June 12, 2012

Wampus: Mystery Cat, Swamp Monster, or Booger Bigfoot?

Not to be confused with the Star Wars Wampa, let’s discuss the Wampus.

Wampus of the Cherokee: What is it? Werewolf, mystery cat, booger?

One of the name games I’ve investigated is the weirdness-linked place moniker “Wampus,” which can be found around the country. George R. Stewart’s American Place Names (NY: Oxford University Press 1970) has this for “Wampus”: “In NY the pond is from the name of a local chief. In OR the butte is from a legendary monster of the forest.” (p. 520)

I have found in old Southern newspaper accounts that “Wampus” was a name used for an unknown monster cat as well as other mystery animals. It is very akin to how the name “Booger” was used, mostly for hairy unknown primates’ habitat in that case, but sometimes for mystery panther haunts, as well. Henry Franzoni has found a total of 18 places in the US and Canada named for Wampus, including Wampsville NY, and Wampos lake in Saskatchewan.

Whereas I usually relate the name Wampus to felines, Franzoni points to a connection with the big hairy fellows and not ‘phantom panther’ sightings in particular. He notes the word catawampus (cattywampus), which means “Cater-Cornered; slant wise, or Evil; malicious” in the American Heritage Dictionary, seems to be a neutral piece of evidence. However, around Oregon, a Wampus is “legendary monster of the forests” (from page 881 of Lewis A. MacArthur’s 1992 sixth edition of Oregon Geographic Names), which Wampus Butte, the Town of Wampus, Wampus Post Office, Wampus Campground, Wampus Springs, and Wampus Cat Canyon in the Warm Springs Nation are all named for in Oregon.

Still, the feline connection is there, as five high schools in Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana use Wampus Cats as their mascot. The Wampus cat is a creature in American folklore, variously described as some kind of fearsome variation on a cougar, according to standard definition.

The Wampus cat is the mascot of the following:

  • Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School, Clark Fork, Idaho – seen as a yellow cougar with a spiked ball on its tail.
  • Conway High School, Conway, Arkansas – seen as a six-legged cat.
  • Atoka High School, Atoka, Oklahoma.
  • Itasca High School, Itasca, Texas
  • Leesville High School, Leesville, Louisiana
  • The Tennessee Wampus Cats, an Amateur Athletics Union basketball team, Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • E. Randall Floyd’s Great Southern Mysteries summarizes the story of the mysterious wampus cat. Early pioneers visiting the South went back East with all sorts of tales of terrifying beasts and swamp creatures they had allegedly encountered in the woods and waters of the region. Among these creatures was a particularly savage beast called the Wampus Cat, an animal reported to roam the Southern bottomlands and described as “an impossibly hideous critter said to have the head of a man, the body of a wildcat only larger, and the soul of a demon.”

    The Wampus Cat, according to Floyd, was known to lurk along murky river bottoms and feast upon hapless hunters, fishermen and travelers and anybody else who wandered too far away from civilization. Although common in the early 19th century, wampus cat stories and sightings became less and less frequent after the War Between the States. A reminder of their former reign of terror lies in the names on the land.

    Conway Public Schools is a school district located in Conway, located in Faulkner County, Arkansas. Their mascot is the Wampus Cat.

    The Wampus Cat is the mascot of the Atoka High School, Atoka, Oklahoma.

    For more on another name game, see the “Fayette Factor.”

    Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
    Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

    Filed under Alien Big Cats, Bigfoot, Cryptomundo Exclusive, CryptoZoo News, Mystery Cats, Sasquatch, Swamp Monsters