23 Sep 2020
By Kathi Ferguson
Swamp creatures in Delmarva? According to legend, indeed there are!
Found mainly in the southeastern Coastal Plain along rivers, streams or ponds with slow moving water, forested wetlands are home to mysterious and lush bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss—the hallmark of the southern swamps. Tucked into a wild, dark corner on the Maryland-Delaware border, the Great Cypress Swamp of the Delmarva Peninsula once covered 50,000 acres, having been reduced by industrial development, and by its most serious blow, a massive fire in the early 1930s. The fire ravaged for eight long months. From that time forward, it became known locally by its begotten name, the Burnt Swamp. With Prohibition still going strong and the swamp being a favored hideaway for bootleggers, most believe the fire started when a moonshiner’s still exploded.
But that’s not all folklore tells us. For those brave enough to have entered the shadowy bog, rumors of a swamp monster and other haunting tales date as far back as the 1920s. One night, a terrifying inhuman scream was heard by two raccoon hunters that sent them and their dogs running for their lives, claiming they were being pursued by a large, hulking creature, snapping off tree branches behind them. Yikes! Rumor has it that the monster continues to visit just after midnight and is described by those claiming to have seen it as something ranging from a two-legged half-man animal to a ghostly, hairy creature. Perhaps the swamp monster is not the only supernatural being to inhabit this place!
According to legend, the evil spirit of an old shingle-maker called the Selbyville Swamp Monster who died in the infamous fire still haunts the edge of the swamp. Not to mention talk of the mysterious phantom of a young girl dressed in a flowing white gown lurking around Delaware Route 54 carrying her head in her hands. Now, that is spooky! Strange sounds and moans coming from the swamp and surrounding woods have been reported over time as well, often tempting area teens to visit on a dare on Halloween night.
Historians speculate that the surviving areas of the old Cyprus Swamp has not changed a great deal over the centuries. Some tell us that this might be as close as you can get in the present day Delmarva Peninsula to seeing something that resembles as it appeared when Captain John Smith were exploring in the early 1600s. One wonders however, if he too, was haunted by creatures of the night!