We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with the story of the Wizard Clip, from West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. The tale takes its name from an unquiet spirit haunting the house of one Adam Livingston, of Smithfield. A sound of shears clipping could be heard at most hours of the day and night, and the unseen snipping produced half moon cutouts in clothing, bedsheets, and curtains throughout the house, whether protected or not. The trouble began in 1794, when a traveler boarding at the house suddenly took mortally sick. Being Catholic, he begged Livingston to send for a priest to deliver last rites. Livingston, an intensely bigoted member of the Lutheran church, exclaimed ‘that he knew of no priest in that neighborhood, and if there was one, he should never pass the threshold of his door.’
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
For forty years Kentucky banjo player Dora Mae Wagers (1927-1998) played on the stage of the Renfro Valley Barndance, and was often billed as one of the Coon Creek Girls. In this 1997 interview Wagers credits an unusual muse for her creative outpourings. After a warm nod to all that her musical grandmother bestowed upon her, she mentions a haunted banjo. “One time that thing communicated with me and I could just close my eyes and just see as far as I could see; like a stacked-rock fence, you know. It belonged to a black man, and that was his only possession that he had.”
We’ll wrap things up with the story of the Wampus Cat. In Missouri they call it a Gallywampus; in Arkansas it’s the Whistling Wampus; in Appalachia it’s the just a plain old Wampus cat. A half-dog, half-cat creature that can run erect or on all fours, it’s rumored to be seen just after dark or right before dawn all throughout the Appalachians. But that’s about all everyone agrees on.
And, thanks to the good folks at the Digital Library of Appalachia, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Hubert Rogers in a 1977 recording of Cotton-Eyed Joe.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.