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Monday, January 25, 2016

Who Let the Cats Out? Reports of Out-of-Place Felines

Some cryptids aren't things that are totally unknown like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monsters. Throughout the years, there have been reports of out-of-place animals, and these reports occur throughout the world. Examples include "phantom" kangaroos, sewer alligators, and alien big cats. The latter will be the focus of this article.

Melanistic leopard


OUT OF PLACE CATS IN THE UNITED STATES

Eastern Cougars and Black Panthers

Cougars are supposed to be extinct in the eastern half of the U.S., but they are still reported here. Some people, though, think the cats still roam this side of the country, which they must, because people still report them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, however, says that they are extinct.

Also reported all over the U.S. are reports of "black panthers." Most people will say they don't exist, or are misidentifications. But, there are lots of reports of black panthers all over the U.S.

Lions, but not the Mountain Variety


What may well have been an example of Alien Big Cats on the loose in the U.S. occurred in 1917. That year, the town of Decatur, Illinois, was terrorized by a big cat called "Nellie the Lion."

On July 13, 1917, Thomas Gullett was working in a garden in Decatur when he was attacked by a large cat. And it wasn't a large house cat - it was lion sized. Luckily, Gullett only suffered minor wounds, but the attack gained the press' interest. Reports of the mystery cat, however, had actually started a few days earlier.

The buzz about the attack on Gullett also led to a 300-person hunt in the woods around Decatur on July 15. The hunters did not find anything (as is common with hunts for ABCs), but while they were out a woman named Mrs. Shaw saw what she described as an "African lioness" a quarter mile from the search area.

On July 17, two more reports came in. That day, five-inch tracks, thought to have been left by Nellie, were found, and two boys spotted a large cat near the Sangamon River, east of Decatur.

Panic took over the town. Now, when people went outside and saw a collie, the dog turned into a lion. One farmer even shot an approaching cat because his mistook the headlights for shining lion eyes. When the press heard reports like these, reporters had a great time making fun of them, and called all the other reports jokes as well.

Another reliable report did occur on July 29, however. Chester Osborn, Earl Hill, and their wives were driving near Decatur when Nellie decided to attack again. It was 10:30 p.m., and the men, sitting in the front of the car, saw the cat trying to hide in the weeds beside the road. As they drove by, the cat leaped at the car, smashing into the side of it.

As the cat fell onto the road, probably knocked unconscious, or at least very dazed, from its attempted attack, the couples sped to Decatur to report the incident to police. This time, Nellie was still there when police arrived. She soon disappeared over an embankment, however, and they did not spot her again.

The last Nellie sighting occurred on July 31, when James Rutherford saw a "large, yellow, long haired beast" as he was driving past a gravel pit. Search parties came to the area, but found no lion.

There have been lots of other reports of lion-like cats in the United States, some of which were definitely not mountain lions, because they had manes. Some theorize that the reports of "African lions" and lionesses in the U.S. are actually sightings of Panthera atrox, a cave lion that actually lived in North America during the Pleistocene epoch. The American Lion was larger (about 25%) than the African variety.

Tigers

I have read some cryotozoology books with reports of out-of-place tigers roaming the United States. These cats are most likely escaped or released exotic pets.

The Mysterious Beast of Bladenboro


In the 1950s, residents of Bladenboro, North Carolina, began encountering a bizarre beast. It all started on December 29, 1953, a woman heard her neighbor's dogs barking wildly. She went out to see what they were barking at and saw a cat-like creature. On New Year's Eve the police went to a farm where two dogs had been killed by something. More reports of the creature, now called the Beast of Bladenboro, started coming in.
Drawing of the Beast of Bladenboro

Bladenboro is located in Bladen County, NC. All across the county, reports of dog attacks surfaced. Residents said they saw something "like a bear or panther"(although I don't think bears and panthers really look alike). They said the thing, whatever it was, was about three feet long and twenty inches high. It was said to have a cat's face and a long tail. Some people said they had heard it scream and said it sounded "like a woman with a knife stuck in her back."

On January 1, 1954, two more dead dogs were found, and their bodies had been drained of blood. Professional hunters were brought in to hunt down the Beast of Bladenboro, and the police chief accompanied them. The only things they found were silver-dollar sized tracks. On January 5, Mrs. C.E. Kinslaw heard dogs whimpering outside and went out to see what was wrong. She saw the beast, a cat-like creature, creeping towards her. She screamed and her husband ran out, scaring the it away.

After the Kinslaw incident, newspapers picked up the store about the beast and hunters rushed to Bladenboro. Some people thought the beast was a panther, others thought it was a stray dog. No one went out at night. On January 13, a local farmer shot a very large bobcat, and hung it on a flagpole in the middle of town, with a sign under it that said "THIS IS THE BEAST OF BLADENBORO."
The mayor of Bladenboro(right), the bobcat
said to be the beast, and the farmer who shot it(left)

It seemed that the beast was gone. Was it really only a large bobcat that had terrorized the town? Maybe, except that strange attacks started up again fifty years later!

In 2003, goats and dogs started showing up dead and drained of blood. People thought the beast was back. This time, however, animals were found dead in a 120 mile radius of Bladenboro. People started finding strange tracks.

In 2007, 60 goats were found dead with their blood drained and their heads crushed near Lexington. In Bolivia, Bill Robinson found his Pit Bull dead. He buried it, and the next day it was  moved back to the spot where he found it dead the day before! Four days later, Leon Williams found his Pit Bull also dead. Other places found ten dogs dead in just two weeks!

In 2008, the History Channel show MonsterQuest did a search for the creature on the episode "Vampire Beast". They thought the beast may be a cougar(although, of course, cougars aren't supposed to live on this side of the country), but they didn't really find anything, like always.
The Beast of Bladenboro on MonsterQuest
Whatever the Beast of Bladenboro is, it remains a mystery, and probably won't be solved anytime soon.


Beast of Truro

Beginning in the autumn of 1981, Truro, Massachusetts was also terrorized by a mysterious cat-like beast that killed many pets and livestock. The New York Times ran a story on the "Beast of Truro" on January 17, 1982, reprinted in its entirety below:

"'BEAST OF TRURO' MYSTIFYING CAPE COD 
"TRURO, Mass., Jan. 16- Who or what is the 'Beast of Truro?' Is it a mountain lion preying on local pets and livestock, a dog or a pack of dogs, an ocelot, a lynx, a wild cat or some yet unidentified creature?
"The purported beast, Cape Cod's answer to Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, has been a major topic of conversation and news articles since last fall. 
"The first evidence that some unknown predator was loose came when a dozen dead cats were found in the same area in Truro in September. Two weeks ago, a 175-pound hog was so badly mauled, its flanks ripped by deep claw marks and a chunk of flesh ripped out of its neck, that it had to be killed. A few days later, two pigs were clawed in their pens in another part of town.
"Initially, the culprit was thought to have been a dog or a pack of wild dogs on the loose. Then people started reporting seeing a large furry creature that they did not recognize. Others heard strange noises at night.
"The most dramatic description came from William and Marsha Medeiros of Truro. They said they were taking a walk about three months ago on the bike path near Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro when the animal appeared 50 feet in front of them. 'Definite Long Ropelike Tail.'
"Mrs. Medeiros continued: 'My husband put his arm out to stop me and said, 'You see what I see?' Together we said 'It's not a fox.' It had a very definite long rope like tail like the letter J. It hit the ground and went up. We figured it was about as tall as up to our knees and weighed 60 or 80 pounds.
"'We were frightened and froze. He was in the path and didn't see us at first. As we made some noise, he turned and we saw his face with short ears.'
"Mr. Medeiros left the path to get a branch to protect them. The creature did not rush for cover, Mrs. Medeiros said, but walked slowly and casually along the path in front of them before disappearing into the nearby woods.
"The Medeiroses are sure that they saw a mountain lion. 'What we saw fits that description,' said Mrs. Medeiros. At first the couple was reluctant to report what they had seen. 'Who would believe it?' Mrs. Medeiros said.
"Others have reported hearing strange catlike cries in the night. Edward Oswalt, a Truro Selectman and health officer, said a New York man called in mid-December to say he had seen 'something resembling a mountain lion' in North Truro.
"Mr. Oswalt and seashore officers have made efforts to identify the culprit by its tracks near the pigpens, but in the sandy soil they could find no clear impressions. Mr. Oswalt said the 'general consensus is that the beast is a dog or dogs, but I don't know if you can put that together with what happened.' Could it be a mountain lion? 'That seems far out, but it's not impossible,' he replied. Records on Mountain Lions The mountain lion, also known as a cougar o r panther, is said to be the largest cat in North America. Males ca n be six feet long with at three-foot tail, and overall length of more than nine feet, and weigh more than 200 pounds. Records indicate that the last known mountain lion in Massachusetts was killed in 1858. Experts believe the Eastern mountain lion is probably extinct.
"Truro seems as an unlikely, but not impossible, habitat for a wild creature such as a mountain lion. Seventy percent of the town is undeveloped land, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Packs of wild dogs occasionally kill deer in the woods. There is enough small game and domestic pets fro a wild animal to subsist on.
"Donald Rodenhaven of Wellfleet, who formerly worked at the Bronx and Staten Island Zoos in New York and is familiar with the habits of wild animals, says the mode of attack more suggests a cat than a dog. Dogs do not slash like a cat, he said. May Have Left by Camper
"Mr. Rodenhaven said he believes the so-called Beast of Truro may be a mountain lion, ocelot or lynx, that may have escaped or was left behind by a summer camper. Both mountain lions and ocelots are for sale, he said.
 "The official view in Truro holds that the attacks on the pigs were by a dog or dogs. Thomas Kane, Truro's Assistant Town Clerk, said: 'I think it's a figment of the imagination. People I know, the people whose opinions I respect, think the damage was done by dogs. At one point, there was talk that the 'Beast' was a fisher. Finally it got so ridiculous that I ignored it.'
"Others, however, expect the "B east" to strike again."

Many people at the time thought the Beast of Truro was a mountain lion. By the witness descriptions, I would not be surprised if that is what it was. It would still be of interest to cryptozoologists, though, because of the "surviving Eastern Panther" theory. If mountain lions are still in Massachusetts, and are thought to have gone extinct there in the 1800s, that would still be a great discovery.

OUT OF PLACE CATS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

There are a large number of reports of mysterious cats in the United Kingdom. These are more mysterious than reports of cats in the U.S., because some U.S. cats, like mountain lions, are known to live in the country. On the other side of the ocean, though, there aren't supposed to be big cats. Lets take a look at a few cases of big cats in Britain.

An early account of a big cat in Britain comes from the 1760s, when writer William Cobbett said in his Rural Rides that he had once seen a "cat as big as a middle-sized spaniel dog" climb into a hollow tree near Farnham, in Surrey, England.

The year 1903 saw a Canadian lynx shot in Devon. The cat is now in the Bristol Museum's collection, and its teeth show that it spent a large amount of time in captivity before it was killed, meaning it either escaped or was released.

The 1980s saw a puma captured in Inverness-shire, Scotland, and a large cat hit by a car in Shropshire, England. A Eurasian lynx was shot in Norwich, Norfolk in 1991, after it killed 15 sheep in two weeks. A report arose in 1994 that a cat with a leopard pattern on its fur had been shot on the Isle of Wight a few years earlier.

OUT OF PLACE CATS IN AUSTRALIA

Perhaps the weirdest weird cat reports are those that come from Australia. Reports of cats like cougars here are especially strange, because they would have no way to get to this continent - unless brought there by people, of course. Escaped exotic pets probably account for ABC sightings in Australia.

There have actually been a few books written on the subject of Australian ABCs, including Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers (2010), Savage Shadow: The Search for the Australian Cougar (2011), and the new book by Patrick Gallagher, The Tantanoola Tiger: And Other Australian Big Cat Sightings (2016).

The Tantanoola Tiger

The cat who the last book on the list above is named after will be the focus of this part of the article on ABCs. During the late 1800s, the cat was said to roam the area around Tantanoola in South Australia. In 1895, the beast was shot and killed by Thomas John Donovan, and it was concluded that it was actually an Arabian wolf. The animal is now on display at the Tantanoola Hotel.



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Reports of out-of-place cats are nothing new, as demonstrated by this article. They also are not going away. While they aren't something like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monsters, or a Yowie, if someone could someday prove that mysterious big cats are roaming the eastern U.S., the U.K., or Australia, it would still be a great discovery. Finding a cryptid like a black panther could add some credence to reports of other cryptids, no matter how big or small. If panthers, lions, tigers, and other big cats are living in places where they shouldn't be, why couldn't a creature like Bigfoot be hiding in the vast forests of the world, or sea serpents be hiding in the depths of the oceans?

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