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Storytelling in the Mountains: Cryptids create curious tales

Appalachian culture relies heavily on storytelling and sharing stories through oral traditions. Much like bluegrass music, those stories may intend to teach life lessons or explain why things happen or just provide some entertainment.

The latter is the case when it comes to characters like Mothman, Flatwoods Monster and Sasquatch. These cryptids find their homes in Appalachia, and their origin stories and reported sightings are shared around campfires, at sleepovers and more as a fun way to pass the time.

Appalachia has gained a reputation for its cryptids due to a combination of not only those rich folklore traditions but also its dense forests, rugged terrain, and the history of isolated communities. These elements have contributed to the development of legends and stories surrounding mysterious creatures in the region.

Here are some of those key cryptids that star in stories:

Mothman: Likely the most famous cryptid associated with Appalachia, Mothman gained widespread attention in the 1960s in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Described as a large humanoid creature with wings and glowing red eyes, Mothman was reportedly seen by multiple witnesses before the tragic collapse of the Silver Bridge. Some say Mothman was created as a mutant from the nearby TNT factory, and the appearance was a warning of the impending disaster. The legend of Mothman has since captured the imaginations of many and has become a popular subject in books, movies, and even restaurants - which have created menu items in the likeness of Mothman into ice cream sundaes, burritos, and pizza. Mothman has become a beloved symbol of local folklore.

The Appalachianile Bigfoot - or Sasquatch - sightings are reported across various regions, the Appalachian Mountains are also said to be home to this elusive creature. Bigfoot is described as a large, hairy humanoid that roams the dense forests of the Appalachians. Bigfoot has ample hiding spaces in Appalachia’s vast, remote regions, which helps to avoid human detection. Appalachian communities have embraced the legend of Bigfoot, and it has become an integral part of the region's folklore and cultural fabric. Bigfoot festivals and events draw interested folks.

Flatwoods Monster: The Flatwoods Monster, also known as the Braxton County Monster, is a cryptid associated with an alleged encounter that occurred in Flatwoods, West Virginia, in 1952. People described seeing a creature as tall with a red, glowing face and large, non-human eyes. Its body was described as either metallic or covered in shiny, metallic-like armor and a pungent odor emitting from the creature. The Flatwoods Monster has since become an iconic figure in Appalachian folklore and has been commemorated with a local museum and an annual festival.

The Wampus Beast: This creature is part of Appalachian folklore, particularly in the regions of Kentucky and Tennessee. It is often described as a half-woman, half-cat or half-dog creature who lets out eerie screams and has glowing eyes. The Wampus Beast is said to be a shape-shifting creature that lurks in the forests, and its sightings might bring bad luck or foretell an impending tragedy - similar to that of Mothman.

The Snallygaster: Found in Maryland and surrounding areas of Appalachia, the Snallygaster is a creature that resembles a half-bird, half-reptile monster. It has wings, a beak lined with sharp teeth, and tentacles or octopus-like appendages. The Snallygaster is said to terrorize the countryside, preying on livestock and even attacking humans by silently swooping from the sky to pick up and carry off its victims.

Sheepsquatch: This creature is a regional legend in West Virginia, Virginia, and Kentucky. It is described as a creature standing up on its two back legs, resembling a mix between a sheep and a bear, with long, shaggy white fur, sharp teeth, and glowing red eyes. Sightings of Sheepsquatch have been reported since the 1990s and its origin and nature remain shrouded in mystery. The wooly-haired creature is sometimes referred to as “The White Thing.”

These are just a handful of the cryptids in Appalachia. And there are even more cryptids beyond the Appalachian region, such as the Loch Ness Monster in the Scottish Highlands and the Yeti in the Himalayan Mountain range in Asia. Many cultures have their own versions of monsters.

Appalachia has a rich heritage of folklore and oral traditions passed down through generations. Stories of strange encounters, mythical creatures, and unexplained phenomena have become deeply ingrained in the culture. Cryptids are often intertwined with these stories, becoming part of the collective imagination and contributing to the lore of Appalachia.

The above cryptids, among others, add to the folklore and mystique of the Appalachian region. While the existence of these creatures is debated, their legends continue to be passed down through generations, adding to the rich tapestry of Appalachian folklore.

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