Wampus is the name of a semimythical creature believed to inhabit Iredell County  and adjacent counties. It was a source of particular concern in the early 1930s. Sightings and hearings of the creature followed much the same patterns as present-day sightings of flying saucers, Bigfoot, and Elvis Presley. The physical attributes of the wampus varied greatly. It was said to be silver or black, the size of a dog or a colt, with or without a horn, and with or without "big red eyes." Tracks were occasionally described as "web-footed," although others maintained that the creature had "front paws like a lion and hind feet like a bear." Most observers agreed that it had a "keen holler," although descriptions of the sound it made ranged from that of "a hurt woman" to that of "an elephant with his head in a rain barrel."
The wampus apparently made its first appearance in Iredell County in the fall of 1890 and was duly reported in the Statesville Landmark,  edited by Joseph P. Caldwell . It is suspected that Caldwell invented the varmint to sell newspapers during an otherwise slow news period, but stories of some kind of bear-dog-cat animal continued to circulate long after Caldwell left for the Charlotte Observer . Real or not, the threat of the wampus was used effectively as a bugbear by parents: "Child, you'd better be home before dark, or the wampus is liable to get you."
O. C. Stonestreet III, "Summer of the Wampus," The State (July 1994).
"The Wampus Is Dead-Long Live the Wampus," Statesville Landmark, 8 Sept. 1931.
"Wampus Wandering thru South Iredell," Mooresville Enterprise, 30 Apr. 1931.
1 January 2006 | Stonestreet, O. C., III