I’ve not encountered any of the strange beasts I discuss herein, but I think their legends warrant further investigation.
Beyond the realm of ghosts and outside the classification of man apes, encounters with strange creatures have been reported across the Mountain State. These bear or dog-like creatures seem to belong to an eerie half world — part ghost, part beast. In rural Kanawha County, old timers relive legends of “The White Thing.” On South Mountain, near Harper’s Ferry, locals speak of “Snarly Yow.” In Upshur County, natives still speak of “The Hog.” In the Winding Gulf Coalfields, south of Beckley, residents speak offhand of a cat-like creature that howls through the night.
Generally, these creatures are regarded as vicious predators. Some have been said to attack and kill horses and sheep. Yet, most legends report that they cannot be harmed by gunfire or any other means. Case in point — regarding Snarly Yow, some years ago a family traveling the highway over South Mountain ran “through” the beast with their station wagon, only to look behind them and see it standing in the road, unhurt but growling in offense.
The White Thing of Kanawha County was reported to have dismembered a horse in its stall.
These creatures are generally described as furry quadrupeds with fanged jaws and piercing eyes. Could they be bears, wolves, dogs, panthers, or some monstrous version of these known animals? I tend to think they are perhaps the ghosts or prehistoric mammals, pulled briefly into our existence. They appear cognitive of their modern surroundings, yet their stay on our plain lasts briefly, according to the sources I’ve heard or read.
Folklorists will point toward the commonality of such tales throughout the region as proof of their origins in European lore. However, the immigrants who settled South Mountain, Upshur County, and Kanawha County arrived from different areas and different times and came from different cultures. The South Mountain settlers were largely Germans who arrived early from Pennsylvania and tidewater Virginia. Conversely, the Kanawha County settlers arrived by way of the Ohio River during the Industrial Revolution and were largely Scots-Irish.
If anyone has had an encounter with such a beast, I’d love to see them submitted to this site.