Tale of West Virginia monster may have first been documented in 1950s

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Tale of West Virginia monster may have first been documented in 1950s
"Malevolent supernatural manifestations of another order," Musick termed strange creatures encountered in W.Va. lore.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The legend of a now well-publicized West Virginia monster known regionally as the "White Thing" may have first been documented by a student of folklore from Kanawha County in the late 1950s.

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The tale of the mysterious "malevolent" creature, which was alleged to haunt the hills of western West Virginia, appeared to defy standard classifications for collectors of folklore, according to a professor who popularized the tales of such creatures in the Mountain State in the 1960s.

The late Dr. Ruth Ann Musick in 1965 published the tale of the White Thing and that of a handful of other "Strange Beasts," as she termed them, in her book "."

Musick wrote in her assessment that the tales of such creatures in West Virginia lore might best be classified as stories of "revenants in animal form" but that they didn't fit easily into that category either.

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"It is perhaps questionable whether these stories fall within any present classification, as the creatures do not seem to be revenants, but rather malevolent supernatural manifestations of another order," Musick wrote.

"The creatures in these stories are difficult to identify or explain. Unlike ordinary ghosts, which have some kind of rationale, creatures seem to have no connection with the real world. They sometimes resemble real animals, but are never quite like them, and frequently they are seen as fearful and destructive, though the human beings that they attack always manage to escape somehow. Nothing apparently affects them, not even silver bullets. The very mystery about these creatures may be the reason for their appeal."

In 1954, Thomas A. Burford submitted the story of the White Thing as part of his study in a folklore course at Fairmont, and Musick wrote that Burford claimed "the tale was then common in Kanawha County." (Burford became an attorney practicing in West Palm Beach, Fla., and passed in 2019 at age 83.)

The tale of the White Thing has enjoyed increased visibility coincident with increased tourism in West Virginia. However, it first reached widespread popularity in 2010 with the publication of the article "."

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Here follows the story of the creature as submitted by Burford. (Have you encountered the legendary beast or know someone who has? Please contribute it in the comments section below.)


The White Thing

The night was damp and chill, and the forest stood dark and ominous as four elderly fox hunters sat hovering over a glowing mass of red embers. As if affected by their surroundings, the conversation drifted to supernatural legends.

Many tales were told, but most of them centered on the White Thing, which supposedly inhabited the very region where they were now resting. One of the men related an actual experience as told by his grandmother, who had lived nearby. She had taken her favorite mare to church one Saturday night, years ago.

As she was riding back, within two miles of her home, she heard an unearthly scream. The mare bolted and thrashed her hoofs into the air. That was when she saw the White Thing — a raging bundle of white, bursting out of the woods beside her. It appeared to be much larger than a dog, yet not nearly a horse's size. Bearing a coat of pure white fur and razor-sharp teeth that jutted outward from a gigantic mouth, it moved on all fours and screamed like a woman in terrible agony.

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Desperately the girl spurred her mare on, and finally the monster drifted back into the darkness behind her. At length, she came to her land and an outlying barn. In her haste to reach the house which was still a good distance away, she left the mare untied and the barn door ajar. Seconds later, with a sigh of thankfulness, she entered the sanctuary of her home.

The following morning, she and her father planned to search for the animal's tracks. But at the barn, they found her mare crumpled awkwardly against the door. Most of the flesh was torn from its bones, and a look of stark terror was on its face.


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