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.
Scott Fallon prides himself on being a skeptic — just one that happens to believe in Bigfoot.
Fallon is one of the founders of the Alexandria Cryptozoology and Paranormal Society (ACAPS), a local group dedicated to the exploration of all things inexplicable. He talked with ALXnow shortly after finishing his chupacabra hunt in the jungles of Mexico. He didn’t find any, but Fallon says that doesn’t mean they’re not out there.
Fallon does not come off as the crackpot conspiracy theorist you’d expect when interviewing a Bigfoot specialist. He’s a skeptic — more Scully than Mulder, at least in some respects. He wants to believe, but says he waits to see evidence and makes a decision for himself.
Part of that involves being aware of his own biases, the way someone is more likely to hear “ghost” noises in a house they hear is haunted. At 5 a.m., for instance, Fallon said every noise in the forest sounds like Bigfoot.
“Although we are believers in the paranormal and UFOs, we are the world’s biggest skeptics,” Fallon said. “I don’t believe people at first, I have to see it for myself.”
The group was founded in 2014 and started, as many friendships do, at a bar. Fallon said the crew were regulars at Bilbo Baggins, the long-time Old Town pub at 208 Queen Street.
“I was talking to my wife and I mentioned something about Bigfoot,” Fallon said. “The guy next to me asked a question, then the guy next to him asked him the question.”
The members of ACAPS have different specialties. Fallon founded ACAPS with Chad Umbach — a Ufologist — and was joined by Marc Black, who goes by the moniker Dr. Black and is even more of a skeptic than Fallon.
Fallon’s focus is the paranormal and cryptozoology: examining the veracity of creatures depicted in folklore.
“Bigfoot is the top for me, but the other ones warrant further investigation,” Fallon said. “I am certain that there are bigfoots or sasquatches. When I say abundance, I mean 1,000 [bigfoots]. The Pacific Northwest, it’s so vast and has so much territory, so there are definitely food sources. When you talk to primatologists, they’re talking roughly 3,000. But when you’re talking about over millions of square miles… it’s an elusive creature.”
Fallon has not witnessed a bigfoot firsthand and says that he estimates 75 to 85 percent of reported sightings are fake.
Fallon also said he’s had a few paranormal encounters, like one at a bed and breakfast outside of Harrisonburg, Virginia.
“While I was there at 10 p.m. at night, I was working on my laptop and there were distinct footsteps in the room above me,” Fallon said. “It was footsteps. I was the only one in the house. I looked up the stairs to see if I saw anybody. I did what any other mature responsible adult would do: I ran in my room and pulled the covers over my head. I talked to the bread and breakfast owner and he said ‘did you hear footsteps? We get that all the time.’ That one really scared me.”
“One of the places I definitely believe is haunted is the Carlyle House,” Fallon continued. “It’s had a number of sightings. I’ve talked to people who’ve worked there who swear up and down there are sightings. I believe there’s a significant amount of paranormal activity. I believe there are a lot of paranormal haunted places in Old Town.”