Boonsboro author Susan Fair writes about creepy Western Md. folklore

August 18, 2013
  • Susan Fair compiled a series of creepy stories from Western Maryland titled Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland.
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Name: Susan Fair

Age: 51

City in which you reside:  Boonsboro

Day job: I work in the materials management department of Carroll County Public Library, and at the Boonsboro Museum of History.

Book title: “Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland: Snallygasters, Dogmen and Other Mountain Tales”

Genre: Local legends

Synopsis of book: “Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland” rounds up the bizarre beasts, odd characters, and unsolved mysteries that color the legends and lore of Western Maryland.

Publisher: History Press

Price: $19.99

Website: and

Twitter: @SusanFair7

What inspired you to write “Mysteries and Lore of Western Maryland”?  

I’ve always collected stories about the weird and offbeat, and when I moved to Washington County a few years ago, I became enamored of all the local legends here. It’s really, truly a great area as far as folklore, and there hasn’t been much written about the lore and legends of Western Maryland, although there is a really great book about the Snallygaster by local author Patrick Boyton. You could say Washington County inspired me to actually do the book.

How did you discover these “Snallygaster, Dogmen and Other Mountain Tales”? 

Some of the stories I knew about just from having a longtime interest in such things. I had to dig a little deeper to learn more about the folklore of Allegany and Garrett counties, having only lived in Frederick and Washington counties.

As a historian, how did you want to approach these stories?

A number of the stories are related to the early residents and settlers of Maryland, and I really wanted to convey the spirit of these folks who lived on what used to be considered the “frontier” of Maryland. By necessity, they had to have tons of fortitude, but they also tended to approach their lives, difficult as they often were, with a whole lot of imagination and a great sense of humor. And I wanted the book to be fun to read — not stuffy — and be entertaining for everyone, even people who don’t believe in ghosts or monsters. So I included things like colorful characters and unusual places. The main problem was that there were way more cool stories than there was room in the book.

Tell me about your research process for this book.

I work at the Boonsboro Museum of History, and the owner, Doug Bast, was a great resource for local history. I also gathered stories from friends who share my interest in weird stuff, and lots of local historians and fellow writers were great resources as well. Books of local history published in the 1800s and old newspapers are also really good sources of all kinds of weird and wonderfully unexpected stories. I could read old newspapers for days!

Which story did you feel was the creepiest?

The stories about the creatures sometimes called “Dogmen” seem creepiest to me because, unlike creatures such as, say, Bigfoot, who tend to be pretty low-key and try to avoid people, Dogmen are usually said to have pretty bad attitudes and can be kind of aggressive.

I enjoyed that your book has a Western Maryland Weird Hall of Fame. How did you decide what was weird enough to include? And do you have a favorite?

This chapter showcases some of history’s more unusual Western Marylanders, and there were plenty to choose from. I tried to include an assortment of our area’s more unique personalities. I always like writing about George Alfred Townsend, founder of what is now called Gathland, and trying to understand what made him tick. But I think it was a character named Meshach Browning, a very colorful and prolific hunter whose heyday was the first half of the 1800s, that I enjoyed the most. His memoir is crazy fun, and also very touching. So I really enjoyed researching and writing about him.

Are you working on any other projects? 

I’m always writing about weird stuff! Believe it or not, I also want to do more humor and satire. I had a piece published on the as part of their “Funny Women” section and — I’ve been working on more of that sort of thing. I’d also like to explore new formats for writing —writing for different types of media.

Is your book available in bookstores in our area? Where? If not, how can a reader buy a copy of the book?

Available at Turn the Page in Boonsboro, Carroll and Co. in Hagerstown, Battlefields and Beyond in Gettysburg, Pa., and from and History Press.

— Crystal Schelle, Lifestyle editor

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