Look Back: Snake on the loose


Sistersville, W.Va., July 15 –A Wily Serpent, Wearying of the Daily Grind of it’s Professional Existence in the Circus, Seized an Opportunity, when its reputed Watchful Guardian was Asleep, to Slip out of the Glass Box, and is now at Large, to the Great Perturbation of the Inhabitants.

This unfortunately is not a modern fable, but a sad fact which confronts the inhabitants of this once happy little place and which makes them feel that Mother Eve ought to have been grateful when she was turned out of the Garden (you have heard the story) and had an angel with a flaming sword placed between her and the sinuous tempter.


Residents are in Terror

The inhabitants are sleeping with their windows locked and their shutters barred. Now and then a loud shriek resounds through the town. It is caused by some light sleeper awakening and imagining that the missing monster is peering through the shutters or crawling over the counterpane preparatory to making a meal of the occupant of the bed.

All out of door amusements have grown strangely distasteful. There is no more courting on the gates which swing so entrancingly before the neat cottages of the town. The boys no longer think of going fishing or of swimming in the river which courses through the town. An untold wealth could not persuade one of the inhabitants to go down in the cellar after dark. Vainly creaks the old cider barrel, with its essence of old apples, cooling and refreshing. Its invitation is not accepted. The cider lover prefers to go thirsty to bed.


Escaped From a Circus

The snake which had so upset what was once a peaceful and happy hamlet is described as a monster forty feet long. It came here in a box. It was one of the interesting features of the sideshow of Sparles’ old fashioned circus. Somebody’s carelessness let it loose. It seized the opportunity and slipped away, and though the circus hands made an eager and protracted search no trace of his snakeship could be found.

The circus went on its way sorrowful, its stock depleted by about forty feet of python. But it left behind a legacy of terror, which is daily growing wilder and more profound. It may seem humorous at a distance, but here in Sistersville the humor of the situation is not obvious.


Shocks of Hourly Occurrence

Every hour new rumors shock the town. Now it is a horse reported crushed to death in the folds of the hungry python; and now a child is the reputed victim; and again it is a leading citizen. Town meetings are being called and committees of ways and means appointed to devise some method of smoking out the unwelcome stranger. There is even talk of appointing a committee of fifty to take the matter in hand.

Meanwhile the snake has taken to the woods, and seems so anxious to escape detection as the inhabitants are to find and destroy it even as Schley destroyed Cervera’s squadron.

(Note: The reference to Schley destroying Cervera’s squadron was from the Spanish-American War when Commodore Winfield S. Schley was credited with destroying the Spanish fleet, commanded by Admiral Pascual Cervera, at the Battle of Santiago in July 1898.)

Excerpt from The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

July 15, 1902


Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.


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