User Submitted Folklore: French Broad River Siren
(NOTE: The original submission below was sent under the category of ‘Cryptid Sighting’, but at the decision of the PBI, this was changed to ‘Folklore Submission’ because of the history surrounding this sighting. We here at the PBI feel it fits more appropriately. By moving this submission though, we are in no way discrediting the submitter on what they supposedly saw.)
Name: Guard (last name kept private at request of witness)
Number of witnesses: 1-2
Location of sighting: Western North Carolina
Date of sighting: Summer 2011
What you believe the creature was: French Broad River Siren
Message: “I was 15 at the time, I lied to my mom and snuck out with my girlfriend at the time to go camping by the river. We get to a remote location along the river near a bend and set up camp. Later in the night, maybe 3 am, I get up to pee. I go outside and as I do, I see a man on the other side of the river. He’s either naked or has briefs on, but he’s just standing there. I thought he was looking at our tent but he was looking down at the water. He just started walking out into the river, it’s very wide and very deep at this place. He’s walking out, looking down at the water and when it gets groin high he just dives under the water. I waited, and waited, thinking he might be a diver of sorts. Minutes pass and there are no bubbles, no resurface, just nothing. I, very scared, walked back to my tent. I’ve had a recurring nightmare since about wading down into the water and looking down and seeing not my reflection, but the silhouette of a woman. As of last year, 2018 I went to a therapist to get help for it, was diagnosed with PTSD and put on meds. I can sleep now but I don’t dream anymore. I still suffer from crippling thalassophobia.”
Hello Guard and thank you for contacting us! I can truly say that reading the story of your sighting above sent a shiver down my spine. Just the image of a stranger standing in the darkness, completely motionless and not far from your general area, while you are already in a vulnerable situation can easily make one feel uneasy. I am not sure if you continued to stay the rest of your trip, or if you even managed to go back to sleep, but if you did, you are a braver soul than I.
Now, to get into your sighting. Right off the bat, I can say that what you are talking about, the French Broad River Siren, is completely unheard of to me. Because of this, I needed to verify that it was, in fact, a legit thing. This is done with all submissions just to make sure someone isn’t trying to pull anything over our heads. Well, it didn’t take long to verify that yes, the French Broad River Siren actually does have a long history and that, of course, was fantastic to see.
Because I am unable to give any of my own personal knowledge on this particular subject, I am going to share what I recently learned via some folklore sites regarding the Siren. Even though it was first mentioned in 1845 in a poem called 'T’zelica, A Tradition of the French Broad’, by William Gilmore Simms, the Siren is most often known from a story told in an 1896 book by the name of ‘Myths and Legends of Our Own Land’, written by Charles Montgomery Skinner.
The story, direct from the pages of that book, goes as follows: “Among the rocks east of Asheville, North Carolina, lives the Lorelei of the French Broad River. This stream—the Tselica of the Indians—contains in its upper reaches many pools where the rapid water whirls and deepens, and where the traveller likes to pause in the heats of afternoon and drink and bathe. Here, from the time when the Cherokees occupied the country, has lived the siren, and if one who is weary and downcast sits beside the stream or utters a wish to rest in it, he becomes conscious of a soft and exquisite music blending with the plash of the wave.
Looking down in surprise he sees—at first faintly, then with distinctness—the form of a beautiful woman, with hair streaming like moss and dark eyes looking into his, luring him with a power he cannot resist. His breath grows short, his gaze is fixed, mechanically he rises, steps to the brink, and lurches forward into the river. The arms that catch him are slimy and cold as serpents; the face that stares into his is a grinning skull. A loud, chattering laugh rings through the wilderness, and all is still again.”
Now, could there truly be something “off” about this particular stretch of river? Possibly something paranormal or supernatural? There could be, yeah, but I cannot accurately say one way or another. But it must be noted that typically areas such as these, the ones with legends attached to them, have had at one point something odd take place which is usually the root cause for the creation of the legend in the first place! What that occurrence actually was though is usually lost to history.
Also, just as a side note here, this particular story reminds me in some ways of the tale of The Water Man. A Czechoslovakian “ghost story” which speaks of a man that lives within the water and punishes those who do not recite their prayers. While the French Broad River Siren does not operate in the same way per say, both it and The Water Man are held responsible for the disappearances of those who go missing along certain stretches of rivers, lakes, and ponds. Just something to think about.
Thanks again for contacting us Guard and I truly hope you are doing better since your eerie sighting. And for those looking to head out and get a first-hand look at the French Broad River, well to that we say, be careful and don’t go alone!
-The Pine Barrens Institute
Image Credit: Google