The Wampus Cat is a legendary half-human, half-animal, cat-like creature
of the Appalachian Mountains region of the eastern United States. (It is
therefore somewhat surprising that the Wampus Cat did not make an
appearance at the recent E2 gathering in North Carolina.)
Thus, this legend is similar to the legends of the Boggy Creek Monster, the
Sasquatch, the Manitou, and the Yeti.
According to various legends, the Wampus Cat began life as a human that
was somehow changed into its ghastly current form through some misfortune.
One story has it that an Indian woman had cloaked herself
in the skin of a large mountain cat to spy on the men of her tribe, but who, after being caught in her spying, was transformed for eternity to the half-woman/half-cat beast. Another story maintains that a witch was caught mid-spell between cat and human forms and thus was doomed to stay that way
forever. Although the legend does not attribute much in the way of a body
count to chance meetings with the Wampus Cat in the woods, it is nevertheless
a quite unpleasant experience to meet up with her, an experience wholly
capable of frightening lesser souls to death--the stench alone is enough to kill
a normal person.
The legend was used to good advantage by the men of a certain community in Tennessee
(Cades Cove) during the 1920s (this was during the Prohibition, incidentally). A single shotgun blast sounded an alarm that the Wampus Cat had
been sighted. It was the duty of every man in the area to grab his gun and
go out in search of the dreaded Wampus Cat, for the beast was a threat to kill both livestock and small children. As it turned out, this was a ruse. The
shotgun blast was meant to let the menfolk know that a particularly good batch
of moonshine whisky was ready to drink, and the excuse for leaving their
unsuspecting families to go out drinking was the sighting of the Wampus Cat. According to
the preacher who related this story, "The men of Cades Cove knew how to deal with temptation. They organized it."