If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)
Earlier I told you about my Aunt Jean who was raised in Waynesville, NC. Waynesville is the county seat for Haywood County. I know an awful lot about Waynesville because my family also owned a house there (until it burned to the ground in 1981 – but that’s another story). It was atop Eagle’s Nest Mountain (about 50 feet below 1 mile high). Eagle’s Nest overlooks Maggie Valley and is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.
Eagle’s Nest is so beautiful that it was a destination back in the day (1880s). The more affluent from the Deep South and city folk from of the big northern cities would get on trains during the summers and head for the mountains. Vanderbilt built his mansion in nearby Asheville (not very far as the crow flies). During that time, a large hotel was built on top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain. The population in little Waynesville would soar. There was also an Inn built at the base of Eagle’s Nest that survived until the 1990s.
This is the tale of Boojum (as told to me by my Aunt Jean Hyatt Richardson).
Long before the masses found the beauty of Eagle’s Nest, a particularly strange manimal (half man/half animal) made his home on Eagle’s Nest. He was called Boojum. Boojum was an early “Bigfoot” type character who appeared to be as much bear as man. He was said to be furry and smelly. Boojum had a real fondness for the beautiful gemstones prevalent in the North Carolina mountains. As you may know, many precious and semi-precious stones are found in their raw state in the area. Among these are rubies, sapphires, garnets, aquamarines, smoky and rose quartzes, emeralds, tourmaline, and citrines. So many beautiful gemstones!
Boojum was said to wander all over the mountains to find these stones and bring them back to his home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain. No one knew exactly where he lived, but many tried to find his lair to find his stash of gems. Boojum was a clever creature, though, and hid them well out of sight.
It is also said that Boojum would occasionally frighten the female visitors to the inns by sneaking up on them as they bathed in the streams and bathing areas. It is also said that one young woman felt pity for the lonely creature and went off to join him. There are versions of the Boojum legend that has him “marrying” this girl, but the one I learned didn’t mention any alliance with any human.
To anyone’s knowledge, no one ever found Boojum or his stash of pretty rocks. They might be hidden in buckets or barrels with water in them to hide them. There are many openings, caves, crevasses, and hidden places still on Eagle’s Nest Mountain (even though it has been greatly developed since).
On a very personal note, my aunt told me once that she was told as a girl that she’d better behave or Boojum would get her. I guess he was used rather like the “boogey-man” or “bogey-man” of non-Western-Carolina upbringing. In the near future, I’ll tell y’all a true story of a night on Eagle’s Nest Mountain that I was almost certain Boojum was gonna get me.
The fancy inn on the top burned to the ground (not unlike our home) early in the 20th century. Let me just say this about the road to the top of Eagle’s Nest Mountain, it’s one of the most twisty, turny, difficult roads to travel. The grades are steep and the switchbacks are many. It was virtually impossible to get modern fire trucks to our house when it burned. I can’t imagine what it must have been like trying to get a horse-pulled water truck to the top in the olden days. The Piedmont Inn (the one near the base) has been pretty much razed for a golf community.
For those of you who enjoyed my Appalachian, folk tales, I found a book that includes these two stories and many, many more. The name of the book is “Mountain Ghost Stories – and curious tales of Western North Carolina.” It was compiled by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett. John Blair is the publisher. They seem to have delved deeply into the myths, legends and ghost stories of the area. I will probably share some of these (giving credit, naturally) in later blogs. If you enjoy these tales, though, I highly recommend this little book.