The Wampus Cat - An Appalachian Legend
By Patricia Brandon
During the summer of my junior year in college, I had the good fortune to work at an elite camp for girls in the most scenic and pristine part of the mountains of western North Carolina. Other than dorm life, I had never been totally on my own, knowing no one, and certainly never lived outside of my hometown. But I adapted quickly, as challenging outdoor and social experiences abounded, surpassed only by the bonds and revelry we made together. Camp Merrie Woode was - and still is - a most remarkable place where girls are encouraged to become women of character and courage.
Camp life was steeped in many traditions, rituals, and legends, but perhaps none more interesting than that of the mysterious and wily Wampus Cat. A cat-like creature that could run on all fours, as an animal, or upright, as a human, it was said to appear after dark, or just before dawn. No one knew for certain when the Wampus Cat would strike, but it was most always after a new experience or achievement, such as a first river run in a canoe or kayak, or the first overnight wilderness camp out or hike. The Wampus Cat would sneak about, planting a kiss on the noses of campers that would leave a large round, very orange dot on nose tips that strangely resembled the odious mercurochrome, used back in the day to treat minor cuts and scrapes. Being graced by the Wampus was no small honor. Years later, my own children were kissed by the creature on their first family camping trip. So how did the Wampus Cat come to roam the highland forests?
In Cherokee folklore, there was once a terrible evil demon, called Ew’ah, or the Spirit of Madness, who lived deep in the mountain woods and terrorized any who heard it’s piercing scream. A single glance from the creature would drive one to madness. The chieftains sent Standing Bear, the fiercest of the braves, to do battle with the Ew’ah. By destroying the demon, he would bring great honor to his family and to the tribe. But weeks later, Standing Bear returned to the tribe screaming in pain, his eyes marred from clawing. Running Deer, his loyal wife, knew that he would never be the same and could no longer be a warrior. By Cherokee law, Standing Bear was now dead to the tribe. Desiring to avenge her husband, Running Deerconvinced the shamans to give her a booger mask of a bobcat’s face, as only the spirit of the mountain cat could defeat the Ew’ah, if she could catch it by surprise. With the mask and black paste on her body to cover her scent, she set out on a most dangerous mission.
After many days she spotted the frightening demon as it drank water from a mountain stream. With great caution she crept up to the evil one and pounced! When the creature saw the cat-spirit-mask, it instantly went mad, throwing itself in the water and thrashing about. Thanks to the courage and bravery of Running Deer, the Ew’ah was no more. The shamans and war chiefs declared her the Spirit Talker and Home Protector. To this day, it is said that the spirit of Running Deer now lives in the Wampus Cat, and that she will forever guard the people and lands of her tribe.
In my next book, also a historical fiction novel, entitled Come Not Down the Lanes , the Wampus Cat will have a small part of the story, which takes place in 1919 in the fictional town of Laurel Valley in western North Carolina. Camp Merrie Woode, the real-life camp for young ladies, was started during this time of Women’s Suffrage, Prohibition, the race riots of Red.
Summer, and the flu pandemic that occurred at the end of World War I. Daily life in the fictional Camp Arden Woode will be largely based on both research from the 1919 era and some of my own experiences there, but with the added twist of an attempted kidnapping in the local town, a murder, and a strange, macabre ritual and character. The story will be one of a coming of age, of immense courage and daring, of mystery and romance, and ultimately, of healing. The book is scheduled for publication in late 2020.
Appalachianhistory.net Posted by Dave Tabler, 10/13/17
Enrique de la Viega, Powder Branch, TN, posted 7/1/03, to Ex Libris Nocturnis forum at http://bit.ly/2Fmx4f
Mysterious Knoxville by Charles Edwin Price, 1999
The Center of Gravity
By Patricia Brandon
A young woman is tricked into service as a food tester for Adolf Hitler in his secret Wolf's Lair, where she will endure yet another atrocity. A French professor, whose best friend is a Jew fighting in the Alsatian Resistance, is forced to assist in the Nazi reconstruction of the priceless Amber Room in the Konigsberg Castle. All hide dangerous secrets. When their worlds collide, high risk plans for escape are made, with the unlikely help of the anti-Nazi brother of Hermann Goering. But will the darkest of secrets remain hidden, or will lives be forever changed when the truth is finally revealed?
Pick up your copy of
The Center of Gravity
Patricia Brandon is a winner of a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and the author of In The Valley Of Achor, her poignant, gritty, and inspirational story of her first year after facing sudden paralysis of her legs. She no longer plays tennis (yet!), but is writing, working on guitar and mountain dulcimer skills, and traveling with friends when she can. She hasn’t given up in the fight to regain her ability to walk!