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Cryptid Casefile: The Wampus Cat

Type: Feline/ Humanoid

Appearance: Black fur, glowing yellow eyes, long fangs, bipedal

Location: Appalachia, usa

Abilities: Speed, stealth, soul piercing

For centuries, the people who have inhabited In the mountainous Appalachian region of the Southeastern United States have spoken of strange and terrifying creatures that stalk the mountains and forests. One such beast that lurks this region foul and fearsome Wampus Cat...

The Legend Begins...

There are several origin stories regarding this feline cryptid. According to one Cherokee legend, the Wampus Cat was once a beautiful woman. Her husband would often leave their village to go hunting for food with the other men in their tribe. The men would conduct sacred rituals before the hunt, asking forgiveness from the animals that would give their lives to feed the villagers. The woman was very curious and wanted to witness these rites and magics for herself. However, their custom forbade women from taking part in the rituals. One night however, curiosity got the best of her and she secretly followed her husband and his group of hunters into the forest, wrapped in a cougars skin to camouflage herself.

She came to a clearing in the forest where the men had gathered. Hiding behind a rock, she finally bore witness to the ritual she sought so long to see. She crept closer and closer wanting more detail, but the medicine man leading the ritual spotted her. The hunters then pulled her into the circle and the medicine man placed a curse on her. This magic bound the cougar skin she was wearing into her own and her body changed into some kind of human-cougar hybrid beast. This curse doomed her to roam the Appalachian mountains and valleys, forever alone. As the story goes, whenever you hear a lonely scream at night, whenever something is missing or destroyed from houses in the hills, the mountain people know that the Wampus Cat is on the prowl, angered at her eternal sentence of solitude, never able to rejoin the human race.

An alternative origin story, which is less tragic tells of one of the bravest men in his village, Standing Bear, assigned by his chief to get rid of an evil entity causing havoc in his village. This demon, known as Ewah, was the spirit of madness. Ewah was said to have the ability to cause insanity in men with one soul piercing look. Standing Bear returned to his home village after some time, incoherent and scratching at his eyes. It was clear that Ewah had its way with the man and due to tribal customs, he was basically considered useless and dead to society, only now able to perform menial tasks. Wanting revenge for destroying her husband, running deer acquired a Booger mask (a Cherokee cultural wooden mask depicting an evil spirit) and bobcats face as the mountain cat spirit could fight against the demon.

Running Deer knew the woods as well as she knew her village, but it still took several days to follow the trail to where Ewah was hiding out. As she explored a creek, she spotted odd footprints and her husbands armor. knowing she was close, she followed the tracks upstream. Finally she spotted a hideous and hulking form over the water – it was Ewah. running deer crept as close as she could and lunged at the beast. Ewah swiftly turned around, ready to drive its attacker mad with one stare, but to its surprise it was itself being stared down by the face of its only weakness. Seeing this cat-spirit mask caused it to destroy itself. Running Deer turned heel and bolted out of the situation as fast as she could. Returning home, the village shamans declared her a spirit-talker and home-protector. Some say that the spirit of Running Deer inhabits the modern day Wampus Cat with the eternal mission of protecting her people and their land.

Beware the Appalachian Woods

In modern American culture, the Wampus Cat is simply considered a cryptid mystery big cat. Sadly, eastern mountain lions were hunted to extinction in the last century. It is said that people still have sightings of them occasionally, which could be an explanation of what some people have encountered. However, what sets apart the Wampus Cat is its jet black appearance, glowing yellow eyes, large fangs and its ability to walk on its hind legs. This does not sound like a regular mountain lion, which has a light brown coat. Despite reports saying it is only five feet tall when standing, it is still a terrifying creature you don't want to encounter.

The Wampus Cat is also said to have a terrible stench, like a mixture of skunk and wet-dog as a result of allegedly living in sewers. And much like one of the legends it may have the ability to pierce ones soul by staring at them and driving them to madness, similar to Ewah. Another legend in Tennessee says that if you hear the Wampus' cry, someone will die and be buried within 3 days. Additionally modern reports of the Wampus cat blame it for the disappearance of local livestock and even children.

Interestingly, the etymology behind the Wampus cat derives from the term "catawampus," which came about in the early 1800's. This word had several meanings in different American dialects, one of which from the Carolinas is a word to describe a strange, unknown animal. It could also be related to the word "catamount" which is a name for the eastern mountain cougar species. It seems however that sometime in the 20th century "catawampus" morphed into "wampus cat", though the more simple term "wampus" is still used in the American south to describe mysterious animals, like cryptids.

Too Close for Comfort

One Wampus Cat encounter, was recounted by S.E. Schlosser in their book, Spooky South. The story goes that during the turn of the 20th century a hunter by the name of Jinx Johnson, who lived on the West Virginia / Virginia border was out hunting one night with his dogs. He would soon find that the Appalachians were not very welcoming after all. His dogs began to whimper ran off the path they were on. Suddenly the forest air was filled with putrid odor - like an animal had messed with a skunk and fell into a bog. jinx then heard something howl behind him. He turned around quickly, dropping his rifle in the process and found himself face-to-face with a black, cat-like beast, with big glowing yellow eyes, saliva dripping from large fangs.

As any man would be, Jinx was petrified. He described the creature as looking like a mountain lion, but it was standing on its hind legs! The beast howled once more causing the fight or flight response to kick in and jinx chose flight. Running as fast as he could to a nearby friends home, Jinx could almost feel the breath of this beast on his neck as it chased him through the woods. He made it in the knick of time and jinx's friend slammed the door shut on the beast. Jinx and his friend had to hold the door shut as the creature tried to get in. Eventually it gave up its attack and wandered back into the woods. Jinx spent the night and the next morning found his dogs cowering in a nearby barn. After that experience, Jinx Johnson never hunted at night again.

There are dangerous beasts that lurk the Appalachian forests in north America. One of these creatures goes by the name, Wampus Cat. could this just be the misidentification of a simple mountain lion, or is there something more supernatural behind stories of this creature so many have seen stalking the wilderness?

Possible Explanations

• Eastern mountain lion / Catamount

• Just a story to scare children


Thanks to my Amazon Affiliate partnership I'm able to provide links to great reads about fortean subjects. As mentioned and linked above, S.E. Scholosser's book, Spooky South is a great compendium of strange stories and encounters that have been reported in the American South. If you follow through my link it helps me out and keeps the lights on. Thanks for reading! Buy it here (or click the book image)!

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