Things that Go Bump in the Night in The Carolina Hills

by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia Meara headshot

I am delighted today to introduce you all to a guest blogger, a writer of mysteries and romantic suspense whom I recently stumbled upon.

Please welcome the delightful Marcia Meara…

Appalachian Legends and Myths

Right up front, let me say that I am absolutely besotted with the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Smokies, in particular. Part of the Appalachian chain—the oldest mountains on the planet—they are stunning in their ancient, mystical beauty.

mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

And vast. It’s rather amazing how many, many miles of wilderness they encompass, along with the mountain towns and villages like Asheville, Lake Lure, and Bat Cave.

Highway sign for Bat Cave, NC

(photo by Stratosphere, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

(Yes, there is actually a small town named Bat Cave. You can’t make stuff like that up.)

I also love the legends, folk lore, and outright myths that have sprung up over time throughout these hills.

Some tales arrived in the area via settlers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and have a solid basis in Celtic mythology. Others apparently have been made up out of whole cloth—unless, of course, they aren’t legends at all, but strange truths that our modern minds refuse to accept. (Is that the theme from The Twilight Zone I hear playing in the background?)

Here are some examples of stories passed around in “them thar hills.” Some might make you grin, others might give you a shiver, but all are part of the overall body of strange tales you run across in these mountains.

The Moon-Eyed People
A race of small, bearded men, with pure white skin, who were called moon-eyed because they were unable to see in daylight, the moon-eyed people eventually became totally nocturnal. So the story says.

historical plaque re: moon-eyed people

(photo by TranceMist, CC-BY Generic, Wikimedia Commons)

The Cherokee believed them to be responsible for ancient stone structures that line many mountain ridges from North Carolina down through Georgia and Alabama. The most famous is Fort Mountain in Georgia, which gets its name from an 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge. This wall is thought to have been constructed around 400-500 C.E.

Were the moon-eyed people early European explorers? Legends refer to them as a race of small, pale people, rather than mystical beings unrelated to humans, but so far, no one has come up with any information on who they might have been, or if they were real at all.

Boojum and Annie
The Boojum is reported to have been an 8’ tall creature, not quite a man, and not quite an animal, covered in shaggy fur. (Does the name “Bigfoot” ring a bell?) He is said to have had two very human habits, though. He liked to collect gems, and hoarded them in discarded liquor jugs, which he buried in secret caves. (I do have to wonder how they know this, if the caves are so secret.)

He also was a bit of a Peeping Boojum, as he apparently liked to watch women, particularly when they were bathing in mountain streams. Bad, bad Boojum! But when a young woman named Annie spotted the hairy creature watching her, instead of screaming in fright, she fell in love with his sad eyes, and—wait for it—ran away with her hirsute admirer, presumably to settle down in a cozy little cave somewhere, and raise a whole passel of little Boojums.

There’s more to the tale, but this is a G-rated blog.

The Brown Mountain Lights
The Brown Mountains are home to a genuine and puzzling phenomenon. In the autumn, on crisp and cool nights, ghostly blue orbs are seen floating a few feet above the ground. They have been documented repeatedly by a large number of reputable witnesses. So far, there is no scientific proof as to what the lights are. Swamp gas and other known possibilities have all been ruled out. So when the nights get cool, people (presumably people with too much time on their hands) head to the Brown Mountains to observe and wonder for themselves.

The Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain and the Chimney Rock Apparitions
Both of these are full on ghost stories, one a little shivery, and one just downright bizarre.

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

According to the first, there is an old man who has been hiking the trails on Grandfather Mountain for generations, passing by groups of modern day hikers without a word, and disappearing into the distance, never looking back. He’s dressed in clothing not appropriate to today, and appears and disappears before anyone knows he’s coming.

And he never answers when spoken to. Indeed, he never even seems to see other hikers.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park, overlooking Lake Lure (public domain)

Now, the apparitions at Chimney Rock occurred long ago, though it’s said that many people witnessed them for several days, and they were widely publicized in the newspapers of the day. In the first tale, ghostly white figures gathered in the air over the chimney formation itself, circling it for some time, before several larger figures rose above the rest and guided them all straight into the heavens above. A sort of airborne revival meeting, without the sermon in the tent.

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one of my favorite places to visit, there are still more tales about military men on horseback, who fought an epic battle in the skies over the chimney for several days, before just up and disappearing. This, also, was witnessed by many people over a period of time, and reported on in all the best papers.

old photo of still

Official inspects moonshine (tough job, hunh?)

 

Moonshine — more than just an afternoon refresher.

(Okay, I’m being a bit skeptical here, but can you blame me? Pity there were no cell phones on hand at the time. The cavalry would never get away with a stunt like that today!)

 

Ol’ Shuck
Tall tales for every taste abound in the Appalachians, but of all of them, my personal favorite is the legend of the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him. This one is based on truly ancient Celtic legends of a huge, hellhound of a dog who is thought to be a harbinger of death, and many variations appear throughout literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loosely based his famous book, Hound of the Baskervilles, on one version.

But beware! When you see Ol’ Shuck, someone you know (maybe you!) is going to die. Obviously, you don’t want to wake up one day, and find him sitting on your doorstep. And you’ll know it’s him if you do. We aren’t talking your everyday black Labrador retriever, here. Oh, no. An impossibly large dog with gleaming red eyes, sent straight from the devil himself to escort you to . . . wherever you’re going next. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

As the theme for my latest book makes clear: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Harbinger book cover

HARBINGER: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Three years later, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!

Marcia has written six books so far: the Riverbend series, the Wake-Robin Ridge series, and a book of poetry. She’s a very social being. You can find her hanging out on Twitter (@marciameara),  FacebookPinterest and at her two blogs, The Write Stuff and Bookin’ It (for book reviews). You can sign up for her newsletter to get news and giveaways at either site, or just give her a shout via email at mmeara@cfl.rr.com.

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM w BRAG medallion

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34 thoughts on “Things that Go Bump in the Night in The Carolina Hills

  1. Shannon Esposito

    I just love those old legends and stories! The way you used Ol’ Shuck in dreams is a great twist. Putting your book on my tbr list, sounds intriguing. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Marcia Meara

      Hi, Shannon! Thanks so much. I had a great time writing this one, as the legend of Ol’ Shuck just lends itself to so many possibilities. Do be aware that this is the 3rd book in my Wake-Robin Ridge series, and while it can be read as a stand alone, I think it’s even better if you know what the characters have been through to reach this point. Wake-Robin Ridge is book 1, and is permanently priced at $.99 now; and A Boy Named Rabbit is book 2. But either way you go, I hope if you read Harbinger, you’ll enjoy it. Now to think of which legend I’m going to delve into next. 🙂

      Thanks for reading today and taking the time to comment! I appreciate it greatly.

      Reply
  2. Marcia Meara

    Thank you, Kass, for having me here today, and letting me talk about my favorite place in the whole world, the North Carolina Mountains. Hope everyone enjoys learning a bit about the legends of that area, and for those who’ve never been there, I highly recommend a trip. It’s absolutely beautiful! I’ve reblogged this on The Write Stuff, and tweeted as well, just so folks know more about you guys, as well as the mountains, and even a bit about me, too. 🙂 Thanks, again!!

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      You are very welcome, Marcia. Loved the post! I’m about 3/4 through Rabbit now, and I’ve also fallen in love with this little boy. Can’t wait to start Harbinger.

      Reply
      1. Marcia Meara

        Aw, thanks, Kass. If you aren’t careful, Little Rabbit will run away with your heart, for sure. Aren’t I lucky he lives in my head? He talks to me 24/7, and I’m always surprised by his observations. He’s a stalwart little guy, and he has a MIGHTY gift. 😀

        So glad to be here today!

        Reply
    1. Marcia Meara

      I don’t know if I could last that long, but I’d sure have fun trying, Mary! There are so very MANY of them! 😀

      Reply
    2. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      I bet she could, Mary. This post makes me want to build a campfire and get out the marshmallows.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
      1. Marcia Meara

        Oh, wouldn’t you just love to head on up to those mountains on a sweltering day like today? Yes, it gets hot there, too, but not like this! And the dark, dappled shade of the deep woods can bring the temps down ten or more degrees. Plus all those icy mountain streams, and glorious, thundering waterfalls! *sigh* Who’s up for a ROAD TRIP? 😀

        Reply
  3. K.B. Owen

    Fab post, Marcia! Conan Doyle made great use of The Hound legend, didn’t he? Always a favorite of mine. There’s something about hills and remote terrain that brings out the ghosts…or maybe it’s the moonshine! *wink*

    Reply
    1. Marcia Meara

      A little of this and a whole lotta THAT, perhaps? (“That,” being easy access to moonshine stills! 😀 ) I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Oh, that Black Dog. He lived in my brain for eight months while I was getting Harbinger written, edited, and published. I actually have another idea of a way to use him, but it might have to be a short story, since the next Wake-Robin Ridge book will be about a whole different legend, I think. For now, I’m back in central Florida, in the sleepy little town of Riverbend, dealing with a family that’s had more than their fair share of devastating tragedy. No Black Dogs in this series. Just regular ol’ people with the normal allotment of human frailties and failings. 😀 And sometimes, that’s plenty!

      Have a great day!

      Reply
  4. Dian Colwell

    I lived in the NC mountains for 15 years and have heard a couple of the legends mentioned here. The mountains is a a very mysterious and beautiful place and I have no doubt these legends could be true. I have had the pleasure of reading Harbinger, and Marcia brings Ole Shuck to life brilliantly. You will not be able to put it down and surely won’t be dissapointed in the story.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Now I can’t wait to dig in to Harbinger! I am very close to finishing Rabbit. The lad has quite stolen my heart!

      Reply
      1. Marcia Meara

        I’m so glad Rabbit has worked his charm on you, Kass. Did you know he came to me in a dream, fully formed and carrying his story with him? Just as I was falling asleep one night, I clearly heard Sarah say to me, “There’s a little boy lost in the mountains, and you need to tell his story.” When I got up in the morning, I came straight to the computer and started A Boy Named Rabbit. I knew what he looked like, what he sounded like, and why he was alone in the mountains, before I wrote the first word.

        The only thing I never knew in advance was what Rabbit was going to say. I just typed what he told me, and then I’d sit back and read it, and think, “Well. That’s actually pretty profound.” 😀 He still dictates to me to this day, and tells me things that surprise me.

        Ah, those voices in our heads! Don’t they make for good company? 😉

        Reply
        1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

          That’s cool, how he “appeared” pretty much intact. I’ve had that happen once or twice.

          As for the voices in our heads, normally yes, they are good company, but lately I’ve had the preteen daughter of one of protagonists whining in my ear. I guess I will have to weave her complaints into her mother’s next adventure. *sigh*

          Reply
          1. Marcia Meara

            OMG, remind me never to write any teenagers into my books!!! Been there, done that, in real life! 😀 You are a brave lass than I!!

    2. Marcia Meara

      Thanks, Dian! So glad you enjoyed Harbinger, and I hope the next book in the series will pull you in, as well. Rabbit and Sarah (it’s her turn for a bit more of a spotlight) will have some interesting adventures, I think. IF I can decide what kind of legend or mystery they’ll be involved with.

      I envy your time spent in the mountains. I’ve never been there longer than a week or so, myself, but I have always felt I was “coming home” as soon as those hills appeared in the distance, in front of my car. I’d move there tomorrow, if I had my “druthers.” Thanks for taking the time to comment, and have a great day!

      Reply
  5. Janet Gogerty

    I love these legends. As I’ve never been to the USA it is fascinating to imagine your great mountains, the early European settlers and more importantly the ancient history of your country.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Our history isn’t quite as ancient as Europe’s, Janet, but these old legends are definitely fascinating.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
      1. Marcia Meara

        Our history isn’t as ancient as Europe’s, true, but our eastern mountains are vastly older. Of course, as I mentioned above many, many of our mountain legends come straight from the truly old Celtic ones. They just got tweaked a bit over the last 200 to 300 years, as early settlers in the area adapted them one way or another.

        Janet, I have some utterly mind boggling photos of these mountains that would make you want to book your flight to the U.S. immediately. Of course, I’M longing to head to your corner of the world. Maybe we can wave at each other as we pass in mid-air! 😀

        Reply
        1. Janet Gogerty

          Yes indeed, our son and family are hoping to be posted to USA, so we might get there yet.The mountains must be ancient and I’m wondering how much is known of native American history before European settlers arrived. Ps I bought Wake-Robin Ridge last night.

          Reply
          1. Marcia Meara

            I believe there is a lot of information about native culture to be found, but before the arrival of Europeans, most of it would have been oral, and probably a vast amount of it has been lost. There are sites where pictograms are found, and digs that uncover some of the really ancient history, but that would still be limited, and filled in with educated guesses. And I could be wrong, but I think a lot of that is from the western part of the country, and not the Appalachian mountain cultures. BUT. I’m most definitely NOT an expert on any of this.

            And thank you so much for buying Wake-Robin Ridge, my very first book. (I say that so you won’t throw it at me if you spot rookie mistakes. 😀 ) Hopefully, you’ll get wrapped up in the tale and have fun reading it. It was meant to be my Bucket List book, and I never dreamed I’d get so many emails asking me to write a sequel. What a journey the last three years have been.

            Great chatting with you, and I hope you do make it over here, though it’s a pretty big country, with hugely different things to explore and learn. You’ll just have to plan on LOTS of trips! 😀

  6. dgkaye

    Fabulous post Marcia. Well I just love the mountains too, and hope to visit them in Tennessee in the not too distant future. But the legends are incredible! You are a born storyteller my friend. And I’m only getting more antsy to dive into your Wake Robin series!!! 🙂 xo
    And hi Kassandra. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Hi, Deb! *waves*

      Don’t these mountains sound like a great place to spend part of your summer? Such a trip has been added to my bucket list! I especially want to check out that wall that the moon-eyed people supposedly built.

      Reply
    2. Marcia Meara

      Hi, Deb! So nice of you to take the time to comment. I’ll take the Tennessee mountains, too, even though I’m usually on the eastern side of the state line. Still, same mountain range, same ancient history, and many of the same legends. I haven’t been up there in WAY too long, and my daughter, who just came back from a camping trip, as promised to take me soon. I hope! 😀 Hope you’ll love the series if you get a chance to read it. But I know how that is, believe me! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  7. Gail

    I have read all of Marcia’s books and each is a total enjoyment. The Harbinger did not disappoint–it truly keeps your interest and I truly enjoyed the Ol’Shuck history. Great post with all the lore.

    Reply
    1. Kassandra Lamb Post author

      Hi Gail. I just finished Rabbit last night. Really enjoyed it. Going to plunge into Harbinger soon!

      Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
      1. Marcia Meara

        So glad you enjoyed Rabbit’s story, Kass. He can pull you in, for sure. (That’s how he caught me. Pulled me in, and wouldn’t let go, until I told the world about him. 😀 )

        Reply
    2. Marcia Meara

      Aw, thanks, Gail! So glad you’ve enjoyed my stories. I’m having the time of my life sharing them, and it does my heart good to know there’s an audience out there that likes them. And the legend of Ol’ Shuck was just too good to pass up. What’s next? Not sure. Maybe more ghosts, maybe some mysterious lights or strange happenings. Heck, maybe Mothman. (He got a movie . . . why not a book?) 😀

      Reply
  8. Vinnie Hansen

    Thanks for visiting our site, Marcia. Beautiful country, and I enjoyed your tales. Makes me want to visit that neck of the woods. I’d be one of those people out at Brown Mountain trying to spot the blue orbs of light.

    Reply
    1. Marcia Meara

      Thanks so much for having me here, Vinnie! I really appreciated getting to share some legends with your readers. OH, I’d like to see those Brown Mountain lights, too. Maybe we’ll be there at the same time someday! 😀 (I’m not, however, planning to look up Ol’ Shuck! Nuh-uh! No way. 😀 )

      Reply

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