The Legend of the Wampus Cat

Cats have always been associated with evil. Tales of witches almost always include a black cat, and if a black cat crosses your path, it is considered bad luck. If you ever meet up with a Wampus Cat, I'd say it's almost certainly bad luck.

The Wampus Cat has been a part of East Tennessee, as well as Kentucky, Virginia, and much of the Appalachians, for a very long time. In fact, longer than white settlers have been in the area. It was known as Ewah to the Cherokee, and was known for it's ability to drive people crazy. The legend is that the Wampus cat was actually a Cherokee woman who did not trust her husband. One night, when her husband was out with a group hunting, she put on a mountain lion fur coat, and went to spy on him. When she was found out, she was punished by being forced to wear the coat forever, and now her spirit still wanders the area.

Another version of the tale goes like this: The Wampus Cat had been terrorizing the Cherokee for quite some time. One day, a young brave decided to put an end to it once and for all. He went on a quest to destroy the beast. Unfortunately, when he saw the beast, he was driven insane. His wife decided that she would take care of the problem herself. She put on a mask and went searching for the beast. She was able to sneak up behind it. She screamed, and when the beast saw her mask, it was so terrified, it ran away and was never seen again. The spirit of the young woman still wanders the forest wearing her mask.

The Wampus Cat is not limited to Cherokee lore. Indeed, many white settlers claimed to have seen it, and many current residents of Knoxville and many other towns have claimed to have seen it. They all claim it is a catlike beast which walks on it's hind legs, and has glowing, hypnotic eyes. One of the early settler's explanation went like this: The was a woman who lived alone who was known to be a witch. At night, she was turn herself into a cat, and steal animals from farms in the area. One day, someone caught her midway through her change from a woman to a cat. As a result, she was forced to stay a half woman, half cat forever.

The sightings continue, from such unlikely places as the University of Tennessee campus. Some say the "cat" actually lives in caves under the city of Knoxville, others say in the mountain wilderness, and of course some say it doesn't exist at all. One thing's for sure: I wouldn't want to meet up with it.

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©2002-2005 John Norris Brown. Part of John Norris