Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Haunts Belle Plain?

The Texas landscape is littered with the remains of towns and communities that almost made it. Some bustled and boomed for a while and grew quite large based on some regional quirk. For example, towns like Marlin and Mineral Wells grew to be quite well known in the early 1900’s because of mineral water. Saratoga boomed briefly based on the timber and oil industries. Never heard of these places? Well, they are not exactly what they used to be. The advent of penicillin spelled the end of the mineral water craze and times got hard in the oil patch of southeast Texas which put an abrupt end to the growth of these Texas towns. While Marlin, Mineral Wells and Saratoga have fallen on some lean times, at least they still exist. Other communities disappeared altogether. The ghost town of Belle Plain is one such community.

Established in 1875 by Nelson M. Smith, Belle Plain got off to a great start. Nelson platted the town site and started Belle Plain College. Within in a year, the town had several businesses and 65 residents. Belle Plain College was already making a name for itself as well due to its exemplary music program. When Callahan County was organized in 1877, residents voted Belle Plain the county seat. Two years later, the town got its own newspaper and good times seemed all but assured. Prosperity, however, lasted about as long as a mirage on the west Texas horizon. The Texas and Pacific Railroad chose to build in Baird, bypassing Belle Plain, essentially dooming the town. In an amazingly short period of time Belle Plain was gone. The newspaper relocated to Baird, the stone jailhouse was dismantled and rebuilt there as well. In 1883, Baird became the new county seat of Callahan County. The college hung on until 1892, the last store until 1897 and the post office until 1909 and, just like that, Belle Plain was gone. Today, only the ruins of Belle Plain College and an old cemetery remain to show that the town was ever really there. This is where our story begins.

The Belle Plain cemetery has been the source of many odd reports for well over a century. The most enduring legend tells of a young boy and girl who fell madly in love with each other during Belle Plain’s heyday. The young lady’s father did not approve of the relationship and told his daughter to end it. Many things have changed since the mid to late 1870’s but the behavior of teenagers is not really one of them. The pair continued to see each other on the sly until one night they were caught. Enraged, the man sent his daughter home to her mother and told her to wait for him. Begrudgingly, the girl obeyed, leaving her young lover to face her father. Exactly, what happened next is something that will never be known. All that is known is that the boy was found dead the next day. The young girl was understandably devastated and believed her father had murdered the boy in a fit of rage. Filled with grief, and determined to defy her father and be with her lover forever, she hanged herself in a tree adjacent to the boy’s grave. To this day, people who visit the cemetery claim to have odd, and sometimes terrifying experiences. Some have reported spotting a young boy in out of date clothing watching them only to disappear when addressed. Others claim to have heard the terrible weeping and wailing of a female in awful distress, presumably the young girl still mourning her young lover. Odd lights are also occasionally seen floating and bobbing among the headstones of the old cemetery. To be sure, the area projects a creepy aura. Between the ancient cemetery and the ruins of Belle Plain College, one’s imagination can truly venture to some spooky places.

As interested as I am in Texas folklore and good tall tales, this blog is not about ghosts or the paranormal, it is about animals and creatures that may or may not exist or that are seen far from their normal ranges. There is another aspect to the legends surrounding the Belle Plain Cemetery that may better fit the cryptozoological mission of this site. In addition to the strange goings on previously mentioned, there are some other weird reports that sound suspiciously like wood ape, or sasquatch, sightings and behavior. There have been several reported sightings of huge, hulking creatures that are covered in hair and approaching eight feet in height roaming the rear portion of the cemetery. Witnesses have described the creatures to be twice the size of a large, athletic male in colors ranging from dark brown to white with glowing green eyes. Long powerful howls, much deeper in tone than those of coyotes, growls and mumbling have been reported along with the sound of an unseen bipedal walker that shadows visitors while remaining out of sight. Some believe these creatures are the guardians of the souls interred here. I do not know about that but can tell you that there have been more than a few wood ape sightings originating from cemeteries in the Lone Star State. Why this might be I cannot say, but it has been reported often enough to be noticeable to those who pay attention to such things.

I realize some will criticize this post as being more of a ghost story than a cryptid story. I suppose they might even be right to feel that way; yet, there does seem to be a biological entity responsible for some of the more bigfoot-like sightings in the Belle Plain Cemetery. Regardless, I have once again found myself fascinated by a small piece of Texas history of which few are aware and wanted to share it.

After all, who doesn’t love a good story?

*If there are readers up in Callahan County who have had any odd experiences in the Belle Plain area, I would enjoy hearing about them. You can leave a comment below or email me at Texascryptidhunter@yahoo.com.

**Special thanks to my fellow NAWAC member Jerry Hestand for making me aware of the history of Belle Plain.


"Belle Plains Cemetery." RealHaunts. 21 Oct. 2005. Web. 30 June 2015. .

"Belle Plain, Texas AKA Phantom U." Texasescapes.com. 1 June 2005. Web. 30 July 2015. .

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Jaguar Photographed in New Mexico, A New/Old Suspect in the Black Panther Mystery

Earlier this month, well-known mountain lion hunter Warner Glenn was out on a hunt in southern New Mexico. It was not long before Mr. Glenn’s dogs were on the scent of a big cat. Once they had scented their target, the dogs were off like a shot. Glenn gave his dogs space to work and followed their barks from a distance. It was not long before the barking of the dogs ceased and was replaced by long, baying howls indicating that their quarry had been treed. Upon hearing these telltale howls, Glenn accelerated his pace to catch up to his hounds and dispatch the treed mountain lion.

Then a funny thing happened. When Warner Glenn arrived at the scene he did not find a mountain lion. Instead, his dogs had bayed a full-grown jaguar. Glenn did not reach for his rifle, however; he grabbed his camera. After snapping a few pictures, Glenn pulled his dogs off the big cat and allowed it to go on its way. One of the images captured by Mr. Glenn is below. It is simply spectacular.

It turns out that Warner Glenn is no stranger to jaguars. He photographed another jaguar in the Animas Mountains of New Mexico back in February of 2006, also while out on a lion hunt. The photos he captured are thought to be the first pictures ever taken of a live jaguar in the United States (all other photos were of jaguars that had already been killed). Since then, game cameras have captured images of other jaguars, most notably the cat that was dubbed Macho B in Arizona a few years back, but these cats remain extremely rare north of the border and are incredibly elusive. The latest sighting by Mr. Glenn would seem to be a sign that efforts to protect the jaguar, a cat that used to roam a huge part of the American South and Southwest, are having some effect. Hopefully, this latest sighting will spur further efforts to set aside and protect habitat for this magnificent animal.

As is my habit, my mind began to decipher what, if anything, increased jaguar sightings in Arizona and New Mexico might mean for those of us in Texas. I simply see no reason why these big cats would not or could not cross into the Lone Star State if they are able to do so in Arizona and New Mexico. It is likely only a matter of time before a jaguar is photographed on Texas soil. My guess for the most likely area would be the Trans-Pecos Region, maybe the Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend country or the Davis Mountains a bit farther north and west.

I also pondered what this could mean for the black panther conundrum I have been investigating for years. As I am sure most of you know, there is no such animal as a black panther. The term is a sort of catch-all for any large, black, long-tailed cat in the American South and Southwest. The animals most commonly referred to as black panthers are really leopards or jaguars exhibiting melanism. While jaguars are native to Texas and do exhibit melanism in about 10% of individuals (this may be a high estimate), I have never really never considered them as the answer to the black panther conundrum. I always reasoned that if melanistic jaguars were being seen and reported, then the much more commonly colored/marked individuals would be showing up as well. That has just not been the case. I have received very few reports of anomalous spotted cats. Where are the golden jaguars with the normal rosettes that make up at least 90% of the population of the species? Should more encounters like that of Warner Glenn come to light, I might have to reconsider the jaguar as the prime suspect in the black panther mystery. I am not there yet but would like nothing better than to get there.

It would mean the jaguar is back where it belongs.


Blakeslee, Sandra. "Gone for Decades, Jaguars Steal Back to the Southwest." The New York Times 10 Oct. 2006, Science/Environment sec. The New York Times Company. Web. 13 June 2015. .

Facebook. California Outdoor TV, 3 June 2015. Web. 13 June 2015. .