Kicklesnifter. - [Fearsome Critter] - Aka: (Knicklesnifter, Hicklesnifter.)
• About this critter: A small creature: not much bigger than your thumb, very shy: they hide in old mens hair and are constantly giggling to themselves (Beard hair tickles.) - They are said to only be seen peeking out at you when you're drowsy and about to drift off to dreamland after downing a delightful dinner ... An Aquatic variety is sometimes said to be seen in the centre of circular lakes, when alerted they bore a big hole in the bottom, the Snifters, snicker at you, as you sprint to sail away from the swirling spritz!! Some in the species also munch on metal or chew on cherries. - To summarize; KickleSnifters are simply the radical results of a sequence of satisfying syllables. ...Or so I dreamed.
• History: The best-known description and illustration of a "Kicklesnifter" is from the children's book: "Kicklesnifters and Other Fearsome Critters" [Schwartz 1976.] - (The amusing book is for all intents and purposes is in fact a proper "Fearsome Critter" bestiary.) – Schwartz describes Kicklesnifters as such:
"Kickle Snifters are about the size of your thumb. They live inside old mens beards. But this gets boring so they are forever peeking out. They are also forever laughing because beard hair tickles... You are most likely to see kickle snifters at your grandfathers or great uncles house, when you've eaten too much supper and begin to feel sleepy and things dont look the way they usually do."
["Kicklesnifters and other Fearsome Critters" illustration by Glen rounds 1976.]
The way Schwartz describes them is parallel to certain fairy tales or even Pourqoi stories (The kind which grandparents would tell their grandchildren at bedtime; (usually made up on the spot and off the cuff, I suppose they're somewhat adjacent to "tall tales.") - it seems to me that most of the actual "Lore" behind 'kicklesnifters' kicks in for those who become curious enough to research the subject, especially those who are trying to find the meaning in the name, or simply attempt to find futher material on the subject of "kicklesnifters."
--Of course we can start by looking at the etymology & meaning of the name: "Snifter" is a type of whisky glass, and it can also be used as another word for 'sniffling' or to refer to the 'nose' - 'Kickle' is defined by some dictionaries to mean "uncertain" though to me it sounds a bit more like 'baby talk' to for 'kicking gently' [could be neither or both!]
Earlier recorded mention of "kicklesnifters" in literature is admittedly pretty scarce, there are however actually a few books & news articles which predate Schwartz's and mention the critters dating back to the 20s! - A couple of years prior to his publishing "Speaking Canadian English"  had listed "Kicklesnifters" as 'Fabulous beasts" from New Brunswick area, (Strangely along side various BC cryptids such as Sasquatch, the Wendigo and a few others.) Later, "Colombos book of marvels"  a proper bestiary listed them the same way. – Both of these books define "Kicklesnifters" identically, as follows:
“They live in old men’s beards and in circular lakes. They bore a hole in the center. They laugh at you. You take them in the scow."
[Note: a "scow" is a small boat, typically used for fishing. – Curiously, 'Boring a Hole in the centre of circular lakes' is a location often used in critter-related stories and media making this a parallel to yet another aquatic critter such as the "wiffenpoof" and certain retellings of the "swamp auger." – I'd suppose that its meant to give the mental image of creating a whirlpool, or flushing a toilet? - Im unsure why people found said concept gripping enough to re-use time and time again... But: I'd suppose thats just par for the course as far as the nonsense that is critters goes.]
Beyond that, It seems quite likely to me that perhaps stories of "kickle snifters" spread orally to New Brunswick, given that The earliest newspaper record of 'Kicklesnifters living in old mens beards and in the centre of circular lakes' actually dates back a story published in 1925 titled "In Sperkland" it includes a list of fearsome critters from the area around main including the dingmaul. - In said story the very same quote above is mentioned alongside several better known critters from the area. – Seeing as New Brunswick and Maine are bordering each other, it seems quite likely to me that the 'legend' of Kicklesnifters originates from that general area and where perhaps shared between both Canada and the United States. (Perhaps Carried orally through the lumber trade on the Penobscot river?) Hard to say exactly as there's sadly only so much research i can do on the subject before hitting dead ends.
in 1931 they where breifly mentioned as "Knickle-snifters" instead, it was clarified that they where nothing like a "prock" (Thank Goodness, the last thing we need are more side-hill variants.) - By the 1940s: The creatures where again breifly mentioned but this time as "Iron eating kicklesnifters"  - [I also recall reading yet another article from the 30s or 40s which i happened across whilst i was researching the topic of gremlins, which said something along the lines of "Those kicklesnifters will eat the breaks of your automobile!" (if it wasnt 'kicklesnifters' then it was "hicklesnifters" or some other misnomer, i digress, unfortunately, I am unable to find the source of that as I am writing. (will update later if i find it again.)] - Given the time period: One might assume that they were perhaps for a moment, seen as analogical to how one might define a 'Gremlin' or some other 'pixie-like' creature. - 'hicklesnifters' where listed among other fearsome critters once again by Mencken in Suppliments 1. [1945.] - Though he did not give any lore to them. – in the 1950's the two names where combine and included as 'Kickle(hickle)snifters' in a list along side a ton of other fearsome critters included in "Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedia of folklore." and so we've come full circle!
In modern day: - because of their appearance in 'Old Mens Beards" I've also read some sources & websites that refer to them as a type of "Lice" (or perhaps "Cootie.") - [hence the somewhat insectoid appearance i decided to give mine.]
in 2008, a 'kickle-snifter' is stated as one of the pets in "The Ghost of Luckless Gulch" by Anne Isaacs. - The author said in the books background informtion that the creatures featured in this book are variants on existing folklore from the 19th century) thing thing about this variant, is that it is described as "a type of lamb with jointless limbs, if it falls over, its finished. So, it leans against trees when it sleeps. (this makes it a closer parallel to the 'Hugag' and others like it.) the book also features a sidehill wowser and a rubberado puppy.)
I've also seen the 'cherry eating variety' drawn rather adorably as a white shrew like creature, the mention of cherries is significant as it seem to take a bit of inspiration from the following quote which relates to the 'kicklesnifters' likely origin:
it took a while to figure this out, but I eventually found that "Hicklesnifters" were (originally at least.) a separate critter, earliest featured in the novel "Heart of the West" [O Henry, 1907] the story also featured in various newspapers through the early 1910's - a collection of short western stories, the creature is only mentioned once in passing whilst describing others, but the story identines them as such:
"...That there's a hicklesnifter, It lives under the ground and eats cherries. Don’t stand so close to it. It wipes out villages with one stroke of its prehensile tail...”
...Clearly 'hicklesnifters' are a different, (TERRIFYING SOUNDING) creatures entirely, but i digress, I'd suppose, that's just how folklore evolves orally & through a broken telephone, it's possible that at some point someone misremembered &/or typoed the name at some point or another and thus "hicklesnifters" changed into "kicklesnifters" & one was simply better remembered over the years. – Ultimately: I feel that "O. Henry's Linguistic Unconventionalities  explained this entire subject best:
"There is no need to hunt for a definition of galliwampus, hicklesnifter, willopus-wallopus or bim-bam. The creatures are imaginary, but the syllables are satisfying."
...To try and search for the 'defining origin' of 'Kicklesnifters' has been a proverbial snipe hunt indeed, when i first read the above, frusterated, I nearly classified them as: "A type of gremlin which causes researchers to go off on frustrating tangents that cost them months of headspace: as you go, they laugh at you from someplace unknown." -that could be true... Almost... But to say that would be just as confusing for future readers and could be further misinterpreted or confused. - So; I quickly regained my sanity and wrote about my adventure in research: which you have just reached the end of!! Anyway.... Hope you all enjoy the sticker and my decent into the madness that is the "History of Kicklesnifters."