Monster Monday: Tailypo

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about the Tailypo.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, photograph courtesy of the National Park Service

In anticipation of my new collection of short stories coming very soon, Mischief Madness Mourning: A Southern Gothic Triptych, I’m including a excerpt from “An Appalachian Tail,” the first short story in the collection, about three boys who encounter the Tailypo, a monster from Appalachian folklore:

An old hermit lived in a cabin in the woods with his three dogs. All he had to feed himself was a measly garden and whatever animals he and his dogs could catch. But a late frost ruined his garden, and the hunting hadn’t been good. So without any food in his house, he went out late one night with his shotgun and his dogs. It wasn’t long before the dogs got a whiff of some animal and took off after it. When the man caught up with them, he saw they’d treed something, but he didn’t know what. Covered in black fur, the animal’s eyes glinted red in the moonlight. It had a lean body like a cat, a long snout like a wolf, pointy oversized ears, and a tail longer than its entire body. The man’s hunger, however, was stronger than his curiosity. He raised his gun and fired, but the animal was too fast. It escaped—almost. It left behind its long tail.

The man took the tail back to his cabin where he cooked it and ate it, feeding some of it to his dogs. He went to bed thinking of the animal. It wouldn’t get too far without a tail. Maybe he’d find the carcass the next day.

But in the middle of the night, he woke up to something rustling at the foot of his bed. At first he thought it was one of the dogs, but when he sat up, all he saw were two glowing red eyes staring back at him.

“Tailypo! Tailypo! All I want is my tail-y-po!” a voice said.

Not knowing what else to do, the man called out to his dogs. They ran barking into the room and chased the creature away. He could hear them baying as they pursued it into the woods. After a while only two dogs returned. The man went back to bed, but soon the same rustling woke him up.

“Tailypo! Tailypo! All I want is my tail-y-po!” the thing at the end of the bed said, this time with a snarl.

Again the man called his dogs, and again they chased the thing away. One dog returned.  Eventually the man drifted off to sleep again, only for the thing at the foot of the bed to wake him a third time, repeating its demand. The man called for his last dog. It drove the animal off, but the dog never came back.

Alone, the man sat up in bed clutching his shotgun, hoping the sun would come up before the creature had a chance to return, but soon the two red dots reappeared at the foot of the bed.

Glaring at the man, it growled, “Tailypo! Tailypo! All I want is my tail-y-po!”

Sleep-deprived and scared, the man snapped, “I haven’t got your tail-y-po!”

With a bloodcurdling howl the creature lunged at him. It tore him apart and destroyed his cabin, leaving only the stone chimney.  On cold, clear nights, they say you can still hear it calling out, “Tailypo! Tailypo!”

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