Tales of giant snakes are far less common today than they were in centuries past. Occasionally, though, I find myself on the receiving end of such a story, but they are definitely few and far between. Finding such accounts from as late as the 19th century, however, isn’t at all hard – as we shall now see. A sixty-foot-long, deadly snake roaming around California? It sounds incredible, and yet that is precisely the story that came out of Spring Valley, California in the summer of 1868. The story was told in the pages of the Calaveras Chronicle newspaper, whose staff said:
“On the 12th of August, 1868, the serpent was first seen in the vicinity of Zane’s ranch, near Spring Valley. Several persons-reputable people-saw the monster on two or three occasions, but always at a considerable distance-never nearer than a quarter of a mile. The reptile created the most intense excitement in the neighborhood, and at one time the getting up of a party to hunt it down was strongly agitated.”
The tale continued: “What were then thought to be the most extravagant stories regarding the size of the serpent were told, but recent events prove that the truth was not exaggerated. The snake was seen in an open field in broad daylight, and described as ‘being from forty to sixty feet long, and as large around as a barrel.’ The mark of the monster in the dust where it crossed the road bore witness to its immense proportions. There was a difference of opinion regarding its method of locomotion, some maintaining that it progressed by drawing itself into immense folds, after the manner of a caterpillar, while others were equally certain that its motion was similar to others of the Ophidian family.”
Apparently, and for reasons that remain unclear, the snake was not seen again for a period of months. But, it was destined to finally surface from its lair and cause havoc and fear in and around Spring Valley. The man who was unfortunate enough (or fortunate, depending on your perspective) to encounter the beast was a Mr. W.P. Peak – who, to his horror, came across the slithering monster. At the time, Peek was driving a cart being pulled up a hill – by a couple of horses – near what was called the Gwin Mine.
The Calaveras Chronicle staff added: “After waiting until out of patience, and no team appearing, he drove on. He had gone but a short distance when a movement in the dense chaparral that lined the road, attracted his attention, and, advancing in the direction, he was horrified by the sight of a portion of the body of an immense serpent. At the same time his horse became unmanageable, and while Mr. Peek’s utmost endeavors were put forth to prevent the escape of the frightened team, the monarch moved slowly off into the brush, making the hissing sound he had mistaken for the brake of an approaching wagon.”
Had the snake been using the old mine as a hideout? We’ll likely never know. That was not the end of the story, though. Around a year later the mighty snake was seen by a pair of kids in the area of Mosquito – and who were scared witless by the sight of it. Not surprisingly, the pair raced home to tell their parents of their close encounter of the dangerous kind. Although the saga finally came to an end – and the monster-snake was never seen again – the sheer levels of terror instilled in the local people led the Calaveras Chronicle to say that there were no “doubts of its reality” and that “one of the largest boas of which we have knowledge has its residence in this county.”
I said at the beginning of this article that such reports are few and far between today. They certainly are. But, one from the mid-20th century, and which has a link to none other than the CIA, is worth noting.
CIA personnel based out of the American Embassy in Bolivia were used to dealing with unpredictable and strange events. But, even by their standards, the events that went down in August 1956, were off the scale. In the early days of the month, CIA staff received reports of a gigantic snake on the loose in a nearby, rarely explored, cave that was buried deeply within the mountainous, jungle environment. And when I say gigantic, we’re talking about somewhere between thirty and fifty feet long.
Worse still, a spate of mysterious disappearances of people from a nearby tribe had just about everyone on edge. The tribespeople were sure that the culprit was the deadly beast. Time came when something had to be done and a call was put into the CIA by local Bolivian authorities, asking for help. While hunting for a giant snake was hardly the kind of thing that CIA agents typically got involved in (to say the least!) they agreed to give it a go. After an almost deadly confrontation, CIA agents finally managed to bring the beast down with far more than a few bullets. You can find the full story in John Ranelagh’s 1986 book, Agency: The Rise and Decline of the CIA.
Do such huge snakes still exist? I like to think so. After all, there is this…