Wampus is the name of a semimythical creature believed to inhabit Iredell County and adjacent counties. It was a source of particular concern in the early 1930s. Sightings and hearings of the creature followed much the same patterns as present-day sightings of flying saucers, Bigfoot, and Elvis Presley. The physical attributes of the wampus varied greatly. It was said to be silver or black, the size of a dog or a colt, with or without a horn, and with or without "big red eyes." Tracks were occasionally described as "web-footed," although others maintained that the creature had "front paws like a lion and hind feet like a bear." Most observers agreed that it had a "keen holler," although descriptions of the sound it made ranged from that of "a hurt woman" to that of "an elephant with his head in a rain barrel."
The wampus apparently made its first appearance in Iredell County in the fall of 1890 and was duly reported in the Statesville Landmark, edited by Joseph P. Caldwell. It is suspected that Caldwell invented the varmint to sell newspapers during an otherwise slow news period, but stories of some kind of bear-dog-cat animal continued to circulate long after Caldwell left for the Charlotte Observer. Real or not, the threat of the wampus was used effectively as a bugbear by parents: "Child, you'd better be home before dark, or the wampus is liable to get you."
O. C. Stonestreet III, "Summer of the Wampus," The State (July 1994).
"The Wampus Is Dead-Long Live the Wampus," Statesville Landmark, 8 Sept. 1931.
"Wampus Wandering thru South Iredell," Mooresville Enterprise, 30 Apr. 1931.
1 January 2006 | Stonestreet, O. C., III