Wednesday, December 9, 2015
The Mysterious Story of Nellie the Lion
There have always been reports of mysterious cats in the United States. Some of these stories come from hundreds of years ago, and some occur in the present day.
One famous story of a mystery Alien Big Cat (ABC) occurred in 1917. This specific ABC was nicknamed "Nellie the Lion."
The sightings happened near Decatur, Illinois. The first report to gain media attention came in after a man named Thomas Gullett was attacked on July 13 while working in a garden. Gullett only suffered some minor wounds, but after word spread people started to panic.
The attacks on Gullett sparked the press' interest in the Nellie story, although the first sightings had actually happened a few days earlier.
The report on the attack led to a 300 person hunt on July 15, 1917. While the hunters were our looking for Nellie she appeared a quarter of a mile away, when she was sighted by a Mrs. Shaw who described what she saw as a "African Lioness."
On July 17, five-inch tracks were found near Decatur. Later that same day, two boys saw the cat near the Sangamon River, which is east of Decatur.
Not surprisingly, panic spread. When people went outside and saw a collie, they saw a lion. One farmer even shot an approaching car because he thought the headlights were the eyes of the big cat. Newspapers had lots of fun with these reports, and passed off all the others as misidentification or jokes, too.
Nellie was taken more seriously when she attacked Chester Osborn, Earl Hill, and their wives on July 29. They were driving near Decatur at 10:30 PM when the two men, who were sitting in the front of the car, saw the cat hiding in the weeds by the road.
The cat leaped about 20 feet and slammed into the side of the car. It then collapsed on the road.
The terrified witnesses sped to Decatur and told the police what happened. They went back to the area, and Nellie, who had been knocked out from the car collision but by this time had recovered, was still there, but soon disappeared over an embankment and was not seen again.
On July 31, James Rutherford saw a "large, yellow, long haired beast" as he was driving a hay wagon past a gravel pit. He watched the cat disappear towards a creek. Search parties checked out the area later, and found a few tracks, but no lion.
Soon after that encounter, Nellie sightings stopped.
We'll probably never know what Nellie was. Was she a real African lioness? Was she a Mountain Lion? The second guess would probably be the most likely.
More on Nellie the Lion and other Alien Big Cats can be found in my book Cryptid U.S.: Tales of Bigfoot, Lake Monsters, and More From Across America. The holidays are coming up… it would make a great gift for a cryptozoology enthusiast!