Monday, January 11, 2021

The Missionary, the Former Slave, and the Sasquatch

What do an eighteenth-century Jesuit missionary and a former slave from the state of Arkansas have in common? I hate to disappoint any of you that thought this might be the opening line to a bad joke, it is actually a legitimate question. Read on for the answer.


In my mind, some of the strongest sources of anecdotal evidence regarding the existence of the sasquatch are those that pre-date the coining of the term bigfoot in an article about a catskinner named Jerry Crew - who found massive human-like tracks around his road-building equipment in California’s Six Rivers National Forest in August of 1958 - and the explosion of the Patterson-Gimlin footage on the world stage in October of 1967. Sightings reported before these two seminal events cannot be dismissed as the work of hoaxers seeking to hop on the bigfoot bandwagon. The sasquatch was all but unknown to the Europeans who began flooding the North and South American continents in the 1500s…and to the slaves that they brought with them. Their accounts of bipedal, hair-covered creatures simply cannot be dismissed out of hand.    

 

I would like to discuss here two such historical sightings. The incidents are not well-known, but they may well be extremely important when attempting to trace just how far back sightings of wood apes might go. The similarity between these two accounts cannot be denied and both lend credibility to the opinion of those who believe the animal commonly referred to as bigfoot was being seen well before the 1950s by people of different cultural backgrounds living many miles apart.


     

The first incident comes directly from the writings of a Jesuit missionary who worked among the people of the province of Sonora, Mexico – a region that stretched up from northwest Mexico to the Sierra Madre from Cjeme (now Ciudad Obregon), near the California coast, to Tuscon - in the eighteenth-century. Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn (b. 1725), a German Jesuit lived and worked among the Pima Indians from 1756 to 1767. Details of his work and life among these people can be found in his Descripcion de la Provincia de Sonora. The diaries, journals, and logs of missionaries have long been highly valued by anthropologists and historians. Pfefferkorn’s work was no different and he is considered by academics to have been an extremely reliable and credible observer. His writings continue to be cited by historians to this day. Among Pfefferkorn’s writings were descriptions of the local wildlife. Among the descriptions of what would be considered common animals, the good father wrote about the different bears (differentiated by their color) found in the region. He wrote:

 

“Of the Sonora bears some have black hair, others dark gray, and the smallest number are a reddish color. These last are the most cruel and harmful, according to the statements of herdsmen.”

 

Only two species of bear are known to have ever lived in the Province of Sonora during the eighteenth-century. The black bear (Ursus americanus) and the grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) both made Sonora part of their home range during the time in question. While black bears can be black, blonde, or reddish, it is likely the cinnamon-colored bears that were “the most cruel and harmful” were grizzlies. While these grizzlies were likely the animals most often responsible for the killing of livestock in the region, some of the other activities attributed to them may well have been the work of something else.

 

Pfefferkorn, while documenting bear activity related to him by the indigenous tribesmen, in some cases may have actually been recording accounts of bigfoot interaction with humans. If so, his accounts are some of the earliest ever written down in North America. One intriguing passage is below:

 

“Bears are a special menace to stock raising, for they eat many a calf, and, if no smaller prey falls into their clutches, they will attack even horses, cows, and oxen. They delight especially in eating maize as long as it is still tender and soft. Woe to the field if a hungry bear breaks into it at night. He eats as much as he can and makes off with as much as he can grasp and carry in his mighty arms. In so doing he ruins even more of the field by breaking it down and treading upon it. The inhabitants assert that a bear defends himself by throwing stones when one attempts to chase him away and that a stone hurled from his paws comes with much greater force than one thrown from the hand of the strongest man.”

 

I do not think I have to tell anyone that a bear cannot throw stones; nor is it capable of walking bipedally in order to carry off large amounts of corn in its “mighty arms.” Pfefferkorn was familiar with bears. He had traveled across the region for many years and had seen many bruins. Pfefferkorn even witnessed a grizzly kill his Indian guide on one trip across Sonora (the guide had attempted to kill the bear, succeeded only in wounding it, and paid the ultimate price when the animal turned on its tormentor). This being the case, it is strange that Pfefferkorn would attribute rock-throwing and the ability to carry large amounts of corn away while walking on two legs to grizzlies. I think it is entirely possible that the stone-hurling, corn-stealing, bipedal “bears” of Sonora might have actually been wood apes.

 

A strikingly similar account comes from another historical source: a former Arkansas slave. Doc Quinn was one of the oldest living residents of Miller County, Arkansas (yes, the same Miller County that would become known as the home of the Fouke Monster of The Legend of Boggy Creek fame) when he was interviewed by Cecil Copeland at his home in Texarkana in the 1930s. Doc recalled when he was first brought to the plantation of one Colonel Ogburn – between Index and Fulton on the Red River - that there was a section of the property dominated by an immense canebrake. This canebrake was a favorite retreat of bears and other wild animals. It was all but impossible to go in after problem bears that would steal out of the thicket at night and take livestock, so the plantation owner had the slaves round up the hogs and animals and place them in pens at the end of the day. Several slaves were charged with standing guard at night over the domesticated animals. The efforts of the slaves helped somewhat, but bears were still seen often and some of their actions “were almost human.” The following is a passage taken from the book Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collection in which Doc Quinn describes to Cecil Copeland the odd behavior of a “bear” he came across in a cornfield one day:

 

“The bear picked off an ear of corn and put it in his bended arm. He repeated this action until he had an armful, and then waddled over to the fence. Standing by the fence, he carefully threw the corn on the other side, ear by ear. The bear then climbed the fence, much in the same manner of a human being, retrieved the corn, and went on his way.”

 

Sounds familiar, does it not? The simple truth is that bears cannot stroll around in a bipedal fashion while plucking ears of corn from stalks in the field with one front paw and place them into the crook of their other front “arm.” The description of how Quinn witnessed this animal climb a fence “in the same manner of a human being” is fascinating. The entire incident simply does not describe bear behavior in any form or fashion.



Quinn provides another interesting anecdote in the same interview. I thought long and hard about including it here, not because it is not interesting (it is), but because Doc Quinn’s words are transcribed in such a way that his dialect is evident. Some hot-button words, including the n-word, are used. After wrestling with it for a while, I decided to include the account here with only one minor edit (I decided not to type the n-word out. I fear in today’s climate, I would be accused of approving of it or some such thing). Again, I would remind readers these are not my words. These are the words spoken by former Arkansas slave, Doc Quinn and transcribed by his interviewer, Cecil Copeland. The text comes straight from the book previously mentioned. Try to focus on the story Doc Quinn is telling and not the language and terminology he uses. The account is as follows: 

 

“Late one ebenin’, me an’ anudder (edit) named Jerry wuz comin’ home frum fishin’. Roundin’ a bend in de trail, whut do we meet almos’ face to face? – A great big ol’ bar! Bein’ young, and blessed wid swif’ feet, I makes fo’ de nearest tree, and hastily scrambles to safety. Not so wid mah fat frien’. Peerin’ outen thru de branches ob de tree, I sees de bar makin’ fo’ Jerry, an’ I says to mahself: ‘ Jerry, yo’ sins has sho’ kotched up wid yo’ dis time.’ But Jerry, allus bein’ a mean (edit), mus’ hab had de debbil by he side. Pullin’ outen his Bowie knife, dat (edit) jumps to one side as de bar kum chargin’ pas’, and’ stab it in de side, near de shoulder. As de bar started toinin’ roun’ to make annuder lunge at de (edit) he notice de blood spurtin’ frum de shoulder. An’ whut do yo’ think happen’? Dat ole bar forgets all about Jerry. Hastily scramblin’ aroun’, he begins to pick up leaves, an trash an’ clamps dem on de wound, tryin’ to keep frum bleedin’ to deaf. Yo’ ax did de bar die? Well, suh, I didn’ wait to see de result. Jerry, he done lef’ dem parts, an’ not wantin’ to stay up in dat tree alnight by mahself, I scrambles down an’ run fo’ mile home in double quick time!”

 

I ask you, what kind of bear notices it is bleeding, stops in the middle of an altercation, begins gathering leaves, and then packs its own wound? I will tell you the answer. None. No bear behaves in this manner. If Doc Quinn is not spinning a yarn to his interviewer, the creature his fishing partner, Jerry, tangled with was certainly no bear. Was it an aggressive sasquatch? Certainly, the location was right as the aggressive nature of the Fouke Monster would be well documented some years later. There is a real shortage of viable alternatives if the creature in question was not a bear.

 

The parallels between these two accounts – accounts separated by more than a century and approximately 1,400 miles – are uncanny. Bears cannot and do not gather up corn in their “arms” and walk away with it in a bipedal fashion. Yet, a Jesuit missionary and a former Arkansas slave describe observing this same behavior. Doc Quinn’s account of how his fishing partner, Jerry, tangled with an animal that packed its own wound after being stabbed lends credence to the theory that something other than a bear was roaming about Miller County, Arkansas in his youth. Is it possible that these two men from very different worlds - Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn and former slave Doc Quinn - described the same type of animal? An animal they had no name for? An animal that just might have been a wood ape?

 

Food for thought.

 

*Special thanks to NAWAC Chairman Emeritus, Alton Higgins, who authored the article, “A Sonoran Sasquatch,” that I drew heavily from for this post.

 

Sources:

 

Brown, D. E. (1996). The Grizzly in the Southwest: Documentary of an Extinction. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Pfefferkorn, I., Treutlein, T. E., & Pfefferkorn, I. (1949). Sonora A Description of the Province. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Higgins, A. (2010, November 19). A Sonoran Sasquatch? Retrieved January 11, 2021, from https://www.woodape.org/index.php/sonoransasquatch/

Lankford, G. E. (Ed.). (2006). Bearing Witness Memories of Arkansas Slavery. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions Answered

As promised, I am going to attempt to breathe some new life into the blog in 2021 so here we go. I receive a LOT of correspondence and get many questions about a variety of topics. I enjoy getting those emails and messages but I do end up answering a lot of the same questions over and over. That being the case, I thought I would make my first post of the year one in which I addressed the most frequently asked questions I get. Some of the questions are personal in nature while others are more cryptid specific.

 

Question: How did you become interested in cryptozoology?

 

Answer: I have been interested since I was a young boy. In the early 1970s, my grandmother took my brothers and me to a movie. I do not recall what the movie was that day, but I do vividly remember seeing the Patterson-Gimlin footage in a short feature before it started. I was mesmerized. It just looked real to me. I was hooked from that point forward. Television shows like In Search of… and The Six-Million Dollar Man along with movies like The Legend of Boggy Creek only solidified my interests.

 

Question: How many people are part of your organization?

 

Answer: If referring to the Texas Cryptid Hunter site, it is just me. I have had some great folks volunteer to visit sighting locations and send me photos from time to time, but there is no membership or staff.

 

Question: How long have you been investigating bigfoot and other cryptids?

 

Answer: I have been actively engaged in field work since 2005.

 

Question: Are you the same Mike Mayes who is Chairman of the NAWAC?

 

Answer: Yes.

 

Question: Have you ever seen a sasquatch or another type of cryptid?

 

Answer: Yes. I had a sighting of what I believe was a sasquatch in the Sam Houston National Forest in May of 2005. Since, I have three times caught glimpses of animals I strongly believe were wood apes in the Ouachita Mountains of southeast Oklahoma, including one just weeks ago. I have also seen one of the hairless canines news outlets have taken to calling “chupacabras” and many Texans refer to as “blue dogs.”

 

Question: What do you say to skeptics who deny the existence of the sasquatch or wood ape?

 

Answer: I find I do not worry too much about what skeptics think. I believe anyone who takes the time to seriously – and that is the key word – look into the bigfoot phenomenon with an open mind will, at the very least, come away feeling that a closer look at the topic is warranted. I fully admit that the evidence is not yet strong enough to conclusively prove these creatures exist (more on that later), but believe a properly funded entity (National Geographic Society, major university, etc.) could obtain concrete evidence if willing to commit the proper resources and time.

 

Question: Many scientists deny the existence of bigfoot because they have spent many years in the field and have never seen one. How is it that they have never had a sighting?

 

Answer: How did the okapi stay hidden so long? The truth is that practically no one is looking for the sasquatch. Even field biologists spend most of their time in labs or at universities. The actual amount of time in the field for most is usually pretty limited and they tend to be funded by grants that dictate the specific research they are to be conducting. There is no time or money for “bigfoot hunting.” I would add the majority of witnesses state something along the lines of "I've hunted for X years and never seen anything like that" or "I've lived here my whole life and have never seen anything unusual." These animals are extremely furtive and these sorts of statements are the norm rather than the exception. Most people who spend time in the woods won't see them.

 

Question: With all the trail and surveillance cameras out there, why are there no photos of wood apes?

 

Answer: Most trail cameras are placed by hunters watching feeders and/or food plots. Even these cameras are rarely left up year round. There are often regulations that limit how long cameras are allowed to be left up on public land. Too, these cameras are rarely deep into the wilderness where I believe these animals spend most of their time. A hunter typically places his cameras no more than 100-300 yards off a road or an ATV trail. As for surveillance cameras, there are not many of them out in the middle of the forest. Having said that, there are at least a few extremely compelling images and videos that have been captured. The fact that they have garnered so little attention from the scientific community proves that no photo or video will ever be enough to get this species officially documented.

 

Question: Why have we not found the body/bones of a sasquatch?

 

Answer: Nature simply does not allow a body to last very long. In a true wilderness, environmental factors like temperature, humidity, insects, scavengers, and acidic soils work to “clean up” a body very quickly. Think about how often the body of a bear or mountain lion – two species that are almost certainly more prolific than wood apes – that died of natural causes are found in the woods. The answer, of course, is almost never. Consider, too, that many animals often seek the most remote and inaccessible location possible when they are sick or injured (think about a sick dog that hides under the porch of a house). Should an animal die in one of these locations, the chances of a human hiker or hunter finding it are pretty small. I do feel it is possible bones have been found and were misidentified and left behind due to their not being thought of as anything special. Outside of a skull or pelvis, most bones are not easily identifiable to laymen.

 

Question: Do you believe it is necessary to collect a specimen in order to prove the species exists?

 

Answer: Yes, I do. It may be unsavory to many – and I understand that – but science requires a body. It really is that simple. A compelling photograph or an anomalous DNA sample might get the attention of some in the scientific community, but for the species to be officially recognized, it will take a specimen. That is just the way science works.

 

Question: If bigfoot is an endangered species, won’t collecting a specimen increase the odds of of it going extinct?

 

Answer: No, I do not believe that. The collection of one individual should have no effect on the entire population of animals. The key here is to think in terms of a population as opposed to thinking of an individual. Collecting one – and one is all I would approve of - in order to save the population is worthwhile. The government will never set aside preserves or sanctuaries or legally protect the wood ape until it moves from the realm of myth and cable television into the pantheon of known and documented creatures. If the collection of one specimen is enough to send the species spiraling into the abyss of extinction, the animal is functionally extinct already.

 

Question: Why don’t you just try to tranquilize a specimen and capture it instead?

 

Answer: The short answer is that such an undertaking is immensely complicated, expensive, and dangerous. Tranquilizing an animal – especially one as large as most wood apes are reputed to be – is an extremely dicey undertaking. I think it would be all but impossible. For more on this topic, listen to the latest episode of the NAWAC’s official podcast, The Apes Among Us, titled “Exploring Alternative Paths to Discovery.”

 

As you can see, most of the questions I get are in regard to the bigfoot phenomenon. The sasquatch remains the undisputed “king of the cryptids” when it comes to public interest. For more answers to the most commonly asked wood ape questions, see my Sasquatch FAQ Series.

 

Check back soon as I have several other posts in the works including new black panther reports, historical bigfoot sightings, and an update on the NAWAC’s “Hadrian’s Wall” camera project.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Sasquatch Classics: The Leflore County Bigfoot War

The telling of scary stories around a campfire is a tradition that is likely nearly as old as mankind itself. While tales of ghosts, goblins, and murderous psychopaths can rattle the cage of nearly anyone, what better subject for a campfire story could there be than a cannibalistic and murderous sasquatch? The story of a haunted house might be creepy, but unless you are actually staying in the house in question it is easily and quickly forgotten once the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers appear at the fire. Tales of a creature – a creature many people regard as being real – stalking the very woods in which you have pitched your tent, however, are not always so easy to put aside. One such terrifying tale is the story of a “bigfoot war” that allegedly took place in eastern Oklahoma during the mid 1850s.The story of the LeFlore County bigfoot war is one I have heard bits and pieces of through the years. I finally decided to look into the matter, gather as much information as I could, and make a determination as to whether the tale might have some truth to it or was an outright fabrication. Following is what I was able to find out.

It is said that in or around 1855, a band of Choctaws in what is now LeFlore County and farmers in what is now Arkansas were experiencing some terrifying events. It all began in a rather benign way with the theft of vegetables, a few head of livestock, and other foodstuff by stealthy bandits in the night. The thieves were cagey, quiet, and never seen. They were also smart, as somehow they never ventured into Choctaw encampments on nights when a watchman was in place. Neither did the bandits ever fall into the traps set for them by farmers outside of Indian Territory. Those charged with finding and capturing these marauders began to develop a begrudging respect for the wiliness of their adversaries as time went by and the petty thefts continued. While the thefts were annoying and did cause some hardships, neither the Choctaw or the neighboring Anglo farmers were afraid of the food bandits; however, things changed once women and children began to go missing.

 

Spurred by reports of these kidnappings, a group of 30 Choctaw cavalrymen was organized to hunt down the abductors. The group was led by Joshua LeFlore, a man of mixed Choctaw and French blood, who was deeply respected by his fellow tribesmen. Also joining the search party was a Choctaw warrior named Hamas Tubbee and his six sons. The Tubbees were huge men – all approaching seven feet in height and weighing in at more than 300 pounds each – and were regarded as fierce warriors and expert horsemen.  The Tubbees were so effective in mounted warfare that despite their massive size, they became known as the “Lighthorsemen.” The contingent of searchers, armed to the teeth, set out into the region known today as the McCurtain County Wilderness Area to search for the kidnappers.



After riding all day, the searchers finally arrived in the area where they believed the bandits to be hiding. LeFlore brought his troops to a halt, stood up in his stirrups, and surveyed the area with a spyglass. It is unclear exactly what LeFlore saw but whatever it was, he ordered his men to charge toward a stand of pines roughly 500 yards distant. LeFlore and the Tubbee men led the attack. As the troops closed the distance between themselves and the stand of pines where the kidnappers were thought to be hiding, they were assaulted by a tremendous stench, the unmistakable odor of decay and decomposition. The horses of most of the men began to buck and rear, tossing their riders. Only the mounts of LeFlore and the Tubbee men were disciplined enough to remain composed, allowing the eight men to continue through the pines. As the men cleared the small wooded patch they came upon a large earthen mound. Scattered across the mound were the bodies of children and women in various stages of decomposition. LeFlore and the Tubbees caught a glimpse of a number of the murderers fleeing into the tree line on the opposite side of the mound. Only three of the killers stood their ground to meet the charge of the “Lighthorsemen.” It was at this time that the cavalrymen realized they were not going up against any human foe; rather, standing before them, snarling and beating their chests, were three huge, hair-covered creatures. Despite what must have been a shocking sight to him, LeFlore drew his pistol and sabre, spurred his mount, and charged. As LeFlore approached the nearest ape, it took a mighty swipe and struck his horse in the head, killing it instantly.  LeFlore managed to roll off the falling horse, quickly jumped to his feet, and fired multiple shots into the chest of the creature. Once his pistol was empty, LeFlore attacked the ape with his sabre, opening up gaping wounds on the animal which roared in rage and pain.

 

LeFlore’s assault on the creature was so quick, and the shock of seeing hair-covered monsters so great, that the Tubbee men hesitated, completely stupefied, before entering the fray. This delay allowed one of the other two apes to get behind LeFlore, who was intensely focused on the ape he had engaged. The second beast grabbed LeFlore’s head with two huge hands and ripped it from his shoulders. The horrible sight jolted the Tubbee warriors into action and they opened fire on the three sasquatches with 50-caliber Sharp’s buffalo rifles. Two of the beasts were killed instantly, dropping in their tracks. The third creature was wounded but turned and fled before the lethal shot could be fired. Robert Tubbee, only 18 years old but already 6’ 11” and well over 300 pounds, spurred his horse, ran down the injured ape, and dispatched him with his hunting knife.

 

As the rest of the troop, after gathering their panicked horses, joined them, the “Lighthorsemen” surveyed the area. The bodies of dead women and children, most partially devoured, littered the area. The smell of decay, along with the terrible odor of the beast’s feces, caused many of the men to vomit. After composing themselves, the men gathered the remains of the unfortunate women and children and buried them. They also buried their leader, Joshua LeFlore. As for the three ape-like monsters, their bodies were placed upon a huge bonfire and burned. Their hellish task complete, the Choctaw warriors returned to Tuskahoma, where it is said even the mighty Tubbee men were plagued by terrible nightmares for years afterward.

 

Some story, is it not? But is any of it true? While I could not find much, it does appear the Tubbees existed. So, too, did a man named Joshua LeFlore. What I could not find was any mention – at least in any official documents – that Leflore died in battle. For that matter, I have been unable to find any information leading me to believe that the LeFlore County bigfoot war took place anywhere outside of the realm of folklore.



Having said that, is it possible that the LeFlore County incident was actually based on a real event that took place in a different location? According to a bigfoot researcher named Jim King, the answer might be yes. King believes the LeFlore County story is based on an event that took place much farther west in Kiowa territory, an event related to him by an Indian elder. According to the story, Kiowa women were placed in a special teepee or tent on the edge of camp when they started their menstrual cycle. The women stayed there, being tended to only by older women, until their cycle was complete. The elder told King that women were considered “unclean” during their cycles and Kiowa warriors were not only forbidden any physical contact with the females during this time, they were not even to look upon them (This seems harsh but it not too different than the way many cultures treated menstruating women in the past.) The elder said that once, long ago, there had been trouble with ape-like creatures who were attracted by the scent and pheromones emanating from the tent where the menstruating women were housed. Since the tent was on the edge of the encampment, it proved to be an easy target for renegade apes who are said to have entered and carried off women on several occasions. To make a long story short, the Kiowa leadership decided this was unacceptable and put together a group of warriors to hunt down the kidnappers. The searchers did manage to track an ape back to its lair and killed not only it, but an entire family unit.

 

Could the LeFlore County story have its roots in the tale told to Jim King by the Kiowa elder? Is there any truth at all – even the smallest of grains – in either tale? I have heard many put their faith in the LeFlore County version simply due to the name of the unfortunate Joshua LeFlore. “They wouldn’t have named the county after him if it wasn’t true,” and other similar statements abound. I, however, have not been able to find anything saying LeFlore County was named after Joshua LeFlore. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s website, “The name honors the prominent LeFlore family of the Choctaw Nation.” Could Joshua LeFlore have been one of the “prominent LeFlore family?” It is certainly possible, but there does not seem to be any documentation singling out Joshua or his actions as the reason for the naming of the county. 

 

The story of the LeFlore County bigfoot war, even if totally fictional, does seem to point to the fact that enormous, hair-covered, ape-like animals have been thought to reside in the region for a very long time; a time long before the Patterson-Gimlin film brought bigfoot into America’s consciousness. Add this to the beliefs of many other Native American tribes from across the North American continent who have long told stories of these creatures snatching women and children and the anecdotal evidence stack grows taller. Truth be told, the idea of child- or woman-snatching sasquatches continues to thrill, terrify, and enthrall us to this very day. One needs to look no farther than the success of David Paulide’s Missing 411 books to confirm this.

 

It may very well be the tale of the LeFlore County bigfoot war was inspired by actual, less dramatic events (think the siege of Honobia, the Ape Canyon incident, etc.) Over the years, such a story would be embellished and grow to mythic proportions. It is all but inevitable as a good scary story is irresistible. Do not be too hard on those who might have added to the original facts. After all, we all know the most frightening types of campfire stories will always have one thing in common…

 

...they could really happen.

 


Sources:

 

The LeFlore Horror/Bear [Radio series episode]. (2018, April 18). In World Bigfoot Radio #53.

Swancer, B., & Seaburn, P. (2018, June 06). The Strange Case of the Human-Bigfoot War of 1855. Retrieved August 21, 2020, from https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/06/the-strange-case-of-the-human-bigfoot-war-of-1855/

Nashoba, D. T. (2002, January 6). The Legend of Sacred Baby Mountain [Scholarly project]. In Google Groups. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://groups.google.com/g/alt.bigfoot.research/c/tD56ttwlfik?pli=1

Le Flore County: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=LE007

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Catching Up: Previously Unpublished Black Panther Sightings

While it is true that I have not blogged much over the last year or two, reports of “black panthers” have continued to reach my inbox. I feel the need to catch you all up on a few of the more compelling sighting reports I have received during my “away time.” Following are some of the reports I found the most interesting. 

Before we get into the reports, however, I must – once again – post the disclaimer that I know there is no such thing as a “black panther” according to mainstream science. The panthers of the movies and television (think Jungle Book) are either melanistic leopards or jaguars. Neither of those species is known to inhabit Texas, the American South, or parts farther west or north. Still, the reports of black, large, long-tailed cats have continued. Documenting and charting the location of the most credible reports is part of my ongoing effort to answer one simple question. What are the black panthers of North America?



Reported 1/28/17

“As you can see, this pic was taken by my game camera. I thought you might enjoy seeing it. It was taken on my ranch near Palestine. It’s not a hog, dog, calf, or goat, so if not a black cat, what the heck is it? FYI, the winch on the tri-pod is 42” high.”

-       Ken Broom

TCH Comment: What the heck is it? Is a valid question in this case. Ken’s assertion that the animal is not a hog, dog, calf, or goat may be spot on, but the photo is so dark that a definitive identification simply is not possible. That being the case, I have not added this report to my black panther sightings distribution map. I decided to post here today as photos are always fun to examine and analyze. Let the debate begin…

Reported 2/23/17

Hello, my name is Taylor and I'm writing on behalf of my mother, Amanda. On Feb. 23 2017 at 1:00 a.m., my mother saw a very large black cat matching the description of many other sightings near Oak Leaf Road and Lakeview Drive in Conroe, Texas. This is a residential area with a lot of livestock. I was not in the car with her but she's asked me to tell the story as your website popped up when we were researching these sightings.

They have always been a sort of urban legend in this area for at least the last decade, if not more, and other family members have sworn up and down they've seen something. I didn't quite believe it until my mother called me in shock.

She was driving down Oak Leaf Road and was taking the last sharp curve before her turn when she saw a very large dog in her lane. She slowed down to less than ten miles per hour and drove around it into the left lane. This is a very narrow country road and she didn't have a lot of space because the dog would not move. That is when she realized that it was not a dog. She described it as a black panther (I believe she saw a melanistic black jaguar) that was standing on four paws with its head raised, very alert. She drives a Honda Civic, a small sedan, and said that he was so tall his head was level with her passenger window and they made eye contact. He did not flinch or move to avoid her car - he showed absolutely no fear. She said that he was very muscular and healthy and had long, shiny whiskers and chin whiskers. She described him as having a broad face, short ears, and thick tail.

I think it's an incredible story and I don't think she would have mistaken it for a mountain lion/cougar. We have had close encounters with cougars before and she is positive that she saw what is colloquially referred to as a black panther. Hopefully this account interests you.”

-       Taylor and Amanda

TCH Comment: This one is really very simple; if events unfolded the way they have been reported, there is practically no chance of mistaken identity. I find no reason to doubt the story as it has been related. Yes, most of the time an animal in the road will yield to an oncoming vehicle and move away, but not always. I have had to slowly drive around dogs, cats, and deer on occasion because they would not move. It happens. The area where the sighting took place, while residential, is not your typical suburban neighborhood. There remain a lot of heavily wooded acreage in the area and the east fork of Crystal Creek runs just to the south of the sighting location. The area is just south of the Sam Houston National Forest, an area from which many black panther reports have originated. I find the account plausible and have added it to my black panther distribution map.

Reported 9/10/17

In the early 1960s, two of my uncles worked security at the chemical plant
near Bloomington, TX (in those days it was owned by Dupont). This area
around the Guadalupe River as it reaches the Gulf is swampy and, in those
times, was sparsely inhabited. The plant itself is next to a barge canal on
a large tract of low, wooded land. Its abundant wildlife included deer and
razorbacks, which kept the local black panther that lived on the plant
land well fed.

Company officials speculated that someone must have released an exotic pet
here. Sightings of this big cat were so common that Dupont employees
became nonchalant about having a potentially dangerous predator
on the property. Uncle Al said he once saw the cat with a whitetail in its
mouth, dragging the dead animal like it was no more than rag doll.

In 2005 I went to the plant to see if company newsletters from the 1960s
still exist, hoping to read about Dupont's pet cat. But Union Carbide
bought the plant long ago. Nothing from that era was saved.

In retrospect I concluded the Dupont animal was a melanistic jaguar that
had roamed up the coast from the Rio Grande valley. In colonial Texas,
jags lived all along the Gulf up to the Sabine. Locals called them Mexican
tigers. There is a daguerreotype photo from the 1840s of a saloon in Fort
Bend county that displayed the skin of a spotted jag on its wall.”

-       J.M.

TCH Comment: Bloomington sits in Victoria County and is now considered part of the greater Victoria metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, only 2,459 people lived in Bloomington. In the 1960s there would have been far fewer people in the area. The land is low in elevation and often marshy; typical Texas Coast geography. There would be plenty of game for a big cat to subsist on including hogs, deer, and nutria. I find the story J.M. relates very plausible and know other black cat sightings have come from the area; however, the story is second hand in nature. Therefore, I have to leave it off of my distribution map.


Reported 9/14/2017

“So, I was reading your posts about black panthers.  We got this from our game camera just a few days ago. Unfortunately, it's the back end of the animal, but you are welcome to make your own deductions.  Also sending you a photo of my 6-year-old for size comparison, he is 4 feet tall.  Photos taken in Bonham, TX; a culvert in a feeder creek.

Send us your thoughts.”

- Janene Thomas

TCH Comment: Bonham sits in Fannin County adjacent to the Red River in north Texas. The area has produced black panther reports before. The photo is interesting. The animal is undeniably black and – using Janene’s son as a reference – almost 2 feet high (I chose not to publish the photo of Janene’s young son. You’ll just have to take my word on the size comparison). The tail does not appear as long as what many witnesses report but is thick and has a rounded tip. The tails of most dogs are more pointed at the tip. While the photo is intriguing, ultimately it is inconclusive. The trigger speeds of most game cameras are slower than I would like and result in many photos of the back ends of animals walking by. The curse of the slow trigger speed seems to have struck again with this photo. That being the case, I have to leave it off my distribution map.


Reported 4/22/18

“Greetings Michael!!

This is Tom Riley, your classmate of NHS '85.  I got your book off Amazon for my Kindle Fire and I loved it!  It brought back memories and stories that I never gave much account to until I saw your research.  Fascinating. 

I wanted to relate to you a few anecdotes of my, and my family's, experiences with the famed "Shadow Cats."  As I was relating the content and context of your book to my wife, she reminded me of her father's account with a Shadow Cat.  Back in the early to mid 80's my father-in-law (Donald Richard, now deceased) was a partner in Eelee's restaurant located under the Rainbow Bridge on hwy 73 in Port Arthur.  Donnie was the man who developed the menu and all the recipes - as well as procuring the fresh seafood that was brought directly to the dock adjacent to the restaurant.  They processed their own seafood daily right on the riverfront.  He would tell us about the black cat that would show up around dusk or a little after looking for easy pickings.  I remember I commented that cats running around a seafood place is not a big deal, his response was that the cat was almost a big a me!  He related that the staff and boat owners all knew about the big cat and would drop deformed flounder, crabs and turtles in a pile for it to eat about 50 yards down river of the restaurant.  Many regulars would comment about sightings over the years.  It was just accepted.  No big deal. What was it?  Who knows.  It was big, black and stealthy.  It kept mainly to the marshy area south of the restaurant mostly.  Reading your book reminded us of the encounter.  A Mr. James Lester "JL" Lee was the other partner in the restaurant endeavor and unfortunately he passed away last year.

TCH Comment: I heard some of these same stories as my friend Tom back in the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s regarding big black cats roaming the marshes around the Neches and Sabine Rivers. The restaurant my old classmate mentions was well-known and popular back in the day. It sat at the foot of the famed Rainbow Bridge that spans the Neches River between Port Arthur and Bridge City. This is the point where the Neches and Sabine Rivers empty into the brackish waters of Sabine Lake which ultimately pours into the Gulf of Mexico near Sabine Pass. The entire area is one huge marsh and supports much wildlife. The Lower Neches Wildlife Management Area sits on the Bridge City side of the famed bridge that sports a vertical clearance of 177 feet (tall enough to allow the tallest ship in the U.S. Navy at the time it was built to pass under it). Despite Tom’s report being second hand in nature, I am going to make an exception to my rule and add it to my black panther sightings distribution map. I do this for two reasons: I heard some of the same accounts he did as a high schooler and Tom is a man of impeccable character with whom I have enjoyed a long personal relationship. He would not steer me wrong.


Reported 5/26/19

“Hello. My name is Barb. I live in the Texas panhandle, the forgotten part of Texas. I am sending 2 articles from 2000 or 2001 regarding a big black cat seen in the Howardwick/Clarendon area.

My longtime boyfriend, Dennis, says he saw a large black cat about a week after the Brass Lantern restaurant sightings, in a locust grove, near his home on the Britten Ranch, which is 3 miles north of Howardwick.

He and I both know the difference between a mountain lion and bobcat.  We grew up in the country, study wildlife, and have taken the Texas Master Naturalist classes. We used to spend a lot of time on area ranches, arrowhead hunting, and have seen bobcats and a couple of brownish-tan mountain lions. He saw a melanistic bobcat years ago when he was a young man. So, given his background, I assure you his big cat sighting was not a bobcat or an overgrown feral cat. According to him, there were many more sightings than what the newspapers covered.

I have bugged Dennis for a long time to find these old newspaper articles. The author David Stevens contributed regularly to the Amarillo Globe News newspaper. The other article came from the Clarendon Enterprise newspaper.

Thanks.

I have listened to you on a podcast and am reading Shadow Cats. Great book.”

-       Barb Thompson

TCH Comment: Clarendon and Howardwick sit in Donley County in the east-central portion of the Texas Panhandle. The area is sparsely populated and dominated by the oil/natural gas and cattle ranching industries. There is plenty of room for a big cat to roam and plenty of prey species in this wide-open area of Texas. The Salt Fork of the Red River and Carrol Creek run through the area and are dammed to form the Greenbelt Reservoir. These water features, along with Kelly Creek a bit farther south would provide ample water and travel corridors for a predator.The sightings referenced by the newspaper accounts and that of Barb’s boyfriend Dennis would be far from the first to come from this lonesome part of Texas. While Barb’s account is of a second hand nature, I found - after doing a bit of research - the spate of “black panther” sightings in the area was well documented. I have decided to include one “pin” on my black panther sightings distribution map to represent this flap of sightings from the early 2000s.


I have a few other intriguing sighting reports that I need to post but this gets me started on the road to catching up. Please continue to send in your sighting accounts of “black panthers” to Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com. In addition, I am seriously considering starting a new camera-trapping project. If you have seen these cats on your property and would be willing to allow me to place cameras, please let me know.

If you would like to learn more about the black panther phenomenon and my thoughts on it, contact me for a copy of my book, Shadow Cats: The Black Panthers of North America. I would appreciate it.

To peruse my freshly updated black panther sightings distribution map, click here.

More soon.