Just a few days ago I was talking with a friend about giant snakes. And, in relation to just how big these things can actually grow. The fact is that snakes can grow very big. "Huge" is the word for it all. And, due to their alleged sized there is no doubt they deserve a place in the field of Cryptozoology. As for the world's absolute, largest snake that ever existed, its name was Titanoboa. Smithsonian Magazine say of this immense beast: "The lord of this jungle was a truly spectacular creature—a snake more than 40 feet long and weighing more than a ton. This giant serpent looked something like a modern-day boa constrictor, but behaved more like today’s water-dwelling anaconda. It was a swamp denizen and a fearsome predator, able to eat any animal that caught its eye. The thickest part of its body would be nearly as high as a man’s waist. Scientists call it Titanoboa cerrejonensis. It was the largest snake ever, and if its astounding size alone wasn’t enough to dazzle the most sunburned fossil hunter, the fact of its existence may have implications for understanding the history of life on earth and possibly even for anticipating the future."
Despite the above, is it possible that there were, once, even bigger snakes than this huge thing? Maybe so. Let's have a look at the evidence. There is the following account of Reymondo Zima, a Portuguese merchant, who Father Heinz had the good fortune to interview. Zima told the priest: "On 6th July 1930 I was going up the Jamunda in company with my wife and the boy who looks after my motor-boat. Night was falling when we saw a light on the river bank. In the belief it was the house I was looking for I steered towards the light and switched on my searchlight. But then we noticed that the light was charging towards us at an incredible speed. A huge wave lifted the bow of the boat and almost made it capsize.
"My wife screamed in terror. At the same moment we made out the shape of a giant snake rising out of the water and performing a St. Vitus’s dance around the boat. After which the monster crossed this tributary of the Amazon about half a kilometer wide at fabulous speed, leaving a huge wake, larger than any of the steamboats make at full speed. The waves hit our 13-meter boat with such force that at every moment we were in danger of capsizing. I opened my motor flat out and made for dry land. Owing to the understandable excitement at the time it was not possible for me to reckon the monster’s length. I presume that as a result of a wound the animal lost one eye, since I saw only one light. I think the giant snake must have mistaken our searchlight for the eye of one of his fellow snakes."
Moving on: In 1868, a Frenchman named Raud made a truly extraordinary statement regarding a monstrous, near-dragon-like snake seen in the California countryside, earlier in that very same year, and which was estimated to have an overall length of around forty-feet. Despite the controversial nature of the story, it was supported by his friend and colleague, F.C. Buylick – both of whom were cutting wood and burning charcoal when the immense creature loomed into view. Raud, who broke off from the wood-cutting to pursue nothing more threatening than a hare, said the following of the beast, which appeared to dwell deep in the woods, swamps, and fields of the area:
"I had proceeded twenty-five yards, perhaps, when I emerged into an open space not to exceed thirty feet in diameter. As I entered it the hare dragged itself into the brush on the opposite side, and I quickened my steps in pursuit. Almost at the same instant I was startled by a loud, shrill, prolonged hiss, a sound that closely resembled the escape of steam from the cylinder of a locomotive when starting a heavy train. I stopped as suddenly as if my progress had been arrested by a rifle bullet, and looking toward the upper end of the plat my eyes encountered an object the recollection of which even now makes me shiver with horror. Coiled up not more than twenty feet from where I stood was an immense serpent - the most hideously frightful monster that ever confronted mortal man." Thankfully, Raud made his escape.
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.
"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.
"The serpent disappeared for several months, and was seen by Mr. W. P. Peek, of this place, while coming up the hill from the Gwin mine. Mr. Peek was driving a two horse team and had got about half way up the steep hill that has to be ascended in leaving the mine, when he heard what he supposed to be the loud ‘screeching’ noise sometimes made by a wagon brake. Certain that a team was coming down the grade, and being in a favorable place for passing, he turned out of the road.
"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. About a year subsequently the serpent was seen by a couple of boys in the vicinity of Mosquito, the youths being so badly frightened that they could scarcely reach home and tell the story. Such is briefly the story of the Calaveras serpent up to Saturday of last week, when the experiences had with it at once settled all doubts as to its reality, and fix the fact beyond question that one of the largest boas of which we have knowledge has its residence in this county."
Just maybe, Titanoboa was not the biggest snake, after all!