In 1983, the self-made nature writer Andrew Spriggs trudged along the Sheltowee Trace, slowly progressing along a segment of this massive trail that moves through the southern most region of Kentucky. He’s hiked for over 76 miles, camping off-trail through the tendrils of the Appalachian’s daunting gaze. Now passing by Hemlock Grove, he is settled to finish his journey in Laurel Lake, realizing now that can’t make it all the way though the London District, He only has the resources to continue safely for another couple of days.
Modest in his approach, he is nonetheless eager to fully absorb himself in his surroundings. Assimilating every sight, every sound from the expansive variety which the plateau seems to offer him. He is a student at heart and enjoys both the knowledge and raw sense that is imparted though careful observation.
He decided to write an article concerning the recently opened Sheltowee Trail, using it’s opening as a medium to discuss the rewards and drawbacks to developing extensive trails such as these. But, as his path began to part ways with Rock Creek, his plans changed considerably.
“I don’t know exactly where I was.” He recollects, “I tried returning to where it happened but nothing matched what I remembered about the place.” Andrew recalls that he was hiking as the creek became a large inlet with large rock formations and caves surrounding it.
“The rock formations were nothing like I’ve seen. Stalagmites growing out of the earth, below nothing but shrubbery or a clear blue sky. Some thin arms of the land reached out above my head, like a cave had once been formed here but carved out above the ground somehow. It was like passing through a whale skeleton.”
As he flashed several pictures of his surrounding and made careful measurements of these obtuse formations, he noticed something moving in and out of his periphery. Something human.
“I turned my head to catch what I saw and this figure scuttled out of my eye shot.” Andrew wrote.
Calling out “Hello”, he was met with no answer. Being shaken by this, he began to maneuver his way out of this tumbleweed of stone and earth. This is when he looks up atop a towering stalagmite and catches sight with one of the most disturbing and haunting enigmas of our time; The Cumberland Chap.
“He was wearing late 19th century formal wear, a waistcoat, a four-in-hand neck tie, a turned up collar on his linen shirt, long black trousers, a top hat and some sort of blazer.” He writes. “I shouted in alarm, stammering. As I tried to compose myself I noticed that he was doing a little jig. Like some weird fancy man dance. Like an Irish step dance or something. On tip of a stalagmite!”
Flummoxed beyond his wits, Andrew started to retreat, climbing up hill away from the inlet. He reports feeling like his legs, his calf muscles, were seizing up and refusing to extend properly.
“I thought I was dreaming. It didn’t feel completely real.” says Andrew.
Then he reports something even more unlikely. As he stumbles through the woods in an effort to move his legs, he begins calling out, wildly: “Hello!” and “Who are you?” Eventually he says he hears a voice from the heavens. A loud and high pitch voice, something reminiscent of Mickey Mouse. The voice says: “I am The Cumberland Chap! There is nothing to be ashamed of!”
Andrew was speechless. After a few moments he collects his strength and books it out of the inlet. He runs for about twenty minutes before slowing down to catch his breath. He scans his surroundings. Everything is quiet and peaceful again. Nothing out of the ordinary. He checks his watch. It is getting close to evening. He needs to keep marching but feels exhausted from his encounter. Nothing feels stable, like his equilibrium has been set off kilter. He tries to convince himself that it was all a mirage. Maybe he was dehydrated.
/ / /
Since the incident, Andrew learned that he was not the only one to have this experience when hiking along the trails of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Other hikers, campers, trail riders, survivalists have reported a similar encounter. Although, not all report it happening in the same place. Some report seeing this ornately dressed figure in Goose Rock, others by Gladie Creek, some near Koger Arch. Yet, all of these people report similar details about the location; the pool of water, the stalagmites, the jagged skeleton of an above ground cave which seems to be missing most of it’s structure. These people remember seeing the darkly duded man, trouncing around, doing an odd dance. Some recall him singing to himself. All of these people remember too the celestial announcement: “I am The Cumberland Chap! There is nothing to be ashamed of!”
Some of the varied individuals who reported these sightings have been chatting over the internet for some time, trying to piece together just what might be going on here. Some others have evaded contact and aren’t comfortable with speaking about their experiences. Most in the public are totally unaware of these happenings. The ones that are aware, immediately reject it as a hoax or identify this as something in the vein of cryptozoology or UFO sightings.
Yet, there is significant evidence mounting for the existence of The Cumberland Chap. It has grown considerably through the past few years. These pieces of evidence have allowed those who believe a way to answer questions about this surreal creature. Who is The Cumberland Chap? Where did he come from? Where does he live? Why does he talk in a high pitched register? Does he mean to harm us? If not, why is he appearing to these travelers at random?
In the next couple of weeks, I will answers these questions in our blog, putting all of the scattered pieces of evidence together. And as it turns out, this isn’t a story about a menacing, violent figure like the Chupacabra. It’s a story that has more in common with Big Foot. It’s the story of a lonely survivalist who just wants to be our friend.