Fool Killer was popularized by political cartoonist Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, editor of the newspaper called The Milton Chronicle, in North Carolina, between the 1840s and 1850s.
His version's name was Jesse Holmes, and roamed what is now North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky, and West Virginia, killing fools with his club, which doubled as a walking stick. He would use Bowie knives to carve “Fool killer” into the flesh of his victims. At first, his victims were always Confederate sympathizers, and those who mistreated slaves.
Between 1861 and 1870, the character was absent from newspapers, due to the nation being divided and then recovering from the Civil War. When returning, the fictional character turned his murderous sprees on the Ku Klux Klan, those who mistreated black families, and men who abused their wives.
Fool Killer might have been inspired by a folk character by the same name in Melungeon culture. In their tales, Fool Killer's father was the Devil, known to the culture as “Old Horny”, who was ascent all of his childhood. So, he tracked his father down to a blacksmith shop in east Tennessee.
Concealing his true identity, Fool Killer placed an order for a large iron staff, and promised to pay with gold that even Old Horny had heard the Melungeons had hidden throughout the mountains. However, as soon as Old Horny finished the staff, his son beat him all the way back to Hell. He then topped his staff with the image of a human skull made of gold. He then moved into a cave, where he would reside unless he was on the hunt.
This character can be traced back at least to the 1830s, and was said to attack non-Melungeons searching for the culture's caches of gold, governmental agents who attempted to shut down their gold minting refineries, and during Prohibition, authorities who tried to shut down moonshine stills and arrest their operators.
He could also place a sort of curse on men whose wives had had affairs. Fool Killer would meet the betrayed man shortly after he had learned of his wife's infidelity, wave his staff, and small horns would grow from the man's head. The only way the man could remove the horns was to murder the man who his wife had been with. If the man didn't succeed, Fool Killer would shoot him, cut the horns off, and keep them in his cave.
During the Great Depression, Fool Killer's targets were any person who had any secular influence on the insular culture. Victims included teachers from the town outside of their mountains, and entertainers on radio.
Before fading into obscurity, he was seen as a man dressed in black, carrying guns, knives, his infamous staff, and was seen on either a black horse or driving a horse-drawn carriage.
The Not Deer is cryptid in and around the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is associated with Boone, North Carolina. It looks like a deer, but has an odd and misshapen appearance, behaves strangely, and sometimes walks on its hind legs. Strangely, it has little fear of humans that happen on it.
It was first mentioned in August, 2019 by a Boone practitioner of witchcraft, Madison, on her Tumblr page, Have A Magical Day, saying:
[Its] more or less what I’d call a folk cryptid. Everybody has their story about it. They’re all somewhat similar. You’re in a car at night, in a rural, heavily wooded area, and probably a bit lost. It’s not wildly uncommon to see a opossum crossing the road, see blips of little animals with your headlights. You see a deer. So you/your friends go ‘Oh! Deer!’ and slow down in case it leaps in front of you. Then you see it more clearly. There’s just something wrong about it. There’s something about its eyes. You feel your stomach get heavy like a rock, the hair on your neck raise. You sense intelligence that you shouldn’t. It doesn’t move like a deer, it moves like a … oh god, what is that thing? Whatever that thing is, it’s not a deer and we need to leave. You hit the gas and get the hell out of there.
The cryptid is sometimes incorrectly identified as a legends from an indigenous culture not associated with the Appalachian Mountains.
A skinwalker, or yee naaldlooshii (“it goes on all fours”), is a Navajo legend that illustrates how black magic was believed to be used in the culture. These people are believed to be able to change their appearance to that of an animal. However, there's always something very peculiar about the appearance of the animal. The belief that these persons can change shapes isn't the most frightening aspect of these tales. Curses that the practitioners can place on people are what are most feared.
The odd appearance and strange behavior have that have been observed seem to indicate two different zoonotic diseases.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is similar to mad cow disease, and causes deer to waste away, and the neurological symptoms include stumbling, walking in circles, drooling, and grinding of teeth.
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a viral disease can cause similar symptoms, along with swelling of the neck and head, and loss of fear of humans.
The symptoms that could be the result of these two diseases aren't actually what impresses witnesses the most. It seems that an encounter with a Not Deer is initially dismissed by the mind. It's only later, after no longer being in the presence of the cryptid, that witnesses experience extreme cognitive dissonance.
Rawhead-and-Bloody-Bones, who also goes by the names Bloody Bones, Bloodybone, Old Bloody Bones, Rawhead, and Tommy Rawhead in different parts of the southern Appalachian Mountains, is a type of boogeyman used make children behave.
This figure originated in Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Cornwall, UK, and was best described in the 1967 book The Fairies in Tradition and Literature by Katharine Briggs, saying:
[He] lived in a dark cupboard, usually under the stairs. If you were heroic enough to peep through a crack you would get a glimpse of the dreadful, crouching creature, with blood running down his face, seated waiting on a pile of raw bones that had belonged to children who told lies or said bad words. If you peeped through the keyhole he got you anyway.
The boogeyman was also used as a cautionary tale to teach children that gossiping is an undesirable quality.
In 1970. country music singer Dolly Parton released her song Bloody Bones, calling it Scratch Eyes, as well. This gives a better understanding of how this figure changed in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.
Smallpox was widespread in Europe by the 15th century, and seems to have inspired the image of this boogeyman. This deadly virus caused bloody blisters all over the body, and pustules to open up on the eyelids. Tennessee cites that the virus was finally eradicated in 1977.