This blog is inspired by the moniker I have chosen as my net identity. It originally was my handle back in the CB dabbling days of my youth. I often get the comment… “Cool name! What’s a Wampuscat?” when people see it in my email address or a login or something. I even had a character named Wampus_de_Cat, as pirate captain, in the first MMORPG I ever played, called Bounty Bay Online. I like it because it is so unique and memorable. So, where did it come from, and what does it mean? Well, that’s a bit of a story…
Growing up in the hills just outside the Mississippi Delta, I learned many old stories from family histories. Stories about how things were done in old ways in old places, and usually a fair share of funny tales told about relatives. One thing we didn’t have too many of though, were folk-lore or legends. For some reason though, I like those kinds of things, which is why I suppose I remembered and held on to this one. For my family, it was one that was used very effectively to manage the hard-headedness of young boys (and later girls) who ran around outside all day, playing in the woods. That legend was the Wampuscat.
Now, to understand the existences and perpetuation of this particular legend in my family, you have to be aware of the environment in which it was used. You see, when the light of day starts to dim, it gets really hard to see things clearly in the woods, so moving through them become a bit tricky. Even though it is still bright enough to see, details tend to blur and merge. Low limbs and thin vines blend into the background, and you can’t see them until they smack you in the head or snag your throat like a hangman’s noose crossed with a garrote. Things lying in shadows lose the colors that make them stand out (sticks, stumps, wash holes, etc.) which keeps you from spotting them until you step on or into them. It’s also at that time that things like snakes like to start moving around… you know, just when a person looses the ability to see them very well and avoid them.
The other piece to the ‘why’ puzzle of the Wampuscat legend being used by my family is of course the audience. As you may know, young kids, especially boys, are not fearless, but they are also not very concerned with caution either, so it takes constant reminders from mom, dad, mamaw (grandmother for those who don’t know who that is – it’s pronounced ‘ma’am aww’ and spelled my way because I said so), papaw, aunt, uncle, etc. to get them to pay attention to things that they need ‘to be careful of’. The big problem is that ‘being careful’ at dusk is hard to do, even for adults, so the best thing for kids to do is to come on in the house. Now, if you are a young person playing in the nearby woods with only as much caution as you have managed to remember from the last reminder, you are very reluctant to heed that distant call to come home from an authority figure. Besides, if they can’t find you, they can’t make you, so why hurry? This is especially true if you are in the middle of some critical game or imagining. This, of course, means that the previously mentioned authority figures must find other ways to motivate you to abandon your secluded dungeon or fortified fortress or embattled pirate ship and return safer arenas. Thus derives the adaptation of an old folk legend modified to fit the needs of our elders when I was young.
The Wampuscat was a creature of the night. It took the form of a huge black panther, but it wasn’t just a panther, it was smart, like a person. It could out think and out maneuver you. It could trick you. It could also scare you to death with its wail… a mix of a cat growl and terrified screaming woman. It lurked in the woods, ready to snatch up and eat anyone found there after dark. It’s favorite food, of course, were small children, especially the ones who didn’t obey their elders. And chances were that if you waited around to be spotted by it, you couldn’t run fast enough to get to the house where you would be safe. The Wampuscat never went near streetlights or porch lights, but flashlights didn’t scare or even bother it at all. (Don’t believe me? Shine a light into the woods and catch a pair of eyes with it… they just stare back at you. Now pretend you are a ten year old with a vivid imagination and someone telling you it might be the Wampuscat. Believe me now?).
So, the Wampuscat was our boogeyman. We did not stay out after the light began to fade. Unless it was a dare, of course, but then we usually scared the crap out of each other so bad we ended up racing each other to the house like our tails were on fire and our ass was catching. Thus our parents could be fairly sure we would come when called, and try to be in before the fading light became the reason for some serious injury in the woods.
Of course, as we grew up, we realized that the tale was tall, as they say. However, I can tell you now that I still get nervous being in the woods at dusk. I always try to have a big stick in my hand too… preferably one with a trigger… just in case.
Later in life, I remember my dad telling me a rhyme about the physical makeup of the Wampuscat, but I struggle to remember all the words. I think it was probably something he got from somewhere else and switched it around to be about the Wampuscat. The phrases I remember go thusly: “he had razors for claws and a barbed wire gut, a corncob peter, and cotton ball nuts…” Yep, that was my dad telling me that. It was funny, and probably why I can’t remember it… I was laughing too much.
Fast forward some years, and I decided to look up the legend on this new thing called the internet. I managed to find a book that tells of Southern Legends with a mention of the Wampuscat in it.
…One of the most widespread legends, which probably had its origins in Indian mythology, centered on the “Wampus Cat,” 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.
Like Bigfoot, the Wampus Cat was said to lurk among the gloomy bottoms of the South and to take fiendish delight in preying upon hunters, fisherman, and others who stayed too far of the beaten path.
Great Southern Mysteries – E. Randal Floyd (pg. 130)
Of course, only portions of that fit the legend of the Wampuscat of Carroll County at all, but that’s to be expected. Legends change to fit the needs and memories of those who pass them on to new generations. This did not completely satisfy my curiosity, however, so I would continue to revisit this legend’s origin from time to time, hoping to find new information. I would share with you here the things I have found about it to date, but alas they were paper and have disappeared from the world in my many relocations. Of course, you can Google it yourself now, but back when I started looking for it, it was not nearly so easy… we had this place called a library, and…. oh well, I digress.
Probably one of the best references to it that I have been able to find is from a book called Spooky South by S. E. Schlosser.
The Wampuscat excerpt can be found here:
It’s short, so go read it. I’ll wait………..
Good, huh? See, told ya!
The whole book that comes from is available on Amazon here. I just bought a used copy for $6 for myself.
Anyway, back to the evolution….
In 2006, I decided that I might try to start my own business. It was to be an Engineering Consulting business at first, with hopes of expanding into a multi-functional set of enterprises… thus the name Wampuscat Enterprises was born.
Yes, that is the name of my company. No, it has never done a single cent’s worth of business because I have always had a job and never enough time to go figure out how to make a business work. I did come up with a sales pitch and motto though….
Wampuscat Enterprises is an owner operated Custom Engineering Services company.
We specialize in Manufacturing Engineering Services to help our customers achieve their company goals by providing Engineering expertise for special projects, equipment design, lean consulting, or any other Manufacturing Engineering tasks that would be better serviced as an outside contract endeavor.
If you need Mechanical or Manufacturing Engineering services, but not a full-time engineer on staff, then Wampuscat Enterprises is a perfect fit for you.
Our Promise to our Customers: We Engineer Success!
Pretty good huh? (just nod your head yes and smile, dammit). Sadly, it has sat idle for many years now, but who knows, this may change soon.
Right now, though, I’m trying to write about stuff and thangs, so….
I plan to write a short story based on the Wampuscat, and I will post it on here for you to read. I hope to have it on here for Halloween, maybe.
OK, that’s all I have in the way of explanation of the origin and evolution of the Wampuscat. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Leave me a comment if you did. It will make me feel good. But don’t pick on me, because I hate that.
And don’t stay out in the woods after dark!