The Wampus Cat

Welcome to Freaky Friday.  I know we just had a paranormal topic last week, but we’re having another one this week in honor of the Tales From the Mist launch.  This week’s topic is the Wampus Cat.

And here’s why:

The first story in the Tales From the Mist anthology is “Wampus Cat” by Scott Nicholson.  This was one of my favorite stories in the anthology.  I found the main character relatable, and I loved the creepy twist at the end.

What is the Wampus Cat?

Most legends agree that it is a cat of some kind.  The most pervasive legends describe the Wampus Cat as a hideous hybrid beast that is half woman and half cat.

The Wampus Cat folklore is Appalachian in origin.  There are mentions of it in Tennessee, North Caronlina, Kentucky, and in both Virginia and West Virginia.  I also found a mention of it in Alabama.

This legend originates in places were civilization has only carved a foothold in the wilderness.  The beasts in the woods are a very real threat.  When darkness falls, they have the upper hand and the forest belongs to them.

The oldest fairy tales were didactic in nature, warning people of the harm that could befall them.  I suspect folklore such as the Wampus Cat serves both as an attempt to explain the unexplainable and as a warning to those who might venture into places best left unexplored.

The legend has many variations.  I will present what I’ve been able to learn, but I do not claim this information to be definitive.  There are lots of variations out there, and it would be impossible to do them all justice.

 Native American Mythology and The Wampus Cat

The Wampus Cat is associated with Native American mythology.  Here are two different tales from my research.

Legend One:

A young Native American woman resented not knowing what her husband did when he went on hunting trips.  Her curiosity got the best of her, so she donned the skin of a mountain lion to keep her warm and wandered off in search of the hunting party.

She found her husband and the other male members of their tribe around a campfire listening to tales from the tribe’s medicine man.  The woman hid in the bushes and got caught up her eavesdropping.  She was discovered by the men and cursed to wander as a half woman-half cat for eternity.

Legend Two:

Another Native American version of the Wampus Cat legend uses bits and pieces of the mythology of Ewah.

Also called “the ugly demon,” the very countenance of Ewah had the ability to drive men crazy.  The mountain lion was only way thing that would scare Ewah away.

This version of the Wampus Cat steals the idea of Ewah’s ability to snatch away sanity of those it encountered.  It changes the identity of Ewah to the Wampus Cat.

It goes like this: A young Native American warrior was driven crazy by an encounter with the Wampus Cat. His angry wife donned a mask and set out to find the Wampus Cat.  The Wampus Cat ran away when it saw the young woman, but the woman’s ghost wanders the woods still wearing the mask.

 Other Variations of the Legend

 In Appalachia:

A village was plagued by stolen livestock.  The villagers knew of a witch who lived among them and believed her to be responsible.  They spied on her and followed her to a farm 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.

The villagers suspected she would steal livestock in her human form and interrupted her transformation.  Once interrupted, the witch was stuck between forms.  She still wanders the hills, a ghastly half woman-half cat.

In Alabama:

The Alabama Wampus Cat is a superbeast created during WWII to be used as a messenger.  The creature was a cross between a gray wolf and a mountain lion.  In this story, several of the creatures escaped the lab in which they lived and were never found.  The animals have continued to breed and multiply and are still seen on occasion.

 Scott Nicholson’s Wampus Cat

In his short story, “The Wampus Cat,” Mr. Nicholson seems to draw most from the legend which stars the shapeshifting witch.

Of course, he puts his own spin on the legend and how it works…and you’ll have to read his short story to find out what that is.

Black Panthers

Where I grew up in East Texas, we had folklore about black panthers.  Originally, I intended to cover both the Wampus Cat and the East Texas Black Panther in this post.

After learning exactly what the Wampus Cat was, I decided against doing this.  For one thing, this post is very long.  For another thing, the legends are different enough that I can do a later post on the black panther folktales.

Thank you for your interest in this article. I often receive requests for further information on these articles. Please understand my knowledge of this topic is limited to what you’ve read in this article. I have no plans to update or expand these articles. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer researching for or writing non-fiction articles. If you’re interested in seeing what I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

Sources:

“Legend of the Wampus Cat” from Weird Kentucky

The Wampus Cat

Ewah: The Nolichucky Witch

Mike Conley’s Tales of the Weird: The Wampus Cat

26 thoughts on “The Wampus Cat

  1. Hey Catie, I loved this post. You know, I lived for 11 years in Georgia and never heard of this legend. I’m very sorry I didn’t. We do have a legend of a being that haunts my native land, Malta. We call it the “hares” – but more than a creature it is a rather mischievous and malevolent ghost. Another creature of legend here is the “Gawgaw” that was deemed to be the curse of those who were born on Christmas Eve. Lots of fodder here to use as well :). Great post!

    • Oooh, I loved hearing about your legends in Malta. I know very little about your homeland, and this sort of stuff is just fascinating to me. I am going to research both the “hares” and the “Gawgaw.” I might like them well enough to do a blog post on one or the other of them.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

  2. Ooh! What an interesting legend – I’ve never heard of the Wampus Cat, but then again I’m a So Cal girl. Great post, Catie!

    • Christine, I’ve read that there is a race of lizard people living under Los Angeles. This urban legend dates back to the 1930s. Can you imagine encountering one of those uglies?

  3. I had never heard of the Wampus Cat until I read Scott’s story. And I loved the twist at the end. I did a little research about the WC after I read it, but not nearly this much. Thanks for posting the legends and history.

    • Rhonda, there is pretty limited info on the Wampus Cat. I had to look pretty hard just to find this stuff. I am so glad you enjoyed it.

      If you are familiar with the East Texas Black Panther legend, please contact me with your info. I’ll include it when I write that post.

  4. This is fun! I admit to never hearing of the Wampus Cat. Now those folks in Appalachia sure have their tales of creepy in them thar woods. Wonder what other tales will come of the myth? I love when authors take old myths and spin a tale with new elements.

    • I love folklore and legends from Appalachia. I think I recall reading that the settlers were both of German and Scots-Irish descent. Just look at the mythology and folklore from those countries. It’s no wonder they have such a rich culture.

      Like you, I love when authors use folklore and urban legends in their fiction. Scott Nicholson did a wonderful job of it with “Wampus Cat.”

    • I’m so glad you enjoy my topics, Sheri. I love researching them. They really wake up my imagination. Great story fodder. ;)

    • I’ve heard of a Dogman in several different states. As for your story, I don’t doubt you saw something out of the ordinary. The woods can be a scary place. I’ve never camped in my life and don’t know that I could be talked into it.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. on ,
    Donna Coe-Velleman said:

    Chiming in from Long Island, N.Y. – nope, never heard of the Wampus Cat or the Dogman. We do have a “cursed” lake. Lake Ronkonkoma is supposedly cursed by an Indian princess of which there are several variations.

    • Oooh, that’s interesting. I see a lot of Indian legends that have to do with lakes. Someday I’ll study why that is. LOL

      I know you are in Long Island. How far is Staten Island from you? Have you ever heard of Cropsy?

      • on ,
        Donna Coe-Velleman said:

        I’m not sure how far Staten Island is – probably about 2 hour drive. No I haven’t heard of Cropsy but I’m going to look it up right after I finish this. :)

  6. on ,
    authortamaraward said:

    Thanks for the scoop! It’s fascinating!

  7. I’ll be reading the book soon because Halloween is coming up but I have to finish Barbara Freethy’s novel first. I’m sure I’ll love this story as well. It’s cool that these tales often have their origins in real history and cultural beliefs.

    • I love it when fiction has its basis in reality. I think most of it does, to some extent. We authors think about things that we’ve seen or heard about and add “what if?” and fiction is born. LOL

      Hope you enjoy the short stories when you get to them :D

  8. Where I grew up on the shores of Lake Champlain, we learned about a mythic creature who lived in the lake’s waters. Our region had a contest and the monster was named “Champy.” It was all the craze when I was a kid. Did I believe in it? No, but it was fun pretending we had our own version of the Loch Ness Monster. :)

  9. Very interesting post! I hadn’t heard of Wampus Cat before reading Scott’s story and even then I thought he made it up. My kids love Monster Quest, and anything supernatural or alien/ufo. Jolyse, they like reading about Champy, and most recently, they’re obsessed with the Slenderman. I’m so tired of hearing about Slenderman–they even make up songs about him.

  10. I have never heard of this creature. It is interesting that it is found in different cultures!

  11. Very cool. I love the title of the story and had no idea about the legend. As usual your research skills amaze me:)

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