Children who live around the mountain range, particularly in the Smokies, love to tell stories and mountain monsters. Popular tales involve werewolves, ghosts and the Sasquatch. You might also know about mountain monsters due to the Travel Channel’s hit reality TV show Mountain Monsters, which have brought to life these stories.
So what are mountain monsters, and are they real?
Are Mountain Monsters Real?
Anyone who watches the Mountain Monsters can tell that the majority of the show is staged. The premise is that a group of native West Virginians, who call themselves the AIMS team (Appalachian Investigators of Mysterious Sightings), explore the Appalachian Mountains in search for these mythological mountain monsters.
Some of the mountain monsters are better well-known than others, laced through books, films and general creative fiction. Here are some of the best mountain monster stories and if there are any facts behind the camp stories and childhood tales.
The legendary Mothman is one of the most famous Mountain Monsters. Many movies, documentaries, books and even museums have been dedicated to this humanoid.
The Mothman is a huge man-like winged beast with a moth-like head. The creature is said to measure almost 8 feet tall and weighs up to 600 pounds with a 10-foot wingspan. A couple in 1966 reported to the police that they saw a large gray creature with glowing red eyes. It’s thought to have the power to hypnotize people and is now seen as a bad omen or sign of impending doom.
The Mothman rose to fame in folklore when locals reported seeing the huge creature near the Silver Bridge before its mysterious collapse in the 1960s. In West Virginian folklore, it was seen in the Point Pleasant area from November 15, 1966, to December 15, 1967. It was first reported in a newspaper in November 1966.
The creature has been blamed for causing buzzing noises from television sets, the disappearance of pets as well as the collapse of the Silver Bridge in 1967. The 2002 movie The Mothman Prophecies is loosely based on the 1975 novel of the same is where most modern audiences learn about this mountain monster.
In 2016, WCHS-TV published a photo alleged to be of Mothman taken by an anonymous man while driving on Route 2 in Mason County. Experts believe it is just a bird carrying a snake or frog away. There is no evidence this mountain monster is real, but it is an enduring myth.
The Wampus Cat or Wampus Beast is reportedly a large black cat that resembles a black panther. The creature weighs 600 pounds and is 6-feet long. According to legend, the Wampus Beast is a known livestock killer and smells like a wet dog rolled around on a dead skunk.
Folklorist Vance Randolph described the Wampus Cat as, “a kind of amphibious panther which leaps into the water and swims like a colossal mink.” Many believe this Mountain Monster has links back to Cherokee mythology. Sometimes Wampus Beast is used to describe a cat with mythological powers or a general undefined imaginary animal.
The Wampus Cat was first reported in the press during the 1920s after it killed livestock throughout North Carolina and Georgia. It’s now thought that it was a coyote or a jaguarundi. In older Cherokee mythology, the cat-like monster is seen as the embodiment of a female onlooker cursed by tribal elders.
The Lizard Demon
The Lizard Demon, also known as the Lizard Man, is a half-man, half-lizard monster who is said to hide in the lakes, ponds and rivers of Tennessee and West Virginia. Many sightings revolve around the Ohio River, so it’s suspected this creature travels along this path. The lizard demon or lizard man is a worldwide folklore that has evolved to describe a broad spectrum of bipedal hominid-like reptilian man.
The lizard demon is reported to have yellow eyes that glow in the dark and gills that enable it to breathe underwater. In Kentucky folklore, the so-called Milton Lizard is described as resembling a 15-foot monitor lizard with black and white stripes that was reportedly seen in Canip Creek, near the town of Milton, in 1975.
As recently as 2015, there have been sightings around South Carolina, although they mostly appear to be a person wearing a rubber costume.
West Virginian Yahoo
The Yahoo is West Virginia’s Bigfoot and is named after the terrifying noise it makes. According to Southern legend, the Yahoo is thought to eat from nearby gardens and steal farmyard animals like pigs.
The Yahoo is reported to be around 8 feet tall ape-like figure with black fur. Some people believe there is more than one Yahoo wandering around the Appalachian area. One report even says that there is a female Yahoo carrying a baby on her back. Bigfoot legends exist around the world, all of which are reported to be highly intelligent and work in small groups.
The most famous Bigfoot video is a short film taken in 1967 known as the Patterson film. Shot in Bluff Creek, the footage shows a large and hairy bipedal ape walking through a clearing. The video, amongst many other newer images and footage, is thought to be a hoax and is merely a human in an ape costume from a distance.
The study of genetics provide evidence that it is unlikely that any iteration of bigfoot exists anywhere in the world. For the species to be viable, it would need to have a population, large enough to avoid inbreeding.
Beasts of Bears
This bear beast found in West Virginia is reported to be a large bear-canine hybrid that preys on other bears. It has a large bear, a dog-like head and striking beady red eyes. It also is reported to have missing patches of fur and a scarred body. You can tell it’s in the area as there is a strong stench of alcohol and rotten eggs.
If this Appalachian monster is real, it would be the only subspecies of brown bear to be found in this area within North America. There have been sightings of this creature in Southern Texas, Virginia, Florida and Arkansas. Some sightings report the creature having gills and living in swamp land.
Although the initial official sighting was in 1973, there have been Inuit legends for years about a giant bear who drags people underwater. When people went missing in the area, it was listed as a bear attack. Out of all the mountain monsters on this list, this one is least likely to be a hoax.
In old American folklore, the snallygaster is a bird/reptile chimera monster. This mountain monster is thought to originate from superstitions brought to the country by early German immigrants. Early sightings connect the snallygaster with Maryland, especially the South Mountain and the Middletown Valley.
Early accounts in the 1700s describe the German immigrant community being terrorized by a monster called a Schneller Geist, which means quick ghost in German. Older folklore describes it as a half-bord with siren-like features and a metallic beak with razor-sharp teeth! It was said to swoop silently through the sky to carry away victims.
The earliest tales claim that this flying monster sucked the blood of its victims. Seven-pointed stars were used to keep the snallygaster at bay and were often painted onto barns. It has been thought that this legendary monster was resurrected in the 19th century to scare freed slaves.
The first time this mountain monster appeared in print was in 1909, where local restaurants reported a beast with “enormous wings, a long-pointed bill, claws like steel hooks, and an eye in the center of its forehead.” This story gained a huge amount of publicity, a reward was even offered, but it was later revealed to be part of a hoax perpetrated by Middletown Valley Register editor George C. Rhoderick and reporter Ralph S. Wolfe to increase readership.
In summer 1952, two brothers named Edward and Fred May who loved in Flatwoods, West Virginia, believed they witness a bright UFO streak across the sky. The boys and their mother ran to the nearby farm at dusk to see what happened.
They described that they saw as an odd-shaped item with glowing red smoke or steam rising from it. When a Nation Guardsman pointed a flashlight towards the pulsing light, it revealed a 10-foot monster with a blood-red face, right eyes and a green body. The scary monster hissed and floated up to the sky.
When heading on the main road, you will see a sign that reads “Welcome to Flatwoods: Home of the Green Monster.” No one knows if this UFO sighting was real or not, but it has become a strong part of folklore around the Appalachians.
Slide Rock Bolter
The slide rock bolter is a fearsome creature who slides down steep slopes and eats everything in its path. The tales of this mountain monster comes from lumberjacks in the 19th and 20th century. This beast lives in the mountains of Colorado and has been described as having a big head and big mouth, little eyes, and a dolphin-like tail with grab hooks.
Stories have changed depending on the family and location of the tale. This mountain monster is depicted to be as big as a blue whale yet manages to use woodland to camouflage itself. The colour is usually described as either brown or grey, but contrasting statements describe the monster as being either filled with scraggy, brush-like growths and a flat rock-like creature.
The monster waits for tourists, lifts the tail to loosen the hold on the mountain and will descent rapidly down the slope to eat its prey. Its thought this story was passed down through generation to ward people off visiting the slope or to be careful whilst trekking around the mountain range. Not a single living person has ever seen the monster, but many have heard about it.
The Appalachian Werewolf
The Dwayyo or the Werewolf of Appalachia, is a beast witnessed by hunters, campers and park rangers in West Middletown, who have all reported a piercing howl echoing through the night. It first appeared in press in 1965, who described bear like creature who stands on its high legs and howls like an angry wolf.
The newspaper also reported other sightings after the anonymous initial report. Local and state police investigated the claims but saw no evidence of the story being real. Several University of Maryland students have investigated the origin of this mysterious monster and have traced its ancestry back to the Dway. This animal lived on the left bank of the upper Amazon River and the Yo.
Hogzilla was a male hybrid combination of a wild hog and a domestic pig that was shot and killed by Chris Griffin in Alapaha, Georgia, United States, in June 2004. It was reported to be 12 feet long and weighed over 1,000 pounds.
Despite the photo evidence and wild spread reporting, the hogzilla was considered to be a hoax. The remains of the animal were exhumed in 2005 and studied by forensic scientists for a documentary aired on National Geographic Channel. It was actually revealed to be 800 pounds long and less than 9 feet. DNA testing proved it to be a boar and pig hybrid that was a little larger than normal. Despite being described as a Godzilla like monster, it’s been proven to be a little large boar.
Also Read: Bears in Smoky Mountains: The Kind, Places to See & Tips
Mountain Monsters: FAQs
What are Brown Mountain Lights?
Although not a monster, you may have heard of this unusual phenomenon. Brown Mountain Lights are eerie ghost lights that can be seen in the dark skies above Brown Mountain in North Carolina. The lights have been reported as glowing orbs hovering in the sky before suddenly disappearing or quietly exploding.
It was first reported in 1913 by a fisherman who claimed to see unusual red lights dancing in the sky. In 1922, the US Geological society deemed it to be cars of passion trains, except during a storm that took out the power, these unusual lights were still spotted in the sky.
In Native American folklore, they say that a violent battle between Cherokee and Catawba tribes took place. The lights are the ghosts of grieving women searching for the bodies of fallen warriors. Ball lightning and natural occurring mountain gases are widely accepted theories, although no one really knows what it is.
What is a Cryptid?
When researching whether mountain monsters are real you may find the term cryptid. It’s an animal that has been reported to have exist yet there is no evidence that they actually existed. Crytozoology is a subculture and pseudoscience that studies unknown and legendary creates. This is not considered a true branch of science, zoology or folklore studies.
So, are mountain monsters fake? Most likely they are stories passed down for centuries with the aim to scare people or to warn children away from the dangers of the mountain.
Other mountain monsters on the list have been seen by witnesses who believe they have seen a certain creature, but it could have been a trick of the eye or lighting. Of course, there is some likelihood that these monsters have existed but there is little evidence but they make compelling stories!