One of the name games I've investigated is the weirdness-linked place moniker "Wampus," which can be found around the country. George R. Stewart's American Place Names (NY: Oxford University Press 1970) has this for "Wampus": "In New York the pond is from the name of a local chief. In Oregon the butte is from a legendary monster of the forest." (p. 520)
I have found in old Southern newspaper accounts that "Wampus" was a name used for an unknown monster cat as well as other mystery animals. It is very akin to how the name "Booger" was used, mostly for hairy unknown primates' habitat in that case, but sometimes for mystery panther haunts, as well. Henry Franzoni has found a total of 18 places in the US and Canada named for Wampus, including Wampsville NY, and Wampos lake in Saskatchewan.
Whereas I usually relate the name Wampus to felines, Franzoni points to a connection with the big hairy fellows and not 'phantom panther' sightings in particular. He notes the word catawampus (cattywampus), which means "Cater-Cornered; slant wise, or Evil; malicious" in the American Heritage Dictionary, seems to be a neutral piece of evidence. However, around Oregon, a Wampus is "legendary monster of the forests" (from page 881 of Lewis A. MacArthur's 1992 sixth edition of Oregon Geographic Names), which Wampus Butte, the Town of Wampus, Wampus Post Office, Wampus Campground, Wampus Springs, and Wampus Cat Canyon in the Warm Springs Nation are all named for in Oregon.
Still, the feline connection is there, as five high schools in Oklahoma, Idaho, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana use Wampus Cats as their mascot. The Wampus cat is a creature in American folklore, variously described as some kind of fearsome variation on a cougar, according to standard definition.
The Wampus cat is the mascot of the following:
- Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School, Clark Fork, Idaho - seen as a yellow cougar with a spiked ball on its tail.
- Conway High School, Conway, Arkansas - seen as a six-legged cat.
- Atoka High School, Atoka, Oklahoma.
- Itasca High School, Itasca, Texas
- Leesville High School, Leesville, Louisiana
- The Tennessee Wampus Cats, an Amateur Athletics Union basketball team, Knoxville, Tennessee
The Wampus Cat, according to Floyd, was known to lurk along murky river bottoms and feast upon hapless hunters, fishermen and travelers and anybody else who wandered too far away from civilization. Although common in the early 19th century, wampus cat stories and sightings became less and less frequent after the War Between the States. A reminder of their former reign of terror lies in the names on the land.