Tag: Mystery

  1. The Strange Case of Cades Lake

    Cades Map

    Depending on who you were and what you stood for, the idea of turning most of Cades Cove into a 50-foot-deep lake—three miles long and two miles wide—was either brilliant or terrible.

    Pro-lake constituents included National Park Service Director Arno B. Cammerer (immortalized by the naming of Mt. Cammerer), Tennessee Governor Gordon Browning, the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, park booster Col. David Chapman, and Knoxville City Manager George Dempster.

    Those opposed included acting and former NPS Directors Stephen Mather and Horace Albright, Robert Sterling Yard of the National Parks Association, and stalwart conservationists Harvey Broome Benton MacKaye.

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  2. Haunting Views

    “Nah, there’s nothing to be scared of in there,” she told them. Her crooked, bone-thin finger pointed toward Daisy Town, the group’s ultimate destination.

    It was easy to see that her reflection in glass had once undoubtedly inspired poets. Flowing in grey waves down her ever-so-slightly twisted back, her hair evoked memories of raven’s wings. Her cheekbones stood as high as the Alps atop two identically sunken valleys cascading toward her strong jawline. The years had left marks; unflinchingly, she displayed them all.

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  3. The Mysteries of Gregory Bald

    Gregory Bald azaleas

    “In this Park, we shall conserve these trees, the pine, the red-bud, the dogwood, the azalea…for the happiness of the American people.” - President Franklin D. Roosevelt, from his speech dedicating Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Anyone who has ever accomplished the arduous feat of hiking to the top of Gregory Bald in early summer knows that the myriad azalea shrubs there, when in bloom, present an “Eighth Wonder of the World” type of experience. The abundance of gorgeous flowers, their crazy variations in colour, and the mountain top setting all combine to create a sense of wild awe.

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  4. The Masque of the White Death

    White Death - Milk Sickness

    Imagine you are living in the Great Smoky Mountains in the 1830s and people in your family and in the community that surrounds you are getting sick and dying. It is the early fall of a dry year. Children and adults are complaining of loss of appetite, weakness, vomiting. Your uncle is in a coma. The haggard doctor in the next community cannot identify a cause. And there are no cures. Some farms are quarantined. A black flag or other sign on the fence out front warns neighbours and travellers that the sickness has reached the unfortunate family within.

    Your neighbour’s horse, which suffered from “the trembles,” slowly dies. Families talk of moving back east where they were never afflicted by such a plague. You have relatives in Kentucky who send word that half the people in their town have succumbed.

    But then, in November, people quit getting ill. You learn that many families have lost most of their calves and are worried about possible starvation in the winter ahead. But the terrible affliction has apparently run its course.

    Because of its cryptic nature, milk sickness remained a mystery in the eastern United States for many years. It is caused by a late-summer wildflower that is common in the Great Smokies, white snakeroot. People and livestock tend to avoid the plant, but during drought years, when forage is thin, cattle, horses, sheep, and other livestock will graze it. Many of the livestock get sick and die, but some show no symptoms. Tremetol, the toxin that is passed from the plant to livestock to humans, was not scientifically identified until the early 20th century. Nancy Hanks Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s mother, is said to have died from milk sickness.

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  5. 2002 - The Year No One Died in GSMNP

    There is an old joke among history buffs involving realistic-looking plaques or historical markers that read, “On this site in 1884, nothing happened.” A similar joke could be made by park safety officers and law enforcement statisticians about Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2002. It would read, “In this national park in 2002, nobody died.”

    As you may have already assumed, it is very unusual to go an entire year in a national park that receives millions of annual visitors and not have a single person expire from natural causes, accidents, suicide or foul play.

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  6. Of Boogers and Boogermen

    In their landmark book, Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English, authors Michael Montgomery and Joseph Hall define booger as “a demon or ghost; a person having a ghostlike, disheveled, or mischievous appearance. The term is often used to threaten children to make them behave.” Likewise, a “boogerman” is a “Ghost or hobgoblin; the devil.”

    Many residents of the Great Smoky Mountains have been quoted with using the term, including Horace Kephart, Hodge Mathes, Sam Styles, Glenn Cardwell, and Sara Cole. Yet the word did not originate here. Nearly every culture has some sort of bogeyman used by parents and guardians to persuade children to follow the straight and narrow. One of the most closely related terms, bugge, comes from Middle English and describes a ghost or hobgoblin.

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  7. Bird Brain? Not so fast...

    By mid-March, birds like the Louisiana water thrush and the blue-headed vireo will be returning to the Great Smoky Mountains. They will have traveled hundreds of miles, mostly at night — perhaps across the Gulf of Mexico — from as far away as Central America, to their summer home in the Smokies.

    The mystery of precisely how birds navigate on these epic journeys has never been completely solved. Plausible theories have included using the stars to navigate, using magnetic fields, watching landscape features like mountain ranges and coastlines, and their sense of smell. Now a new idea from Dr. Jonathan Hagstrum of the U.S. Geological Survey has the birding world chirping.

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  8. How to avoid trouble with ghosts in the Smokies

    One of our favorite historians, Joseph S. Hall, not only recorded bits of mountain speech and music, he also documented a fair number of Smoky Mountain ghost stories. His 1970 article in the Tennessee Folklore Bulletin offers the following tips on what to do when encountering specters in the Smokies.

    For one, avoid the following places and circumstances, as these are common lurking places for ghosts, boogers, and other varieties of “ha’nts”: haunted churches, haunted houses, haunted schoolhouses, graveyards, and dark stretches of road (especially while transporting moonshine).

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  9. The Wild Man of Cataloochee

    The Wild Man of Cataloochee

    On July 13, 1973, near where Rough Fork Creek intersects with the end of the main Cataloochee Valley road, seasonal national park ranger Charles Hughes had a violent encounter with the “wild man” of Cataloochee. Hughes was checking up on fishermen along Rough Fork when he met a man with a fly rod and a heavy beard.

    When asked his name, the man replied, "I've got no name, I've lived in these woods all my life." When the ranger demanded to see his fishing license, the man reached into his heavy canvas hunting jacket for a pistol.

    During a prolonged scuffle, the ranger succeeded in punching the man in the face but failed to subdue him. As Hughes attempted to turn around his vehicle and drive up the narrow gravel road for help, the “wild man” heaved a large rock at the ranger’s Jeep and broke a window. Hughes then sped to the nearby ranger station for backup; subsequently, a group of rangers and volunteer tracked the man by bloodhound along Rough Fork well into the night but never found him.

    The "Wild Man" became the subject of much discussion in the local press, and a song commemorating the event, "The Cataloochee Wild Man" by Sam Parsons, a Texan, was popular throughout the region.

    Additional “wild man” sightings occurred over the following decades. Some campers in Cataloochee Campground would reportedly leave food out for the man. Rangers and families caught glimpses of the man along the fringes of the historic farmsteads and other developed areas of the valley. Like a ghost, he possessed an uncanny ability to melt into the forest whenever someone became alarmed at his presence.

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  10. Are the Smokies the true 'Land of Lincoln?'

    President Abraham Lincoln

    Both Groundhog Day and Presidents’ Day occur in February. The former can be celebrated in the Smokies by a trip to the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum to check on the activity level of the robust population of groundhogs (aka woodchucks) living in the vicinity. The latter can also be marked at Oconaluftee by stirring the ashes of the old Enloe-Lincoln legend.

    First off, it is important to note that the topic of President Abraham Lincoln’s paternity has been a favorite subject for amateur historians to debate around the campfire or barroom since Abe was nominated for president in 1860. Over a dozen different authors have posited their very different theories. And those who are aware of the debate over our current president’s place of birth can understand that interviews and documents don’t always get in the way of a good story.

    There are a couple of reasons for the persistence of the idea that Abram (Abraham according to some sources) Enloe of Oconaluftee is the father of Abraham Lincoln. For one, records of births (which almost always occurred at home) in the early 19th century were sketchy. For another, according to some Enloe family photos, Abram and Abraham did bear a certain resemblance.

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