Many years ago in a remote part of the southern United States, the mountains were all covered in timber, and little cabins and homesteads dotted the landscape. Towns were just small villages and church meetings were the biggest get together and social event. People would walk or ride a horse to church or take the family in a mule drawn wagon. At a remote mountain trail crossing was a massive white oak tree that had been there since revolutionary times. It's huge trunk and gnarled limbs brooded over the junction. It was a dark unfriendly place with overgrown hollows and heavy vines that leapt over the trail from tree to tree. Many folks said that from time to time there was a large, black unknown creature of some kind that could be seen up in the old oak. No one liked to go by there at night, or in the day for that matter. Too many stories about the area were told by the simple mountain folk.
On full moon nights some people going home by wagon past that oak in the dark mountain hollow said they saw it up among the branches. Others reported low growls and grunts from the innermost part of the thick limbs. The horses were always sped up there and the wagons rumbled over rocks and shale in an effort to get out of the vicinity as quickly as possible. The passengers and their possibles leapfrogged up and down as the rough vehicle bounced along much too fast. Unless there was a large group, the mountain folk wouldn't even think about walking by there. Some carried their long guns. One young man laughed at the whole idea of this "critter”, and scoffed at his superstitious neighbors. He made up his mind to have a good laugh at their expense. One Sunday evening he decided to do something. There were several young men from the scattered little farms that would walk to church together. He usually met and walked with them.
He made his way, smiling all the while, to the old oak that brooded over the dark woodland crossing. It was an hour before twilight as he scrambled and clawed his way up into the lower branches of the great, dark tree. Finding a comfortable perch, he settled down to wait. About dusky dark, that time of day when your eyes play tricks and you can't tell if what you see is a deer or a stump, he heard them coming. They were talking and laughing as usual, and as they came to the junction of the trails all voices became quiet. They had stopped walking. The young man in the tree was about to burst with laughter and thought he might loose his grip and fall from his nest.
One of the party said "What's that big dark thing up there?" "It's thuh critter!" another answered with a quivering voice. The young man in the tree could barely contain himself and it seemed he would shake himself loose with constrained merriment. But, but "there's two of em’!" a third stuttered out. The boy in the tree, with mirth instantly changed to apprehension, slowly turned his head and looked up from his nest, and on a dark gnarled limb above him was a very large, black form with little squinted eyes. Those squinted eyes glowed just a little as they caught the last speck of sunlight filtering through the hollow from the now set sun.
He released his grip and fell toward the ground. The fact that it was more than twelve feet made no difference. His legs were already in motion and by the time he hit the ground running he had already covered the equivalent of a quarter mile. While dropping he heard a cracking and rustling above him. It seems that there were sharp, low snarls too. But he was not inclined to stick around to see what made them. The other young men had a hundred yard head start on him but he soon overtook and passed them. Had he been a race horse he would have been a derby winner for sure. Dust and leaves the herd stirred up in running would surely have choked any pursuer. Any normal pursuer that is. All of the boys were a mile down the dark crooked lane before the dust started to settle. The only sounds after that were of Barred owls, and of some sort of animal moving off in the ever darkening woods. Then the only sound was of the trickling stream that meandered nearby.
They never walked that way to church anymore. Although it was a mile further, another route was taken. From time to time strangers passing through those parts disappeared. One man's hat and handkerchief were found at the cross trail, in full daylight of course. Everyone said that the dark creature of the old oak had done it. Years have gone by now and the old mountain trails have grown up in Oaks and Hickories. This area in the Nantahala National Forest is still rugged, remote and uninhabited. The Cherokee Indians that lived there in past ages were aware of the dark mountain creature and called him "Yoh nuh - ah sss gah yuh", which translates to "Bear man."