Last week, when I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw an article about sightings of a rare fish in Japan called an oarfish. The only problem with the sightings is the legend that seeing the oarfish is an indication that something awful is going to happen, like a tsunami or earthquake. As a matter of fact, during 2010 (a year prior to the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent tsunami) more than a dozen of these rare specimens had washed up onto Japan’s coastline.
So, are there other harbingers of doom that we should be watching for?
The website Exemplore shares the story of another animal that foreshadows disaster in the Appalachian Mountains. “I first heard of the Wampus Cat at around the age of ten when my uncle passed away. He was actually my father’s cousin, but we always called him “Uncle Dan.” He and my dad were as close as brothers, so the title was fitting.
Dan had always lived a hard life of excess. He liked to drink and didn’t know when to stop. He also smoked several packs of cigarettes a day. It didn’t come as a complete surprise when he died from a heart attack before the age of fifty.
I remember sitting at a relative’s house after the funeral and listening to the adults as they talked about Dan. His real brother, Virgil, informed everyone that he had known beforehand that death was going to come calling for someone in the family, he just didn’t know who.
He went on to relate, in hushed tones, that he had heard the cries of a Wampus Cat in the woods near his house a couple of nights before he received the call telling him that his brother had died.
Virgil said that he had been sitting in his living room, watching television, when he heard what sounded like a woman screaming somewhere in the woods. He had never before heard such a tortured cry in all of the years that he had lived in the little house in the country.
Virgil had heard stories of Wampus Cats in the past, but he assumed that they were just old wives’ tales. He had never taken any of them seriously. Nevertheless, he felt uneasy after hearing the forlorn wailing. He couldn’t help but wonder if he was about to lose someone in the family. He would have his answer shortly when he learned that his brother had passed.
As Virgil told of his ominous experience, the adults in the room solemnly nodded their heads. Not one of them questioned his story. Instead, after a few moments of silence, Virgil’s wife chimed in with her own story of the Wampus Cat.
She said that she had also heard screams in the woods behind their house, but on a separate occasion from when Virgil had heard them. She had kept the story to herself for several years fearing that no one would believe her. Now that her husband had told his tale, she felt safe in sharing her own.
Virgil’s wife, Peggy, quietly told the room full of mourners that she had been awakened one night, years earlier, by the piercing cries of a woman. The ear-splitting noise had cut through the night and jolted her out of bed. Virgil was away on a hunting trip at the time and she was in the house alone.
Peggy had looked out the windows but couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. She said that there was an eerie stillness that had settled all around her, broken only by the cries which continued to assault her ears. She was so frightened by the experience that she couldn’t go back to bed. Instead, she sat up for the rest of the night with every light in the house on.
Peggy explained that she knew, somehow, that the woeful cries were a warning. They took them as a sign that something terrible was going to befall her or someone close to her. Since Virgil was in the mountains hunting at the time, she just knew that the warning cries were meant for him.
To Peggy’s great relief, her husband returned home safe and sound the following evening. She didn’t tell him about the events of the previous night. She knew that he wouldn’t have understood the fear that had paralyzed her.
On the day after Virgil returned home, Peggy received word that her mother, who had never been sick a day in her life, had passed away in her sleep. Peggy didn’t tell anyone at the time, but she believed that the Wampus Cat’s warning of death had been intended, not for Virgil, but for her mother.
Again, the adults in the room seemed to believe that the cries in the woods were, indeed, a sign that death was close by. I wondered, years later, if the sounds they heard could have been made by a fox or other animal. When I posed this question to my mother, she said that Virgil and Peggy had lived their entire lives in the country and knew a fox when they heard one. According to her, the cry of the Wampus Cat is unmistakable and, once heard, cannot be forgotten. Let’s hope that none of us ever has to find out for ourselves if this is simply a fable or a reality far darker than we dare to imagine.”
So, we’ve had a fish and a mammal, I think it’s time to talk about birds, namely crows. Crows, and their bigger relatives, ravens, have appeared in a number of legends throughout the ages. They have been know as tricksters, they hang around with witches, wizards, and gods, and they are also considered a harbinger of death.
According to the website ThoughtCo.: “In parts of the Appalachian mountains, a low-flying group of crows means that illness is coming — but if a crow flies over a house and calls three times, that means an impending death in the family. If the crows call in the morning before the other birds get a chance to sing, it’s going to rain. Despite their role as messengers of doom and gloom, it’s bad luck to kill a crow. If you accidentally do so, you’re supposed to bury it — and be sure to wear black when you do!”
But those are old legends, right? This doesn’t happen today, does it?
Well, at the Astrologer’s Community website, Ariesgurl asks an interesting question:
“Crows signify death???
Any of you believe that crows mean impending death? I’ve grown up believing this superstition as have generations of my family but never really experienced it until recently. Now I’m wondering if it’s true or just me playing into the story!
Anyhow, I’ve been living in my current home for just a little over a year and Ive never had crows constantly in my yard or in my area. We have quite a few trees around us so you would think it would attract crows, but we get the odd few who come and go fairly quickly and don’t make much noise…last week/weekend I started noticing multiple crows in my yard, in the trees and on my roof and they would keep cawing. It was too the point where it was so loud and frequent that I was getting quite annoyed and even commented about it to other people. I’m not too sure about the sleep cycle of birds but usually by 7pm they are pretty scarce and the fact that I had crows crowing on my roof at 9pm and later was quite puzzling.
I continued to notice this for a few days and then all of a sudden, this past Tuesday they disappeared, and I have not seen them since. Not a single crow and not a single sound. It’s back to the way it’s been for the past year.
The day they disappeared is the day we got a phone call informing us that my hubby’s great grandma had passed away!
I’ve been thinking about the whole thing ever since and have been wondering if this superstition really is true. Any of you out there experience this before? I’d like to know what your opinions on the topic are!
I am also wondering that if it is true, then why did the crows come to me? She didn’t live with me, she wasn’t even in the same country. I wasn’t close to her, I barely knew her and from what my hubby says he wasn’t too fond of her so the connection can’t be through him!?!?”
It’s probably just a coincidence, right? But eedwards doesn’t seem to think so anymore:
“I grew up in an extremely superstitious family and never believed any of it. The last two *unexpected* deaths in my family were preceded by birds trying to fly through windows in both my home and office. I was at work talking to a co-worker about some recent deaths in my family when a bird smacked into the window. I laughed and said that it couldn’t be a warning for me as I had just lost three family members…I was wrong. I now believe there is *something* to it.”
This last story brings a little hope that those omens aren’t just for bad things, they can also warn you of impending doom. This is also from the Exemplore website: “I have told this story many times over the years and it never fails to send a chill down my spine. It has remained with me as a reminder that, sometimes, that feeling in the pit of our stomach that tells us to get out while we still can might be coming from a place that we have never been and cannot fully understand.
This story was related to me many years ago when I was working as a realtor in Parkersburg, West Virginia. One of my fellow agents had, at one time, worked with an agent in Ohio who told her of a disturbing incident she had with a former client.
The event took place in the late 1990’s when the agent was showing houses to a single woman known only as “Jane.” They toured several lovely homes, but none of them had suited the prospective buyer. She told the realtor that she would know the right place when she saw it. Not long after that, the agent found a house that met all of her client’s specifications.
The house boasted three bedrooms, two baths and a fenced-in back yard complete with flower garden and landscaping. When the realtor described the house to Jane, she was already convinced that this would be the place for her.
The agent was already inside when Jane arrived to view the house. As the realtor led her through each room, Jane knew instantly that this was the dream home she had envisioned. Each room they entered was more beautiful than the last. It all seemed too good to be true.
At one point, the realtor told Jane that she needed to make a quick phone call. She suggested that Jane go ahead and tour the upstairs on her own. Excited to see the rest of the house, Jane walked up the stairs and discovered that the second level of the home was just as appealing as the first. Her mind was made up. She wanted this house.
As she stood at the window admiring the view, Jane felt something brush gently against her legs. She looked down to find a perfectly lovely white cat weaving in and out from between her ankles.
Jane bent down and picked up the cat. The animal was friendly and well cared for. Her immediate thought was that the cat must belong to the realtor. She put the cat down and continued to explore the upstairs rooms. The cat followed her everywhere she went, meowing the whole time.
Jane took an instant liking to the cat, just as she had the house. She decided that if it didn’t belong to the realtor, she would make the feline visitor her own. That was, until the animal’s personality suddenly changed. For no reason at all, it began to hiss at Jane.
The atmosphere in the house changed with the cat’s sudden aggression. The atmosphere became so oppressive that Jane suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Fearing that she was about to be violently ill, she ran to the nearest bathroom.
After the nausea had passed, Jane went back downstairs to speak to her realtor. She found the agent still on the phone and waited for her to finish so she could have her full attention. When the realtor finally hung up, Jane questioned her about the cat.
The realtor had no knowledge of any animals in the house. She had checked out every room earlier and had seen no sign of a cat anywhere. Jane planned on leading the realtor upstairs to show her the mysterious feline but found that she was unable to walk up the steps. The sick feeling she had experienced earlier returned as soon as she approached the landing.
The agent went upstairs by herself and returned to tell Jane that she couldn’t find the cat. They both searched downstairs to no avail. If there had been a cat on the premises, it was gone now.
Jane told her realtor that she would have to think about the house. She went home and pondered the events of the day. She had loved the house from the moment she laid eyes on it. That is, until she had encountered the cat.
The feelings that occurred after she began to interact with the animal had completely changed her mind about the house. She had experienced such a sense of malevolence in the upper story of the house that she never wanted to see it again, much less live there. She phoned her agent and told her that the house wouldn’t do, they would have to keep looking.
Months went by and Jane did, eventually, find a house that was perfect for her. It was exactly what she had envisioned, and she was happy there. Not long after settling into her new home, she would receive an unexpected phone call from her realtor. The news that the agent had to share would make her truly thankful for her chance encounter with the white cat.
The realtor asked Jane if she had been following a story in the newspaper. Jane didn’t know what story she was referring to. The agent explained that a couple had been murdered in their home and it was in all of the papers. A home invasion had taken place and a young husband and wife had been taken upstairs, tied to chairs and brutally bludgeoned to death.
Jane said that she was sorry to hear what had happened to the couple but didn’t understand what it had to do with her. The realtor told her that it was the location of the murder that she thought might interest Jane. It had occurred in the house that the agent had shown to her several months prior, the house in which Jane had seen the cat.
They wondered out loud what would have happened if Jane had not interacted with the cat on the day she toured the house. Jane said that she had loved the house and would have purchased it if not for the cat. It was the animal, and the sense of foreboding that accompanied it, that had deterred her from going through with the sale.
It was later determined that the couple had no connection with their killer. The house had been chosen completely at random. Had Jane bought the house instead of the couple, she may very well have met a grisly fate at the hands of an opportunistic killer.
The question can be asked, why didn’t the cat warn the couple who did buy the house? We can never know. Perhaps this warning was destined only for Jane. It is also possible that the couple saw the cat but didn’t understand its significance. Sometimes, it’s easy to miss the signs that are right in front of us.”
Like what you read? Find more stories by Terri Reid here.