Chilling Tales #11: “The Legend of the Wampus Cat”

There is a beast lurking in the dark of the woods in the American South-East said to have the ability to drive men mad with a single menacing glare.


According to myth and folklore, the Wampus cat used to be a beautiful Indian maiden. The men of her tribe would leave for days at a time on hunting trips leaving the women behind, but the maiden missed her husband so much, that she secretly followed the hunting party one day.  The maiden hid behind a rock, concealing herself with the hide of a mountain cat, and spied on the men as they sat around their campfires telling stories.

This was absolutely forbidden.   A woman was not allowed to hear these stories or learn of the magic that they carried and so, when the maiden was discovered, the shaman punished her by binding her to the skin she had used to hide herself and turning her into a horrible monster, half woman, half mountain lion – doomed to roam the hills forever and howling in desolation and loneliness, her desire to return to her human body.

She became known as the Wampus Cat and, while many say that it’s only another myth in the rich history of the American Indian, others will point to the inexplicable sightings of a large black mountain cat in the American South East for hundreds of years.

In the early 1900’s a man named Jinx Johnston was hunting at night when the dogs he brought with him whimpered and ran off the path. At that moment, the hunter said that the woods became overpowered with a horrible smell like a wet animal and a skunk.  A howl shattered the darkness and the man turned quickly to see the golden yellow eyes of the Wampus Cat glaring at him, its white teeth flashing in the moonlight.   Johnston screamed and  quickly ran to the home of a friend who lived nearby, the animal giving chase.   He said he could hear the beast behind him the entire way, its hot breath on his back.   Hearing Johnston’s cries, the neighbor opened the door for him and slammed it quickly.  The door shuttered under the weight of the creature and the two men had to hold it shut.

Johnston, being a religious man, read from Psalms in the Bible and, upon hearing the words, the Wapus Cat growled in frustration and abandoned its attack.   The next morning, Johnston found his dogs huddled in terror his in neighbor’s bard and, needless to say, he never hunted at night again.

While you might dismiss this encounter as a rare but perfectly natural run in with one of North America’s native cat species, there aren’t supposed to be large black native cat species in that area and, if that doesn’t convince you, I left out one important detail… the hunter claims that the Wampus Cat chasing him… ran on its two hind feet.

More recently, a man who had been camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia with a few friends reported anonymously that, while he out gathering up firewood, he one of his companions scream. A thing, he said, was holding his friend with a single hand.  He described the beast as being “a walking cat, about five feet tall and thick-bodied.” When he shined his flashlight on the thing, the cat-creature hissed and ran away on two legs. The monster’s victim had a small set of five puncture marks on one of his arms, and there were deep scratches on the victim’s head. The campers maintained that the thing was trying to bite the victim’s throat.

Today, those that still believe in the tales of the Wampus Cat, say that it kills livestock and steals children.   Some say at night, while you’re driving the lonely roads of the American South, you will sometimes hear an inexplicable yowl cut through the darkness.  Some drivers even report a large black animal darting in front of their cars, illuminated only briefly by the headlights before vanishing into the night.  They say that, if you encounter a Wampus Cat, it will steal your sanity and that her horrible visage will haunt your dreams until the day you die.

In any case, if you still do not fear the night sufficiently, perhaps you will take the advice of those who have encountered the Wampus Cat and take a powerful flashlight with you just in case.   The creature, they say, cannot stand the light and, honestly, when you’re walking along in the darkness, wouldn’t you rather have it just in case those footfalls you hear following you turn out to be something you thought impossible?

About the author

Jason Donner

Jason Donner devoured the universe and you are all living inside him.