The Moss Man monster or creature of the south is what many believe to be a magical or cursed creature. Tales of this man thing made of moss can be heard from many of the southeastern United States and as far north as southern Virginia and eastern Maryland.
Spanish moss has been used for various purposes, including building insulation, mulch, packing material, mattress stuffing, and fiber. In the early 1900's it was used commercially in the padding of car seats. In 1939 over 10,000 tons of processed Spanish moss was produced. It is still collected today in smaller quantities for use in arts and crafts, or for beddings for flower gardens. Spanish moss is also known to have been worn by the women of the Timucua Indian tribe. It is also used by some as the filling for supposed traditional voodoo dolls though moss filled or handmade made moss curio voodoo dolls have only been around since the late 1970's. Though genuine moss dolls made the right way are said to hold great magical powers and only a handfull of real voodoo queens know how they are really made.
“The Spanish Moss Man” In America
Due to its propensity for growing in humid southern locales like Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Eastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia, Maryland's Eastern Shore, South Carolina, Texas, and Alabama, the plant is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery.
The Mossman or Moss Man is in some parts of the south a not so often told tale. Many fear to speak of him under the belief that he will come and get you from your bed only to strangle you in his grip.
The moss man as many often tell is not just an urban legend. People over the years have been said to cover themselves in spanish moss or dress in moss man costume just to scare the kids into being good. But a few weird frightening legends of this strange haning tree plant creature do live on and deserve to be told.
In the southeastern United States, the following tale is often told:
As the story goes; there was once a traveler who came with his beautiful young Spanish fiancée in the 1700s to start a plantation near the city of Charleston SC.
She was a beautiful bride-to-be with long flowing shining raven colored hair. As the couple was walking over the plantation site near the forest, and making plans for their future, they were suddenly attacked by a band of Cherokee who were not happy to share the sacred burial land of their forefathers with strangers.
As a final warning to stay away from the Cherokee nation, they cut off the long braided dark hair of the bride-to-be and threw long ponytail up high in an old live oak or water oak tree. Many say they spat on it uttered a short potent curse or bound it with string as a indian charm spell to warn others not to tred on their sacred land.
As the people of Charleston will soon tell you that immediately the beautiful black hair shriveled and turned grey and in a short time it had begun spreading from tree to tree. This they say was a magical indian sign or marker to show that all saw it that the land it appears on belonged to the Cherokee indian nation.
Over the years this magic moss spread from South Carolina to Georgia and Florida. To this day, if one stands under a live oak tree, one will see the moss jump from tree to tree and defend itself with a large army of beetles.
In Hawaii, Spanish moss is typically referred to as ʻUmiʻumi-o-Dole, named for Governor Sanford B. Dole's beard.
It was introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century, and became a popular ornamental and lei plant. Recently it is occasionally called "Pele's hair" after Pele the Hawaiian goddess. Though the term "Pele's hair" refers to a type of filamentous volcanic glass.
THE REAL CURSE OF THE MISSISSIPPI MOSSMAN
A often told story begins in the late 1850's somewhere along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Some say this happened along the Pascagoula River banks where others state the incedent occured at Moss Point to be exact. The creature that many call the Moss Point Monster is a more then terryifying story that my dear late daddy John Samual Harp heard directly from his old great Granny Harp. This story as I know has not been told or transcribed until now May 16th 2011 by myself. And of course I will try to recount it here as he so often told it here now.
At the time he'd say there lived a witch named Old Henrietta or Hettie the Hag, who had percured a great black magical stallion as a powerful familiar from another witch from Alabama who had died of yellow fever. Though Hettie The Hag's witch powers were strong she worked many of her evil curses and hexes through the great powers that her demonic poseesed horse held.
Hettie as daddy told me was very much feared because of her ugly and unpleasant disposition. They hwho knew of her often say that if the wind blew one of her slicked back hairs out of place her horrid temper would violently erupt. No one could get along with her ornery dispisition except a certain few but they too kept their distance.
One day a young man named Ephraim, (a small framed twohead man-boy of just 16). Was an enterprising young man and his old mule that he called Sasaphrase just happened to be passing on the narrow dusty road one day in front of Hettie's modest home. Out front Hettie had a great old pear tree as well as a few peach and plum trees that she prised and cared for with great pateince. The locals would often tell stories that if you stole a certain rippened fruit on a sunny cloudless day and gave it to the one you would have as a wife or husband they would fall in love with you until their dying day.
Ephraim decided to steal a few of her prised fruits and sell them to people to make a profit. The shinney pears which were the closest to the road were the easiest for him to procure he thought. So he prodded his old mule Sasaphras over closer and closer to the fence and stood straight up on it's back to reach the ripened pears. Just as he had reached up clinging to the low branch his mule strayed from under his feet and he clung to the strong branch almost falling to the ground as he reached for a pear. Suddenly from behind him he heard old Hettie The Hag holler at him in her shrill voice as she and her fine stallion came down the road.
"What are you doing stealing from me, you wretched theif!"
He cried out to her in desperation knowing he was caught and explaining his plight that his mule had wandered from under him. He was lost he told her in a despreate attempt to make things right.
"I can't do a thing with this ornery mule he walked out from under me.
"So what are you doing hanging from my tree like a stragling piece of moss" Hettie asked. "Stealing my sweet magic pears?"
"No!" "Noooo! "He lied outright.
"I was just just trying to learn and do a trick to impress the young ladies." "I was just standing upright on his back riding my old mule and he walked right under your big tree!"
Hettie the hag said she knew better and if she ever caught him stealing in her front yard again he would pay dearly with his life.
Ephraim let go of the branch falling to the dusty ground on his butt with a thud.
"I Ain't no pear stealing crook", he hollored as he dusted his rump and jumped on his old mule and went on curseing her under his breath all the way to town.
Once he got to town he went and saw his good friend Benjamin and told him what happened to him that day earlier. They both had always heard the mysterious more then strange stories about old crone Hettie The Hag since they was just knee high to a coon's eye. And certainly all about how these golden magical pears would bring great luck, love and phenmonial riches and fame if you possessed one. And Ephraim told his best friend how he had heard her say in her own words that those pears were too so magical. They then decided right then and there on the spot betwixted themselves that they would soon go and steal a bushel full and become the richest men on the whole Gulf Coast.
Ephraim and Benjamin and that old mule plotted and planed for weeks on how they might steal the pears. They also questioned everyone in town to learn all that they could about old Hettie and her magical devil woman ways.
Many stories and tales of her devil hoodoo witch powers and of her magic forbidden fruit were at the time known to many. Some old folks would tell the boys that the most powerful of of the magic pears grew only at the top of the tree. That the low hanging ones could or would grant a wish but their powers were limited. Benjamin's old great Grandmaw told the boys as they sat at her knee that the highest pear at the top of the tree was the most powerful, anything below that their magic was very untrustworthy.
Ephraims uncle and Aunt sat the two boys down and told them the tale of a friend that they knew when they was young children and that to get the magic pear you must go on a full moon night strip until your naked, then rub your body with black pitch grease tar then roll in the mud and leaves and only then climb the tree. (One might just wonder right here right now if his aunt and uncle were telling the truth are just trying to scare them as many might do to keep them from getting in trouble if caught.) As this story goes his releative went on to tell them that only at the very last stroke of midnight you will see the one magic pear glowing errily in the night. Then you must then take it and bite into it and make your wish aloud as you chew the fruit before you swallow it. But of course they warned that if you grab the wrong fruit an evil so bad would overcome you that was so horrible to speak of. They told the boys the tale of how thier friend was never seen again.
Another story they heard was from a neighber of old Hettie, called Henry, he told them he had seen and heard many strange things about the pernicious damned old witch. He told them in a hushed tone that he had seen her at the witchin hour dancing naked beneath the tree. He went on to tell she would talk to the tree, he said with a crazed look in his eye. And he even said she would ride her black horse around it 13 times every night at the dark of the moon. And buried d beneath it he said deep deep in the cold hard ground is the heart of her dead husband still beatting in his rotting corpse. This he said he knew for a fact becuse as a boy he wittnessed that the day after he was buried there in the front yard the magic pear tree sprung up like a wild thistle weed growing almost over night to be taller then ten men.
The two young now scared boys were shaken by all what they thought were true tales, but they knew in their hearts getting the right pear was imperative to their future wealth and fame. They then the two made a secret pact one day that they would get the special magic pear and eat it all costs.
A few months went by and the seasons came and went, and the two young men would often take turns watching the house where Hettie lived. They would report to each other the progress of the growing pears and the actions of Hettie and her comings and goings. One night together they they sat there in fear as they both wittnesed her standing in the yard still as a statue for over a hour or more, as their peered through the tall summer weeds growing under an 100 or more year old bending oak tree from the other side of the road.
As time went on the two young men knew all her day and night comings and goings. They learned that she at times would drink her homemade elerbery wine and pass out almost if she were dead in her front yard. She would lay there still, dead drunk in the night no matter if it rained or thundered. They also saw how she would talk to her black stalliaon in a strange gibberish tounge. And they were shocked to see how she treated him as if he were a human, this by opeing her large front door an taking him in the house and not the barn for the night.
Over the next few weeks the two would make it a daily practice to climb any tree they could. They would do this day and night no matter what the weather. Their actions were so obvious many in town would talk about the two tree climbing guys and about what in tarnation had gotten into them.
The full moon rose one night bright white and larger then a turkery platter with a great shinning double ring in the black vevlet sky. The two young men knew that on this night the time was right so they could climb the great dark pear tree to gain their magical prise. They hurried down the road that night with a large pale of thick black smelly fat and chicken grease that they had saved up for the past three months. Stripping off all their clothes they rubbed each others backs and made sure each other was fully covered head to toe before they rolled in the dirt , dead leaves and crawling bugs below the dark shadowed silent oak.
Slowely they made their way across the road to the fence and Epharim boosted Benjamin up so he could grab a low hanging branch. He then climbed up his friends hanging body which he sllipped on from the grease and after 8-9 tries as this they had practiced many times in recent days to make sure they were perpared to do this deed. His hand grabbed a strong branv and he pulled himself and bejeminin int its branches. Queitly they made their way to the top of the tree being startaled all at once as a schreech owl screamed at them and flew over their heads in a panic. Shaken to the bone they both looked at each other and whispered a change of plans.
"Lets not stay up there until midnight," Epharim said in a tembling low shallow voice, his cold blue eyes wide glinting from his wet dripping muddy face. "Lets just grab as many off the top as we can and put them in the sack,." he said real sharp.
"What sack!" Benjamin said in a loud whisper.
"Epharim, ...you sure never said anything like that, nothin about bringing a damn sack?!?"
They both stared perplexed into each others eyes as they clung tight to the swaying large branch in the cool night breeze.
"Well Lets just grab what we can!" Ephraim blurted out harshly. The two then began to once again slowly climb limb by limb as they both looked down cautiously to the dark house and yard below just to make sure all was still safe to carry out the dirty deed.
Onward they climbed with the twigs and small limbs breaking and snapping loudly as they went.
"Shhhhhsht!" Benjamin whistled as he graped Ephraims ankel to slow him down. And Epharim froze taken by a great fear at that exact moment. His now hard pounding heart raced and dizziness over came him.
"Benjamin!!!" "Now you done scared the life out of me!" he yelled in a loud whisper. Shaken in dreadfull panic Epharaim froze clinging now even more tightly to the spot where he was. He now shook so hard the branch they stood on tembleed violenltly under their weight.
"Benjamin you go on I can't move!" "I am really scared we are doing the wrong thing by doing this."
"I'm not leaving with out the pear!" said Benjamin and he scurried to the top thin branches like a well adept squirral.
Reaching for the highest pear he could see in the Full moons bright light Benjamin now lost his footing as his greasy foot sliiped out from under him. In a great swoosh of leaves he fell at least 8 feet and got lodged between two bending branches besides Ephraim with a ear pericing scream coming from both of them simaltaniously.
They both looked at each other and scrambled as fas as they could down the tree falling to the dusty road. Suddenly just then the large black stalilion then bolted at this point from the front door and chased them across the road as with feet slipping from the grease as they pounded the dust as they clumsily fell into each other as they ran. Frantically to the great oak they went panicicing even more and grabbing their clothes from the ground and with now their two hearts pounding out of their chests as they ran up its long hanging low limbs.
Struggling to put their clothes on over they greasy bodies in the high branches the two almost slipped several times as the black stallion cirled the tree and Hettie came out to the tree in a drunken rage and begain to scream at them in a gebberish that made chills run through their bodies and their greased hair stand on end.
Benjamin's body then went stiff and fell from the tall tree as if dead braking many branches as he fell. Ephraim watched in horror as she ted a rope to his what appeared to be twisted broken leg tied it to her horses bridal and then turned and dragged h im acoss the road into her house. Epharim held fast to the old oak parying to God in heaven to save him.
As dawn came Ephrim jumped down and ran home forever afraid that the witch had seen him and was looking for him. Each day he would see her in her wagon and the black steed would always look him in the eye.
Benjamin never was seen again and Ephrin never told a soul in town what had happened that night. But across from her yard tied up by it's neck in the old oak tree, with tangled live vines and packed tight with moss filled with bugs and dried leaves was what many thought were aa meer scarecrow a shadow of a man. This strange human like puppet swaying in the mississippi breeze made of moss wearing what Epharim recognized as Benjamins clothes.
Epharim moved away from Moss Point within days of the incendent he told everyone that Benjamin had gone back east to be with his ailing mother. Covering his tracks he tried to put the nightmare behind him. But as he moved around the Gulf Coast he often heard people tell tales of the strange Moss Man an he knew it was something more real then just stories to scare the kids.
My daddy always swore this story was true because he said to me that Epharim was almost his great grand daddy.
Encounters With The Moss Men Of Moss Point
In personally researching the riginal Mossman of Mississiippi tales through many relatives over the years recounting the stories they had heard passed down to them, I found that the story did not end with Benjamins untimely disappearence.
THE MOSSMEN OF TEXAS
In north east Texas the long low hanging Spanish Moss of Caddo Lake is thought to be the hair of a deceased Native American Princess who died young. The moss as many believe has the magical power to protect the swamp and will cling together to become moss men and women of all shapes and sizes. Since 1965 Texas' Caddo Lake has had hundreds of alleged Bigfoot 'sightings' according to the Texas Bigfoot Research Center. And in some of these sightings the creature is described as being made of or covered in spanish moss.
Ball moss is the grayish-green "pincushion-like" or tufted growth seen on the bark of a number of Texas shade trees.
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