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Folklore
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The God of Love

Colorful Misanthropes

Stalking the Little People

Folklore

by:  Terri Latimer

Founded in 1889, Western Carolina University is filled with a history whose facts and legends will never cease existing in those who have experienced these stories first hand.  Afterall, a legend is a story handed down from the past, and WCU’s legends never cease.

The God of Love

According to Gary Carden, a longtime Sylva resident, Little Caesar, a statue that once stood outside of the Moore Dorm, was a spot where lovers flocked late at night until the notorious dorm mother, Mrs. Hall, came out and made the girls sleep.  Soon, other colleges knew about Little Caesar’s reputation and stole him.  Appalachian State University and Eastern Tennessee State University held him for ransom during football seasons, and WCU students would often retaliate.  Only after much negotiating and swapping would Little Caesar be returned to his rightful place.

Colorful Misanthropes

Dr. Kiffin Rockwell Hayes is another Western Carolina character subject to stories.  Hayes was a Rhode scholar with a distinct English accent, Carden explains.  He hated regulations and loved to rebel.  He liked to drive the wrong way on all the one-way streets on campus and to park in the “No Parking” zones.  Also, he had a full beard, in the early 1900’s, at a time when beards were frowned on at WCU (then Western Carolina College), but he managed to preserve it by spreading the rumor that he had a rare skin disease that would kill him if he shaved.  Hayes despaired of teaching his students anything worthwhile, so he usually passed the time by giving dramatic readings of Shakespeare.

Carden says Dr. Hayes “taught me to write my name in Greek, and I remember we spent one quarter listening to famous French operas (in French).”  Also, Dr. Hayes despised the librarian, Ms. Buchanan.  Carden states: “they had colorful shouting matches famous for the deadly wit displayed by both Hayes and Buchanan.”  Carden remembers, “Dr. Hayes once disrupted a performance of “a Merchant of Venice” because he could not stand hearing Shakespeare spoken in mountain dialect.  “If memory serves,” Carden adds, “he once shouted from the audience, ‘alas, the Avon now flows into the Tuckaseigee!’”  Having Dr. Hayes as a professor would have been a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Stalking the Little People

Now, there are more exotic tales.  According to Mary Joyce, who manages the Kountry Kupboard health food store in Sylva and the Sylva Herald Newspaper, (January 31, 2002), a race of Little People may still haunt Cullowhee.  She interviewed Walter Middleton to discover the facts and myths about the tunnels under the McKee Building.  Middleton helped dig the basement in 1940 and found a tunnel he believes could have been the results of their handiwork.

Middleton recalls, “Sometime after we started digging in the basement to level it off - we were using shovels and different methods just to get the dirt out - we dug into, I believe some said three little tunnels, but I only remember seeing one of them.  Now, I knew the others were there, but I wasn’t as interested then as I’ve come to be later on, but I was down in front of one, peeking into it.  The best I remember, it was about two feet wide.”

Builders made other discoveries as well. The ground underneath the Hinds University Center Bell Tower used to be an Indian mound where a man named Mr. Brown had a dairy farm. Two childlike skeletons were found there, and “The late Clint Dodson, a science professor at WCU, used one of the small skulls as a paperweight on his desk.” Middleton added, “Winona Hooper Wood, an English teacher, picked it up one day and said it was the only child she’d ever seen that had a full set of teeth, including wisdom teeth.”

Remains of the Little People exist in the tunnels.  Johnny Clayton, a McKee digger in 1938, who died July 2001 at the age of 85, used to say there were two tunnels about 42 inches in diameter that had square bottoms and “almost round” tops.  “They were at different levels in the bank, and they ran from the McKee Building,” he explained, “toward the previous location of the Bird Building.  In the 1960’s Grady Parker was “excavating the bank along Buzzard’s Roost” when his bulldozer fell in a hole, and he discovered a tunnel four feet and a half inches tall and four feet wide.  “Whoever made the tunnel worked in a soil that wasn’t rocky, that was stabilized and wouldn’t cave in,” he notes.

Little People, cookoo professors, and libidinal statues are just a few of the characters that make WCU interesting.