Photo: Jim the Photographer Chester Swamp
Photo: Jim the Photographer

Perhaps there are even bigger creatures than bears out there in the wilds of Pennsylvania—creatures like the Squonk. There’s no hard evidence, but there is certainly lore.

In the desolate acres of forests and mountains that make up much of Pennsylvania, animals including black bears, foxes, and many, many deer occupy the terrain. But perhaps there are even bigger creatures than bears out there—creatures like cryptids, animals whose existence is as of yet unproven. There’s no hard evidence, but there is certainly lore. Pennsylvanians have reported seeing a bigfoot-like creature munching on PA apples in Lancaster County and werewolves lurking in Clarion County. The Jersey Devil has even reportedly hopped over the state border to spread some fear in Eastern PA.

Outside of these more well-known creatures of legend are cryptids that belong solely to Pennsylvania, like the Squonk, Raystown Ray, Giwoggle, Ape Boy, and the Bryn Athyn Beast. Are there any strange creatures prowling the woods near you?

Squonk

Northern PA Hemlock Forests

The Squonk is a creature found only in the hemlock forests of northern Pennsylvania. First written about in 1910 in the book “Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods” by William T. Cox, the Squonk is reportedly covered in warts and moles. With no way of learning about the movement toward body positivity—being isolated in the northern Pennsylvania woods and all—the Squonk is very unhappy with its appearance. As a result, it is constantly sobbing. Cox recommends that anyone looking for the Squonk follow “its tear-stained trail.” But when captured, it can actually dissolve into tears, which is why you haven’t ever seen any proof of a Squonk. Progressive rock fans of a certain age are surely aware of Squonk’s legend through the Genesis song of the same name.

Raystown Ray

Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County

Raystown Lake near the center of the state in Huntingdon County is the largest lake in Pennsylvania. It’s also said to be home to a monster—not a sea monster, a lake monster. His (or her) name is Ray. Dozens of people have reported sightings spanning decades, and there are even a few photos of a strange shape in the lake. A sighting in September of this year reads: “I saw a dark shape moving in the water at least 50 yards out. At first glance I thought it was a beaver … but it wasn’t moving like a beaver.”

While more than a million people visit Raystown Lake each year and there’s no conclusive evidence of Ray, the lake is 30 miles long and does reach depths of 200 feet in some parts. Perhaps Ray has just taken advantage of all that space to hide. Whether or not Ray is real, you can still pick up some Raystown Ray merch!

Photo: daveynin

Giwoggle

Clinton County

Lou Bernard is a Pennsylvania resident and historian who has written a great deal about legendary creatures said to live in our state, especially in his home county of Clinton. Since 2011, thanks to Bernard’s help and as declared by the county commission, the Giwoggle has been the official monster of Clinton County. What exactly is it? According to folklore, as documented by Bernard, the Giwoggle looks kind of like a wolf walking on two legs, except it has claws for hands and hooves for feet—the hooves make it difficult to track it, the clever thing. The monster is distinct from others in that it’s conjured by a witch. The first report of the Giwoggle was in 1870—which fits the story, because Bernard writes that witches lived on Clinton County’s Keating Mountain around that time.

Apparently, there have been reports of bipedal wolves in Clinton County. Are these creatures simply wolves learning new tricks…or the Giwoggle?

Ape Boy of the Chester Swamps

Delaware County

Pennsylvania has more than one depressed mythical creature. Besides the Squonk, there is the “Ape Boy” of the Chester Swamps, as reported in the esteemed publication “Weird Pennsylvania.” The story goes that more than 250 years ago, there was a young boy living in Chester in Delaware County, near Philly. This boy’s appearance was not pleasing to the mainstream. See, back in the day, just as people believed that doctors didn’t need to wash their hands, they also did not consider red hair attractive. So, this red-headed kid got tired of being made fun of and ran into the swamps of Chester, never to return. (This story is a little offensive, but we’re forging ahead.) 

The boy is said to still stalk the swamps—as a large ape-like figure covered in red hair. Yet his home—the swamps of Delaware County—have been drained over the years as the area developed, so now the Ape Boy’s territory is pretty much only the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. Strangely, the wildlife refuge’s website contains no references to the Ape Boy. Is this evidence of a cover-up?!

Bryn Athyn Beast

Montgomery County

A dogman is a creature seen in several regions (like Bigfoot) that looks like a tall canine walking on two legs. Michigan folklore traces the dogman to as early as 1794, but the one said to be in Bryn Athyn in Montgomery County was first spotted in 1990. Since then, “Everyone in town knows about the Beast,” said a local paranormal investigator to the Bucks County Courier Times

According to the stories, the Beast is a large dog-like creature that walks on four legs and two legs. One resident, who was the first to see the monster, says he and a friend spied the strange creature on a baseball field 32 years ago and decided to chase it. It ran from them, but then turned around and chased them. The friends only just got away.