Saturday, February 6, 2010

Home of The Wampus Cats

When I was in High School in Leesville, Louisiana, our Mascot was the "Wampus Cats". We assumed it was some sort of regional colloquialsm for a Bobcat, as all the team uniforms, yearbooks, etc used a stylized logo that looked like one. Of course, once the internet came along, I was able to discover that the "Wampus Cat" is a mythical beast from Cherokee folklore more akin to a "Bigfoot".

In the Southern Appalachian Mountains, we have the legend of the Wampus Cat. This fearsome creature has been talked about for hundreds of years. It was a part of Cherokee Indian mythology that was later passed on to the white settlers and included in their folklore.
The legendary beast that is today called the Wampus Cat was once known as Ewah by the Cherokees. Just the sight of this creature was enough to drive people insane, they said. The ancient tale about the Wampus Cat maintained that it was actually a Cherokee woman who did not trust her husband. One night, her husband went out with a group of fellow warriors to go on a hunt. His suspicious wife put on a mountain lion fur coat and went out to spy on him. When she was found out, the medicine man punished her by forcing the woman to wear the coat forever. Her spirit still wanders the Southern Appalachians in the form of the Wampus Cat, according to a Web site.
There is another ancient Cherokee tale about the Wampus Cat. A long time ago, the creature had been terrorizing the villages and causing all kinds of misery for the Cherokees. One young warrior decided that his people had endured enough. He went out in search of the Wampus Cat in order to kill it. However, when he finally encountered the creature, he was driven insane.
His brave and devoted wife decided she would take care of the problem herself but use a different tactic. She put on a mask and went up into the mountains searching for the creature. She managed to sneak up behind it. The cat turned and saw her fearsome mask. The creature was so terrified it ran away and was never seen again. However, it is said that the spirit of the young woman still wanders the mountains wearing her mask.
As the white settlers moved into the Appalachians, they learned about the legend of the Wampus Cat and it became a part of their lore. To this day, folks living in Knoxville and other parts of east Tennessee claimed to have seen it. They report that it is a catlike creature that walks on its hind legs and has glowing eyes.
The Wampus Cat also became associated with witchcraft. One tale concerned a woman who lived alone in the mountains and was known to be a witch. At night, she would turn herself into a cat and steal chickens and pigs from nearby farms. Some people in east Tennessee say she is still doing that.
Another weird tale about the Wampus Cat comes from Alabama and this one is associated with a secret government program. According to this legend, the government sought to create a fast and fearless creature that would be used in World War II as a kind of messenger. This program was based in a remote section of Alabama. The creature supposedly created there was part mountain lion and part gray wolf.
However, several males and females of the newly created species escaped from the government compound and were never captured. Folks living in this part of Alabama claim to still see these creatures running around. The sightings have happened as far south as the Florida Everglades and as far north as the Great Smoky Mountains. Some people blame these creatures for breaking into chicken coops and attacking livestock.
Mike Conley | The McDowell News

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