The following is one of many entries from the Phantoms Fill The Southern Skies book. I am producing it here from the original manuscript file for visitors to sample and see if they would be interested in the full text available on Amazon.
Please respect the copyright owners – Jeff Lawhead, J.S. Lawhead and 23 House Publishing – and do not reprint or reproduce any portion of this text on any monetized formats and without permission. Reproduction for hobbyist or academic interest (as well as “fair use”) is ok as long as sources are explicitly cited. Contact me at Meteo.Xavier@gmail.com for any permission inquiries regarding this or any other excerpt.
Speaking of tiny little creatures with long arms, we venture west of North Carolina to Tennessee where there was, or still might be, a widespread belief among children in an even more exaggerated and far more humorous gremlin called Squeezer.
The Squeezer legend belongs to an extended family of “boogeyman” tales – stories of unspeakable evils that prey on children from the closet, underneath the bed, or the darkest corner of the room that their nightmares always spring from. Nearly everyone remembers going through this phase in their lifetime with some evil beast that existed in the bedtime ritual without question, no matter how outlandish it was described to be, and Squeezer fits that model to a tee. Being only 3-4in. tall, about the size of a soda can, it somehow has arms that are long enough to wrap around a person several times over, with large muscles in those arms to squeeze anything it has in its grasp until its prey breathes its last breath. Furthermore, it can apparently speak English, hold an intelligent conversation, and even be noticeably hurt and sensitive if you do not respect him as a boogeyman, which is more of a job title for him than anything.
Just what kind of a creature is this, anyway? How would something like that even be able to move with such imbalanced proportions, much less be able to terrorize and render harm on someone?
I first came across this legend in the book More Haunted Tennessee by Charles Edwin Price about nine years ago and he tells the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Jeannie and a friend who was staying over for the night. After the lights went out, a pair of long, bony hands came up over the foot of the bed and reached toward Jeannie, but instead of cowering in fear as she saw them approach, she instead grabbed a baseball bat that was nearby and repeatedly bashed the little devil with it.
To her surprise, the monster actually pleaded for her to stop. When she did to listen to what it had to say, Squeezer, as it introduced itself to Jeannie, tried to put up another menacing front that was quickly shot back down as the two girls started mocking his name and absurd body structure. Squeezer then became vocally disappointed that these two girls were not afraid of him and told them that they needed to be scared so he could do his job right. The girls only laughed harder at him, and his patience proved even shorter than his stature when he lunged forth to squeeze them anyway.
Jeannie and her friend fought back and put up a good struggle against the pint-sized puck until Jeannie’s father came in and told them to quit horsing around. Little Squeezer, though, was gone by then, and the girls went back to bed.
Very soon after the light went out, though, a set of bony hands came up over foot of the bed again. Jeannie, almost casually, reached for the bat to give Squeezer another good thrashing… when another set of hands reached up onto the bed alongside it. Then another, and another, and another still.
Now Jeannie had a good reason to be genuinely afraid – Squeezer didn’t leave so he wouldn’t get caught… he only went for backup.
By now, we have a pretty good idea what the point of this story is, not all ghosts and monsters have to be dripping with blood and leaving a body count just to tell a good story. There are actually quite a few tales of supernatural beings that are far from the dark, sad and gruesome blights we usually hear about. Some can be quite lighthearted and even beneficial – I even remember hearing about one ghost out in the world somewhere that would make a Shower of Money rain from the ceiling to help its hosts pay off a financial crisis.
Another mythical beast from Tennessee that seems to inspire as much mirth as it does mayhem is the famous Wampus Cat, a legendary cougar/cat with six legs (and possibly a spiked ball on its tail) that is said to be the tragic spirit of a Native American woman. This curious maiden, for whatever reason, decided to dress in cougar skins so she could spy on the men of her tribe while they were out in the fields. It’s not known why she was spying on them, but the medicine man was still not too pleased when he found her out there and, as a major consequence for a minor offense, immediately placed a curse on her that would keep her trapped in the form of an enchanted cat for seemingly all eternity.
She was said to haunt the Cades Cove area of Blount County in East Tennessee, and many hunting parties of the early 20th century in that area went out looking for her when she was sighted… at least that’s what the men all told their families. In reality, they were just looking for an excuse to get away from their near-puritan families and have a moonshine party in the basement of the local grocery store. The image of the Wampus Cat today still inspires festivity as the sports mascot of at least six schools in the U.S.
The power of folklore can touch and shape our society in very significant ways. Stories can make us feel heartache from hundreds of years ago, scare us smart or silly, educate us with the wisdom of generations in just a few minutes’ time, or even give us an excellent opportunity to put down our fears and have a good time with the company of our fellow men.
After all, if the stories can’t be fun once in a while, what’s the point in telling them?
Images used in this post do not belong to me or 23 House and are not part of the original manuscript. They were pulled from Google Images or Snappy Goat and only serve as graphical decoration. They are not being used for any monetizing purposes whatsoever.