For numerous reasons, I have decided to create a true website. I will continue to post here on the blog, but the website will allow me a place to make even more information available.
The site a place to keep up with news and appearances, and contains links to podcasts, radio programs, print articles, and television work I've done. Also, there is a collection of my favorite blog posts/articles from over the years, links to my Facebook, Twitter, YouTube accounts, and tons of photos. Give it a look when you can. I would appreciate it.
The website will not be solely dedicated to my Texas Cryptid Hunter activities. It will also serve as my "author site." Now that I have retired from my coaching duties, I hope to write more often. I have a book underway that I think will be of interest to fans of this site and a lot of other ideas. I'll share more about all of that at the appropriate time. Due to the fact that the site will serve multiple purposes, I decided against just using the Texas Cryptid Hunter designation. Instead, I opted to use my name. So, if you are so inclined, click the link below, bookmark it, and visit often for all manner of information. I hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a huge fan of the History Channel program “The Curse of Oak Island.” I guess it should not be that surprising, as I have always been fascinated by a good mystery. The story of the men and women who have tried to solve the riddle of this small island in the north Atlantic over the last 200 years has captivated me and the program is appointment television at my house. My wife, knowing I wanted to know more about the place, what went on there, and who might have been behind it, gifted me with the book, The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan this past Christmas. I was not very far into the book before I ran across a story I wanted to share. I have gone back and forth over whether or not the tale belongs on this site. Ultimately, I decided it was my site and I could put whatever I wanted on it, lol. In all seriousness, I believe most of you reading this are like me in that you enjoy tales of the mysterious and creepy. This story certainly falls into those categories.
The stories of buried treasure on Oak Island go back hundreds of years, but the story I want to tell you really does not have anything to do with the actual search for riches; rather, it has to do with one of the unfortunate souls whose time on Oak Island looking for that mythical fortune ruined, and ultimately cost him, his life. This is the story of a man named Jim Kaizer.
We will pick up the story in 1959, the year Robert Restall signed a one-year agreement with Mel Chappell to take over the hunt for the treasure allegedly buried on Oak Island. Viewers of the television show know the story of the tragedy that befell the Restall family a few short years later well. For the rest of you, I will summarize it now. On August 17, 1965, Robert Restall, at approximately 2:45 p.m., fell into the deep shaft he and his family had been excavating near Smith’s Cove in an attempt to reach the famed “Money Pit,” where untold riches were rumored to be hidden. No one actually witnessed the fall. It is thought Restall was either climbing down into the shaft or leaning over and peering into it when the accident took place. Restall must have made some kind of sound when he fell as his oldest son, Robert Restall Jr. (Bobby), and co-workers Cyril Hiltz and Andy DeMont realized something was wrong immediately and raced to the shaft. Bobby, seeing his father floating in the dark water at the bottom of the pit, immediately started down the ladder to attempt a rescue. By the time Hiltz, DeMont, and Restall investor Karl Graeser arrived and peered into the shaft, Bobby had, also, somehow become unconscious and fallen to the bottom. The three men, knowing only that their friends were in dire trouble, starting down the ladder to render aide. Not one of them made it to the bottom before they, too, fell unconscious from the ladder to the bottom of the pit.
Present on the island that day was a Buffalo, New York fire captain named Edward White. White had been camping nearby and heard the cries for help. Looking down the shaft, he saw the grisly pile of unconscious bodies stacked liked firewood at the bottom. White realized the shaft must have filled with some kind of poisonous gas that had overcome the men. Even knowing this, he lashed a rope around his thighs and waist and had tourists who had gathered near the opening lower him into the shaft. White managed to get a line tied around DeMont just before being overcome by the gas himself. The tourists on hand lifted White and DeMont out of the pit where they were revived. Robert Restall, Robert Restall Jr., Karl Graeser, and Cyril Hiltz would all die in the cold black water at the bottom of the shaft.
News of the tragedy quickly spread until it reached the ears of Jim Kaizer. Kaizer had been working on Oak Island with the Restalls for months and had become very close to Robert. Fifty-one years after the tragedy, Faron Kaizer, Jim’s son, told author Randall Sullivan, “He (Jim) and Mr. Restall were two peas in a pod, both tough and hardworking. They were the type of men who didn’t have a lot of education, but just knew how to do things. Dad really enjoyed going over there. He rarely missed a day, because it was exciting for him.” As fate would have it, though, Jim Kaizer was absent on that fateful day in August of 1965. A water pump at the family home had broken and Jim, at the insistence of his wife, had stayed home from work to get it running. That broken pump probably saved his life.
Once alerted that something bad had happened on the island, Kaizer raced to the scene where he was greeted by a throng of people gathered around the shaft in which the bodies of the four men rested, the shaft he had helped dig. By now it was clear the men at the bottom of the shaft were clearly dead and the operation was now in a recovery, rather than a rescue, mode. The volunteers of the Chester Fire Department had decided it was too dangerous for anyone to go into the pit and retrieve the men. Begrudgingly, it was decided the method of recovery would be via a three-pronged gaff called a treble hook that would be lowered into the shaft. Realizing what a messy operation that would be, and the additional strife it would cause Mildred Restall and her surviving son Rick, Kaizer stepped up and said, “No way, you’re not doing that. I’ll go down.” Using an old World War II era gas mask stuffed with wet rags and wearing thick coveralls, Jim Kaizer made four trips to the bottom of the pit, recovering the bodies of all four men. “After that,” said Faron Kaizer, “Dad wasn’t the same.” Jim’s grandson Tim agreed and said, “My grandmother said it changed him, but it might have been more what happened after. It was hard to know…”
After the death of her husband, Mildred Restall signed over the search rights on the island to a man named Robert Dunfield and moved away. Dunfield, needing a man who knew the island, wasted no time in offering the job of night watchman to Jim Kaizer. Kaizer, who after the events of that terrible day had lost his enthusiasm for digging, accepted the position. It would turn out that he would not keep the job for long. One night that fall, Kaizer came home in the wee hours of the morning. It was clear to his family that he was badly shaken. Faron Kaizer recalls, “He was just swearing up and down, not like he was angry, but like it was just coming out of him. It really scared us…I realize now he was scared. But he was a man who never got scared so he didn’t know how to express it except by swearing.” Seeing the rough and tumble (and previously fearless) Jim so badly shaken and afraid rattled the family. Faron recalls that after about a week his father calmed down, “But Dad still wouldn’t go back to Oak Island. He never went back on the island again, not once after that night.”
The details of what happened to Jim that fateful night came out in bits and pieces over time. Kaizer first shared details with his wife, Beulah, and later his boys. “He told me I wouldn’t believe him, but he was tellin’ me anyway,” Faron recalled. According to Faron, Jim was in the Restall’s old cabin, where he spent the bulk of most nights while on the island, when something terrifying took place. “Dad said it was about eleven or twelve o’clock. He said, ‘I had a little fire going. I put some wood on the fire and then I lay down on the cot and closed my eyes.’ Apparently, he fell asleep. And he said, ‘I woke up and I couldn’t breathe.’ And he said there was two of the biggest red eyes you would ever want to see looking right into his. And the whole body was covered with tight, curly black hair. He said that was all he could see, because the…whatever it was, was holdin’ him down by his arms and had him pinned so tight he couldn’t move. But then it smiled at him and said, ‘Don’t ever come back.’ My dad said when it let him go and disappeared the whole building shook.” After being released, Jim Kaizer wasted no time getting to his truck and getting off of Oak Island. “And he wouldn’t ever go back on the island again after that,” Faron said. “He told me, ‘It was the only thing that’s ever scared me.’”
According to Faron Kaizer, his father was never the same after that. He began drinking heavily, would sometimes be silent and brooding for days at a time, and would often fly into a rage for no apparent reason. Jim’s own family began to make themselves scarce whenever he was around due to his erratic behavior. Jim even started to have run-ins with the law. He became even more unstable whenever he would share the story of what he encountered that night on Oak Island with someone who, inevitably, would not believe him. “When he realized people didn’t believe him, he stopped talking and just bottled it up,” said Faron. Even Jim’s wife, Beulah, though she seemed to believe her husband's story, struggled with just what to think of it. “I remember Dad telling Mom certain things,” remembers Faron. “And she would just shake her head and walk away.”
The story of Oak Island treasure hunter Jim Kaizer would end tragically in 1976 when he shot himself in the head with a rifle outside of a bar in Western Shore. He was not yet fifty years-old. It remains unclear as to what tormented Jim Kaizer the most. Was it the death of his good friend Robert Restall and the three other men that terrible August day in 1965? The four hellish, yet heroic, trips he made into the shaft to retrieve the bodies of his friends? The guilt he must have suffered for not having been on site that day? Or was it the hair-covered abomination that pinned him to his cot, stared through him with blood red eyes, and warned him to never come back to Oak Island?
Some have suggested a sasquatch/wood ape is responsible for the strange experience of Jim Kaizer, though these people have a difficult time explaining the fact that the creature reportedly spoke. Even most of those willing to accept the possibility that wood apes exist would find the idea of an English speaking individual preposterous; however, such claims, though exceedingly rare, have been made before. The dire warning issued by the creature and the way it disappeared bear striking similarities to the experience of Davy Crockett – who was on his way to San Antonio - in the Piney Woods of east Texas in 1836. He, too, claimed an experience with a huge, hair-covered beast that issued a warning. In a letter to his brother-in-law, Crockett wrote, “…I swear to you, Abe, that what spirit came upon me was the shape and shade of a large ape man…” He added that the creature was, “covered in wild hair.” Crockett then wrote, “The monster then addressed a warning to me. Abner, it told me to return from Texas, to flee this Fort and to abandon this lost cause.” The parallels between these two encounters are eerie and could not be more obvious, but the answer to the question of what was actually seen by these two men remains elusive.
Nova Scotia is not without alleged sasquatch sightings and activity. Hikers walking the trails of Uniake Museum Park have reported having had rocks thrown at them, tree-shaking, noises like foot-stomps, and being run out of/escorted from the area by an unseen creature. Another tale told around Nova Scotia campfires is of a Cape Breton sasquatch that seemed to take great pleasure in catching a larger fish - with its bare hands - than a stunned fisherman who had just landed one of his own.
Still, the most likely explanation is that Jim Kaizer drifted off to sleep and had a nightmare, one that seemed incredibly real to him. It seems logical enough, but is it not possible that a lightly dozing Kaizer might have incorporated some real events into his dream? I know this has happened to me while in that gray area where I am half-awake and half-asleep. For example, a while back I was enjoying a Sunday afternoon nap on the couch. I had a dream that an old friend was ringing the doorbell. Suddenly, I snapped to and realized the doorbell was, indeed, ringing. It was not the old friend I had been dreaming of, but a young lady selling Girl Scout cookies (almost as good, lol). The point is, while dozing, my mind took something that was really happening – the ringing doorbell – and incorporated it into my dream. A good friend of mine shared a similar, though far creepier, story regarding this phenomenon and his mother-in-law. This lady is quite independent and makes a habit of backcountry hiking alone. She is sometimes gone a week or more on these solo hiking trips. Several years back she shared an experience with my friend she had while hiking in, if I recall correctly, Yosemite National Park. She always travels light and was carrying only her sleeping bag on this trip. One night, very late, she awoke to see a huge man with a thick beard leaning over her. My buddy asked her what happened next and she said she could not recall and must have just gone back to sleep. Is it possible, that a bearded man was traveling alone and on foot through the area in the middle of the night? I suppose, but I have often wondered if this woman awoke to see something else leaning over her and her half-awake mind turned whatever it was into a large, bearded man to make it more palatable and less frightening. Could Jim Kaizer have really have seen a red-eyed, hair-covered monster? Could his mind, traumatized by the recent tragedies and wracked by guilt, have dreamed the words of warning? In other words, could the creature have been real and the words spoken been the dream? Many have posited this is what happened to Crockett in the Piney Woods of Texas all those years ago. If so, what an incredible premonition. One can only wonder what his fate would have been had he heeded the warning and not proceeded to the Alamo. Jim Kaizer did heed the warning and never again set foot on Oak Island. Even so, his life ended tragically soon after. Perhaps, there really is no escaping our fate.
Oak Island has long been rumored to be haunted. Strange lights and fireballs have been seen. Inexplicable equipment failures – some with catastrophic consequences – have plagued every treasure hunter to put shovel to dirt there. Even Marty Lagina, on an episode of "The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down," admits to hearing eerie screams while out alone near the Money Pit area one night. Marty, by far the more skeptical of the treasure-hunting brothers, admits to having been scared and says he no longer wanders the island at night. Could we add a sasquatch to this eerie mix, based on the account of Jim Kaizer? Or, could it have been something even more sinister. Jim’s grandson, Tim Kaizer, said, “…Oak Island scares me. I believe there is a bad spirit on the island. I believe my grandfather encountered it.”
I will leave you with this, Tim once asked his grandmother, Beulah, about the events of that night and whether or not she believed Jim’s story. Tim recalls her response, “My grandmother looked at me, and then she told me that when he came home that night Jim had showed her his arms. And they had huge bruises on them that had been made by handprints.”
Sullivan, Randall. The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the Worlds Longest Treasure Hunt. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018.
“Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization.” Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, bfro.net/.
Fairclough, Ian. “Stories to Give You Chills and Thrills.” Halifax Chronicler Herald, 30 Oct. 2011.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
In the years since I started writing this blog, I’ve become an avid folklorist. There isn’t much I enjoy more than a good story and I am more than willing to do some looking around to find one. Sometimes discovering a good story requires little more than paying attention to conversations going on around me (no, I’m not above doing a bit of eavesdropping if something catches my attention), but, more often than not, it takes a bit of digging. I try hard to visit the public library of any town I visit just to see what hidden gems they might have in their stacks. It dawned on me this week that I had never really explored the library at my own school. I quickly remedied that situation and, sure enough, found something of interest.
The myths and legends of the Native Americans have always fascinated me and it is always interesting to see if any of these old tales could possibly tell us anything about cryptid animals. While combing through my school library, I came across a book titled Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies by Ella E. Clark and checked it out. In it, Ms. Clark recounts a couple of tales that tell of giants that once roamed North America. I wondered if references to these giants could possibly be explained by early wood ape/sasquatch encounters. Below I will summarize a few of the more interesting legends regarding these giants I found in the book.
On their way to the Pacific Northwest, members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition ran into a group of Flathead Indians in the Bitterroot Valley of what is now western Montana. The tribe was friendly to these white men, the first they had ever seen. The Flatheads shared not only their food with the explorers, but some of their folk tales involving giants they called Natliskeliguten, which in their language meant killers of men. According to historian H.H. Turney-High, “Fully half of the Flathead stories deal with these giants, and easily two-thirds of them mention them.” These giants were said to have amazing strength as illustrated in the following Flathead tale:
Once when a small hunting party came upon a giant asleep in the forest, they tied him with ropes of buffalo hair, sat upon his chest, and beat him until he wakened. Then he laughed thunderously, burst the ropes, and sent the men flying through the air as he rose to his feet. Seizing one of them by the ankle, he tossed the man across the Missoula River.
The Flathead Indians said the giants were visible to human eyes, but they usually avoided being seen. They gradually decreased in number because, at least according to some, there was not enough food for such huge creatures.
According to the legends of the Coeur d’ A’lene people of northwest Idaho, giants were common on their lands at one time. They were described as having a strong odor, “like that of a burning horn.” Their faces were black and they were as tall as a tipi. The giants would often approach a solitary tipi or lodge, but if several dwellings were grouped together they were not so bold. The giants were said to dress in bear or other animal skins with the hair left on. They lived in caves and had a great liking for fish. So much so, that according to the old stories, these giants often stole fish out of the Coeur d’ A’lene traps. Other than the curious examination of solitary tipis or lodges and the occasional theft of fish from Indian traps, the giants were said not to bother people much. The Coeur d’ A’lene did acknowledge hearing stories from other tribes of women being stolen by the giants, but had no tradition of kidnapping tales in their lands.
The Kutenais people were, according to a fur trader by the name of Ross Cox, who spent five years (1812-1817) trapping along the Columbia River, “the remnant of a once brave and powerful tribe.” The Kutenais numbers fell precipitously due to their nearly continuous warfare with the Blackfeet over the right to hunt the buffalo grounds immediately east of them across the Rockies. Presently, the Kuntenais people live in northern Idaho, northwestern Montana, and southern British Columbia. Their mythology is very similar to other tribes in the area and includes accounts of giants. The principal Kutenais contact for author Ella A. Clark, was a middle-aged tribesman named William Gingrass. According to Gingrass, the giants were much feared and “followed the big streams and whenever Indians went to a big stream the giants killed them and ate them.”
Tales of giants from the mythology of other tribes, such as the Assiniboines and Lemhi Shoshonis, can be found in the book, too. It seems that these tales are all but universal among the tribes of the Northern Rockies. I really enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone fortunate enough to come across a copy.
As I read these tales, I could not help but notice how similar many of the described characteristics and behaviors of these giants is to physical descriptions and behaviors of wood apes/sasquatches reported by witnesses in the present day. The Flathead Indians described a creature that was very tall and incredibly strong. They said the creatures could be seen (no spirit-type of entity here), but that made every effort to avoid human eyes. This furtive behavior is very similar to that described by witnesses who claim to have seen a sasquatch. More often than not, witnesses report a creature that beats a hasty retreat once it realizes it has been seen. Some have reported that the wood ape they saw became aggressive once it realized it had been spotted. Intimidation displays are sometimes reported that include tree-shaking, the throwing of objects, and roars or growls. More than one bigfoot witness has said something along the lines of, “It clearly was unhappy about me looking at it.”
The accounts of these giants in the mythology of the Coeur d’ A’lene people sound as if they came right out of a sasquatch 101 textbook. The giants reportedly had a “strong odor like that of a burning horn.” I admit that I am unfamiliar with what a burning horn might smell like, but witnesses over the years have repeatedly commented on the terrible stench emitted by wood apes. The description of a creature with a dark face closely matches most reports given by witnesses today. Almost all witnesses who report getting a good look at a sasquatch have described a creature that has dark skin (even if the hair on it is lighter in color). The Coeur d’ A’lene belief that these giants had an affinity for fish and stole them out of traps is something I have heard from the stories of other native tribes. In addition, wood apes have often been reported in or near water, perhaps in an effort to catch fish. None other than Bob Gimlin said that when he and Roger Patterson rode up on the sasquatch that would become known as Patty, she was crouched down on the edge of the water of Bluff Creek, possibly trying to catch a fish. Too, the behavior of these giants sneaking up close to isolated dwellings matches up to modern reports. It is the very reason many researchers today will move their tent away from base camp when out in the field. It is generally believed that these apes are more likely to approach an individual tent than a walk into a camp with several. Finally, the Coeur d’ A’lene people alluded to having heard stories of these giants kidnapping women on occasion from other tribes. There is a strong tradition of the kidnapping of women and children by these creatures in the lore of many Native American tribes. Truth be told, it is something that is still whispered about by some researchers to this very day. Critics might point out a discrepancy between the beliefs of the Coeur d’ A’lene and modern reports, that discrepancy being that these giants allegedly wore the skins of other animals. Reports along these lines are so rare as to be practically nonexistent today. Regardless, I am not so sure this is much of a discrepancy. The Coeur d’ A’lene did describe these giants as wearing “bear or other animal skins," however, and that these skins had “the hair left on.” Is it not possible that these Indians, because the giants they were seeing were bipedal and, therefore, in their minds, had to have been some kind of human, might really have been seeing a hair-covered creature?
Finally, the belief of the Kutenais people that these giants followed streams and creeks echoes the belief popularized by Smokey Crabtree, of The Legend of Boggy Creek fame, who once famously said, “They (bigfoot creatures) always follow the creeks.” Finally, the belief that these apes are, at least at times, cannibalistic is one that remains firmly entrenched in the minds of many Native American Tribes to this very day.
Maybe you can see why I enjoy searching out these kinds of tales. They are simply fascinating and when juxtaposed next to modern sasquatch sightings, really make you wonder who or what these giants might have been. It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun. These tales provide strong anecdotal evidence that tales of very large, incredibly strong, and malodorous creatures are not a 20thcentury creation at all, as so many believe. It would seem these forest giants have been around for a very long time.
They are not new at all.
Source: Clark, Ella E. Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies. Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1977.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Since the release of Shadow Cats, my book on the black panther phenomenon, I have been deluged with witness reports, emails, and other correspondence. I work full-time and do not have an assistant to help me, so I have been slowly wading through it all on my own. I am not complaining; the book has been well received and has done well. The only frustration I have had is knowing that there are people out there who took the time to contact me who have been waiting to hear something, anything, out of me. I am happy to say that I have finally caught up on all my correspondence, done my best to vet the witness reports in the queue, charted the credible reports on my black panther sightings distribution map, and replied to all the emails that did not seem to come from...shall we say, eccentrics?
The reports below represent the final credible black panther reports to reach me in 2018 and the first credible reports of 2019. I continue to be amazed at how many normal, every day folks are seeing an animal which should not be here in Texas.
“I hadn't given it much thought until recently but this was back in 2014 when I saw it in Liberty TX. I was headed to work and it ran across the road. It was similar in size to a Mountain lion and its tail was very long and curled up at the end. It ran from pastures to a more wooded area. It went right in front of my car so my lights hit it and it was black. Mountain lions are pretty common here and there’s one large one of typical color that’s consistently spotted on trail cams so I'm aware of what they look like and how big and the black one I saw was definitely of similar size both in length and what seems weight.”
Ariel M. Riehle
TCH Comment: I grew up in this area of Southeast Texas and can tell you that wildlife is abundant. The area has many waterways and is heavily forested. The Sam Houston National Forest sits just to the northeast with several wildlife management areas in between. In particular, the Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge is just north of Liberty proper while the Trinity River runs just outside of the west end of town. While Liberty is not quite as rural as it once was, the residents here are very familiar with what is and is not unusual when it comes to wildlife. The claim that “mountain lions are common here” is interesting to me as, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that is not the case. The witness’s claim that the cat she saw was much the same size as a cougar is not unusual among people claiming sightings of these cryptid cats. Only the color prevents me from assuming this witness saw a mountain lion (the witness is adamant it was black).
“I have been reading your blog for a while, and following the updates on stories. I have a deep fascination with wildlife and environmental education. I will give you a bit of background info on myself before telling you my story.”
(Biographical information withheld per the request of the witness; however, it should be noted that this gentleman gave me his full name, educational background – which included a B.S. degree and a Masters degree)
"I grew up on a cattle ranch between Elgin and Lexington, TX, and my family is 7th generation Texans, all those generations in the same area around Lexington, Blue, Taylor, Thrall, Elgin, etc. We are deeply ‘in-tune’ with the land of the area. I spent much of my adolescence hunting and walking in the woods around Central Texas and some in the Hill Country (McCulloch County) as well.
My grandfather, who was about 70 years old at the time and an avid hunter and outdoorsman himself, and I (21 years old at the time) were coming across an over-grown hayfield headed towards a post oak and mixed deciduous woods on this piece of property that had been in my family for generations. It was early afternoon, mostly clear skies. The property is about 140 acres and pretty secluded, though more people have moved into the area since this sighting took place. At the time, there was one neighboring ranch with folks living on it. The fence-line between the two places was right about where the sighting took place. We were coming across the hayfield, headed East, and were cresting a slight hill when my grandfather noticed movement at the Northeast side of the field. There was a row of round hay bales along the fence there, and he pointed out to me a low, slinky shape moving along the row of hay bales. It was definitely feline in profile, low to the ground, with a long, uniformly thick, bushy tail that was approximately the same length as the rest of the body. The whole cat was completely black, though the coat may have been a bit marbled- or splotchy-looking. The slight color variations could have been caused by shadows of the grass it was in, which was about 1-1.5 feet tall. We watched the animal through the scopes of our riles for approximately a minute as it moved along the row of hay bales. The whole body and tail length was a little shorter than the width of a round bale, which would make it about 4-4.5 feet long total; the top of its back stood higher than the grass, I'd say about 2 feet tall, and you could tell that it was walking sort of crouched down. We decided that my grandfather would take a shot at it as soon as it moved past the last bale. He fired a round from his .30-06, but missed. The cat kind of sprang up and took off into the woods to the Northeast. We just kind of looked at each other and went on with our hunt. We were at a loss for what we had just seen. Needless to say, the rest of our hunt was devoted to looking for cat signs. We went down to a stock tank about 400 yards from where we had seen the cat, and saw tracks of deer, hogs, and raccoons, but no cat tracks. We found no other sign, such as scratch marks, scat, or anything else.
We discussed what we may have seen and our observations matched up. The length of the tail really got us, as it seems like domestic cats (my grandfather typically has anywhere between 10-20 half-feral cats around his house) tend to have shorter tails than what we saw. And they don't tend to grow to 4.5 feet long! After our initial conversation comparing our observations my grandfather refused to talk about it and to this day is very reluctant to do so.
Thanks for your time!”
Name Withheld per request of the witness
TCH Comment: The witness is very familiar with the indigenous wildlife of Central Texas (I wish he had allowed me to print more of his biographical information) and is sure his sighting of this cat is not a case of misidentification. The observation of a “solid black” cat with a “marbled” coat is interesting and mirrors the reports of other witnesses who claim to have been able to see spots or other markings on large black cats when lighting conditions are right. At 4.5-feet in length (the round hay bales present make for a reliable object to judge scale, in my opinion) is too large for a common feral/domestic or a typical jaguarundi. The description of the exceptionally long tail sounds more like a mountain lion than a jaguar, but we all know that there has never been documentation of a melanistic mountain lion. This report is the fifth to originate in the Blue, McDade, Thrall area.
I live in Nacogdoches and saw a black panther a few weeks ago. A friend said there were sites that compiled reports, found yours via google.
It was along an FM road on the east (wilder) side of the county. I was house-sitting for friends and coming back from town between 10 and 11 pm. FM 1878, which kind of jags around where you have to turn off the road you're on to maintain that number. It was past at least the first split (near Naca Valley Vinyard entrance), maybe the second.
I saw a pair of eyes in my headlights low near the grass at the side of the road, like eating road kill maybe. I couldn't see any more of the animal and obviously started watching to see if was going to dart into the road. I was assuming something like a possum. When I got closer I could see the animal was black, and large - then I saw the tail. It was unmistakably a cat, crouched low, back bent in that feline way, tail unambiguous. It wasn't anybody's black lab out for a roam, it wasn't a boar, and it wasn't a housecat. It was big. About like the mastiff I had in length and breadth, but not as bulky.
It was chilling. Beautiful, almost magical - something I didn't actually think was real here even though, yes, I grew up hearing stories and, yes, I know the habitat could support it.
Date was Aug 9, 2018. 10-11 pm. FM 1878 east of Nacogdoches."
TCH Comment: Other than the fact that Elena is reporting seeing a huge black cat, the sighting is unremarkable. Like many other sightings, it is just an animal crossing a road or hanging out on the edges of one. Initially, I questioned how good a look Elena might have gotten of this animal as it was between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. when she saw it; however, her explanation of seeing the eyeshine and being wary it might dart out in the road in front of her car rings true to me. I have had this very same experience many times (of course the animals I saw always turned out to be deer). The fact that she slowed way down made her getting a good look at the animal entirely plausible. Too, Elena is correct that there is favorable habitat of a big cat in the Nacogdoches area. The entire East Texas region is heavily wooded, hence the Piney Woods nickname. Multiple creeks and small rivers wind through the forest as well. This sighting took place in the immediate vicinity of Waffelow Creek. Creek and river beds are natural travel routes for wildlife. Historically, this area of east Texas is rich in reports of large, black, long-tailed cats.
“I reported a black panther sighting to Texas game warden two weeks ago.
I’m a home health physical therapist, so I drive up and down all the back roads but I’ve never seen a black panther?!?
I was driving from Madisonville to Huntsville going south on 247. I got about 2 miles south of fm 2989 when I saw it. I was coming over a hill and in the middle of the road eating road kill was a black animal I thought at first was a large vulture. I sped up to try and scare it, but when I got close it turned to a profile position to look at me. That’s when i realized it was a large black cat!! It turned looked at me then slinked off into the woods. I was going so fast I couldn’t stop in time , so I put the car in reverse but it was already gone. I’ve been down that road a dozen times since but have yet to see the black panther again.”
TCH Comment: Steve’s report comes from an area with multiple sightings. The area is just north of the Sam Houston National Forest and just west of the Trinity River. This all makes the area a prime location where a big cat might be able to thrive. As a matter of fact, this is the general area where a motorist claims to have struck a large black cat with his vehicle (the witness supplied me with hair samples that nobody seems too interested in examining, unfortunately). Steve’s report is just a bit too vague, however, for me to post on my distribution map. I would really like to get an estimate of the size of the cat and bit more of a description prior to posting it. Steve, if you see the or get my reply email, please contact me with those additional details.
“We live in N. TX, near Blue Ridge. Today at approximately 12:30p, my neighbors saw one of these big black cats in their pasture. It was at a distance of about 50 yards. They watched it for a couple of minutes, and got one photo that is about as good as an iPhone can do when shooting through a small window at that distance.
Here is the photo. I tried to boost the colors to see it better. The original was darker and harder to see much. The original photo she took is an iPhone Live picture, so it has maybe 2 seconds of “video”. The fence it is walking behind is about 42” tall, and they said the back of the animal was a little more than half the fence height, so maybe 21-24” to the top of the back. Tail was thick and long.
I have put out my game camera and will let you know if we get any better pictures. We have had 3 other people in our neighborhood see whatever this animal is over the past 2-3 weeks (one was ~4 days ago), so it is visiting with some consistency. In 2 cases, it was approaching/stalking some smaller children out playing in their yard, but took off when the mother came outside. Hopefully it does not continue to do this, as we would hate to have to kill it.
TCH Comment: This account comes from an area just to the northeast of the Dallas suburb of McKinney. The area has been a hotbed for “black panther” sightings since I started the blog a decade ago. While the Dallas metro area and its suburbs are very urban, the city gives way to sparsely populated countryside quickly once outside of town. The photo provided is not good enough to provide any sort of proof; however, it does show what appears to be a fairly sizeable animal walking the brush/fence line of the property. It is true that the animal could be anything based solely on what can be seen in the photo, but the description of a tail that was “thick and long” would seem to rule out a hog (my number one suspect for misidentification based on the photo). I am going to make an exception to my rule of not posting secondhand reports (it is actually Joe’s neighbor who saw the animal and took the photo) as Joe is working diligently to get a better photo and comes across as credible. Joe, if you see this, I would very much like to see that video, short though it may be.
“I don't know if you have a time frame that you consider a black cat sighting. I just recently heard of you when you were recommended through a “Remember When” hometown Facebook page so, I thought I’d send you a correspondence of my encounter. This is one of those things that is hard to forget.
So here you go...back in 1979 when I was 17 years old. I was traveling north on Highway 285 approximately 2 miles from Falfurrias, Texas. At that time I was heading to my grandparents ranch in Concepcion Texas. I remember it was dusk and still plenty of visibility and as I approached a curve in the road I spotted a big black cat crossing the road towards Hollywood Camp. This all black cat crossed about 30 yards in front of my truck. I got a good look at it as it wasn't going full stride. It seemed to be traveling more on a side of caution while it crossed the road. Before it effortlessly jumped the fence and into the camp property it hesitated and look towards me. It was all black, steely eyes, large healthy cat features, very muscular in stature with a long tail. I slowed down and pulled over on the side of the road. I kept watching it to see it pick up speed as it reached open ground. I could see the power in its stride. Within a few seconds it reached the wood line and disappeared.
It was very similar to an encounter I had of a cougar at Big Bend National Park but it was all black like a panther. I remember getting concerned because I didn’t think a large black cat like this would be within these parts of Texas. My initial thought it might be someone’s pet. My reasoning was because my older brother bought a lion and kept it as a pet. My counter reasoning was an escape of a big black cat like this would be public news. The silly part of me thought that’s a whole lot of bad luck with a black cat that big crossing my path. Maybe to the contrary, it might have been good luck as I had a military career with a span of 20 years, additional 10 years as a deploying contractor where I faired very lucky within harm’s way.
It has since been years and I no longer live in my hometown of Falfurrias or Texas for that matter but when I do visit the ranch which has now been left to me I find myself traveling that area with my head on a swivel in case I get another opportunity of a black cat encounter. It’s just something you don’t forget.
If you consider this valid and want to add sighting to your map it was in 1979, 2 miles north of Falfurrias, Texas, crossing highway 285 into Hollywood Camp.”
TCH Comment: I find this report to be very credible. As is often the case, it is simply a sighting of an animal crossing a road. The only thing unusual about it is that this particular animal is not supposed to exist. Falfurrias is in south Texas about 60 miles southeast of Corpus Christi. This account makes for the third credible sighting from this immediate vicinity. Perhaps, a mini-cluster is starting to form? The area is recognized as holding a small population of jaguarundi; however, the cat Saul described seems far too large to have been this species. The fact that the Mexican border is only 80 miles, or so, due south makes a wayward jaguar a possibility. Whatever the case, this area holds a lot of wide-open spaces in which a large cat could survive.
“I was doing some research online about ‘extremely large black cats’ in Texas while trying to find something that made sense or validated my experience in Johnson County, Texas regarding an impossibly large black cat on my property on multiple occasions and came across your blog. Have you ever heard of any black panther sightings in this area of Texas?”
TCH Comment: This is not exactly a classic sighting report, but Lacey did include a photo that I am assuming is the animal she has been seeing on her property, so I thought I would share it. In answer to her question, yes, there has been at one other report from the Keene area west of Alavarado Lake. In addition, there have been reported sightings in the counties surrounding your location. Feel free to email me with additional details. Should you need any help, I’m located in Temple, less than two hours south of you.
As I wrap up this post, I find myself, once again, in an odd place. Science firmly insists that no large, black, long-tailed cat species makes its home in Texas (or anywhere else in the United States); yet, many of my fellow Texans - working people just like me who seem quite normal - are adamant they are out there and are being seen. As 2019 gets into full gear, I hope that this will be the year that this cryptozoological mystery is solved. Somehow. Some way. Would I like to be the one to do it, or at least be a part of it? Of course, I would; however, I do not feel that it is necessary. If this mystery is solved, if the identity of the black panthers of North America is revealed, then my work has been validated and that is really all I could ever hope for.
Let's make it happen this year.
*For more information on the black panther phenomenon, pick up a copy of my book on the subject, Shadow Cats: The Black Panthers of North America. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online book-sellers.
*Have there been sightings of black panthers near you? Find out by visiting my interactive black panther sightings distribution map. Click each pin that marks a sighting location for a brief description of what the witness reported.
Sunday, December 30, 2018
While I have not been very active on the blog over the past year, that has not stopped new black panther sighting reports from coming in to me via email. The sightings below actually reached my inbox this past summer. While I never managed to prepare a post detailing them, I did get them posted on my interactive black panther sightings distribution map. That being the case, anyone who has perused the map since that time may recognize these accounts. I present them here for two reasons. First, I am trying very hard to catch up on the backlog of accounts and clean out the old inbox. Second, the emails provide much more detailed accounts of each sighting than the thumbnails available on the distribution map.
I think you will be impressed with the quality of the accounts below. More and more witnesses are stepping up and providing their names as opposed to submitting their stories anonymously. This makes things so much easier on me and adds to the credibility of the reports. These people saw some type of animal they did not recognize. Science says there is no such thing as a black panther. If that is the case, what are people seeing?
Reported July 8, 2018
I sighted a Black long tailed panther in late summer, 1982, on CR 154 south of CR 156, northeast if Cisco, TX. See the attached picture. The red mark near the tracks is about where it was. I was driving south on 154 and it ran from west to east across the road, barely within my headlight beams.
TCH Comment: Cisco sits in Eastland County in north-central Texas and is known more for being the location of Conrad Hilton’s first hotel and the Marshall Ratliff gang’s infamous “Santa Claus robbery” than it is for cryptid cats. Eastland county is comprised of 932 square miles and has no large cities. There is ample room and resources for a big cat to survive in this rural area. This is the second documented sighting of a large, black, long-tailed cat in the immediate area around Cisco. The previous report also involved a motorist who saw a big black cat cross the road in front of him near Lake Cisco in 2014. The witness in this case took the time to mark a map showing the location of her sighting. I have added this report to my black panther sightings distribution map.
Reported July 16, 2018
My name is Aynslie Andrew, I am from Honey Grove, Texas. My apologies for it being so late, but I’m shaken from what I saw tonight!
As I was on my way back into town around 10:30 PM, headed from Telephone, TX to Honey Grove, I was coming out of Bois D’Arc bottom. With the new municipal lake coming in, a lot of dozing of trees has taken place... (Driving at night, I am always alert and looking for little critters in the road) Ahead of me, I saw a reflection of eyes, and I slowed quickly as I usually do. With my bright lights on, I saw a figure, cat-like, LARGE creature. I slowly drove closer, probably going 15 mph. The animal, scurried into the ditch, as it did that, I got a better look. It was a large black cat-like, I wanna say like a jaguar or panther type animal. VERY long tail— almost as long as the animals body. Anyway, as it entered the ditch, it was as if it had hunkered down, with the reflection of my headlights it seemed as if it was watching me, (keep in mind at this point i was probably going 4-5 mph, barely rolling) I was shocked!! It was something I have NEVER seen before. Once I got home, I began googling for other sightings, and I came across your blog. I’m not sure if you’re as active as you used to be, but I thought I would send my sighting in to you anyway!
TCH Comment: Another road crossing report. The details of this sighting are very similar to other reports I have received. The behavior of the cat – crossing and then hunching down low to watch the vehicle pass – is one that has been observed several times. The sighting location is just south of the Caddo National Grassland area. The Grassland has two bodies of water – Coffee Mill Lake and Lake Crockett – and is bisected by the Bois d’Arc Creek. The Bois d’Arc, as creeks go, is a major waterway that stretches from just west of Whitewright, west of the sighting location, to the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border to the northeast of the sighting location. It is a major thoroughfare for all types of wildlife and some rather odd animal sightings have taken place up and down its length. Other sightings of “black panthers” have been reported from the areas surrounding the spot where this visual took place. I have added this report to my sightings distribution map.
Reported July 22, 2018
I saw one cross a dirt road about 12-14 feet in front of me on the LA/TX line in the Sabine river bottom in DeSoto Parish LA about 6 miles below Logansport. I was riding an ATV and it happened back in 1990. It was a huge black cat with a small pointy head. Its neck seemed bigger around than its head. I thought that was odd. It was about 7-8 feet long tail and all. Several others I know have seen them in the same area. You can find lots of huge cat tracks in muddy parts of clearings around there. People says we're "crazy" or "lying" but I really saw one...very close....and it wasn't a little kitty cat. It was in the evening before sundown so it was daylight and there's no mistaking what I saw. I'm so glad I got to see one. It was a thrill!
- Thomas Ratcliff
TCH Comment: Normally, I do not chart sightings outside of the borders of Texas, but am making an exception in this case as the visual took place practically on the Louisiana border. This sighting took place just north of the spot where the Sabine River has been impounded to form Toledo Bend Reservoir and the Sabine National Forest. It is prime habitat for a predatory cat as it is loaded with prey species like hogs, deer, and smaller mammals. “Black panthers” have been rumored to roam the area for decades.
Reported July 22, 2018
Hello, my name is Troy Coon. I know your usual sighting reports consist mostly in Texas and surrounding areas, but I thought you might be interested in hearing the reports of “black panther” sightings in close proximity to my home in Appling, Georgia on Lake Clarkes hill/Strom Thurmond. I have lived in the area for 11 years and over the past 6 of them I have heard several accusations from close friends and locals of black panther looking cats being seen off a local road known as Ridge road. Which isn’t but 1 mile from the location in which I saw a large black cat with my own eyes. Early this morning (last night to me) at approximately 3:50 AM on 7/22/2018 I was driving down Keg Creek Dr. and saw a very large black cat dart across the road in front of my truck, so fast it looked almost a blur. I quickly whipped my truck around and shined my bright lights into the tree line and very clearly saw a very dark colored large cat with a tail as long as its body and thick all the way through. I estimate the cat was around 55-70 pounds and roughly 4.5-5” long nose to base of tail. I managed to get a video of the large cat, it’s not very clear but I hope it helps you in identifying the animal. I’m and avid hunter and I’m very familiar with relative size of an animal compared to distance and I can assure you it was no house cat, and the tail obviously rules out a bobcat which are common in the area. I’m excited to hear your input on the matter, for some reason it won’t let me attach the video in this email but I will send it in a separate email with “Georgia panther” as the subject.
Thanks for your time.
TCH Comment: I will not be charting this sighting as it took place in Georgia; however, I wanted to include it so as to show that the “black panther” phenomenon is not limited to Texas. The video included in the report was indistinct so I did not post it here.
Reported August 5, 2018
I am a degreed horticulturist, native Houstonian, and spent high school and college years in Angelina County. I also was, and am again, a secondary science teacher. I currently teach AP and academic science classes at Seven Lakes High School, Katy ISD. At the time of this incident, I was in my second year managing a private research farm NE of Monaville, in central Waller County. There are wooded creeks and the Brazos River bottom within a few miles of the site. I lived at the farm with my wife.
It was early March, 2001, when my dogs, two black labs and two great Pyrenees, awakened me with raucous barking at 4:30 a.m. I slept lightly until it was light enough to see, about 6:30, when I went out to see what they had. They were continually barking all that time. We had chickens, geese and ducks at the farm at that time.
Behind the houses was a tank, or pond, for livestock. I approached the direction of the dogs and realized they were at the pond's edge. I walked up over the bank of the pond and saw the four dogs had cornered an animal against the water's edge. The dogs were lunging and then backing away, barking all the while. I was some 75 yards from them.
The creature was at first sight what I took to be a black bear. (As absurd as that idea was, what else could it be?) But it wasn't. It was round and flat of face, small pointed ears, a short muzzle, and a bit larger than the size of the male Labrador; he was a good hundred pounds. It was black by all appearances. It was not a bobcat; I've seen many bobcats and this creature was three times a bobcat's size, if not greater. Its behavior was to have its back toward the dogs, and its head toward the water. It was on its haunches, but silently swayed its head and neck back and forth. It would turn its head occasionally to face the dogs, looking over its shoulders.
I was shocked. I knew I needed a picture, and ran back to get my camera. I found it, but it was out of film. By the time I got a roll loaded it was full-on daylight. I ran back out to where they were, the cat--and I believe without any doubt it was a feline--had run off and the dogs had, too. I followed tracks across a pasture in the dew from my truck. They all took off to the SE, toward Little Cypress Creek, had crossed the fences, and we're gone.
Later the dogs returned, unscathed. A few days later I asked a neighbor about this incident, his reply was "You saw the black panther. There's one that's been spotted for several years here in the Brazos River bottom."
I know the official explanations for what I saw. I also know, clearly and undoubtedly, as a research scientist and teacher, that a large black feline was cornered by our dogs that day in Monaville.
TCH Comment: What an amazing account from a highly qualified witness. I know well the frustrations that were 35mm film game cameras. They were extremely limited in their usefulness and caused me many painful moments during the early days of my cryptid research. It is too bad this cat did not show up before the camera had used up all of it film.
Monaville is an unincorporated community in Waller County centered roughly at the intersection of FM 359 and FM 1887. The Brazos River flows just to the west of the community. The area is very rural and lightly populated. Numerous stock ponds – large and small – dot the landscape in the area. Possible prey species such as deer and feral hogs are plentiful. Sightings of large, black, long-tailed cats have been reported up and down the length of the Brazos for years now. This report has been added to my sightings distribution map.
Reported August 16, 2018
I enjoyed reading your book, Shadow Cats. You did a great job.
I grew up in Rockdale, in Milam County. During my high school years, some upstanding people would report having seen such cats, usually in a tone of amazement bordering on awe. The sightings were often as simple as driving down a dirt road and having a black panther cross the road. Everybody believed they were there, but it was about a once in a lifetime experience to actually see one.
Later in life I became aware that game wardens and “scientists” would argue that black panthers did not exist. It was very hard to square those arguments with a lifetime of hearing relatives and friends swear to having seen the cats.
In about 2000, I bought a small piece of land in Bastrop County on the West Yegua. I moved a junky trailer out there to live in while I made land payments. Built a small deck on the front. By and by, I adopted a cat that had been dumped in the area. One evening, after dark, I went out to sit cross-legged on the deck and pet the cat. As domestic cats do, it put up with the petting for a little while and then uncurled and got up to sit in the classic upright Egyptian cat statue pose. It seemed focused on something out in the yard (low weeds) in the security light. After a few minutes, I began to get curious about what it was looking at, and examined the general area. To my surprise, one of the shadows in the yard did a 180 and started low crawling away. Under the security light, I could see it was a black cat with a very long tail. Probably 3 1/2 to 4 feet long from nose to base of tail, but seemed light, perhaps 40-50 pounds. It low crawled to the high weeds at the edge of the tank and disappeared. I doubt it was just curious - my little cat might have ended up as the evening meal.
It’s a very odd moment to see something that you have heard about all your life, but had begun to think was as unlikely as Sasquatch. It’s also very difficult to dispute the evidence of your own eyes.
A few years later, I left my place one morning to run into Bastrop for something. It was about 10 AM on a gray morning, very overcast. As I turned a corner on Stockade Ranch Road, I saw a big black cat crossing the road. I gunned the truck and tried to close on the cat to get a better look. This cat was bigger than the first one I had seen. It was crossing pavement so I noticed something I would not have otherwise. The paws on the cat were huge, bigger than I would have expected.
The cat was crossing from Stockade Ranch to a low area across the road. I did not realize it then, but found out later it might have been hunting. At that time, the Stockade kept its round bales in a small pen in that pasture so the cows would not tear them up. I was later told that the big black cats like to get on top of round bales and then pounce on the rat population below.
Sorry this email is so long. Great book.
XXX XXXXXX XX
Round Rock, Texas XXXXX
TCH Comment: I found both of Marshall’s accounts interesting; however, I will only be charting the second account on my sightings distribution map. I do not doubt Marshall’s story, but the low light conditions during the first sighting make a misidentification possible. Again, I think it is quite possible, likely even, that Marshall is right and saw a big dark-colored cat. I just am making a true effort to keep a very high standard as to the sightings I catalog on my map. I have no qualms at all as to his second sighting as it took place in broad daylight. I found Marshall’s observation regarding how big the cat’s paws were very interesting. I have heard this from several black panther witnesses. Did these people see a juvenile cat that had yet to “grow into” his paws or is this a trait common to these large black cats? There is actually a small cluster of sightings in the immediate area where this sighting took place. It may very well be an area that bears watching more closely.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, these are older accounts that I received this summer. There are multiple reports that are much more recent that I am going through now. I will have a post prepared on those accounts very soon.
In the meantime, please email any black panther reports – or sightings of any odd or out of place animals – to me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com