Kentucky is full of mascots and team nicknames that don’t traditionally strike fear in the hearts of many. Bulldogs, Eagles and Cardinals dominate the list of monikers used by high schools in the state.
So do Wildcats, who have had any fear factor diminished thanks to overuse. We also have our fair share of variations on Lions (which in one case is spelled “Lyons”), Tigers and Bears (oh my!) — intimidating, sure, but not uniquely scary enough to make this list.
Frightening team names are out there, though. On Halloween, here are my picks for the scariest high school mascots in Kentucky.
Storm: Hopkins County Central
Wolverines: Walden, Western Hills
Valkyries: Sacred Heart
Vikings: Rowan County, St. Mary, Valley
Yellow Jackets/Yellowjackets: Central, Middlesboro, Williamsburg, Woodford County
This one’s almost in the same category as the Tigers and Lions of the world because of its overuse. Four schools — Doss, Green County, South Oldham and Warren Central — use straight-up “Dragons” while Harlan opts for “Green Dragons,” which calls to mind Elliot, the titular dragon from the movie “Pete’s Dragon.”
Still, on the whole, the idea of dragons — mythical beasts larger than any living creature that also can fly and breathe fire — is terrifying. Their name also is fitting for a mascot in a more literal sense: “draconta,” the ancient Greek word from which “dragon” originates, means “to watch.” I don’t know about you, but I’d trust a dragon to guard my gym.
Wolves (and their mythical cousins, werewolves) have a long history of scaring folks in cinema but aren’t prevalent among Kentucky mascots. They travel in packs, which average seven to eight members, and will pursue their prey for upwards of a mile
Only one school, Wolfe County, uses Wolves as its team name — a logical choice, linguistically, for the eastern Kentucky school. And the Wolfe County Wolves are the only variety of the animal you’ll actually find around our commonwealth.
Gray wolves and red wolves were once prevalent in Kentucky but were hunted to extinction from the state. A Hart County man while hunting in 2013 killed a gray wolf, the first known to be in the state since the mid-1800s.
Imagine a dragon, except even more frightening in its appearance. It has the head and wings of a dragon, a snake’s slender frame, two legs and a tail that’s usually barbed with a spear tip. Unlike dragons, sometimes depicted as friendly creatures or bringers of good fortune, wyverns are always cruel.
The state’s sole owner of this skin-crawling mascot? St. Francis School, a private institution in Louisville that’s among the smallest schools in the state.
“Back in 1976 when the school was founded, in keeping with our Progressive mission (which particularly values student voice), the student body was asked to come up with names and vote on them,” St. Francis Principal Suzanne Gorman wrote in an email. “It was originally between the Dragons and the River City Rats and the Dragons won. Then the students realized that Dragons would not be a unique mascot among local schools.”
“A few ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ devotees mentioned that there was a wyvern in the game ... and so it was adopted.”
2.) Blue Tornado
For many people around the world, suffering through natural disasters isn’t a matter of if, but when. Unlike most of the names on this list, tornadoes are a real, life-changing experience through which many — like those residing in West Liberty in 2012 — have lived.
Spin some blue into that funnel cloud and you’ve got a Blue Tornado, the moniker adopted by Paducah Tilghman out in western Kentucky. Not only is the school represented by a natural force of destruction, but it also boasts one of the best logos in the state: a blue-tinted tornado with boxing gloves.
1.) Devils and Demons
“Devils” is overused, yes, but there’s no doubting the effectiveness of the imagery it calls to mind. Regardless of whether your religion subscribes to the idea of “hell” as it’s described in the Bible, the notion of spending eternity surrounded by fire, brimstone and evil spirits doesn’t sound exciting.
There are five schools that use some variation of a devil as their mascot. Two — Owensboro and Russell — use “Red Devils.” Dayton uses “Greendevils” while Robertson County uses “Black Devils.” Henry Clay has long been the “Blue Devils,” which for University of Kentucky fans might conjure decades-old nightmares.
Greendevils seems to be the most unique among those because of its spelling and origin. Dayton Athletic Director Barbie Case-Lukens shared what she believes to be the name’s genesis.
“Cincinnati was a large area for German immigrants in the early 20's. Apparently, the area around Dayton — I would guess Dayton, Bellevue, Newport, etc. — was a military ground given the access of the water for transportation to Cincinnati,” Case-Lukens wrote in an email. A squadron of paratroopers, similar to what we know as green berets and Navy SEALs, was stationed in the area; they were called the “Green Devils.”
Only one school in the state uses “Demon” instead of “Devil” — tiny Williamstown (ironically, the same city in which the Ark Encounter operates). Demon and devil are frequently used in place of each other in popular culture and are represented by similar images of a horned man, but they are derived from different Greek words with different meanings and are not used interchangeably in Biblical literature.