The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in the nation. April 7, 2016, Photo by Joshua Heston
Strange Things Sighted in the Dark MTNS
Since men first made their way into the dark mountains of the Ozarks, there have been tales of strange creatures lurking in the shadows. “Modern” men have dismissed such stories as silly or even primitive, told merely to frighten the young or gullible. And indeed, mountaineers have long enjoyed a good yarn, especially at the expense of outsiders. But what yet haunts these old Ozark hills? Even the plague of modernity cannot exorcise every demon from the woods.
For as long as there have been wild places, there have been wild legends. But beyond all legends, there is history. The Ozarks, though an ancient crossroads, became a place of mystery because of the rugged terrain and harsh way of life. People of many beliefs made their way there, some with ideas more dark and esoteric than others.
“Some say that the Devil lives in that hole, imprisoned under a heavy fall of rock. There are stories of old men who claim to have visited the place as children. Some of these men swear that they heard the Devil’s groans and curses and smelled burning flesh and brimstone. Strange people live on the escarpments, it is said, and throw odd things into the pit at night, especially when the moon is full. There are tales of dark-visaged ‘furriners’ traveling at night, who make regular pilgrimages to the pace from distant parts of the country. I have made an effort to locate this legendary spot, without success. There is a deep canyon with high rugged walls near Mena, Arkansas, which is known as ‘Devil’s Half Acre,’ but the story of the Devil’s imprisonment is not known to the people who live there.
— page 277, Ozark Magic & Folklore, Vance Randolph (Columbia University Press, 1947)
“Booger County isn’t in the atlas. The word booger comes from ‘booger man,’ known elsewhere as ‘bogeyman,’ the creature of your darkest fears. My friend, the late Otto Loomis, told me that the pioneers inherited the term from the Native Americans, who believed that terrible things happen to people here. The word is old. Some etymologists say it comes from the Irish bogach or bog, a swamp inhabited by evil apparitions. From it comes bogey, bogy, or bogie, which became the Middle English bugge and eventually bugaboo, an imaginary terror, or bugbear, a frightening phantom, are the origins. I believe booger comes from the Scotch bogle, a specter. Scotch-Irish settlers brought the word from the old country. I spell booger with two O’s, because that’s how it is pronounced.”
— page 1, Searching for Booger County: Ozark Folk Histories, Sandy Ray Chapin, Boogeyman Books, Elder Mountain Press 2002
“Deep in the Ozarks, folks have always known that there were conjurin’ women who knew the use of roots and herbs for medicines, and the use of ‘remedies’ and spells. But there was witches too, bad witches that had to be avoided, or laid low with good witchcraft when there was bad witchcraft afoot. One ol’ woman was a conjurer, but she wasn’t such a bad type; she often used her spells and remedies for good. She had a familiar spirit, the ghost of a dead witch man, that came to her in the body of an old, wild razorback hog, and he helped her with her spells. On October, at Halloween, the folks int he valley was holdin’ a’ early hog-scaldin’. Every October the hill people would slaughter hogs and put the meat into the smokehouse for the long winter….
— page 26, Ozark Ghost Stories, Richard & Judy Dockrey Young, August House Publishers, 1995
“Throughout the ancient world of the Babylonians, the moon goddess Ishtar, was hailed by farmers as the ‘Green One’ and the ‘All-Dewy One.’ It was to Ishtar that the Babylonians paid homage as the goddess who sent water so that plants would grow and thrive in the torrid dry desert lands of Mesopotamia. And it was her recurring movements in the sky that told them when to plant their seeds and when to harvest their crops. Primitive ideas? Yes. But basically sound. Of course we no longer believe the moon is divine, but we do know that there is a definite relationship between the cycle of the moon and the weather. Actually, moon worship cropped up all over. Not only were the Babylonians adoring the moon, but the Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Phoenicians, and Romans also were known to have held the moon is special veneration.”
— page 8, Astrological Gardening, Louise Riotte, A Gardenway Publishing Book, 1989
The Booger Dog is notwhat you might first think! The Ozark word Booger comes fro m the Scottish Bogle, originally from the Old English Bogge. It means Hobgoblin. The Ozark Booger Dog is a great headless spectral hound. The creature has appeared to hunting parties deep in the mountains and is often seen as a black omen associated with the devil. Great spectral dogs have long appeared in Old Europe. In England they were said to be the souls of the unbaptized, stalking the sere dark with no home in heaven or hell. Ancient German lore says great demon hounds are the consort of the winter witch goddess Berchta. She and her spectral pack hunt when the winds turn cold and fierce. So, on a cold night in the Ozarks, beneath a clouded sky, who knows what lurks beyond the campfire?
The diary of D. Hyde Abscott, explorer and Ozarks pioneer, was found in the basement of an abandoned Eureka Springs’ cottage near the Crescent Hotel. His April 22, 1867, entry reads, “We delved deep within a strange cave spring opening in the rock bluff from which issued a crystal stream into the Current River upon which we rowed. As we entered, we heard eerie and beautiful singing…”
The gowrow is a beast of an ancient time; not a supernatural entity, but rather a great dinosaur-like creature from a lost world. Early pioneers encountered the gowrow (so named for the gutteral noise it makes just before it strikes) in deep caves and beneath rock ledges. The gowrow is over 20 feet long and displays enormous upturned tusks. It has short legs, webbed feet, sharp claws, and green scales. Its back is bristled with short horns and it possesses a thin, long tail with a sickle-like blade on the end. One once haunted Marvel Cave. Perhaps, far off in the Devil’s Den’s unexplored grottoes, a gowrow yet waits.
Above, autumn leaves above the Confederate Cemetery of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“The Pelznichols were among the first dark Christmas spirits to make it to North America…. Also present in Nova Scotia and West Virginia, the Bellsnickle was the dominant strain in the 18th-to-early-19th-century Pennsylvania Christmas. When the German Bellsnickles met up with the Celtic ritual of mumming, the two traditions merged.
“The typical Bellsnickle announced his arrival by tapping at the glass pane with his fat birch switch or slender rod. Many of them also carried whips. The Bellsnickle always knew who had been naughty.”
— pages 88-89, The Old Magic of Christmas, Linda Raedisch
Time drops in decay
Like a candle burnt out,
And the mountains and woods
Have their day, have their day;
But, kindly old rout
Of the fire-born moods,
You pass not away.
— W. B. Yeats
Confederate Cemetery overlooking Fayetteville, Arkansas. November 16, 2016, Photo by Joshua Heston
More Ozark Folklore Monsters…
A ghostly, bloodsucking dinosaur invented to frighten slaves.
A lizard as big as a bull with hind legs that are 10 times higher than its forelegs. The High-Behind laps victims up like a frog laps up flies. It also sucks in its guts to hide-behind trees, therefore, it is sometimes called the HIDE-BEHIND.
King doodle or Whangdoodle
A big lizard that makes a booming sound (like a mountain boomer or collared lizard). It’s longer than a well-rope and 14 hands high.
A giant mudpuppy or waterdog. It is eight-to-10 feet long and destroys fishing tackle.
An albino deer with supernatural powers. The snawfus leaps into treetops and hollers HALYROO in the pineries at night. Antlered head and wings like sprays of dogwood blossoms. The snawfus emits spirals of blue smoke…probably the haze in the hills seen in the early morning. The animal has flowering apple or plum tree boughs in place of antlers.
Stone County Monster
An upright standing tan-colored panther with a long tail and enormous teeth.
Wowzer or Woozer
Super-panther – bites victims head off
A great amphibious panther that swims like a giant mink.
Roark Creek Wampus Cats
An Ozark Bobcat or Bay-Lynx
Whistling Wampus (or Whistler)
A smart, big black cat that “whistles-in” victims.
“Concatinated Order of the Hoo Hoo” Gordon, Ark 1892
The Whistling Whoo-Hoo
A supernatural Cyclone
Hickelsnoorus & Ring-Tailed Tooter
Any member of the Whistling Wampus Cat Family
Resembling a bear, the Chaw-Green has a long tail striped like a barber pole. It is known to steal tobacco and can be easily recognized as it chews and spits like a man.
During the winter months of 1979, a rash of strange cattle mutilations were reported across the Ozarks Plateau. Each report was eerily similar: one or more cows near the house and barn, easily within earshot, were killed. Eyeballs and genitals were surgically cut out and each animal was drained of blood, though there was little if any blood on the ground. For several days afterwards, farm dogs were reported acting strangely. There is still no conclusive answer to these happenings.
About the Artist…
Curtis Copeland is a lifelong Ozarker with a strong background in fine arts. A longtime cartographer for the City of Branson, Copeland lives in rural Christian County with wife Crystal and son Coulter. Curtis graciously created all the original art seen on #ArcaneOzarks.