Flying Snake Sightings in America and China
Flying snakes exist. They are snakes which glide through the air by jumping off tree branches and which live in remote jungles. There are at least five known species of snake that exhibit this behaviour in Asia. These creatures flatten their bodies to spread their weight as they glide from branch to branch. However, people have often claimed to see snakes with wings flying in the sky. Are stories of dragons based on sightings of these?
These sightings were often of creatures larger than most snakes grow, and so should be termed serpents.
In 1873 in Texas it was reported that farmers witnessed a serpent "as long as a telegraph pole...floating in a cloud"
In 1887 near Bedford, Iowa a witness sighted the landing of one such serpent 1ft (30cm) thick in a cornfield.
It is recorded that many witnesses in the late 19th century, especially in America, saw creatures variously described as 8-10ft long (and some up to 20ft), as thick as a man's thigh, black and yellow, with a small flat head and a forked tongue. They were also alleged to have horse-like manes and saucer shaped eyes, which had a hypnotic effect on observers. Some accounts also say that the serpents had four small legs close up to its body like a classical Chinese dragon.
The motion of the dragons through the air was very much snake-like, witnesses reported. One witness described how he "could see it coil itself up, turn over, and thrust forward its huge head as if striking at something, displaying the manoeuvres of a genuine snake." Some witnesses claim to have noticed tiny wings close up near the dragon's head, which it used to fly with, whilst others describe dragons sighted flying completely vertically with the tail dragging along the ground. (the real flying snake in the video appears to use its long tail as a rudder when in flight).
Another explains how: "it sailed in a regular course, but when the jaws opened it then took a downward course and seemed as though it would fall to the ground below. On the descent the mouth remained open and after a fall of about 100ft [30m], the jaws would close and the snake would raise its head and slowly wend its way up to its former height."
Some accounts also say it moved with a looping motion in the air, one person describing it as travelling "like those big sea serpents you read about, skipping over the top of the water" (presumably undulating up and down).
Some sea serpents witnessed, have been seen to leap out of the sea and fly (gliding like flying fish) by using large wing-like fins. However some of these covered considerable distances (up to 50ft [15m])
One gigantic creature 30ft (9m) long is said to have attacked a locomotive travelling across the Mojave Desert in 1888. The incident was reported in the Los Angeles Times and was corroborated by all the passengers of the train.
These creatures also were said to have thick, glistening scales which are very hard and difficult to damage in any way (when shot at). Some witnesses claim to have smelt an awful smell of arsenic being burnt. They believed it was the devil they had seen.
Native Americans also have tales of the Tt'iish Naat Agii (snake that flies), which they sometimes speak of as a real animal and sometimes as a spirit animal. It is said to have a thin membrane with which it flies, and which, because it is so thin, becomes invisible when they do so. It is said to make a high-pitched humming or hissing noise when it flies, which is the sound of the membrane in the air. Some specimens were said to have been collected, and seen by witnesses, but they have not come to light since, making it probable that they were fabrications
Therefore there is no proof that such a creature exists in America.
Is it a Dragon?
In America at that time there was a great influx of Chinese workers, who brought with them their symbols of prosperity - the dragon - stylised images which westerners had never seen the like of before. It may, therefore, be no coincidence that it was at this time that sightings of these fabulous beasts occurred, fuelled by the imaginations of susceptible (or gullible) witnesses who might have seen curious things in the skies, but which they elaborated by imbuing them in the trappings of the "yellow devil's" gods. (Remember these simple folk thought they were seeing the devil).
Yet in one account, in Hurleton, California, in 1882 there were Chinese witnesses, working nearby, who also saw the creature. This one was described as having 12 wings and 12 little feet (6 on each side) along the length of its body. Whether or not the Chinamen spoke with, and explained what it was they thought they saw to the primary witnesses (who shot at the creature) in the case, is not stated in the account.
In China, itself, there are believed to have been many sightings of lucky dragons flying in the skies. However other than one or two recent videos it is very difficult to find sources for these.
A Very Short Clip With no Explanation
Has anyone reading this every seen such a thing as a snake flying in the sky? I imagine that in America it could have been possible that phenomena like dust devils or distant tornado formations could have been mistaken for serpents due to their shapes. However this seems unlikely.
Many 'snake stories' - tales of impossible snakes - could well have been perpetrated on the public too, since most of these accounts were reported in newspapers of the time. But still, not all the stories ring false. After all, uneducated farmers and labourers, the average type of people who saw these fascinating creatures, would not fabricate such tales unless they had seen something, however strange and unlikely. And perhaps, it could just be, that they were really dragons.
And One More for Luck!
All quotes used in my article come from this fascinating book. Really well researched and informative.