The Boojum and Hootin’ Ann

 

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This is the first in a series of posts concerning Appalachia’s folk-creatures. Don’t worry, this aint becoming one of those kinds of blogs! This is folklore, and the best thing you can ever do is learn from it! We’ll start with the Boojum.  

The story begins at Eagle’s Nest Mountain, at the southern edge of the Balsam Mountain Range. There was an old hotel there that opened in the early 1900s, called the Eagle’s Nest Hotel. Guests soon became wearysome that a strange creature was haunting the place. Folks described it as a big wooly man, who went about smacking his lips and hooting, something said to be as old as the hills.

The Boojum is a folk creature that stands 7 feet tall, covered in long matted hair, except for his face – which was human looking. It’s said he keeps to himself but he has two distinctive traits that he shares with man: the first is greed, especially for pretty stones and gems. Folklore says he walks all over the Balsam mountains collecting them and hiding them in caves, stored neatly in old jars, jugs, bottles, and coffee cans. The guests at the hotel often heard him during these travels, grunting with excitement as he found new stones.

The second trait was his love for pretty women. When women wanted to bath they’d sometimes go into the woods to a stream or spring and strip down, later to see his wrinkly face peering through the foliage of the trees. Usually they high-tailed out of there screaming and hollering. Except for one girl. Here the story diverges based on who you hear it from, but I will tell both as I have heard them.

In the first tale, the girl who didn’t run was Ann. Once she noticed him gazing at her after a while, folks said she took one look into his sad lonely eyes and fell in love. She went to live with him in the mountains and they lived together for quite a while. He would often polish his gems while watching her wash in the streams or gather food. Some nights he would sneak off to find more gems to store in one of his cave nests all over the range. Any time Ann noticed, she would go looking for him, hooting and hollering like something between an owl, a wolf, a screaming woman. He would answer back in like manner. They would continue hollering, following the sounds of each other until they found the other. When I was told this, it was explained that this is the reason that loud parties, often consisting of folk music, are now called hootenannies ’cause folks make up just as much ruckus as Ann did trying to find Boojum.

The second tale surrounds Boojum and a girl named Maggie. The story goes the same, they lived together for a long while and he’d often go out finding and sorting his precious stones. Well one time he never came back and little Maggie got a thought that since so many complained at the hotel about them that the owner may have snatched him off somewhere. She searched for Boojum for months and months until her grief turned into revenge. Soon the hotel went up in flames and burned down, with Maggie’s anguished cries for Boojum echoing off the Balsam Mountains.

And then she simply vanished as he did, never seen again.

I have heard though, that their hollers can still be heard and their shadows seen wandering around the streams at night. So it looks like since she could find him here, she went Over There, hollered, and found him in spirit. I like to think though that they are both alive and happy, finding gems and wandering the ravines of Eagle’s Nest Mountain, hollerin’ and hootin’ still.

 

Thank you for reading and stay tuned for the next creature!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Jake Richards

Jake (Dr. Henny) follows family practice as a Yarb Doctor and Conjure man in the Appalachian Folk Magic tradition. He follows the legacy of his mother (a seventh daughter), that left behind by his grandfather, a baptist preacher who was a blood stopper, wort doctor, and thrush doctor; his grandmother, who was a knowledgeable woman in these works before Alzheimer’s set in; his great, great grandfather who witched for water in Washington County and his great grandmother who taught and worked from her roost at the foot of Devil’s Nest Mountain. Jake is the author of Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure & Folk Magic from Appalachia, available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. When he's not writing, blogging, reading the bones or trying for clients: he is either traveling, gardening, sewing, book binding, reading, or sculpting. For questions, readings, recommendations for future posts, interviews and the like, you are welcome to email him below: Littlechicagoconjure@yahoo.com

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