Mythical Monday: The Phantom White Wolf of French Creek

When I think of folklore, there are several creatures particularly suited for the mystical and eerie trappings of legends. Owls, cats, crows, and wolves immediately spring to mind. For today’s Mythical Monday, I stumbled over a a fireside tale about a town in West Virginia that was plagued by a mysterious white wolf.

In the mid-1800s an albino wolf began attacking and slaughtering livestock in and around French Creek. The residents hadn’t seen a wolf in years, leading many to believe the creature must be supernatural—especially given its ghost-white appearance. Fear blossomed and spread quickly, fueled by growing rumors.

a white wolfOne local farmer who lost several sheep to the wolf,  claimed he’d shot the beast three times, but the bullets had no effect. (Hmm…perhaps he should have used silver). Later the same month, the wolf was shot at close range, but again bounded away without being harmed. In the meantime, farm animals and pets continued to fall prey to the animal’s nighttime raids.

One of the farmers who lost a cow was a man named Bill Williams. In earlier years, when wolves dominated the countryside, Bill had been renowned for his prowess as a hunter. He’d killed hundreds of wolves, the bounties he’d collected allowing him to retire a wealthy man. Eventually turning from the practice, he took up farming, vowing never to hunt the majestic creatures again.

But the slaughter of his cow drew him from retirement. The townspeople and other farmers were relieved when he said he’d find and kill the albino wolf, putting an end to its reign of terror. Loading his rifle, he headed for an area the wolf was known to haunt. He took a small lamb with him and tied the helpless animal to a stake. Then he sat back and waited for the wolf to arrive, certain he would have an easy kill.

But fate was not kind to Bill.

When he failed to return the next day, several townspeople hiked to the area they knew he’d staked out. They found Bill with his throat mangled, his head nearly ripped from his body. In direct counterpoint to the grisly scene, the lamb was unharmed, still tied to the stake. Even stranger, there were no signs of blood or paw prints anywhere in the vicinity.

People believed the white wolf had exacted vengeance on Bill for breaking his vow to never hunt its kind. Others said the creature was a demon, for surely only a demon could do something so heinous and leave no trace of its passing. But why spare something as innocent as the lamb if that was the case?

A wolf in silhouette howling at the moonIt is unclear whether the white wolf continued to haunt the people of French Creek after Bill’s death, but tales of white wolves still circulate in remote areas of West Virginia.

According to legend, the ghost-like creatures slip from the darkness on nights illuminated by a full moon. They are impossible to catch or kill, and will simply vanish if cornered . . . only to return again when the full moon rises.

It makes you think twice about walking through the woods alone!

Mythical Monday: The Sea of Darkness by Mae Clair #Myth #Folklore

It’s Mythical Monday and that means it’s time to delve into the dusty archives of myth and folklore. Rather than focus on one of my favorite beasties today, I poked around in my treasure trove of mystical places and unearthed a spine-tingling tale of the sea. Perhaps it’s fitting that as I type this, a vivid crescent moon hangs outside my window, suspended against a coal black sky—the perfect companion to this frightening bit of nautical lore:

Old sailing ship on a misty seaTucked into the annals of seafaring legend is a place known as Mare Tenebrosum, the Sea of Darkness. An oceanic region that is said to glide across the surface of the water, some believe it may be the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Others that it follows the ocean currents, moving from place to place, thus it doesn’t appear on any charts. Into this watery domain of shadow, lost ships and seamen sail forever in perpetual night.

A ship can enter the domain of Mare Tenebrosum without its crew being aware they have crossed a boundary. It’s only when night falls that the spreading taint of the Sea of Darkness is felt. No matter how rough the waters previously, with the touch of night, the sea grows mysteriously calm. No light shines from above, the moon and stars obscured by a dense ebony cloud.

Into the blackness, the rigging of a ship glimmers briefly as if illuminated by ghost-light. Horrific cries echo on the air – the wails of men drowning, the boom of cannon fire, commands bellowed in multiple languages, voices jumbled one upon the other in confusion and panic. The screams of women and children rise and fall as if nearby vessels are sucked beneath the waves. It is a symphony of terror played over and over in the darkness as phantom ships loom then vanish into the cloak of night.

Old sailing ship at dawnIf the ship is fortunate enough to sail free of Mare Tenebrosum into the dawn, crew members are often left teetering on the brink of madness.Those who escape with their sanity intact, avoid talking of their time in the Sea of Darkness, wanting only to forget the evils which reside there.

Folklore like this makes you realize the romanticism of the sea can often be dark and deadly. Do you agree?

Mythical Monday: Chasing the Chupacabra by Mae Clair

The chupacabra is a creature said to haunt South America, Puerto Rico, parts of Mexico and portions of Texas. Known for attacking livestock and draining its prey of blood, the chupacabra’s name in Spanish is translated as “goat-sucker.” A mythical creature, the chupacabra is also recognized as a crytpid—a creature that may exist but hasn’t been proven to exist. If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you know I enjoy reading about mythical beasts and those put under the microscope of cryptozoology. It’s interesting when those fields intersect, as in the case of the chupacabra.

This is not a guy I would want to cross while out for a stroll.  A heinous looking oddity, the chupacabra has alternately been described as a winged monkey, a hairless dog with a pronounced spinal ridge or quills on its back, and a rodent or a reptile with grayish-green skin. The beast exudes a ghastly odor, is endowed with sharp fangs, and a forked tongue. Some believe the chupacabra is a coyote infected with mange, others that it is a species brought from outer space, still others that it is the result of a government experiment gone haywire.

Naturally, something this ugly has to have glowing eyes. In the case of the chupacabra, they are malignant red, capable of hypnotizing its victim and freezing them in place while the creature drains the victim’s blood.

Old farmshouse with free walking chickens  in rural surroundingsThe first report of dead livestock occurred in 1995 in Puerto Rico when a farmer found eight of his sheep drained of blood, each with three puncture wounds to the chest. For this reason, some believe the chupacabra is related to the vampire bat. It’s also been known to hiss and screech when alarmed and make an odd sound when feeding (who would want to get that close?).

Throughout the years the chupacabra has been blamed for numerous bizarre deaths in the killing of goats, chickens, pigs and dogs. Though most common to Latin America and South America, it has been spotted as far north as Michigan and Maine and has even shown up in Russia. There are countless videos and websites devoted to the myth of the chupacabra. This infamous crytpid has also made appearances on Animal Planet, and the Discovery Channel. Despite all the debate and discussion about El Chupacabra—including various descriptions from eyewitnesses—its legend continues to grow confounding skeptics, cryptozoologists and the curious in general.

As the debate rages, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution. What do you think?

Mythical Monday: The Finfolk of the Orkney Islands by Mae Clair

Deep below the ocean in the area surrounding the Orkney Islands of Northern Scotland, lays a kingdom known as Finfolkaheem, the winter home of the Finfolk. A brooding race gifted with sorcerous magic, the Finfolk spend the cold months of the year dwelling in a massive underwater castle of soaring chambers and crystal hallways. During the summer, they inhabit Hildaland, a magical vanishing island.

Pretty blonde mermaid with green and blue fish scales peering through the seaweed in an underwater scene, 3d digitally rendered illustrationSkilled boatmen and shapeshifters who hold dominion over the sea and storms, Finfolk dislike marrying among themselves, prizing human captives for their spouses. To that end, they frequently venture onto land, altering their shape to ensnare an unsuspecting mortal. Finmen often appear as fisherman in a boat, while Finwives like to assume the guise of a young maiden with long flowing hair and ivory skin. There is nothing romantic in their overtures or quest, and they have no qualms about abducting their potential mate. The unsuspecting human will then find themselves forced into a life of servitude to their Fin partner.

Finwives especially despise marrying Finmen. To do so means they will lose their beauty and mystical gifts, aging seven years for every year a Finwife is married to a Finman. Eventually, as the Finwife’s bewitching beauty is corrupted over time, she will become a Finhag. With this outcome in mind, it’s no wonder Finfolk search for a spouse among humans.

The only trinket prized more highly than a human spouse is silver. Like many enchanted beings, Finfolk like shiny things, particularly silver jewelry or coins. A human’s best chance of escaping abduction is to toss the Finfolk a few silver coins and flee in the opposite direction.

Isn’t it amazing, the power of silver in myth?

Mythical Monday: Davy Jones’ Locker by Mae Clair

open treasure chest with shinny gold underwaterRecently, I was having a discussion with someone about Davy Jones’ Locker. It started as a conversation about 1960s music and the simplistic names of bands like the Beatles, the Byrds, the Doors, the Turtles, and the Monkees. Talking about the Monkees led to Davy Jones, which of course, led to Davy Jones’ Locker. When the person asked if I knew where the name had originated, I realized I didn’t. Naturally, that research had to be the subject of a Mythical Monday post.

I’m sure most everyone is familiar with the term Davy Jones’ Locker as referring to the bottom of the sea, a resting place of sailors and others who have drowned. Davy Jones is an evil spirit who holds dominion over those who perish in his watery domain. He can take various forms and is known to perch in a vessel’s rigging before disaster strikes. But who was the real Davy Jones, the man who inspired the myth?

Apparently, there wasn’t a single individual. A pirate by the same name roamed the Indian ocean in the 1630s, but most scholars feel he wasn’t famous enough to have spurred the legend or sustained such long-lasting fame. The most common belief is that “Davy” is derived from “Duppy” a term for a malevolent spirit in the West Indies. (You can learn more about the Duppy in a Mythical Monday post I shared last August on Island Spirits). Some also believe Davy comes from Saint David, the Patron Saint of Wales, whom many Welsh sailors called upon for protection when they took to sea.

Curious dolphins approach the wreckage of a sunken ship beneath the sea.

“Jones” is from the biblical prophet, Jonah, who brought ill fortune and storms to the vessel he boarded. The seas calmed only when the sailors threw him overboard and he was swallowed by the great whale God sent to claim him. Many referred to him as “Devil Jonah,” for in fleeing God, he brought calamity to others. To this day, people refer to a “Jonah” as someone who brings bad luck.

Two other general references include Duffer Jones, a myopic sailor who routinely fell overboard and ended up in the drink courtesy of his near-sightedness, and a British pub owner who wasn’t above profiting off drunken sailors. He’d toss them in his locker, then sell them to any captain looking to draft a crew for shipboard service.

As with many old legends, it appears Davy Jones and his Locker are derived from a compilation of myths and historical figures. When it comes to final resting places, I’d much rather frolic on Fiddler’s Green, an Old Salt’s idealized vision of Heaven, than languish at the bottom of the ocean.

For now, I’ll hop over to Pandora and hunt up some Monkees music. It seems only natural I should remember the singer who’s name was the catalyst of this post. :)

Mythical Monday: Australia’s Min Min Light by Mae Clair

This one doesn’t really qualify as mythical because its existence has been documented, but there’s plenty of debate about what it is and what causes it.

A dark night sky with several glowing discs of lightA light phenomena of the Queensland region of Australia, the Min Min is a large flickering disc of luminescent light that appears at night, hovering about three feet above the ground. Named after a small settlement in the Outback, the Min Min made its first appearance in 1918 when discovered by a stockman (cattle worker). Its origin, however, can be traced farther back in time to Aboriginal myths that predate western settlement of the area.

The lights do not appear to be harmful and will vanish if fired upon, only to reappear later. They have been known to follow people on foot, horseback and in cars, sometimes keeping pace for miles. A few night time travelers have reported them assuming the shape of a horse or a man. Most, however, claim the Min Min to be a glowing amorphous light. According to legend, anyone who chases the lights and successfully catches one will never return to tell the tale.

Sign welcoming visitors to Min Min Light Territory in Boulia, Queensland, Australia

Photo by GondwanaGirl 6 January 2009 (Public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Theories put forth include an optical illusion, swarming insects that have taken on bio-luminescent characteristics, and a geophysical phenomenon produced from an natural electrical charge. Whatever the cause of these unusual lights, thousands have reported seeing them. The town of Boulia in Queensland, welcomes visitors to the Land of the Min Min Light with a large sign proclaiming the mystery.

As someone who has been fascinated by atmospheric ghost lights and spook lights since I was a kid, I find the idea of the Min Min enchanting. Wouldn’t you love to see one of these eerie weaving lights?

Mythical Monday:  Something’s Mything by Mae Clair

I know it’s Mythical Monday and I should be Mything but I actually have a blog tour kicking off today for TWELFTH SUN. The tour was supposed to happen way back in January, but if you recall, Lyrical Press was acquired by Kensington Books and it took a while for the dust to settle and new Kensington titles to be issued.

Book Promotions by Literary Nook Book was happy to work with me in delaying the tour, so here we are five months later, and it’s finally under way. Something is definitely mything from my blog today, but maybe the timing worked for the best as TWELFTH SUN is a breezy summer read.  Here’s where I’ll be should you like to drop by and say hello over the next few weeks:

Tour Banner Twelfth Sun

May 12
Kristy Centeno – Promo with excerpt
KMN Books – Author Interview, promo with excerpt

May 13
JM Stewart–Contemporary Romance Author – Promo with excerpt
The (Mis)Adventures of a Twenty-Something Year Old Girl – Promo with excerpt

May 14
Some Like It Hotter – Promo and excerpt
Triad Literary – Promo with excerpt

May 15
Musings of a Writing Reader – Promo with excerpt

May 20
Mythical Books – Review

May 21
Have Novel, Will Edit – Promo with excerpt

May 22
Deal Sharing Aunt – Author Interview, Promo with excerpt

May 26
My Devotional Thoughts – Promo with excerpt

May 28
Literary Nook – Promo with excerpt

May 30
Book Reviews by Xunaira J. – Promo with excerpt

June 2
Crystal’s Many Reviewers – Review

Solstice Island Final smallIn other news, I’m also visiting with Brooke Williams today, promoting SOLSTICE ISLAND . . . also a summery read, and a adventure involving a mythical sea creature.

And, since this is turning into a book update post, here’s where my latest WIPs stand:

~ooOOoo~

ECLIPSE LAKE

Shot of a lake at summer twilight
Romantic mystery, family drama, and an unsolved missing person’s case.

I still hope to publish this title in June.

~ooOOoo~

MYTH AND MAGIC
Romantic mystery involving ghostly happenings and sabotage at a secluded corporate retreat.
Takes place in October and over Halloween.
Should be ready for submission by the end of the month.

~ooOOoo~

A THOUSAND YESTERYEARSbigstock-Ghost-At-The-Window-tint--23502128
Urban fantasy/horror.
A haunted house, a family curse, and an evil presence that will stop at nothing to continue its legacy of darkness.
My current WIP.
I’m going back to my roots with this one. Fantasy/horror was my first genre as an author.

~ooOOoo~

Mythical Monday will return next week as usual. In the meantime, I’d love to know what you’re working on at present, or news on your latest release. Please share!

Mythical Monday: Mayland’s Mythical Dragon, the Snallygaster by Mae Clair

In the early 1700s, German settlers who made their homes in the hills surrounding Frederick County, Maryland brought tales of a fearsome flying half-bird, half reptile creature from the Old Country. Known as the Schneller Geist, meaning “fast ghost” or “quick spirit”, the beast had razor-sharp teeth, long talons and demonic features borne of nightmares. A single eye glared from the center of its forehead and its wingspan was said to be twenty-five feet wide.

By 1909, it was more commonly referred to as a “Snallygaster.” Reports of the dragon-like creature—which swooped down to carry off prey—became so highly publicized that year, the Smithsonian Institution offered a reward for its capture and former president Theodore Roosevelt expressed an interest in hunting it.

Sightings were frequent and often reported in small town periodicals. Fearful of attack, residents of the area painted seven-point stars on their barns, believing they would ward off the frightening monster.

wooden fence in the grass on the hillside near the village at night in moon lightThe beast did most of its hunting at night, carrying off unattended children, pets and farm animals. It moved swiftly, its extraordinary speed making it invisible in flight. Preferring to roost in barns, it would occasionally enter homes and steal objects it fancied. Later, the Snallygaster would replace what it had taken, returning the object to a different spot in hopes of confusing and frightening the owner. The creature made a shrill whistle-screeching sound and laid eggs large enough to hold a baby elephant.

Sightings of the Snallygaster continued for decades. In July of 1934 near Middletown, Maryland, several large explosions were said to be the sound of Snallygaster eggs hatching. An unidentified hunter claimed to have killed one of the hatchlings and said the carcass was approximately five-feet tall with speckled features, and four-inch claws.

The Snallygaster is believed to have one foe—a two-legged creature with the face and fur of a wolf known as a “Dwayyo.” Also sighted in Maryland, the Dwayyo and Snallygaster  are said to have engaged in several vicious battles throughout the decades.

Does the Snallygaster exist? There have been plenty of sightings through the years, and the creature was given enough credence in 1909 that Teddy Roosevelt almost canceled an African Safari to hunt it. But like most myths and urban legends, it remains a “what if” possibility to this day.

Maryland is practically in my back yard, and a favored stomping ground. The next time I take a drive through the “Old Line State,” I plan to be more vigilant in watching for Snallygasters. After all, it’s not every state that has its own mythical dragon!

 

Mythical Monday: Folklore of the Sycamore Tree by Mae Clair

Sycamore trees have a long history in folklore dating back to Egyptian times where the Holy Sycamore is said to connect the worlds between the dead and the living. This great tree stands at the eastern gate of heaven which releases the sun to rise each morning.

Sycamores in general are known for their longevity. The North American sycamore is one of our largest hardwood trees and can grow to mammoth proportions. Perhaps it is their strangely colored trunks—which become mottled with stark patches of white, gray and greenish brown when the bark flakes off—that make them seem so mysterious. Their odd appearance earned them the name “Ghosts of the Forest” from Native Americans, with many tales spun around their magical, often sinister, nature.

A close-up look at the trunk and bark of an American Sycamore tree. The result of shedding its bark for new growth is said to resemble camouflage.

According to one legend that originates with the Wyandotte tribe, the great chief who ruled over evil spirits grew angry at two of his followers. He cast them from his sight, and they fell to the Earth where they collided with two majestic sycamores that shaded the banks of a river. The wicked nature of the spirits seeped into the trees and immediately deformed them, turning their limbs into twisted, grotesque branches.

The Wyandotte in the area knew to avoid the trees when they followed the local trail to the river, but settlers who arrived later, scoffed at the native superstition. Some even threatened to cut them down and use the wood for kindling. Those who made such boasts usually met with inexplicable misfortune not long afterward. Rumors even spread of a settler who’d been “frightened to death,” his body found beneath the trees, his face twisted in a mask of terror as if he’d happened upon something unholy.

In 1840, one of the men decided to put an end to what he considered foolishness. He would rid the area of the cursed trees once and for all. Grabbing his axe, he hiked up the trail to where the sycamores stood, and swung the heavy instrument, aiming for the nearest of the two. Instead of sinking into the bark, the axe glanced off the trunk and sliced open his leg.The ax head severed his artery and he bled to death, gaping up at the misshapen, mocking branches of the trees.

But not all sycamores were malevolent. As large as they grew, with trunks often hollow, they could also provide shelter. Such was the case of John and Samuel Pringle, brothers who deserted from the army during the French and Indian War. For almost three years years they lived inside a sycamore tree in Upshur County, West Virginia. Eventually, running low on provisions, John risked a trip to South Branch along the Potomac and learned that the war had ended. He and his brother were no longer wanted as deserters and were able to move out of the eleven-foot trunk cavity that had made their home. Today, you can visit Pringle Tree Park where a third generation sycamore stands in the place of the original “Pringle Tree.”

Whether you view sycamores with respect and wariness as the Wyandotte warned early American settlers to do, or are more inclined to see their sheltering nature like John and Samuel Pringle, remember that these mysterious-looking trees have deep roots in folklore!

Mythical Monday: Dwarves, Dragons and Danes by Mae Clair

I finally had a chance to catch up with the second part of The Hobbit last night, The Desolation of Smaug. I’ve been a fan of Tolkien ever since my tenth grade English teacher gave me his copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. That’s when my love of fantasy really took off. Tolkien’s books are loaded with all things mythical and marvelous—elves, dwarves, enchanted forests and lakes, wizards, and walking trees—just to name a few.  After watching The Desolation of Smaug, I thought it was an appropriate time to shine a spotlight on dwarves. Admittedly, Thorin and Kili might have had something to do with that. :D

Not all dwarves were heroic warriors. Some were simple folk, concerned with agriculture and common tasks like smithing, baking and spinning. The Danes tell a folktale about a human farmer who leased a homestead that had seen numerous ill-fated owners before him. None had any luck tilling the land or raising a profit from livestock. Drought had struck the crops repeatedly, and disease thinned every herd. This farmer—a man, with a wife and two young children—hoped for better luck.

Summer rural scene with old wooden abandoned barn in green mountain meadowOn the night he arrived—a fine balmy summer evening—he addressed the farm with what he hoped was a respectful greeting. “Good evening, farm.”

“Good evening,” a voice immediately returned. Sounding much like the croak of a toad, the voice came from the direction of the cowshed.

The farmer peered through the twilight, searching for the source, but saw no one about. Unsure if he had imagined the reply, he shrugged and added, “Well, whoever you are, come to the cottage at Christmas and show yourself.”

The next day he set to work, patching walls and re-thatching the roof, for the farm had fallen into a horrible state of disrepair. He stabled his herd in the cowshed, but not long afterward, one of his best cows mysterious went dry. In the back of his mind, he feared the curse of the farm would plague him as well.

Still, when Christmas Eve arrived there was a fat goose for the family feast, and plenty of ale. In the middle of dinner, as the family enjoyed their holiday fare, the door suddenly burst open with a gust of cold air.

A small gnarled man dressed in gray stood on the threshold. He surveyed them for a moment, taking in the shocked faces of the children, then called out a Christmas greeting. The farmer instantly recognized the croaking-toad voice he had heard the evening of his arrival, and invited his strange visitor inside. He offered the dwarf a plate of goose, and a mug of ale.

“You must come to the cowshed on New Year’s Eve so I may return the favor in kind,” the dwarf informed his anxious host after he had feasted.

The farmer was wary, but feared insulting a supernatural being. When New Year’s Eve arrived, he went to the cowshed as promised. The dwarf pointed out a hole in the earth ringed with loose soil, then vanished into the dark passageway. Growing ever more fearful, and not seeing how he could ever fit through such a small opening, the farmer nonetheless stuck his foot into the hole. He immediately dropped into a low chamber composed of clay walls and gnarled roots. Furnished with oil lamps and a table, the small space was cozy and inviting. The dwarf bade the farmer to sit, then gave him a steaming bowl of porridge. Before the farmer could take a bite, a fat drop of foul-smelling brown moisture plopped onto the table from the ceiling.

“You see why I curse the land now?” the dwarf asked. “The first owner built his cowshed directly over my home, and ever since the muddy floor has oozed through my ceiling and ruined my food. I bear no malice to mortals, but have blighted crops and cursed cattle as a result of my spoiled porridge. ‘Twould be better if we lived in peace. Move the shed at first thaw, so that we both may prosper.”

Beautiful old farmstead surrounded by lush greeneryThe farmer did as the dwarf requested, moving the cowshed as soon as the weather permitted. In return, his crops flourished and his dry cow gave an abundance of milk. Not only did he prosper, but his harvests where plentiful and his herds enjoyed good health and long days. The dwarf’s animosity became rich blessings instead, allowing the farmer and his family to thrive on the farmstead where all others had failed.

It’s interesting that there aren’t that many tales about dwarfs out there. I think some tales where imps are involved (like Rumplestiltskin) could also be interpreted with dwarves. Can you think of any fairy tales or myths that include dwarves? Do you have a favorite?

And the most important question—what do you think of Thorin and Kili? :D