Have You Ever Heard of Appalachia’s Wampus Cat Legend?

Photo courtesy: Deborah Tilley
Photo courtesy: Deborah Tilley

The dark mountains of Appalachia have lent themselves to mystery and intrigue for centuries — even long before the arrival of European settlers.

Few mountain legends, however, are as riveting and timeless as the story of the “Wampus Cat”.

There are two predominate stories surrounding this legend.

The first goes like this: A group of Native American men was set to go out on a long hunting trip. Resentful to the fact that women were not permitted to participate in these expeditions, one of the wives decided to secretly follow the men.

“She cloaked herself in the hide of a cougar and hid near their campfire. Listening to their tales of the hunt, she was soon discovered by the men. Furious that she had violated the secrecy of their hunt, a shaman of the tribe punished the woman by cursing her and making her one with the animal hide she wore. The cursed woman became a half human, half mountain lion beast, forever damned to stalk the woods alone,” writes Cryptid Corral.

Another variation of the legend states that an Appalachian village was plagued by stolen livestock.

Believing that a certain woman was a witch, the townspeople followed her to a nearby farm late one night.

“As they watched, the witch transformed into a house cat and snuck into the farmhouse. Inside the house, she spelled the house’s sleeping occupants to stay asleep no matter what. Then, she went back out to the barn and began the process of transforming herself back into a woman,” writes Catie Rhodes.

As the woman was transforming back into a person, the villagers somehow interrupted the transformation process, leaving the witch half-cat and half-human.  “She still wanders the hills, a ghastly half woman-half cat.”

“During the 1920s, the men of southwestern Virginia and some parts of northwest Tennessee would use the old tales of the Wampus Cat to their own advantage in a particularly funny way. Whenever an especially good batch of moonshine had been distilled, a shotgun was fired as a signal for the guys to gather up and have a drink of the illegal booze. To avoid suspicion from the womenfolk, the men told their wives that the Wampus Cat had been seen in the area and that they needed to hunt it down and destroy the beast before it could kill or otherwise hurt anything,” stated another online article.

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