From the rugged hills to the valleys where the autumn mist lies low, from the remaining forests to stretches of lonely highway, the Ozark region abounds with stories, myths and legends. Some have been handed down by word of mouth and others preserved by folklore collectors like Vance Randolph. Some are true and some probably are not.
National Myths and Legends Day has been observed on October 11 since 2007 so it's not an old holiday and not commonly known.
This year, the observance, also known as Kraken Day, falls on Friday.
It's called Kraken Day after some Scandinavian creatures said to dwell off the coasts of Norway and Greenland who are said to terrorize sailors but it includes myths and legends around the globe.
In a month that ends with Halloween or All Hallows Eve, it seems appropriate to have a day set aside for myths and legends.
Myths have been around since the dawn of the world where Earth's earliest inhabitants told tales around their fires, tucked in the cave while darkness loomed outside. Every region, every people had legends the handed down.
In about the 6th grade, I discovered mythology and read first the Greek, then the Roman myths encouraged by my school librarian. I soon discovered numerous other legends from Ireland, Britain, the Scottish highlands, Germany and each European region. Native American tribes had many stories and legends too.
I still enjoy reading legends and among my many books, I have many volumes that include mythology from various cultures.
I'm also fascinated by legends here in Missouri and especially in the Ozarks. Stories about man-like cryptoid creatures often known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch or other names abound statewide. According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, there have been at least 147 sightings of Bigfoot in Missouri. Back a few years, "Momo" - short for Missouri Monster - made national headlines. While I've never seen one, I want to believe. Some sightings have been made in the Neosho area, especially in the old Camp Crowder area.
Recently, on social media I was caught up in a debate over whether or not there are panthers in the Ozarks. In the early years of my marriage, we lived north of Neosho, in the hills above Shoal Creek in the woods. A variety of wildlife crossed our path during those years and I know I saw a panther. Despite what some posters insisted, it wasn't a house cat - I do know the difference.
Another well-known legend in the area is The Spooklight. I haven't been out there for years but I saw it each time I visited that lonely road on the edge of Missouri and Oklahoma.
As we move through October, toward All Hallows Eve and the misty magic of autumn in the Ozarks, maybe it's time for a touch of myth, a little legend, or a bit of magic.
-Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is community editor for The Neosho Daily News and The Aurora Advertiser. She is also a published novelist.