. In the end, I just don’t know.

    But storms? No.

  5. cryptidsrus responds:

    Precisely. Whether these “incidents” were real or not, they were NOT caused by storms.

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