Artist's Rendering of a vampire creature by Midnightink.
Map of North Carolina
|First Sighting||American Indian Legends|
|Habitat||Tsgagnun'yi Cave, North Carolina|
The Averasboro Gallinipper is a giant mosquito reportedly as large as a hawk. The sting it carries on its head could slice all the way through a man's arm. A bite from the Gallinipper could mean death. The mosquito could drain all the blood from a man in a single gulp.
More than the alligators, more than the bears, more than the panthers that hid in the trees, the lumbermen who worked the swamps of North Carolina feared the Gallinipper.
The legend of the Gallinipper originates around the now abandoned town of Averasboro, however, many coastal towns in North Carolina have similar versions of the story, including the state's oldest town, Bath. The earliest accounts of a giant mosquito come from the local American Indian traditional mythology.
Only a cemetery surrounded by a grove and a Civil War museum remind anyone passing through that the port town of Averasboro existed. According to Monsters of North Carolina by John Hairr, "The town's property records of the 1850s reveal that thirteen of the fourteen public buildings in the town sold liquor...According to tradition, one of the town's taverns had the skeleton of what looked like a large flying animal suspended from the ceiling, its bones carefully wired together in a job that would have made many a museum curator proud. The skeleton had originally belonged to a large bird, perhaps a tundra wan, Cygnus columbianus, which the proprietor or one of his friends had killed on a hunting excursion to the Outer Banks. Someone had removed the beak from the skeleton and replaced it with a long,
scrimshawed piece of bone that tapered to a point like a large needle. Around the neck of the trophy hung a wooden plank upon which someone had roughly inscribed the words 'Averasboro Gallinipper.' This trophy was meant to remind visitors that swarms of...mosquitoes so large they were mistaken for birds." Belief in large mosquitoes was so widespread that the workmen cutting timber along the Cape Fear kept a wary eye out for the creatures (Hairr)."
Tuscarora and Iroquoian OriginsThe Tuscarora were an Iroquoian people that were originally from the area south of the Great Lakes in present day New York. Around 500 CE they began migrating out and settled in North Carolina. The powerful Tuscarora nation blocked colonial expansion toward the Piedmont and south to Cape Fear, so most members of the tribe left North Carolina following their defeat in 1715 CE. Tuscarora Chief Elias Johnson, an 1800s chronicler of his tribe's history and lore, wrote of a mosquito as large as a man called Ro-Tay-Yo, stating, "It flew about with vast wings, making a loud noise, with a long stinger, and on whomsoever it lighted it sucked out all the blood and killed him. Many warriors were destroyed in this way, and all attempts to subdue it were in vain (Hairr)." Eventually, the creature's heart was pierced by an arrow and it spawned the numerous small mosquitoes that inhabit the world today.
Carolina Cherokee Version
The Carolina Cherokee have a version of the Tuscarora Ro-Tay-Yo myth, however, in their version, the
creature is a giant yellow-jacket wasp called U'la'gu'. The Cherokee stated that U'la'gu was large enough to swoop down and pick up children and carry them back to its lair, a cave in western North Carolina called Tsgagnun'yi, meaning "where the Yellow-jacket was." James Mooney wrote of the legend, stating, "The hunters built fires around the whole, so that smoke filled the cave and smothered the great insect and multitudes of the smaller ones...escaped and increased until now yellow-jackets, which before were unknown, are all over the world (Hairr)." In both the Tuscarora and Cherokee stories, smaller modern insects were created when the giant one was killed.
Averasboro EncountersIn 1855, a lumberworker named Red Saunders was reportedly stung by a Gallinipper. However, some versions of the story claim the the giant mosquito bite was actually caused by a hot coal. Irish immigrants to the Cape Fear region are also reported to have seen giant mosquitoes in the 1850s.
- Hairr, John. Monsters of North Carolina: Mysterious Creatures in the Tar Heel State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2013. Print.