We all love monsters. Something about an unknown creature (hairy or scaly, huge or small) living amongst us, unknown to science, is unsettling at best, terrifying a worst – and it is exhilarating. This is the first in a series of articles about monsters from each state in America, but not the well-worn monsters. I won’t cover Champ, the Jersey Devil, or Mothman. I’ll also leave Missouri’s Momo alone, as well as Arkansas’ Fouke Monster, and the chupacabra. This series is about the lesser-known critters that crawl through our nights, and stalk the periphery of the human world.
Every state has reports of these less publicized, but inherently frightening monsters, most of which have something seriously wrong with them. Like this monster from our first state, Alabama – the Alabama White Thang.
The White Thang
Reports of the White Thang (yes, “Thang.” Remember, this is Alabama) date back to the 1930s, and reports of the monster vary. It has been described as everything from a dog to a Bigfoot to a ghost; but two things are constant – the monster’s long white hair, and its scream.
In the book, “Legends and Lore of Birmingham and Central Alabama,” by Beverly Crider, George Norris, an eyewitness in the 1940s, saw the monster, and “it looked like a lion … you know, bushy, betwixt a dog and a lion. It was white and slick with long hair. It had a slick tail, down on the end of the tail a big ol’ bush of hair.”
The monster, although in the 1930s was said to run on all fours – even climbing trees to wait for people to walk beneath it – in later decades has been described as upright and at least seven feet tall, although witnesses say they can’t make out any detail of the monster, like hands, or facial features.
But it’s not the beast’s appearance or behavior that causes fright (people who’ve encountered the White Thang say it’s non-threatening); the monster’s scream is what shatter’s people’s spirits. The shriek, like a woman or a baby crying, not only barks in the dark woods at night, witnesses have heard the sound come from the hulking, white haired monster as it loomed over them and screeched into their face.
The Wampus Cat
When residents of Trussville, Alabama, began to discover their pet cats and small dogs slaughtered by an animal in 2014, official thoughts went to coyotes, but according to the Mobile, Alabama, Press-Register, canines didn’t match eyewitness reports. One unnamed witness told the newspaper, “Several of the residents have confirmed it is a feline creature. It jumps tall fences and is extremely quick.”
Thoughts of Trussville citizens went to one cause – the Wampus Cat.
This spectral panther-sized beast has been reported across the American southeast for centuries. Although there are numerous legends about the origin of this cat, the following two are most common in Alabama.
The first legend comes from an American Indian tradition. A Cherokee woman, suspicious of her husband’s hunting trips, dressed in the skin of a mountain lion, and followed the hunting party into the woods. She came upon the hunters sitting around a fire listening to stories about magic. She hid, staying to hear these stories that were forbidden to women. The men discovered her, and cursed her to spend eternity as a half-woman/half-mountain lion.
The second legend is slightly more modern, but just as magical, or at least Wellsian. According to the McDowell News of Marion, North Carolina, during World War II, the United States military succeeded in crossbreeding mountain lions and gray wolves in rural Alabama in an attempt to create a species of intelligent, vicious creatures to use as messengers in a war zone.
A few males and females of this new species escaped the military compound, and began to breed in the wild, becoming known as the Wampus Cat.
Or maybe the Wampus Cat is just a mountain lion, although Kevin Dodd from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources denies any such animal exists in the state.
“There aren’t any giant cats in Alabama,” Dodd said.
Whatever. You didn’t see it.
The Alabama Metal Man
The woman on the other end of the telephone call was frantic. Falkville, Alabama, Police Chief Jeff Greenhaw answered the telephone shortly before 10 p.m. the night of 17 October 1973 and heard the excited voice of a resident of rural Falkville claim a space ship had landed just outside town in a field. The chief grabbed his camera and left the police station, arriving at the sight of the landing at precisely 10 p.m.
There was no ship in the field. There was, however, a monster.
Greenhaw encountered a bipedal creature wrapped metal – and it advanced on him, according to an article written by B.J. Booth for NICAP. “It looked like his head and neck were kind of made together,” Greenhaw told reporters. “He was real bright, something like rubbing mercury on nickel, but just as smooth as glass.”
When Greenhaw trained his police cruiser headlights on it, the creature bolted across the field. Greenhaw pushed the car to 35 miles per hour across the bumpy terrain, but the monster quickly outdistanced it.
“He was running faster than any human I ever saw,” Greenhaw reported.
Although the metal monster was never seen again, neither was the ship. The entity could still be wandering northern Alabama.
Next up: Alaska.