There have long been tales of lost civilizations and strange peoples that have faded into the sands of time. Such enigmatic races lurk in the tales and history of nearly every major culture, and they span the range of the supernatural, to pure myth, to the possibly real. One tale of a mysterious lost race comes to us from the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, and it tells of a strange race of albino, sun-fearing beings who supposedly roamed this land long before even the Natives arrived.
In the untamed wildernesses along the Southern Appalachian Mountains of the United States the Native Cherokee people have long told of a strange race of beings they call “The Moon-Eyed People.” This mysterious tribe was supposedly smaller than average humans, almost dwarfish in nature, very pale skinned, like pure white alabaster, with shocking white hair, generous beards and body hair, and inhumanly large blue eyes, sensitive to light to the point that they were said to be unable to see in the daytime, hence their name. These Moon-Eyed people were purportedly completely nocturnal, hiding in dank caves and underground caverns during the day only to come out at night when the sun had retreated, and indeed sunlight was said to be enough to kill them if they ever got caught out in the open during daylight hours.
These strange, diminutive nocturnal denizens of the land were said to have been here long before the first Native peoples had settled the area, and according to most legends they were eventually expelled by local Natives, although what form this expulsion takes varies from tradition to tradition. In some tales it was the Creek people from the south who cast them out, wherein in others it is the Cherokees themselves who waged a relentless campaign and full-out war against these pale-skinned creatures to drive them to other lands. The American botanist, naturalist, and physician, Benjamin Smith Barton, wrote of these people and their downfall back in 1797; in his book New Views of the Origin of the Tribes and Nations of America, thus:
The Cheerake tell us, that when they first arrived in the country which they inhabit, they found it possessed by certain ‘moon-eyed-people,’ who could not see in the day-time. These wretches they expelled.
Whatever happened to this enigmatic race, their legacy has supposedly remained behind in the ancient rock structures and mysterious pre-Columbian mounds and ruins that dot the landscape along the Appalachians from North Carolina all the way down through Georgia and Alabama, all said to have been erected by the Moon-Eyed People. Perhaps the most famous of these is an 850 foot long stone wall dated to 400-500 C.E., which meanders through Fort Mountain State Park, just over the North Carolina border in Georgia, and is said to be a vestige of the bloody war between the mysterious Moon-Eyed People and the native Cherokee. There are countless other crude rock structures, walls, mounds and forts scattered all throughout the Appalachians, as well as anomalous carvings, figurines, and a soapstone carving of conjoined figures now on display at the Cherokee County Historical Museum said to be of these strange people, and no one really knows who made any of them except for the Cherokee themselves, who say it was the work of the Moon-Eyed People.
Whoever built such structures has long remained a mystery, and when Europeans first came to the region the Natives, who were not known for making such fort-like structures themselves, claimed that they had been always been there, saying that they were constructions of the Moon-Eyed People. Interestingly, while Cherokee folklore has many tales of supernatural beings and various spirits, the Moon-Eyed People are never spoken of in such a manner, rather being described matter-of-factly as physically another race inhabiting the same lands.
Of course, with such an oddity as a cryptic tribe of bizarre dwarf subterranean albino people, almost like vampires in their intolerance for sunlight, and who predated the native peoples and constructed their mysterious mounds and forts, there is bound to be theorizing as to who or what they may have been. One of the most popular ideas is that they are evidence of Native contact with European explorers who had made it to the New World long before history says they did, possibly connected to the legend of the “Welsh Speaking Indians.”
The story of white-skinned, Welsh speaking Indians in the New World originates with a 16th-century manuscript published by Welsh antiquarian Humphrey Llwyd, in which he writes of Welsh settlers coming to these shore in the 12th century, in particular a Prince Madoc, who along with his followers was said to have emigrated to America from Wales in about 1170, landing somewhere in the vicinity of Mobile Bay, Alabama. Madoc would supposedly end up shipping over hundreds of his followers to the New World, where they would disappear into the wilderness, never to return. In the following centuries there were many stories of fair-skinned, blue-eyed natives who spoke a form of Welsh from the area, and these have been speculated to have been the descendants of these settlers. Indeed, there are many tales of “blue-eyed Indians” from the New World, which I have covered here at MU before, and perhaps this all has some part to play in the mystery of the Moon-Eyed People.
Another idea put forth by Benjamin Smith Barton is that they were out of place descendants of members of the Guna people of Panama, who have such an uncommonly high rate of albinism, that they were once referred to as the “White Indians,” and who were also reportedly able to see better at night. Another theory is that, rather than go to war; the Natives of the land actually integrated with the Moon-Eyed People and absorbed them. Still other more far-out theories are that these were some other species of human, a new race, or even ancient astronauts from another world.
It is still unclear who or what the Moon-Eyed people may have been, and they remain a distinctly enigmatic lost civilization, if they ever even existed at all. Who were these albino, sun-fearing people? Were they some lost race, descendants of pre-Columbian explorers, or even a new species or alien interlopers? Or were these just a figment of folklore and myth? The answers to such questions remain obscure, but the tales of the Moon-Eyed People have persisted for over a millennium, and the idea that such a race of lost humanoids has been lost to history captures the imagination.