With all the new residential development coming up in Old Town North, new local residents wandering around their home might be surprised to see a sign marking the neighborhood’s very own elusive cryptid: the bizarre goosepigs.
Goosepigs, as the name suggests, are a rumored fusion of pigs and goose, an impossible biological feat said to be accomplished when the pair of species were driven into the fringes of the city by local ordinance.
The source listed on the sign is the 1972 book Pets in Old Alexandria by Dickman and Nicholson, but City Historian Daniel Lee said the story has older roots.
The only known source for the goosepig story is Mary Powell’s The History of Old Alexandria, Virginia, published in 1928. Lee said Powell was codifying older stories she’d heard.
Given that it’s a book from 1928, much of the language in the excerpts, including the section about goosepigs, has its share of racist language.
In Powell’s history, geese and pigs running amok in the street was a lingering issue even years after an Act of General Assembly prohibiting their presence.
A legend preserved by some [Black immigrants] not many generations from their native Africa, and who were full of folk tales, stated that after the manner of the “Pied Piper of Hammelin” they were tolled off to the arch under the canal basin, where they took up their abode. They cross-bred, retaining the legs of the pig and the webbed feet and bill of the goose.
They were said to be very good natured, and if approached diplomaticaly, would assist people in recovering lost property. Occationally youth of the town south to verify this story but were never successful. So after many years the legend of the Goosepigs at Spa Spring died out. It is worth re-counting, however, as an interesting bit of folklore.
Lee said the prohibitions on swine and geese started as early as 1811 in Alexandria, though some bans of pigs in the streets may have started earlier. However, there’s no evidence in the 1811 laws of Alexandria’s miraculous creatures being specifically targeted.