Eagle’s Nest Mountain towers at the southern edge of the Balsam Mountain Range, and was once home to the ill-fated Eagle’s Nest Hotel, built in 1900 by an eccentric developer from Waynesville, N.C. After the grand opening, the guests discovered that it was haunted by a strange creature, a woolly brute who could be heard late at night wandering beneath the hotel, smacking its lips and making vile noises. The old timers said the thing was as ancient as the hills, but the hotel patrons demanded that the owner do something about it – but what to do?
Not quite a man and not quite an animal, the beast stood seven feet tall. Every inch of his body was covered with thick, matted hair, except for his long, lean face – a craggy visage etched by an aching loneliness. The citizens of Waynesville called this creature Boojum, and he kept his own counsel as he tirelessly traveled all over and around the Balsams. Although he lived a decidedly solitary life, it was a well known fact in every remote town and secluded mountain holler that he possessed two very human traits.
The first was that he was greedy and he loved to hoard gem stones. He searched far and wide for the rubies and emeralds buried throughout the Balsams. When he returned home, he would carefully deposit his bounty deep in a hidden cave underneath the Eagle’s Nest Hotel. The anxious guests complained that they would often hear him digging late at night, grunting with pleasure while he buried his treasure.
Boojum’s second habit that made him more human than beast was that he loved to gaze at pretty girls. Back in the day, when a young woman wanted to refresh herself on a hot summer’s afternoon, she might head off into the woods and find a secluded stream. There, safe from prying eyes, she would strip down to her fair-skinned beauty and enjoy a slow, cool dip. But the Boojum could unerringly sense a woman’s natural presence, and he spent many pleasurable hours in the woods, gazing blissfully from afar.
Most of the young ladies were unnerved when they discovered his unwelcome presence, and would quickly grab their clothing and hurry home. But there was a girl named Little Maggie who was braver than most. One sunny day, while playing in a stream deep in the Balsams, she looked up and saw the Boojum staring straight at her with his long, forlorn face – but she didn’t run. She looked straight into his sorrowful eyes and saw that he was just another forsaken soul. Maggie fell deeply in love with those mournful eyes, said a heartfelt goodbye to her family, and went to live with him deep in the woods.
They lived happily together, and he loved to polish his jewels as he watched her frolic in the streams and creeks. Every now and again he would quietly disappear from her side and slip away in search of more gemstones for their laughter and pleasure. But if he was gone too long she would cry out with her peculiar holler, akin to the cross between a tiger cat and the hooting owl, and call him right back into her arms.
And then one day he never came back. Little Maggie searched for months, looking in vain for her beloved Boojum, but he had simply disappeared. She became convinced that the desperate owner of the Eagle’s Nest Hotel had captured and spirited him away, ensuring that his entitled guests would never again be disturbed.
The old timers say she plotted her revenge carefully. After it was done – after the hotel had mysteriously gone up in flames and burned straight to the ground – they said you could hear her sad cry echoing throughout the mountains, an anguished lament that pierced the heavens. And then she just disappeared, and was never seen or heard from again.
– The Balsam Mountain Range –
–Images courtesy of the Haywood County Public Library–