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10 Mythical American Monsters


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Wampus Cat
The wampus cat is half-cat, half-woman. Larryrains/Getty Images
The wampus cat is half-cat, half-woman. Larryrains/Getty Images

It smells awful, like skunk spray and wet dog. It has glowing yellow eyes and fangs. It kills animals, kidnaps kids and terrifies all it meets. Creepiest of all, it's half-cat, half-woman. This terrifying creature is the Wampus Cat. Generally on the prowl in northeastern Tennessee, the creature has also been spotted in eastern Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and, intriguingly, at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

Some claim it lives in Knoxville's fetid sewers. Despite innumerable reported sightings, no photos of the creature exist. There are several stories about how the Wampus Cat came to be. Here are two. One says a Cherokee wife hid beneath the skin of a mountain lion to spy on her husband and his buddies while they were hunting. They discovered her and, as punishment, the tribe's medicine man said she had to wear the lion's skin forevermore, turning her into a cat-woman. Anguished, she roams around bemoaning her fate. Another tale says a Cherokee warrior went on the hunt for a beast that was terrorizing his tribe. When he tracked it down, it looked him straight in the eye, causing the warrior to go insane. The warrior's wife wasn't happy about this, so she hid under the skin of a mountain lion and stalked the beast to exact revenge. When she found it, the beast took one look at her and fled, petrified. To this day, the woman's spirit still wanders the area, dressed as a mountain lion [source: Pickens].