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Do Feral People Live in the Smoky Mountains?

When you plan a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee or North Carolina, you probably don’t consider the dangers of a bear attack or a snake bite. Even though they’re possible, you know those things are unlikely. Instead, you’re thinking about learning about the Cherokee people, shopping among the quaint mountain towns, and hiking to beautiful vistas along the Appalachian Trail. But you might not know there’s a longtime theory that feral people live in the Smoky Mountains.

Never heard of it? Let’s learn more about these feral people, and then you can decide for yourself if you believe they exist.

What Are Feral People?

The term “feral” is usually associated with “wild,” meaning feral people are people living in the wild, disconnected and isolated from the rest of society. These humans are assumed to be uneducated and unpredictable in nature, thus perhaps dangerous.

If you’ve ever seen or read “The Jungle Book,” the character of Mowgli is a feral person. Dina Sanichar, the real Mowgli, inspired Rudyard Kipling to write the story. There have been other cases of people living in the wild.

Feral People in the Great Smoky Mountains? | Truth or Hoax?

Where are the Smoky Mountains?

The Great Smoky Mountains are on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains, the “Smokies” are the home of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the country’s most visited national park.

The Smokies are also part of an International Biosphere Reserve and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It encompasses over 500,000 acres of land.

Want to avoid crowds while visiting the Smokies? Try this Secret Entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Why Do People Believe Feral People Live in the Smoky Mountains?

Because of the 1969 case of Dennis Martin, some people believe feral people live in the Smoky Mountains. On September 1, 2021, “Expedition X” aired “Terror in Appalachia.” Here, Phil Torres and Jess Chobot investigated reports of human-like creatures prowling the Great Smoky Mountains.

Plenty of people who have lived in the area all their lives believe that there are feral people, men in particular, who grab hikers and kidnap children. There could be cold cases and unsolved mysteries.

Is there Evidence of Feral People in the Smoky Mountains?

Some eyewitnesses claim to have seen hairy, scary men or heard these feral people roaming the Smokies.

One North Carolinian writes on Reddit, “Since the 30s or 40s, there have been feral wild men living in these mountains. They are fast. They will snatch livestock and snatch children…And I’m not talking about some end of days extremist who took to the woods…I mean feral…completely wild men. Their own language. Living underground…At night you’ll hear them hollering. Supposed inbreds.”

shadow of feral person
Feral or “wild” people are said to live in the Smoky Mountains.

Another Reddit user was hunting one night when he encountered one of these feral people. He explains, “I remember jolting a little when I saw that it wasn’t really a bear, it was a man. Because he was so low and hunched over I thought I was looking at a young bear…I was about to call out when I adjusted my sights and noticed, he was naked. No shoes, pants or anything. I remember being disturbed by his movements, like a squirrel or something. Twitchy and grabbing at the foliage, sniffing around and palming the tree.”

So, is there hard evidence like videos and photos of feral people in the Smoky Mountains? No, but there are plenty of accounts of people who have heard, seen, or encountered these wild creatures who seem uncivilized and savage. Are they truth or hoax?

Pro Tip: Mountain lovers will love hiking through or camping on the Tallest Mountain in the Lower 48.

What Happened to Dennis Martin?

In June 1969, Dennis Martin and his family were hiking in the Smoky Mountains. It was a family Father’s Day tradition. They met another family nearby and hung out at Spence Field for the day. Dennis, his brother, and the two boys from the other family decided to play a prank on their parents.

Three of the boys went in one direction while Dennis went in another. When the three boys jumped out to “scare” their parents, Dennis didn’t pop out of the woods. No one saw him again.

After hours of searching the woods, the family called officials, and a search party ensued. The Boy Scouts, National Guard, and many rescue groups combed the area in search of six-year-old Dennis Martin. It was the largest search ever in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Weeks later, a family in Carthage, Tenn., had been visiting the Cades Cove area during Dennis’ disappearance but hadn’t heard anything about it. Once they heard the news, they called the authorities. They told them they heard a scream and saw a figure running through the woods, a disheveled man trying to avoid being seen.

Dennis Martin - A Great Smoky Mountains Mystery

Officials thought the tip had no connection because of the distance between Cades Cove and Spence Field, but the locals had other ideas. They heard about feral people living in the Smokies, and conspiracy theorists and others jumped on Dennis Martin’s disappearance as an example of these feral people grabbing a young boy. 

These are said to be wild creatures, more like beasts than humans, and are allegedly cannibals. This was the prevailing thought of what happened to Dennis Martin by many people familiar with the strange sounds and putrid smells from the forests at night.

Are the Stories and Theories Real?

Unfortunately, without hard evidence, we can’t say for certain if feral people live in the Great Smoky Mountains. If they do, they’ve been very good at avoiding authorities and people with cameras.

What Do You Do If You Encounter a Feral Person?

In case you encounter one of these feral people, it’s good to know what to do ahead of time. Because of the wild nature of feral people, there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do if you encounter one.

It’s very similar to what you would do if you saw a black bear on a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Remain Calm

First, remain calm. Don’t run away screaming or drawing attention to yourself. Feral people may chase after you thinking you’re prey running from a predator. Because many believe feral people are more like wild animals than humans, their actions are unpredictable and possibly dangerous.

Keep Your Distance

As you remain calm, keep your distance. Don’t approach the person. The national parks have a long list of missing people.

You don’t want your name added to that list and don’t want to make the nightly news or feed the conspiracy theories on the internet. Stay hidden as much as possible.

Planning a backcountry camping trip in the Smoky Mountains? Make sure you Know These Basic Survival Skills.

Feral person in woods
Remain calm and keep your distance from feral people.

Back Away Slowly

Just like you would back away slowly from a black bear, you should also back away from a feral person. Hopefully, the “wild man” hasn’t seen you.

As you back away, if it’s possible to get a photo or video of the person, do so without putting yourself in harm’s way. If you can’t, it’s more important for you to get out alive than to capture the feral person on your smartphone.

Report the Sighting

As soon as you can, tell the authorities of your encounter. Provide photo or video evidence if you were able to capture any. This will also help law enforcement should they be called in.

But again, it’s more vital for you to escape alive. If all you can do is report the sighting and go home, that’s better than not reporting the sighting and getting kidnapped by a feral person.

Should You Worry about Feral People While Visiting the Smoky Mountains?

There are other wild creatures that should concern you more than feral people in the Smoky Mountains. In fact, the largest concentration of black bears lives in the Smokies at about two bears per square mile.

Close Encounter with Black Bear Mama and Cub in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Our close encounter with black bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

People have also seen mountain lions, and these powerful cats can attack from behind and leap from trees. Northern copperheads and timber rattlesnakes are common venomous snakes in the Smokies that you’ll certainly want to keep an eye out for.

You have a much higher chance of encountering these wild animals than a feral person.

The Smoky Mountains are a beautiful part of the east coast and protect diverse ecosystems and preserve the Cherokee heritage. You shouldn’t avoid visiting this area or the national park for fear of feral people. Do they exist? Perhaps, but a sighting is highly unlikely.

Have you ever had an encounter with one of these “wild people” of Appalachia? Drop a comment below!

Smoky Mountains National Park

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Not So Free

Monday 10th of October 2022

Reminds me of the TV series Monster Quest. They go searching for various things. They never seem to find any proof, much less capturing even a photo.

Skip Clements

Monday 10th of October 2022

Yes!!! My wife says she married one!

Lynn Oliver

Monday 10th of October 2022

Time to give a safety message for Bigfoot.