My childhood was spent on the top of a mountain in Canton, North Carolina. Less than 15 minutes away stands the Plott Balsams, which run through western Haywood County. That’s where you’ll find North Eaglenest Mountain, the peak where S. C. Scatterthwait opened the Eagle Nest Hotel on July 24, 1900.
The 40-room hotel gained local fame for its extravagance and became well-known to outsiders as a hay fever retreat. Resort patrons favored Eagle Nest Hotel for the access it provided to sulfur springs in the area, which they believed had healing properties. These vacationers soon heard whispers of a strange creature roaming nearby forests.
Locals called the beast Boojum. They said he stood over eight-foot and had shaggy grey hair covering all but his face, which was that of a man. Thought to be gentle, locals weren’t scared of Boojum. They sometimes spotted him on distant cliffs at dusk or heard his ape-like hollering in the middle of the night.
Boojum was known for two passions: precious stones found in Western North Carolina and pretty girls. He roamed the hills in the moonlight, searching for gemstones. He protected his treasures by hiding the gems in discarded liquor jugs and burying them in a nearby cave. The rumor stirred greed in fortune seekers who set out to find Boojum’s lair. They always returned empty-handed.
Pretty young ladies who visited Eagle Nest were warned to be on the lookout when they headed off to the springs to bathe. Boojum was known to hide in the rhododendron and laurel to spy on young women soaking in the pools. Many of them were forced to grab up their clothes and seek shelter from Boojum’s prying eyes. The terrified girls ran screaming back to the safety of the hotel. On these occasions, small mobs of angry men went out in search of the peeping beast, but he was never found.
Boojum and Hootenanny
One day a pretty local girl, Annie, made her way to one of the springs after a hard day’s work to soak her aching muscles. Boojum happened upon her and watched with a lonely heart as she splashed in the cool water. When Annie spotted his face peeking amongst the leaves, she didn’t run away in fear. Instead, she was mesmerized, falling in love with the sorrow in his eyes. To the dismay of her family, Annie retreated to the forest to live with Boojum as his wife.
By all accounts, Boojum loved Annie too, but his love for her wasn’t enough to curb his greedy ways. Boojum continued to sneak off in the middle of the night to scour the mountains for precious stones. When Annie awakened alone in bed, she would go out in the forest to search for him.
Annie wandered the woods hooting into the night. Hearing the sound of her voice, Boojum would hoot back. The two would hoot back and forth until they were reunited in the dark of night. The hooting of Boojum and Annie could be heard echoing through the hills. It is said Annie’s hooting in the middle of the night gave rise to the term “hootenanny.”
The destruction of the Eagle Nest Hotel in a 1918 fire didn’t stop the stories of Boojum and Hootenanny from spreading. Sightings and tales of Boojum still resound in Haywood County. Perhaps the more recent sightings are evidence of Boojum and Hootenanny’s love – giving the world some small proof that their children still wander the Plott Balsams.
**Information in Boojum and Hootenanny came from several websites including, themountaineer.com, visitncsmokies.com, and Ghost Stories in North Carolina: Every Haunted Place in North Carolina.