Spirits & Folklore

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Spirits and Folklore from Appalachia.

Raw Head, Bloody Bones

Of all of the tall tales and ghoulish stories that I've come across, this is probably one of my favorites. There are several different versions of this story. The earliest seems to appear in 1548 in Great Britain. It was a tale used to frighten children. In some stories it was a demon that lurked in ponds and dragged children into the depths to drown them. It was a cautionary tale; warning children to stay away from the murky waters.

F. W. Jones states in Old Cornwall , that the creature, Old Bloody Bones, lived in Knockers Hole, near Baldhu. In this version it was a malevolent spirit that was attracted to the area by a massacre that supposedly occurred there.

Ruth Tongue mentioned it in Somerset Folklore , and said it lived in dark cupboards or under the stairs. In this story it acted as a sort of boogeyman that came to punish bad children.

In some areas of the Southern U.S the creature has become two separate entities entirely. Raw Head is a bloody skull that has had the skin stripped away. It snaps and bites at anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path. Bloody Bones is a headless skeleton that dances around. In one story a gossip has his head torn off by the monster as a punishment for his slanderous ways.

In a story written by S. E. Schlosser, Raw Head is a razorback boar that is the companion of an old conjure woman. The boar is killed and later comes back for revenge.

The versions and retelling of this particular story seem to travel around the globe and cover several regions.

The version I heard, as a child, was that it was some type of creature/evil being (boogeyman, essentially) that would come and take away children that lied or misbehaved. It would eat them and sleep on a pile of their bones.

As stated, there are other widely differing variations from a lot of locations on what it is and how it functioned. A fun, scary read either way, I think.

Its even had poetry and nursery rhymes written about it.

Resources and References:

  • https://public.oed.com/blog/raw-head-bloody-bones-and-other-terrors-of-the-nursery/

  • https://deepsouthmag.com/2014/10/17/bloody-bones-a-history-of-southern-scares/

  • http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/07/raw_head_and_bloody_bones.html

  • https://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2016/11/rawhead-bloody-bones-bogeyman/

  • https://maskofreason.wordpress.com/the-book-of-mysteries/know-your-ghosts/europe/rawhead-and-bloody-bones

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The Knockers or Knackers

Other known names:

  • Bucca - Cornwall
  • Bwca - Wales
  • Tommyknockers - U.S
  • Berggeister - Germany

In some folklore, they were believed to be the earliest inhabitants of Wales and taught the early human societies how to mine. They were said to stand only about 2 feet tall in height, dress like the other miners did, and take food that was left unattended.

The Knockers have played both a malevolent and benevolent role in folklore. Some stories say that their knockings are warnings to the miners that a cave-in or some other mine disaster will soon follow. The ghosts of their fellow miners were coming to warn the living to watch out for danger. However, others say that they are mischievous imps that knock and tap on the mine supports to send them tumbling down onto the miners heads. They were also said to pinch the miners, make off with their tools, and knock their hardhats off of their heads.

When Cornish miners made their way over to Pennsylvania in the 1820s, they brought their stories of the knockers with them. In some of these stories, the Knockers or Knackers could bring good luck and wealth, but when they were angered or misbehaved they would bring nothing but trouble or misfortune.

My grandfather actually told me stories about these little fellows. He and his fellow miners believed strongly in their existence and would even leave a mine shaft if they heard the knocking sound, from fear of the shafts collapse.

Some would even leave small pieces of breads or portions of their lunch to appease the knockers and keep the miners in their good graces.

References and Resources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTB977dKMVM

http://theghosthuntuk.com/tommyknocker-legend-of-the-mines/

http://www.icysedgwick.com/knockers/

https://www.toptenz.net/10-interesting-facts-about-the-tommyknocker-legend.php

https://www.legendsofamerica.com/gh-tommyknockers/

http://mix1043fm.com/colorado-tommyknocker-legend/

https://www.abctales.com/story/annette-bromley/beware-tommyknockers-ancient-legend

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/07/tommy_knockers.html

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The Wampus Cat

Also Known As:

  • GallyWampus - Missouri
  • Whistling Wampus - Arkansas
  • Wampus or Wampas - Areas of Appalachia

There are a few different variations to this story.

Story One:

In this version of the story, a demon spirit, known as the Ewah,was terrorizing a Cherokee Tribe. The tribe leaders decided to send out their bravest and strongest warrior to kill the spirit. Unfortunately, the warrior fell victim to the beast.

To avenge her husband, his wife adorned herself in the pelt and mask of a mountain lion. She tracked the spirit down, and upon seeing her, the power of her mask turned the beasts power back against it and it clawed itself to pieces.

The leaders of her tribe declared her a spirit-talker and protector. Her spirit was then said to become that of the Wampus Cat, and she now protects and watches over the lands of her tribe.

Story Two:

In this story, a group of hunters were heading out on a hunt. Before they left, they went to a sacred place in the woods to perform a rite of forgiveness for the lives of the animals they were to hunt, and to ask for luck on their trip.

It was against the rules for the women of the tribe to see or be present at these meetings, but one young woman let her curiosity get the better of her. She dressed herself up in the pelt and mask of a mountain lion and followed the hunters to the sacred spot.

She was caught, unfortunately, and as punishment, one of the Shamans put a curse on her. She became a horrible mix of human and cat, and was doomed to stalk the hills and valleys alone, never allowed to rejoin human society. This was to be her eternal punishment.

Story Three:

In this version of the story, a witch would take on the form of a cat and prowl around her village at night. She would steal livestock and other supplies. When the villagers became suspicious of her, they decided to follow her one night.

They interrupted her transformation and she was forever stuck between the forms of a woman and a cat.

Other Versions of the Wampus Cat:

Other stories, including those that I was told as a child, said that this creature was an evil spirit that took the form of a panther. The beast would stock the hills and woodlands at night and let out a blood curdling howling sound. It had large, yellow eyes that would glow in the dark and could make a person go mad if they saw it.

A lot of the older generations were fearful to go into certain areas of woods at night, from fear that they would run into this creature.

Most believe that it was just a panther that roamed the area, back in those days, but the locals would disagree.

References & Resources:

http://www.appalachianhistory.net/2017/10/story-of-wampus-cat.html

https://northcarolinaghosts.com/mountains/wampus-cat/

https://www.astonishinglegends.com/astonishing-legends/2018/10/19/wampus-cat

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/08/the_wampus_cat.html

http://appalachianmagazine.com/2017/03/31/have-you-ever-heard-of-appalachias-wampus-cat-legend/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMX1RlmSA8Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eckuw-DCBH0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz0AEYXrv6U

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Tailypo

This story seems to be rather prevalent in Appalachia. There are a few different variations of this story. In some, the man is a hunter on a hunting trip up in the mountains. In others, the man is a hermit that lives alone, way back in the hills. The man's name seems to change as well. -However, a few things stay the same. The names of his dogs, and the main events of the story.

Name Variants:

  • Taileybone

  • Taileybones

  • Tailey Po

  • Tailipoe

Other Common Themes:

  • Rural fear in Appalachia of famine and isolation.

  • Cautionary tales to children about being kind to wildlife, and not venturing out into the woods alone.

The story I was told goes like this:

(Also please forgive my horrid re-telling of this story. My grandmother was a much better storyteller than I.)

A hermit lived out in the mountains, all by his lonesome. He had only his 3 hunting dogs to keep him company. Their names were Uno, Ino, and Cumptico-Calico. It was late winter and there had been harsh snow that year. The man was unable to go out and hunt because of the snow. His stores of meat and grains had withered away, and he and his dogs were growing very hungry. He was able to catch a few rabbits, but not enough to satisfy his hunger or that of his dogs.

One evening, while the old hermit was sitting in front of his fireplace, he heard an odd scratching noise. He looked up to see a strange creature crawling it's way into his cabin, from a hole in the wall. It looked like a mix between a large weasel and a bobcat. The creature was covered in dark, black fur, with a long bushy tail, and bright red eyes. The old man quickly grabbed a hunting knife and went after the creature. It was fast, but he was able to cut its tail off with the knife. The creature let out a loud, shrill shriek and hissed at him before exiting through the hole, from which it had entered the cabin.

The old man cooked up the tail and ate it all up. It was so good that he did not share it with his dogs. He fixed up the hole in the wall then went to bed.

Late in the night, he was awoken by the sound of his dogs growling and the sound of something trying to get into his cabin. The old hermit got up and went to see what was going on. He heard something scratching at the door of the cabin. As he listened, he also heard a voice amidst the sounds of the scratching.

Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo.

He grabbed his gun, and swung open the door. He fired at the furry creature, which ran off into the woods. He shouted at his dogs to chase after it. The dogs ran off into the night, chasing after the creature.

The old man sat down next to the fire and waited for his dogs to come back. Hours passed, however, and the dogs did not return. He eventually drifted off to sleep, but was woken up sometime later by the sound of scratching at his window. With the scratching came the same raspy voice from before.

Tailypo, tailypo, who has my tailypo? Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo.''

The old man grew afraid and raised his gun toward the window.

The scratching continued and moved back to the door. ''Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo.'' It hissed.

The old man was terrified now. He quickly ran up the stairs of the cabin. He hid himself in his bedroom and slumped down under the covers of his bed.

He heard a loud crash as the creature finally broke through the cabin door. He could hear the creature in the room below him, as it searched for him.

''Tailypo, tailypo, give me back my tailypo.'' The creature repeated, as it continued it's search.

The hermit shook with fear, as he heard the voice get louder. The creature was on the stairs now and slowly making its way toward his bedroom.

''Tailypo, tailypo, all I want is my tailypo.'' It hissed, in a low raspy voice.

The door handle wiggled, and the old man fired his shotgun at the door. The voice immediately fell silent. The hermit went to reload his gun, and realized hed left the bullets for the double barrel shotgun in the room below him. He cussed softly and jumped when he heard the voice once more.

Tailypo. Tailypo. Youve got my Tailypo. It hissed.

The creature peered through the hole at the old man. It's red eyes narrowed on the old hermit and it slowly climbed through the hole and made its way toward him. The old man was frozen in fear as the creature approached him.

''Give me back my tailypo.'' It snarled.

''I ain't got your tail. It's gone. I ate it up.'' The hermit finally croaked out.

The creature snarled and snapped and jumped on the old man and ate him all up.

Now, they say on cold winter nights, when the wind blows through the mountain pines, you can hear a voice carried on the wind. ''Tailypo, Tailypo. I got my Tailypo.''

Other Versions and Re-Tellings of the Story:

https://www.getrevue.co/profile/theweeklyholler/issues/tailypo-an-appalachian-folktale-the-weekly-holler-18-28041

https://www.amazon.com/Tailypo-Ghost-Story-Galdone-Classics/dp/0395300843

https://seeksghosts.blogspot.com/2015/10/terrifying-tales-tailypo.html

The Tailypo: A Ghost Story - by Joanna C. Galdone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzYOcdWj6Ro

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTPb9osA4bk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-f9PDmCY78

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0d32-W3xOw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyfcPfPz3Lw&list=WL&index=24

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Added to on Dec 09, 2020
Last edited on Dec 09, 2020
Part of the Penta Magic Library.

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