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The Squonk is a mythical creature reputed to live in the Hemlock forests of northern Pennsylvania. Legends of squonks may have originated in the late nineteenth century at the height of Pennsylvania's importance in the timber industry, or the creature might be a self-conscious literary creation. Whatever its genesis, the squonk has repeatedly been referenced in the arts for its lugubrious nature, and in the sciences for its curious means of avoiding capture.
The earliest known written account of squonks comes from a metafictional book by William T. Cox called Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods, With a Few Desert and Mountain Beasts (1910). Cox's account is reprinted in Jorge Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings (1969).
The legend holds that the creature's skin is ill-fitting, being covered with warts and other blemishes and that, because it is ashamed of its appearance, it hides from plain sight and spends much of its time weeping. Hunters who have attempted to catch squonks have found that the creature is capable of evading capture by dissolving completely into a pool of tears and bubbles when cornered. A certain J.P. Wentling is supposed to have coaxed one into a bag, which, while he was carrying it home, suddenly lightened. On inspection, he found that the bag contained only the liquid remains of the sad animal.
- Mario Bava's 1971 film, Twitch of the Death Nerve (also known as Carnage), written by Bava, Giuseppe Zaccariello and Filippo Ottoni, features dialogue around the 10-minute mark describing the squonk and its attributes.
- The rock band Steely Dan mention the creature in the song "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" on their 1974 LP Pretzel Logic with the lyric "Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? Well, look at mine."
- Michael Chabon's novel Wonder Boys contains a reference to the main characters, Grady Tripp and Terry Crabtree, "speculating for hours on the meaning of a certain enigmatic question in the lyrics to 'Any Major Dude'".
- The third track on Genesis's 1976 album A Trick of the Tail is titled "Squonk". The song recounts the legend of the hunter who captured a squonk, as described above, and the creature is described as having a retiring disposition.
- A 2002 short story by Glen David Gold entitled "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter" alludes to the myth and gives the name to the deceitful clown of the story, who cries "heedless crocodile tears".
- Playwright Daniel Caffrey's play Gregor and the Squonk is loosely based on the tale of J. P. Wentling. Initially written for the short play festival at Florida State University, it was later mounted at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in Fall 2008, by Tympanic Theatre Company.
- The PlayStation 2 game Culdcept features the Squonk as a playable creature card.
- A 1996 short story by Nancy Springer titled "Byrd Song" centers around an outcast girl who meets a squonk (presented here as a bird), and was published in Bruce Coville's Book of Magic. In the climax of the story, the squonk takes the protagonist to see the phoenix's funeral; overcome with grief, it forgets its self-consciousness and weeps on the ashes left behind, which creates baby squonks that reform out of their puddle when they dissolve.
- Rapper MC Frontalot mentions the creature in the song "Scare Goat", with the lines "Got a Mongolian death worm at my house, right next to Squonk and the Aqueous Mouse..."
- A Pittsburgh-based performance art collective is known as Squonk Opera, though they profess that they named themselves "after a description of a jazz saxophonist's playing as a 'squonk-fest', rather than the legendary creature of the same name".
- In a 2013 episode of Lost Girl titled "Fae-ge Against the Machine" Bo rescues a teenage squonk (who looks like a normal teenage girl other than the fact that she is constantly crying) from a dark Fae who was selling her tears.
Squonks are also known in chemistry and biology. Some substances are stable in solution or some other "wild" form but cannot be isolated or captured without actually catalyzing their own polymerization or decomposition ("dissolving in their own tears"). For example, a molecule containing a carboxylic acid moiety and an acid labile moiety might be stable when initially prepared as the salt (e.g., barium prephenate) but unstable as the free acid (prephenic acid).
Other examples can be found in: Toby J. Sommer, "Chemical Squonks", Chemical Innovation, 2000, 30 (April 2000), 24-32. ISSN 1527-4799. Chemical Abstracts: 133:73580 ; CAPlus: 2000:254494.
- Cox, William T. with Latin Classifications by George B. Sudworth. Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods. (Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler Inc., 1910
- Tryon, Henry Harrington. Fearsome Critters. (Cornwall, NY: Idlewild Press, 1939)
- Gregor and the Squonk website
- Gregor and the Squonk at the Bailiwick, Fall 2008