The Snarly Yow

(from Haunted Houses of Harpers Ferry by Stephen D. Brown; illustration by Harry Dierken)

Two years ago a man was walking along the road near the curve and heard a dog run up beside him. He reached down to pat the dog, but nothing was felt or seen. Yet he distinctly heard the dog panting. He walked faster, and heard the dog also increase its pace; then the sound of the animal ceased as he rounded the curve.

Around the turn of the century, a beast resembling a huge dog with large paws and an ugly red mouth was known to exist on South Mountain, east of Hagerstown, Maryland [at Turner's Gap, the site of the 1862 battle, near where "the Midnight Battle" was supposed to have happened. - Jonah]. Hundreds of people saw the dog, and horses particularly were afraid of the strange animal. The dog suddenly would appear on the National Pike, now Alternate Route 40, blocking the road. Without inflicting any damage with its vicious-looking teeth, it would confront travellers, then disappear before astonished men and women. The Black Dog, or Snarly Yow, as the locals called it, seemed to have been relegated to old accounts and memoirs... until the beast was again seen by credible witnesses in the summer of 1975.

Some time ago, William, a strong and sober man of 30, was returning home to his family the night he encountered the Snarly Yow. He had accomplished his errands in Boonsboro and was approaching the South Mountain section called Glendale when he saw the animal.

Under the bright stars the ungainly form of the beast could be distinctly traced. It was black, much bigger than any dog he had ever seen. As he came nearer, the animal moved to the center of the National Pike, blocking his way.

William first tried to scare the dog, then threw sticks and rocks at it. But instead of striking the creature, the objects seemed to go through the animal, having no effect whatsoever. The dog glared at him and threateningly bared its wolfish teeth in a snarl. Without making a sound the beast turned, then continued across the road into a thicket.

Another man, known to area residents as one of the best marksmen in the region, also came upon the Snarly Yow on the National Pike. Taking aim with his rifle, he fired several well-directed shots at the animal, but each speeding bullet passed through the shadowy beast, leaving no mark. The huntsman fled terrified.

A mountain man, nicknamed "Big Joe" due to his stature, came across the Black Dog on horseback one day while riding on a trail. The dog started running before the horse, and he gave chase. The dog kicked up dirt and gravel, very much as any beast with claws would do in a rapid run - then suddenly vanished.

Another man had gone to Boonsboro for an evening of entertainment. He became so rowdy and noisy an attempt was made to arrest him, but he successfully outwitted his assailants, mounted his horse and started home. Coming across the dog he tried to spur his horse on, but the horse became so terrified it threw the man to the ground, breaking his collar-bone in the fall. The dog vanished. Others have thrown bricks and stones at the dog, only to have it walk away undaunted.

An itinerant minister, returning along the road after holding evening prayer in the little whitewashed church near Glendale, claimed to have seen the dog on several occasions.

No one knows the origin of the Black Dog that supposedly lives in the woods of the South Mountain, but even after more than seventy years of existence it was reported by a carload of people who had visited Washington Monument and were returning to Middletown. Approaching a ridge on the mountain, they saw a black dog suddenly before them. There was no avoiding the animal, and they felt the dull thud of the animal as it was crushed under the wheels of the car. They stopped, but to their surprise saw fifty feet behind them the huge black dog with clumsy paws standing on the road, glaring at them. The dog bared its teeth as if in defiance, then without a sound vanished before their eyes.

POSTSCRIPT BY JONAH BEGONE: I talked to a lady where I used to work who claims to have seen a ghost dog in this same area as a girl! A Zittlestown, MD native - 15 years old at the time - she was with her 16 year old cousin near her home on Alt 40 at the intersection of the Zittlestown Road. It was just after dark. They both heard a noise, looked, and "thought they saw" (her words) a headless , whitish, translucent dog walk by, with a chain collar around its neck. The noise was the chain dragging on the road, making a clinking sound. Both girls briefly discussed what they saw and ran away scared. This incident occurred about 1962. A significant feature of this account is that she hadn't heard any Snarly Yow or ghost dog stories prior to this incident...