Prime Hook Swamp Creature of Delaware

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Prime Hook Swamp Creature of Delaware

The world is full of stories of strange creatures. Some can be easily traced to their roots, like in the case of the Hodag of American Folklore, while the origin of others can be full of twists and turns, like that of Tahoe Tessie. Cryptids, as they're called, are a fun topic to research and write about, and most have a wealth of information available, even though difficult to verify. Occasionally, my random topic rolling pulls up a more obscure cryptid, which presents challenges different from sorting fact from fiction.

In a wildlife refuge area of Delaware, one such story of a cryptid exists; a beast known as the "Prime Hook Swamp Creature"—and very little is known about it. Based on the sparse information available, there aren't many theories to explain it. So, let's take a short trip over to Delaware and take a close look at what we do know to find out if we should be either terrified or relieved at what's out there in the swamp.

Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge

Overcast beach area taken from the sky, perhaps a drone shot, of Prime Hook Beach. Smaller areas of land are surrounded by grey waters.
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Prime Hook Beach, DE, USA. Photo by Gabriel Tamblin on Unsplash
A full map of the United States showing a point for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on the east coast in Delaware.
The area of Delaware is right around a hotbed of high strangeness. For example, the area of Mothman (Point Pleasant, New Jersey) is only a three-hour drive away. Delaware also happens to be home to the Frankenstein Muffler Man, a church that looks like Noah's Ark, and one of the former world's largest frying pans.
A zoomed in map of the United States showing Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge on the east coast just south of Philadelphia, in Delaware Bay.
Prime Hook is about 10,000 acres along the western shore of Delaware Bay. If you're wondering about the name "Prime Hook," it comes from Dutch "Priume Hoek," meaning "Plum Point." European settlers gave it the name during the 17th century because of the mass of purple beach plums.

The Story of the Prime Hook Swamp Creature

"I was driving on Broadkill Road in Broadkill Beach Delaware around dusk in July 2007. This road borders a swamp area. Standing on the side of the road by the swamp, my daughter and I saw a creature like we've never seen before. It stood about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall with long legs, a tan body, a flat, almost puggish face, and a long tail. It had small ears and looked to be about 30 pounds.

My other daughter and her friend also saw this same animal the year before around the same area, except it was night and it ran in front of their car. I asked the lady who owned the Broadkill Beach store about it and she said she had seen it once when she was dirt biking with her dad in that area years before, and both her and her dad had no idea what it was even though she was raised around Broadkill.

She said we were lucky to have spotted it as very few people have seen it. We went to the Primehook Reserve (this is what the swampy area is called) museum and they had no idea what it could be. I am wondering if anyone else has seen it and what the heck it is."

— Helen J.

The very brief story above is one of the few accounts anyone has ever written about the strange creature in the swamps of Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Evidently, "Helen J." originally posted this story on about.com, and it has subsequently hit a few other sites like Reddit, but it's still fairly obscure. Despite questions from online users, Helen J. never came back to provide more information, so no one knows if the creature she saw walked on four legs or two or any other details about it other than what she already provided.

Supposedly, if you believe online, unsubstantiated rumors—which I sometimes choose to do because it makes life more fun—Helen went to talk to locals after she spotted the creature and found a shop owner who had also seen the creature several years earlier.

A wooden boardwalk across a dry grass area in the swamp.
A trail in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

The Closest Town: Milton, Delaware

The "locals" Helen J. talked to could have been from the nearest town, Milton, Delaware. Milton and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge are only about 6 miles (9.5 km) away from one another. The next closest official town is about double that.

If Milton sounds familiar, it could be because Dogfish Head Brewery got started there.

A beautiful lush green hiking trail with tall trees and sunlight.
A trail in the woods around Milton, Delaware.

Now, let's take another look at the facts, as provided by Helen J.

  • It stood about 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall (0.7 to 0.9 meters)
  • with long legs, a tan body
  • a flat, almost puggish face
  • and a long tail.
  • It had small ears
  • looked to be about 30 pounds. (13.6 kg)
  • It followed Helen J. home, and after a few days or weeks of stalking her, it ate her and her entire family.

Okay, admittedly, I added that last one myself as a simple explanation of why Helen J. never came back and answered any follow-up questions. But, you know, she never said she wasn't eaten by the Prime Hook Swamp Creature.

Possible Explanations of the Prime Hook Swamp Creature

Let's take a look at a few possible explanations as to what the Prime Hook Swamp Creature is, based on what we know from Helen J. before she was eaten by it.

Possible Explanation: It's a Wolverine!

Wolverines weigh about 30 pounds, stand about 1.5 feet tall, and are about 33 to 44 inches in length—all of these could fit within Helen J's description, particularly if a wolverine were standing upright. They also have tan fur. Let's take a look to see if they have a pug face.

A vicious wolverine baring its fangs.
Here's the friendly face of a wolverine.
A cute pug dog looking up at the wolverine photo above it. The pug is clearly skeptical.
And a pug face for comparison.

A quick Googling shows that wolverines don't seem to live anywhere near Delaware, though you never know where a wolverine might vacation.

Possible Explanation: That Lady Was Crazy!

There isn't much to this explanation. Helen J. did use an Oxford comma, so I'm going to declare her sane.

Possible Explanation: It's a Devil Monkey!

A Devil Monkey is a cryptid that's been reported in various parts of the world, including New England. They've often been described as baboons, three to eight feet tall, either walking on all fours or upright, with hairy bodies and a monkey or dog-like face. No one has a photo of a Devil Monkey, so we don't have any hard evidence to compare against Helen J's description. It's also worth mentioning here that there is another cryptid known as "Dogman" that has some similarities to Bigfoot, Devil Monkey, and a few others. Unfortunately, those are all still cryptids, so it would be nearly impossible to compare one cryptid to another.

Possible Explanation: It's a Coyote!

A coyote
I don't know about you, but that coyote looks just like a coyote to me. It would be hard to mistake a coyote for anything else—especially some kind of swamp monster.

Possible Explanation: That Lady Was Lying!

🤔🤔🤔

Nah. Too boring. Besides, choosing to believe is way more fun.

Possible Explanation: It's a Caracal!

Come on! No one even knows what that is (in Delaware or America) or how to pronounce it! Not to mention that they don't even live anywhere in the Americas.

A wild caracal cat in dry grasslands looking a little perturbed at the camera.
"Tell me you did not just say I looked like a pug-faced dog."

Possible Explanation: It's a Prime Hook Swamp Creature!

Yes. This is possible. There could be an as-of-yet-unknown creature living in the wilds of a 10,000-acre refuge near the coast of Delaware. One of the issues with this explanation, though, is that few people have spotted a strange creature that fits Helen J's description. In fact, as far as I can tell, it's only been Helen J.

Possible Explanation: Short Spine Syndrome

There's a condition called "short spine syndrome" that can affect, well, anything with a spine, including dogs, coyotes, and wolves. You'll need a few photo references to see what this is, so click here for that. It's a rare condition, and rare enough that I couldn't find any photos that I could use here. Here are a few videos as well, so you can see happy dogs living with the condition as they frolic around with their great human caretakers.

Because the condition can affect canines in the wild, I'd say this could be a plausible explanation as to what Helen J. saw and thought it strange enough to take to the Internet to report it. I also can't imagine that a wild animal with the condition would have the same lifespan as those without it, as it would have additional challenges in acquiring food and defending itself. Domesticated animals with short spine syndrome aren't in pain and can live long and happy lives.

Conclusion: No One Really Knows

Whatever the Prime Hook Swamp Creature is, and whether or not it even exists, it still makes for a fascinating story. I'd love to hear more personal accounts and see more evidence, so if anyone reading this has anything to share, please reach out so I can add it here.

Helen J., if you're out there anywhere, get in touch with me! I'd love to hear that you haven't been eaten, and I'd be more than happy to put up anything else you can add to your original story.

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