Cherokee Wampus Cat
I did it again! I had every intention to write about Florida’s cryptid this week. I had to choose between the Skunk Ape or the Wampus Cat. There are so many states that have a Big Foot type of creature. So, I went with the Florida Wampus cat. Except, it isn’t strictly a Florida cryptid.
This critter is a Cherokee folk tale that has spread up and down the Appalachian Mountains. The mountains traverse through twenty-five states, so this cryptid gets around.
It has a fascinating origin, including creepy sightings across the United States. Since the ghost cat is a Cherokee legend, this week’s title is the Cherokee Wampus Cat.
According to Cherokee lore, the Wampus cat was once a beautiful woman. Like the proverb that curiosity killed the cat? In this story, her intense interest turned her into a cat.
The lady in question was married to a strong warrior. The warriors gathered in the forest before hunting to ask the spirits for forgiveness. The hunters respected all life but needed to hunt to feed their families. Yet, they paid their respect before killing the animals. Unfortunately, for our lady, these gatherings were for warriors only. It was forbidden for the women to see.
Our lady was consumed with wanting to know, so she disguised herself within a Cougar skin. Then she crept through the forest, following her husband to the meeting place. At first, she hid behind a rock to watch the forbidden ritual. Her curiosity erased restraint, and she snuck even closer to the ceremony. Then she moved too close and was discovered.
The men dragged our poor protagonist to the ritual circle, where the medicine man punished her. The skin wrapped around her became permanent. Our maiden changed into the Wampus Cat and roamed the Appalacian Mountains forever alone.
It is a sad story. It is an ancient story long told to Cherokee children, but like most tales spread.
The first stories of a cat-like creature started mid-19th century, and witnesses weren’t reporting as the Wampus cat either. They were calling it the Catawampus. The term used for any unknown cryptid sighted in the mountains. Catawampus is a North Carolina term that caught on. It was a term that fit as good as any other would. Then as real Cougar numbers dwindled, so did the use of the Catawampus. In the 20th century, Wampus Cat replaced the Catawampus completely.
The Wampus Cat is reported to be half-human, half-Cougar fitting the Cherokee tale. The cat creature has been seen walking on her hind legs and stalking campfires and men, especially the men that occupied the campfires. It is thought our Cherokee maiden is exacting her revenge when she does.
Sightings of the Wampus Cat are so plentiful. Each state reporting a sighting name the creature accordingly. Missouri calls her Gallywampus while Arkansas calls her the Whistling Wampus. It roams the Appalachian mountains once the fiery sun dips behind the mountains. An evil creature with glowing Saffron eyes that howls in the darkness. Angry about being cursed and alone for all eternity.
The natives in North Carolina named this monster Ew’ah, the spirit of madness. Ew’ah apparently was terrorizing the village of Etowah in what is now North Carolina. The chief wanted to send warriors to kill the demon cat. The medicine man told the chief that hunting Ew’ah would be the death of the tribe. Ew’ah’s power included driving a man insane with just a look from its golden orbs. The war chiefs wanted to end Ew’ah’s power over their dreams. They sent Standing Bear, the strongest warrior after the demon Ew’ah.
Weeks later, Standing Bear returned, screaming and clawing at his eyes. Ew’ah had driven him crazy.
Standing Bear’s wife, Running Deer, wanted revenge. Getting a Bobcat mask from the medicine man, she went hunting for Ew’ah. The spirit of the Bobcat was enough to banish the spirit of Ew’ah. Yet, Running Deer had to surprise Ew’ah for the magic to work. Eventually, Running Deer was successful and banished Ew’ah. She saved her tribe and people, and many think it is her spirit in the Wampus Cat.
Cats have long been the subject of myths and legends. Superstitions about black cats litter the annals of history. There is something mysterious about these felines that birth creepy stories. It was no wonder when settlers moved into the Appalachians; they would adopt the Cherokee myth.
Soon sightings of a cat-like creature walking on its hind legs stalked homesteads. Its glowing eyes causing madness to those who dared to look.
Some stories say the Wampus Cat was a witch. I was waiting. Witches are always to blame for supernatural happenings. A woman living alone in the mountains changed herself into a cat. Then she would stalk and steal her neighbor’s chickens and pigs. It is whispered she still is to this day.
There are a couple of weird versions of the Wampus Cat’s origins. The one that is the freakiest is the secret government project. Yeppers. The Wampus Cat was created in a lab. This speculative story leaked from Alabama. The human-made critters were messengers during World War II. Except this Wampus cat is half mountain lion and half gray wolf. Families of this unusual creature escaped the lab into the mountains.
Sightings of these creatures are still reported in Alabama and into the Florida everglades. There really are Florida panthers living in the Everglades. Unfortunately, only about 120-240 adults are living there. They don’t fit the description of the Wampus Cat.
Sightings of the Wampus cat were reported as early as the 1920s. Reports were by ranchers ranging from North Carolina to Georgia. A Cougar creature was killing their livestock. It walked on its hind legs and had glowing yellow eyes.
The reported sightings continued well into the 1960s. There may not be as many reported sightings, but the sounds continue today. Those who have made the Appalachians their home still talk of the sounds. Screeches and howls that ring through the darkness of night. Sounds causing rivers of fear to travel your spine.
It is autumn now, and leaves are bursting into a fiery bouquet of reds, oranges, and yellows—a gorgeous drive along the Appalachian Mountains. Just be wary of the Wampus Cat, who also lurks in those woods.