Howard’s Knob sits about 1,000 feet above the rest of Boone and Appalachian State. Nowadays it’s mainly a tourist attraction and a place for students to take selfies. However, the mountain used to be home to a windmill that gave power to around 400 houses in the area.
In 1977, the Federal Energy Research and Development Administration announced that Howard’s Knob was selected to be the site of an experimental wind turbine as part of their contemporary research into renewable energy. The windmill, constructed by General Electric in fall 1978, was about 130 feet tall with two 100 foot blades that rotated at 35 miles per hour.For all intents and purposes, the windmill worked, but it had one issue; noise. Although the blades themselves didn’t generate audible noise, they made windows and other glass surfaces to vibrate. This vibration made a ‘whooshing’ sound for residents in their homes.Inspired by this phenomenon, students and locals in Boone staged a meeting of a fake organization of people that worshipped the windmill for a TV camera crew dispatched to cover the windmill. Calling themselves “The Whooshies”, the young people donned white bed sheets, beads, and other household items and began to chant in a circle for their god “Nay-Zuh” the windmill. (Nay-Zuh was chosen because the windmill had the NASA logo printed on the side).After the Whooshie incident, the town began to limit the hours of use, so as not to disturb residents. Because of this, the windmill was sold and taken down in 1983 for the price of its scrap metal $50,000.You won’t find the Whooshies in a history book, but those few original Whooshies still remember and some still live in Boone today, carrying the memories.