The Wampas Mask
Tennessee creature story of the frightening Ewah creature stalking the dark woods surrounding the home of two newlyweds. Adapted by Janice Butt and Craig Dominey.
Barbara Ann had grown up in the East Tennessee mountains, and she knew everything she needed to do to take care of herself and any family she might have. Tommy Joe had grown up there, too, so it was no surprise when the two of them decided to get married. According to mountain tradition, the whole community came together and helped them build their new house deep in the dark woods. It was just a two room cabin for now, but they planned on adding to it later.
On the day of the wedding, everybody from the community came to see them say their vows. Barbara Ann brought a loaf of bread as a symbol of the fact that she knew exactly what she needed to do to take care of her family. Tommy Joe brought a side of venison that he had killed and dressed himself to show that he would always be a strong provider for her. After the ceremony, they moved into their cabin to start the perfect life for themselves in the mountains.
A few days later, Tommy Joe decided it was time to go hunting again. So he got some of his fellas together, and they agreed to meet at his house the next morning. For some reason, the fellas didn’t show up, but Tommy Joe decided to go on his own. Barbara Ann tried her best to keep him from going. She pleaded and begged, saying, “Tommy Joe, you know that ol’ creature will get ya’. That Ewah will make you crazy if you’re caught out there by yourself.” But she couldn’t do anything to stop him. Everybody knew since the time they were little not to mess with that Ewah in the woods. But Tommy Joe was going out there anyway. It was a good chance for him to show off his hunting skills for his new bride.
That whole day while Tommy Joe was gone, Barbara Ann worked around the house like she always did. But she couldn’t help but worry about her husband out there all alone in those dark woods. She tried to wash a load of clothes, but the smell of Tommy Joe on those clothes kept her from doing a very good job. She tried to bake some bread, but for some reason, it never would rise.
Suddenly, Barbara Ann heard a blood-curdling wail from deep in the forest. She paced from the kitchen to the porch and back again, about every five minutes, wringing her hands, terrified about her husband’s fate. The sun was starting to sink below the rocky cliffs, and darkness was consuming the land. Where could he be?
Hours later, Tommy Joe finally came stumbling out of the woods. Barbara Ann came rushing out of the cabin, then froze in her tracks. She took one look at him and knew immediately that her worst fears had been realized – Tommy Joe had seen the Ewah. Tommy Joe’s eyes were wild, and they flitted from one side to the other, back and forth. His hair stood on end in all directions, his clothes were torn and ragged, and there were cuts and scrapes all over his body.
It took her a long time to get him into the cabin and settle him down enough to lie quietly in his bed. By that time, all the folks around had heard about Tommy Joe and had raced up to the house with food and offers to help, like they always did. Mountain folk would always come to help their neighbors when there was a death or tragedy of some kind. And this was a death if there ever was one because, from that day forward, the Tommy Joe they knew would never be the same. The Ewah had frightened him to the point of near madness, and he would never again be the strong hunter that promised to take care of Barbara Ann forever.
Barbara Ann wept for days, and somewhere in the middle of all that grieving, she figured out that somebody had to stop that Ewah before he did this to anybody else. But for the life of her, she couldn’t figure out who else could possibly do it but her. She had nothing left to live for, other than to seek vengeance on this creature that had taken her husband away from her.
In fact, she was so caught up in her anger that she found herself walking down the road toward town before she even knew what she was doing. She was on her way to see the Old Woman who lived in the crumbing old house down by the river. Everybody in town said that the Old Woman was mad. She had what they called “the sight,” and nobody, including Barbara Ann, wanted to have anything to do with her. But Barbara Ann marched on, her anger pushing her forward.
Before she knew it, Barbara Ann found herself on the rickety old porch of the Old Woman’s home. The door creaked open before she could knock, and the Old Woman peered out from the darkness of her home, dressed head to toe in a tattered black dress. She was as ugly and scary as the townspeople had said, with scaly skin, long and stringy white hair, and dark, menacing eyes.
“Come in, young one,” the Old Woman cryptically whispered to Barbara Ann. “I’ve been waiting on you.”
Barbara Ann walked timidly into the house. She could see nothing in the musty darkness except a fire roaring in a massive stone fireplace. The Old Woman offered her a seat by the fire and listened to Barbara Ann nervously tell the story of the Ewah and her young husband. When Barbara Ann was finished, the Old Woman nodded and said, “Yes, yes – I think I can help you.”
The Old Woman left the room for a moment, then came back with what looked like a mask and gave it to Barbara Ann. As Barbara Ann held it up in the firelight, she shuddered – it was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. It looked like a big, furry, demonic cat, with enormous eyes that would pierce a person’s soul.”
“This mask has special powers,” the Old Woman said. “The Indians used to call it the ‘Wampas Mask.’ In order for you to get rid of the Ewah, you must scare him first before he can get a good look at you. If he sees you first, his look will drive you stone cold crazy. His greatest weapon is surprise. But if you sneak up on him and scare him first with this mask, he’ll never come back.”
The Old Woman suddenly grabbed Barbara Ann’s hand and said, “I must warn you, however, that if you put this mask on, you may wish you hadn’t.”
Barbara Ann barely heard this last part, for she was about ready to get out of that creepy house. She took the mask, tersely thanked the old woman, and walked quickly out the front door. When she got outside, she thought to herself, “Well, what else am I going to do but try it?” She put the mask on, and to her surprise, it fit real snug and nice on her face. Then she began to stumble toward the deep woods.
As she stumbled further and further into the woods, she could barely see in the darkness. So she hunkered down behind a bush, because she knew that if the Ewah was around, he surely could hear her.
After a while, the bright moon came out from behind the tall trees, casting eerie shadows all around her. Before long, the moonlight revealed a path cutting though the woods where she wouldn’t make so much noise. So she began to quietly slip through the woods, soft step by soft step, making as little noise as possible, although her heart was beating so hard that she was sure the Ewah could hear it.
After a few more steps, she heard a strange sound. It sounded like a baby crying. Why would there be a baby out in these woods at night? Then it dawned on her – that was no baby, that was the Ewah! That ol’ Ewah is a clever fella, she thought – he was making up the sound to get her to come to him. She knew what he was doing.
Barbara Ann thought that the sound was coming from over near the pond. So she slowly moved in that direction, her hands clammy and cold, her ears filled with the sound of her own heart beat, and her hair standing up on the back of her neck. She was so frightened that she could barely make her feet move, one in front of the other.
Then she saw the Ewah. He was stooping over the water with his back toward her, unaware of her presence. Barbara Ann could see that he was huge and fearsome creature. He was over twelve feet tall, and hairy from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. His hands were more like claws, stretched out with nails that were long and curved. Saliva dripped from his pointed, razor-sharp teeth. His neck was wide, and his shoulders were as big as a board. It was all Barbara Ann could do to stay steady on her feet.
The Ewah began to slowly turn his head. Any minute now, he was going to see Barbara Ann. What was she going to do? She was so frightened she couldn’t move. As his fiery red eyes turned in her direction, Barbara Ann suddenly let out a ear-piercing scream from the very depth of her soul…
When Barbara Ann looked into the Ewah’s hideous face, she saw fear. His eyes had closed, and he was backing away. “Ahhhhhhh!” she screamed again. That was enough – the Ewah fell to the ground and rolled over and over again in agony, as far away as he could get. Then he jumped up and ran off into the woods, crashing through the trees and underbrush, his screams tailing off into the darkness.
She stood quietly for a moment and listened, but could hear nothing. He was gone – she had really scared away the Ewah! Now no one would have to fear him again! She walked back toward her house with steps that were so happy that they barely touched the ground. And when she reached the edge of the woods, the entire community was waiting for her, because they’d heard the screams coming from the forest.
Barbara Ann suddenly froze in her tracks. What was wrong with everyone? The smiles had suddenly dropped from her neighbors’ faces. They began to back away from Barbara Ann, their eyes looking puzzled and afraid. Didn’t they recognize her?
Then she remembered that the ugly Wampas Mask was still on her face. She reached up to grab a hold of that mask to take it off so they would know who she was. But it wouldn’t come off – it was stuck. And then she looked down at her hands – to her horror, she saw that weren’t hands anymore, but were furry paws, like a cat’s paws. Her feet had changed into furry cat’s paws as well. She knew at that moment that this was what the Old Woman had meant when she said that she’d regret wearing that Wampas Mask. She would forever be a cat.
To this day, they say that if you go into those wooded mountains up around East Tennessee, you may find a cabin with a crazy old man inside, pacing back and forth, still terrified of those deep, dark woods around his home. And you might also spot a wildcat that walks on its hind legs and spends most of its nights wandering in those woods, making sure no harm comes to the mountain people.
And that’s the story of the Wampas Mask.
– THE END –
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7 Responses to “The Wampas Mask”
I loved this story. Here in WV we were told of the Wampus Cat when we were children.
Poor Barbara Ann.
LOL so were we in Texas. Everybody always said look out for the Wampus Cat!
I was born and raised in East Tennessee and I’ve never heard of this before, but it was an interesting read.
I thought it was from Virginia?
this story is really good i hope you still write stories cause me and my mom, dad and brother really like it
This story literally just took the original Cherokee story and replaced it with white people. Great.