The Discovery of the Appalachian Wyiles of the Smoky Mountains

 

 Introduction

Almost everyone has heard the tales of Ireland's leprechauns, the myths of Norway's trolls, and the mysteries of France's gnomes, but until recently, little was uncovered about the Wyiles of the Appalachian Mountains. Many believe the Wyiles were descendants of the early 1600s leprechaun stowaways, as there were Irish settlers that were said to be from the same region years before the Wyiles’ discovery. Although they were thought to be social creatures long ago, difficult circumstances and passing time forced the Wyiles to evolve into a much more private people. Hidden away beneath the thick treetops throughout the vast Appalachian Mountain Range of eastern United States, the Wyiles were hardly seen and rarely heard from their suspended houses in the lofty trees. That is, until now.

 

Discovery of the Wyiles

In 1998, two renowned archaeologists set off in search of clues for hidden treasures on Foxfire Mountain in Sevier County Tennessee, where infamous train

 

robber Jesse James was said to have buried his loot of stolen gold and silver. In pursuit of these clues, archaeologists Matthew and Stephanie Postlewaite stumbled upon a fascinating, spirited clan of characters. They called themselves the Smoky Mountain Clan of the Appalachian Wyiles. This is where their stories as we know them began.

Dew drops rested motionless on the dense, green leaves as the sun slowly spread over the peaks of the Smoky Mountains. Like countless investigations before, Matt and Steph woke up with the sunrise and began their day early. After two hours of their morning trek, they came across a rickety, swinging bridge that appeared to stretch about 350 ft., connecting FoxFire Mountain to the Prosperity Mountain region. This bridge was sturdy but hung freely, a finding the couple couldn’t resist traveling across.

When Matt and Steph reached the end of the shaky bridge, an incredible sight set in. They were not alone in the woods anymore. A maze of swinging bridges stretched out before them, connecting what looked like countless small tree houses that were up in the canopy of branches above. Tiny yellow flowers, thick vines, and green leaves wrapped themselves underneath the little wooden houses and bridges, keeping them camouflaged from travelers in the woods below. “It’s a miracle we even noticed these!” Steph excitedly whispered to Matt, “There must have been thousands of travelers that passed underneath this hidden village without a clue.”

The bridges connecting the tree houses were quite narrow, so they carefully squeezed their way across until they reached the first house. The door was tiny. All of them were. Whoever lived here was obviously more petite in size than Matt and Steph, but there were no signs of these small people anywhere. The archaeologists looked high and low but could not see any sign of occupation in these mysterious tree houses. In fact, the only signs of life besides the bridges and houses were the mysterious stacks of rocks lining the trails and decorating the grotto beneath the free-hanging bridge. After a moment of observation, Matt recognized these stacked sculptures as “cairns.” These were a known favorite of the leprechauns in Ireland as good luck decorations for their homes.

With an archeological discovery this incredible at hand, Matt and Steph knew that they could not disturb or move anything they saw while they studied their findings. They knew the best ways to investigate the area without leaving a trace, so that is exactly what they did. From sun up to sun down, they continued their exploration without disturbing a single stone. It was difficult and tiresome work, but they were too excited to slow down.

The following evening, after twelve hours of exploring, climbing up and down from the tree houses and taking detailed notes, Matt and Steph lay down to rest for the night in the grotto. Their eyes immediately grew heavy as they laid listening to the quiet forest and the soothing sounds of the water rippling over the rocks in Dunn Creek. Hours of silence had passed when Matt was woken by a distant sound of music coming from beyond the trees. He rubbed his eyes once and then twice to try to see through the darkness of the forest. The sound of the music grew louder. He began to hear banjos playing and tiny voices singing along.

The tree house dwellers had returned!

He quickly leaned over and tried to quietly nudge Steph awake, but she abruptly woke in a panic. “What?! What is it? What happened?” she yelled. Just like that, the whole forest went silent again, the rustling bushes grew still, and the only sound they could hear was of water continuing to trickle over the river rocks. He quietly explained what he heard, but Steph wondered if he had dreamt the music since she heard nothing. Confused, Steph sat silently next to Matt through the rest of the night as they waited for more music or movement in the trees. As morning arrived, silence continued to settle over the forest.

Each night after, they camped out in the grotto to see if they could catch even a glimpse of who or what might be living in the magnificent tree house village. However, every evening as they would begin to lay out their sleeping bags, before they would even take off their hiking boots, they would instantly fall into a deep slumber that would last until long after the sun rose again. Each morning they awoke to find a light green, moss-like dust that had settled on their faces around their eyes and noses. They would also often wake up to find that something in the grotto had been rearranged or had gone missing since they fell asleep the night before.

Then finally one morning. . . CRASH! Matt and Steph were quickly woken to the sound of a large cairn toppling upon itself. They both urgently leapt from their sleeping bags to investigate but found themselves losing their footing and sliding on the slippery, soft moss of the grotto floor. Light, squeaky laughter spilled out from between the trees.

As they were helping each other up, they noticed that someone had tied their bootlaces together! Whichever jokesters did this must have thought it would be hilarious to watch them startle awake and slip on the thick moss. Matt and Steph, confused and intrigued, silently peered into the forest as they freed their bootlaces. But there was not a rustling bush to be seen or a faint giggle to be heard, only the disappearing sounds of scurrying far in the distance.

This event convinced both Matt and Steph that there was someone living in the tree houses, but they were unable to stay awake at night to see who it was. And every night, no matter how hard they tried to stay awake, they fell fast asleep only to wake after sunrise, when the forest was quiet and still.

With each passing day, the pranksters were getting more and more brazen. One morning, Matt and Steph woke to find that their faces had been decorated with makeup of crushed blueberry eye shadow, sweet cherry lipstick, and bright cranberry rouge. On another morning, they took a swig of their water jugs, only to find that their water had been replaced with a delicious cider! The pranks continued for several nights, with a zany new prank pulled on the couple each night as they slept.

Almost a week had passed before Matt and Steph came to a conclusion--that maybe the strange green dust that they found on their face each morning was the cause of their deep, sound sleep. So, together they plotted ways to make sure this green dust couldn’t hold them in their slumber. They trapped and tied down the legs of a small sparrow to a rock between their sleeping bags so that it would not be able to escape. This way, when the sparrow was disturbed by whoever was laying the dust, it would furiously flap its wings, blowing away the powder and waking them up.

Sure enough, hardly two hours had passed before the couple abruptly woke to the sparrow’s urgently flapping wings. At their feet stood the silhouette of a small man tying grapevines around their sleeping bags. Matt and Steph quickly sprung to their feet and dove at the man, tumbling and struggling across the mossy ground. Finally, they had him pinned and took a good look at who they were up against.

The man was about three and a half feet tall, dressed in blue overalls and a shirt as red as his beard. His head was topped with a pointy, tattered hat made of felt with a colorful feather tucked against the side.

“Let me go! Let me go or I’ll turn you to stone and leave you on Prosperity Mountain alone!” he hollered in with his squeaky voice.

They ignored his threat, though, and continued to tie him up with the vines that were wrapped around their sleeping bags. Once the three of them calmed down, the little man began to explain.

“My name is O’klee. I am the oldest of some 60 Wyiles that live here on and around Foxfire Mountain and we are the Smoky Mountain clan of the Appalachian Wyiles. There are 12 Wyile clans throughout the Appalachian region. We came to America as stowaway leprechauns from war-torn Ireland in the 1600s, changed our name to Wyiles, and have lived peacefully in seclusion in mountain tree houses ever since.”

After they introduced themselves, O’Klee decided to make a deal with the couple. He had hid some spare cider behind a nearby boulder and was beginning to grow thirsty. He wagered that if they would untie him and let him retrieve his jar of cider, then he would happily share it with them. With hesitation, they untied him and watched him disappear into the darkness. He promptly returned, though, with plenty of cider for everyone. It wasn’t long before they were sharing laughs and telling stories as new friends. O’Klee’s trust began to build for Matt and Steph, so he decided to share something else about the Wyiles’ culture with the couple. He disappeared once again into the forest and quickly returned with a banjo, dancing and singing loudly.

Well, as soon as he started playing the banjo, Matt and Steph could hear the rustling in the bushes, the shaking of the swinging bridges, and the pitter-patter of little feet scurrying through the forest. Soon, O’Klee, Matt, and Steph were surrounded by at least thirty more Wyiles carrying jugs of cider, banjos, and fiddles--all singing and dancing around the cairns and boulders in the grotto. They danced and sang and drank apple cider all night long until just before sunrise, when all the Wyiles scurried off into the forest. By the time the sun came up, there was no sign that anyone had ever been there.

Over the following years, Matt and Steph studied the Wyiles and learned of their customs, beliefs, and mischievous deeds. They grew close with many of the Wyiles, among whom were Liam, Cresson, Fraser, Jennings, Tallon, and Leo--all of which are relatives to O’Klee.

The Wyiles have many interesting physical attributes. Like O’Klee, all Wyiles are small people, with the men standing about three and a half feet tall and women that stand at almost three feet. With six toes on each foot, they are recognized as expert climbers. This allows them to live comfortably high up in the trees. Unlike their Norwegian cousins, the trolls, which have three fingers on each hand, Wyiles have four stubby fingers and a thumb. Wyiles had strong legs and sturdy forearms that could bound them up to 15 feet in the air! This was also very useful to the Wyiles as they would return to their lofty treehouses. For being creatures that were skillful at remaining unseen, nothing about their appearance was discreet. If they were to stand out in the open with their fiery red hair, pointy noses, crooked teeth, and wide grins, they could be seen from a mile away!

The Wyiles’ voices were high-pitched and their squeaky laughter seemed to quickly bounce against the nearby trees. They could communicate in pitches so high that they could also, in fact, somewhat communicate with creatures in the forest. The pitch of their voices would rise and rise, then all of a sudden become silent to all but the Wyiles and the creatures of the forest. They grew bonds with some of the canines in the area; and because of this, they explore the forest and catch fish in the creek together . They wished to stay unnoticed, so their speech would pass back and forth in hushed tones. As masters of disguise and elusive artists by nature, they were a discovery unlike anything Matt or Steph had ever stumbled upon before.

The men in the Foxfire Wyile community wear colorful denim overalls and the women wear dresses that flowed with vibrantly-colored bonnets. The community of Wyiles here was not large, with only about twelve families living on Foxfire Mountain. When nighttime falls, all of the families come together and fill the trees with music and laughter, drinking apple cider and dancing until the sun returns in the morning.

Now, Wyiles are known for making the best apple cider in the country. Nobody really knows where Wyiles developed their skills, but evidence suggests that it was passed down from their Irish ancestors. Some also say that they learned how to cultivate apples alongside Johnny Appleseed himself while they were traveling along the Appalachian Trail near Lancaster, Massachusetts.

In years’ long past, when the Wyiles were still very sociable, their skills with creating delicious cider started silent friendships with nearby farmers. This meant that farmers would allow apples to go missing throughout the season with the knowledge that once every few months they would receive a large jug of rich, aged cider, tucked away under the farmer’s apple tree. None of the farmers knew who was scrumping1 the apples or delivering the cider, but that cider was irresistible, so not one farmer spoke a word, especially to the preacher.

Footnote: *1. Scrumping (scrump): to steal fruit, especially apples, from an orchard or garden

It is believed that years before, one person did discover who was delivering the cider--an early settler named Benjamin J. Owens. He was a circuit judge in Tennessee during the 1800s who worked and lived in Sevier County. Rumor is that he may have befriended these little people and kept their scrumping a secret. In gratitude and in exchange for some of his fresh apples, the Wyiles were said to have brought by fresh cider from time to time. There seems to be some credibility to this story as the Wyiles still take care of Judge Owen’s grave site on the Foxfire mountainside. Anyone that visits Foxfire Mountain today can still see this historic grave site on their guided ATV tours.

Wyiles love banjo and fiddle music almost as much as cider. On occasion, they were once known to entice and trick fiddlers and banjo pickers to venture too far into the forest, persuading them with cider and song to play their tunes for them for weeks at a time. Each time the Wyiles led the musicians back home, they were released with a promise of good luck in the future. Some musicians, like Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, are said to have given credit to this luck for their fame and good fortune. When the Foggy Mountain Boys are mentioned amongst the Wyiles, you’ll hear them say that they sure did make some magical music followed with a grin and a wink.

Matt and Steph’s time with the Wyiles felt like a dream. The Wyiles were an adventure in themselves, and they created new adventures for the couple every day. They were truly a species that cherished their freedom. Occasionally, instead of playing pranks, they also granted wishes. Although their existence was scarcely noticed before Matt and Steph discovered them again, they once were said to have granted wishes to the early settlers around Foxfire Mountain that sought them for their good luck. The Wyiles enjoyed spreading happiness, so they granted wishes for success and prosperity. They chose to name their land “Prosperity Mountain” because of this.

However, it was these very wishes that sparked greed amongst new settlers long ago. Hostility toward the Wyiles grew when word of their wish-granting abilities spread. So, the Wyiles began to hide away. They were mistreated by some humans, so they searched out hidden away places where they could live on in peace. Regardless of past wrongs done against the Wyile's, they explained that some wishes are still granted from time to time for those with sincere intentions. These wishes would be scribbled out on a sheet of paper and placed around Prosperity Mountain. No one is promised a wish, but if you are lucky enough, yours might just come to life.

Later settlers who left the wishes around the forest, left them often. One year, rain and rough weather rolled across Prosperity Mountain often enough to wash away all of the little, written wishes. Because of this, these people grew restless and decided to build a covered bridge between Prosperity Mountain and the tranquil Green Grotto. The settlers built the covered bridge that is now known as “Whispering Winds” and hung up each of their wishes in the roof of the covering, keeping them safe from the weather. Today, the bridge stands with thousands of wishes dangling from the roof--a few of which, some claim, are still granted each night.

Over time, the settlers around Foxfire Mountain also learned that the Wyiles were more inclined to grant their wishes if the settlers first made a wish for the health and prosperity of someone else who was less fortunate than they. So the settlers also built a wishing well at the entrance to the bridge to Prosperity Mountain, where they could make a wish for someone else and toss a wishing stone in the wishing well.

The wishing well also still stands today and visitors to Foxfire Mountain may make a wish for someone else. Wishers can toss a wishing stone into the well before crossing the bridge to Prosperity Mountain to hang their wish in the Whispering Winds covered bridge.

Over the years, the Wyiles have had a hard time surviving as their forest is being shrunk upon by human cabins encroaching on their natural habitat and destroying their apple orchards for scrumping. In order to save the Wyiles from extinction, Matt and Steph helped the Wyiles build a cider barn on Foxfire Mountain so visitors can taste the magical cider. And those who would like to help save the Wyiles can even buy a bottle or two of the savory juice. When visitors buy a bottle of Wyile cider, the proceeds go towards preserving the natural habitat of the Wyiles so that cabins will not be build on Foxfire Mountain to displace the fun loving creatures.

All of the Wyiles’ ciders can be tasted while you tour the Wyile Cider Barn and see the Wyiles’ handiwork for yourself! The Wyiles tend to brew their secret cider recipes at night, but who knows? Keep an eye out and you might just catch a glimpse of one during your visit. You will find a map of all of these activities at Foxfire Mountain below.

 

Save the Wyiles ... Drink more cider!