The Flying Serpent of Henham

Woodcut of the Henham Dragon, published 1669 in the pamphlet "The Flying Serpent, or: Strange News out of Essex"

Woodcut of the Henham Dragon, published 1669 in the pamphlet “The Flying Serpent, or: Strange News out of Essex”

On May 27 and 28, a mystical dragon creature was allegedly seen in the village of Henham in Uttlesford, Essex. The dragon was described as some sort of a a winged snake, that attacked several people and then hid in the nearby woods.

The first sighting is probably published in ‘The Flying Serpent or Strange News Out of Essex’ in 1669. The article described the following:

“The place of his abode and where he hath been oftentimes seen, is called Henham, but most commonly Henham on the Mount, the town standing upon a hill, having many fair farms and granges belonging to it, in one of which named The Lodge, near to a wood called Birch-wood, by reason of the many birches growing there, in a pasture-ground close by the same, hath this monstrous serpent been often seen as he hath lain upon the sides of a bank, beaking and stretching himself out upon the same, at such time as Sol did parch the earth with his resulgent beams.”

It was further said that the dragon surprised a man on his horse, who then fled into the village. Two further men are said to have witnessed the appearance of the creature but were too afraid to attack it. It is then told that the dragon fled into the woods where the local farmers hoped to kill it. However, the message ends at this point. The dragon of Henham was describes as approximately 2-3 meters long with eyes, big white teeth, and small wings. However, it apparently could not fly. Further sightings allegedly occurred throughout the summer.

During the late 1990s, the freelance writer and broadcaster Alison Barnes published a booklet entitled ‘The Ingenious William Winstanley’. It is believed that William perpetrated the Henham Dragon Hoax of 1668 when they “created a hollow nine-foot wood and canvas dragon or “flying serpent” activated by a man which made fleeting appearances in and around Birch Wood, Henham throughout that summer and caused great excitement and mystification in the neighbourhood.”

Further, William is supposed to have anonymously written the pamphlet describing the dragon’s visit which is vouched for by a churchwarden, a constable and five other solid citizens.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video interview with the famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on Sherlock Holmes and Spirituality.

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