Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Week in Area X


I recently returned from a week in the NAWAC’s primary study area. This area, dubbed Area X years ago, has proven time and again to be a place where odd things happen. The NAWAC is firmly convinced a number of wood apes make this mountainous region of southeastern Oklahoma their home. Events of this past week did nothing to change my mind.

I, along with two other NAWAC members, arrived on site on Saturday, July 27th. A fourth member joined us the next day. Saturday afternoon and evening was spent getting settled into camp and prepping for the week’s activities. Nothing of note took place and we managed to all get a good night’s sleep.



Sunday, we took several day hikes in the hopes that any apes in the vicinity would take note and become curious about what we were up to. In the past, day hikes seemed to have enticed apes to follow members back to the camp site where all manner of behaviors have been documented. Nothing unusual was noted on any of the hikes, but we were hopeful that, if nothing else, any apes in the vicinity were now very much aware of our presence.

One of the strategies we planned on utilizing during the week was to conduct overwatch on a nightly basis. Basically, overwatch consists of half the team staying up all night and scanning the area around camp with thermal devices in the hopes of spotting an ape. It would be a dark camp, no fire. We had heard a loud bang up on the mountain slope earlier in the evening and were hopeful that it was a sign an ape was observing us in camp. Shortly before midnight, the two of us on overwatch duty were surprised to hear a loud sound just to the west of the camp’s small hunting cabin. The sounds were quite unlike anything I have ever heard in the woods before. It sounded like someone beating the ground repeatedly with a large stick. You could hear the stick – or whatever it was – cutting the air just before striking the ground. This went on for nearly a full minute. My partner and I stayed in place and scanned the area from whence the sounds seemed to be emanating, but could not see who or what was responsible. 

A few minutes after this initial flurry of activity, the sounds started again. The maker of the sounds had changed locations slightly to the northwest in the area where a metal carport-like structure, nicknamed the hooch, sits. The hooch is open on three sides and provides a protected area for people and equipment during the frequent rain storms that occur in this corner of Oklahoma. I would have sworn that whatever was making these sounds was under the hooch and mere yards from us. The impact sounds were louder this time, as if the striker was swinging his “club” even harder than before. Whap! Whap! Whap! Despite how close the sounds seemed, we could still not see the sound maker through the thermals. The impacts went on for about 25 seconds and seemed to be increasing in intensity. Finally, I hit my head lamp, firmly convinced I would see an ape underneath the hooch. Instead, I saw nothing and the impact sounds stopped. 

We were astounded that we could not see whatever was making these sounds. Literally, it sounded like it was RIGHT THERE and uncomfortably close. We were more frustrated and amazed than shaken at this point and decided to move on to the porch area of the cabin. The hope was that whatever it was, it would think we had gone inside and might be emboldened to come in close enough for us to catch a glimpse of it. We did not have to wait long. Within 2-3 minutes of our sitting on the porch, the impacts started again; however, things had really intensified. I find it difficult to express just how loud and powerful the ground strikes were. Over and over again, the impacts were repeated. Finally, something struck the side of the hooch with terrific force. We were stunned at just how loud the impact was and how the hooch reverberated for several seconds afterward. We came off the porch immediately, scanning with thermals and then white lights. Nothing. Whatever it had been was now gone. How it could have been so close and yet remained concealed was something we just could not fathom. The remainder of the night was quiet.

While I cannot say for sure an ape was responsible for the noises we heard that night, I simply do not know what else it could have been. Something was swinging a heavy stick or log and beating the ground and hooch with it. A bear cannot do that. A cougar cannot do that. Even playing devil’s advocate, I cannot think of an alternate explanation that is not more outlandish than the possibility it was an ape. Some will say it must have been a person, someone messing with you. Two things on that. First, I do not think a person could have pulled these incidents off without being seen in the thermals and heard approaching and retreating into the bush. Second, anyone who tried such a stunt would be placing themselves in serious danger. We were heavily armed and ready should trouble arise. To pull such a stunt would be suicidal. I believe it was an ape, bigfoot, sasquatch; whatever your favorite term.

Later in the week, one of my teammates had a likely visual. I will not go into the details of how we were attempting to lure an ape into view, but will say that our efforts seem to have been rewarded. He saw a 5 1/2 – 6-foot tall figure covered in black hair peaking up over the bank of a dry creek bed. The animal was standing in the creek bed and seemed to be looking up the trail at something at the level of the forest floor. My teammate watched if for a minute or two, but it did not move. He could not make out a face or other distinguishing characteristics. He could only tell it was lean, upright, and covered in black hair. My friend decided to change his position in an attempt to get a better look at the animal. He hoped a new angle would allow him to positively identify it. In the process of moving, he lost sight of it for a few seconds. Those few seconds were all that it took for the animal to vanish. He did not hear it leave. Was it a bear? We talked about it, but it did not seem to act like a bear. It was quiet and still. Bears tend to roam about sniffing and seem to care little about being seen or heard. This animal seemed to be attempting to stay hidden and quiet as it peaked over the edge of the creek bed. Maybe bears do this, but if they do, I have not heard about it. Make of this visual what you will, but personally, I have serious doubts that what my friend saw was a bear.

I have heard skeptics say things along the lines of, “You guys seem to see bigfoot behind every tree,” and “All these visuals, but no video or photos.” Truth be told, we hardly ever see anything at all. Take this last week, for example. Four men stayed in Area X for six days. That is a total of 144 man hours or 8,640 minutes. Out of the entire week – combining the weird ground striking sounds and the visual – only an estimated 25 minutes of high strangeness took place. That is only 0.2% of the time on site. To be clear, that is not 2%, it is 0.2% of the time spent in Area X. That is a miniscule percentage of time. This despite our best efforts to annoy, irritate, and embolden the apes of the area to react to our presence. As you can see, the reality is that the vast majority of the time in Area X nothing out of the ordinary is going on.

Other than the two events discussed above, the week consisted of hikes, conversation, and dehydrated camp food. Oh, and sweating. Lots of sweating. As always, Area X gave us enough to make us want to get back there as soon as possible, but nothing more. It is a beautiful, wild, and unforgiving place. A place which I believe will yield the evidence necessary to officially document the wood ape.

I hope to return soon.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Black Pumas in the News and the Latest Black Panther Report

I have been reading a couple of book concurrenly over the last week, or so, Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record by Errol Fuller and The Ghost with Trembling Wings by Scott Weidensaul. The former is a beautiful, but very melancholy, look at several species that are extinct and gone forever. Species like the Carolina Parakeet, Yangtze River Dolphin, Eskimo Curlew, and Passenger Pigeon are discussed as are a handful of species that, while considered extinct by mainstream science, may yet be clinging to life in the more remote corners of the planet. The Ivory-billed woodpecker and the Thylacine are two such examples of these types of animals. The book is beautiful and full of photographs. There is something about the black and white images that is truly haunting. The emotions I feel when looking at them are jarring. Guilt, sadness, anger…they are all present and mixed up in a cauldron of sentiment that is impossible to ignore. The latter is a book about loss, recovery, endurance and resurrection. The book is enthralling and hard to put down. It is in this book that something caught my eye…

In Chapter 5 of his book, Weidensaul discusses anomalist cat sightings. Having grown up in the Appalachians, he is particularly interested in cougar sightings. The Eastern cougar is thought to have gone extinct around the turn of the century. Still, Weidensaul points out, people continue to report sightings and, from time to time dead pumas turn up in the region. Clearly, there are still a few cougars in the East, the author concludes. The discussion was fairly typical up this point: How many? Where did they come from? Were they ever really completely gone in the first place? Etc. Then I read the following passage:

“How reliable are those eyewitness sightings? One measure of their veracity might be the large number – between a quarter and a third – that involve black panthers. This is more troubling than it may at first appear. While black leopards and jaguars are fairly common, I know of only two documented cases of black cougars, nor is melanism at all common among North America’s other wild cats.”

Did you catch it? Weidensaul wrote “I know of only two documented cases of black cougars…” Well, that is news to me. In my book Shadow Cats: The Black Panthers of North America, I discuss the cougar as a possible suspect in the black panther mystery, but point out that there has never been an officially documented case of a melanistic puma. There are stories to be sure – many of which I discuss in the book - some of which are very old, but they are stories only. I have sent Mr. Weidensaul an email requesting some additional detail about these two documented cases of a black cougar. If he replies, I will update you here.

The question of whether or not pumas can be black came up again a day or two later when a reader of the blog sent me a link to a very interesting article. You may have read of the recent discovery of a ‘Lost City’ in Honduras. The ruins, built by an unknown civilization and uncovered in 2015, have yielded many items of archaeological significance since excavation began in earnest. Somewhat surprisingly, they have proven to be home to a treasure trove of rare wildlife as well.  Already, three species previously thought extinct, including the pale-face bat, have been found. It was the first paragraph of the article, however, that struck me with the force of a baseball bat.  It reads:

“Trond Larsen was night-searching for rare frogs and insects in the Lost City recently discovered within Honduras’ Mosquitia Rainforest when his headlamp illuminated something surprising: a curious black puma. Larsen, a researcher who led this February 2017 expedition into the so-called Lost City of the Monkey God, walked away from the encounter unscathed, but that puma was but a bite of the magnificence Larsen and his team would find.”

I know you caught it that time.  A black puma was seen among the ruins of a lost city in the heart of the Honduran rainforest. The witness was none other than Trond Larsen, of the Conservation International’ Rapid Assessment Program. Yet, nothing else is spoken about this remarkable sighting. In fact, the way it reads, it seems there is nothing remarkable about it at all.

What is going on here? Do black cougars exist or not? Why does no one seem interested in following up sightings like that of Trond Larsen? Are scientists so specialized that remarkable discoveries outside of their area of expertise are going unrecognized?

Finally, I will leave you with the latest credible black panther sighting reported to me. 

Reported 6/29/19

"Hi, Mike - really enjoy your blog. I don't know how meaningful this report is to your work, but I thought I'd send it to you as a datapoint.

In the summer of 2008 or 2009 I was riding my bike down a gravel road in Frisco just after dawn. About 40 yards ahead of me I watched a big black cat casually run across the road and then sail over a barbed wire fence into some trees. I'm not a good judge of animal mass, but it was about waist high, probably 5 or 6 feet from head to tail. It happened so quickly and was too far away for me to get any details other than the fact that it had a very long thick tail, was very dark, and moved like a cat. Coincidentally, this occurred next to a creek in Frisco called Panther Creek.


The fence on the left wasn't there at the time, but the water treatment plant did exist. There weren't nearly as many subdivisions in the area either. Lots of open land back then.

Foolishly, I kept riding down the road and looked for it when I crossed the point where I saw it jump, but never saw it. For some reason, I thought I'd be able to out run it on my bike if I needed to, but I'll bet I would have been an exciting hunt for her if she decided to chase me down.

I thought for a long time what it could have been, thinking maybe it was just the silhouette of something else, which made it appear black. But, I was riding westward just after dawn when I saw it, so it definitely wasn't back-lit. I also spotted it before it entered the trees, so it would have been in the sunlight.

Also, I thought the sighting you posted on your blog from Plano about that same time was interesting. Maybe it was the same animal.”

- Brian Taylor

TCH Comment:  Brian is right in that Frisco has boomed over the last decade. On the surface, a big cat sighting of any kind there seems ludicrous, but a sighting from 10-11 years ago is another matter. The description given is fairly typical: big, very dark to black, long thick tail.  The area has been the source of black panther reports in the past (see distribution map). Too, I have had a handful of reports that have come from areas very close to water treatment plants, which I find interesting. I will be adding this sighting to my Black Panther Sighting Distribution Map

To wrap it up, in the last week I have become aware of no less than three sightings of black pumas referred to by recognized men of science and academia. Again, I am making an effort to get more information on these sightings. I’ll let you all know how that goes.

If you would like to know more about the black panther mystery, check out my book, Shadow Cats: The Black Panthers of North America. You can hit the link to the right or click here for more information. 

Sources:


Fuller, Errol. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record. Princeton University Press, 2014.

Fuller, Errol. Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record. Princeton University Press, 2014. Page 126.

Funds, Yessenia. “Exploration of 'Lost City' in Honduras Uncovers Trove of Rare Life Forms.” Gizmodo, 21 June 2019, www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/06/exploration-of-lost-city-in-honduras-uncovers-trove-of-rare-life-forms/.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Can the Xoloitzcuintli Explain Texas Chupacabras Sightings?

I was recently approached by a television producer about doing a cryptid-based show on the “Texas chupacabras.” I agreed to do the show on the condition that I be allowed to share my beliefs on what it was that people were actually seeing. The producers agreed, arrangements for shooting on private land in Texas were made, and a tentative date for the shoot was set. I never mentioned any of this on the blog or my other online outlets as experience had taught me that such plans often fall through. As it turned out, the production company decided that they would not be coming to Texas to film after all. While disappointed – this is a show with which you would all be familiar – I certainly harbor no hard feelings; it’s just the way it goes sometimes. One of my biggest disappointments about not getting to do the program was that I would not be able to give my thoughts on what these “Texas chupacabras” might be. That being the case, I thought a blog post on the topic might be in order. While I won’t reach the number of people I would have on the television show, I am hoping that I can still reach a great many folks this way.

The chupacabras legend is a fairly new addition to the pantheon of cryptid beasts. While the myth may have existed regionally before (For example, residents of the Puerto Rican town of Moca endured the killings of dozens farm animals by a creature dubbed “The Vampire of Moca” in 1975), the possible existence of a blood-sucking creature that attacked livestock on the island of Puerto Rico came to the fore in the early and mid-1990’s. Soon, unusual livestock deaths in the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, and the United States were being blamed on chupacabras. The attacks were purported to be similar in that the animals were drained of their blood via two or three puncture marks in the throat or chest, though to my knowledge, this blood-draining has never been confirmed by a necropsy performed by a certified veterinarian. The legend of the chupacabras, however, caught the fancy of the public and spread like wildfire throughout Latin America and north into Texas. 


The original description of the chupacabras – as described by Puerto Ricans in the 1990’s – is of a reptilian-looking creature with a series of long spikes or spines protruding from its back. It had strong back legs on which it stood in a fashion similar to that of a kangaroo. The forelimbs were described as smaller, but ending in “hands” or paws that were tipped with razor sharp talons. The creature’s mode of locomotion was jumping or hopping, again, much like a kangaroo (one must wonder if an imported kangaroo or wallaby might have escaped its enclosure and been wandering around Puerto Rico in the 1990’s). Whatever was hopping around Puerto Rico in the 1990’s seems to have no similarities to the creatures being called chupacabras today. Modern accounts all describe the chupacabras as a canine-like animal, devoid of hair, with grayish-blue to black skin similar to that of an elephant or rhino. The size reported varies from that of a German shepherd to that of a small fox. News outlets seize on every opportunity to publish photos or video of these alleged chupacabras (many Texans refer to them as blue dogs) and have spread this new picture of the creature far and wide. Just this past week, a report of a “chupacabras” wandering about the city of Houston received a lot of attention. In my opinion, the video clearly shows an ill canine of some kind, not a mythical blood-sucking beast. Still, the myth – and this new description – persists.

While I cannot speculate on just what people in Puerto Rico might have seen 20-25 years ago, I do feel that I can offer up a few opinions on what people are seeing here in Texas now. I strongly feel that most “chupacabras” are nothing more than canines suffering from a form of mange. Mange is caused by a parasitic mite that burrows into the skin and kills the hair follicles of the host animal. Sarcoptic mange – also known as canine scabies – causes hair loss, crusting of the skin of the ears and joints, and secondary skin infections. Canines suffering from this form of mange quickly deteriorate into very poor condition if left untreated. The disease is not uncommon among the coyotes and foxes of the Lone Star State. I have seen a mange-ridden coyote myself in the Sam Houston National Forest. It was strange and alien-looking to be sure, but undoubtedly a coyote. It was completely hairless and had the typically described bluish-gray, elephant-like skin. The ribs were protruding and the animal moved slowly and did not appear to be in very good shape at all. I have no doubt that if I had snapped a photo and sent it to the newspaper or local television affiliate, “chupacabras” headlines would have soon followed. I believe strongly, that most sightings of this Texas version of the chupacabras are nothing more than sick, mangy canines.


Having said that, the idea that mangy canines explain ALL chupacabras sightings has never sat particularly well with me. The vast majority of sightings? Absolutely. But, all of them? No. Some of the sightings describe very robust, strong, or fast animals. None of these attributes would be expected from an animal suffering with an advanced case of mange. The famous dashcam footage of what was obviously a very healthy, yet hairless, canine of some kind outside of Cuero, Texas has become the Patterson-Gimlin footage of the chupacabras world. Whatever this creature was, it was clearly healthy. Is there another explanation, another animal that fits the description of the classic Texas chupacabras? As it turns out, yes.

The Xoloitzcuintli, or Xolo for short, is a dog breed that fits the classic description of the Texas chupacabras almost perfectly. Also known as the Mexican Hairless, this dog has been around for centuries. Statues resembling the breed have been found in Mayan, Colima, and Aztec ruins and burial sites that date back 3,000 years. Aztec mythology attributed the creation of the breed to Xolotl, the god of lightning and death, who needed the breed to guide souls through the underworld. The tribes of ancient Mexico and Central America believed the Xolo had physical and spiritual healing powers and regarded the breed as sacred. The unusual name of the breed is a combination of Xolotl and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for dog. It is believed that the first European to lay eyes on this hairless breed of canine was none other than Christopher Columbus himself in 1492.* Once the Spanish conquest of the New World began in earnest, the Xolo became more and more rare. The AKC did recognize the breed in 1887 – as the Mexican Hairless – but dropped it from its official registry in 1959 due to extremely low numbers. During this time, British and Mexican authorities worked together to save the Xolo from extinction. The group managed to trap 10-12 wild Xolos in remote Mexican forests and successfully bred them. After the numbers bounced back a bit, the Xolo was eventually named the official dog of Mexico. While well-known south of the Rio Grande, the breed is still rarely seen, and relatively unknown, in the United States.

I was aware of the Mexican Hairless, but mistakenly believed it was a toy-sized dog only. I have since learned that the breed comes in three distinct sizes: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. The breeds range in weight from 10-50 lbs. As the name implies, they are all but completely hairless (there are sometimes tufts of hair on the head, toes, and tail). The skin color of these Xolos is typically black or bluish-gray in color. The allele that causes the breed’s hairlessness is also responsible for abnormalities in the dentition of the breed. Hairless Xolos usually display incomplete or abnormal dentition that can include unusually long canines. The Xolo is very athletic, graceful, and a strong runner with a sturdy build. This vigorous and robust nature is thought to be due to the fact that the breed was never selectively bred historically. While they can make good pets, Xolos are extremely intelligent and have a reputation as escape artists with the ability to climb and/or jump fences.


When the whole picture is put together, the Xolo must be considered a prime suspect in the Texas chupacabras mystery. While not limited to south Texas, the breed is far more common near the Texas-Mexico border. The bulk of chupacabras sightings that are not obviously mange-ridden canines, originate from the southern part of the Lone Star State. The bluish-gray to black skin so commonly reported is a hallmark of the breed. Too, the over-sized ears – sometimes described as resembling those of a mule or donkey – and long canines are common characteristics of the Xolo. The athletic and robust build of the Standard-sized Xolo matches up well to many descriptions given of the chupacabras and the fact that escapees are not uncommon would seem to strengthen the case that the Xolo could be the prime suspect in this mystery. Finally, and maybe the most important fact of all, is that the majority of Texas residents simply are not familiar with the breed. This is not surprising as the breed was right on the brink of extinction as recently as the mid 1950’s. A Texan who is unaware of the existence of the Xolo, but who has been exposed to the media-driven chupacabras legend, is likely to jump to the cryptid creature conclusion. 

To wrap it up, I just do not believe there is much to the Texas chupacabras legend. I have heard stories of there being DNA testing of specimens that indicate some kind of wolf/coyote/dog hybrid, but have not seen any such studies myself. I think chupacabras sightings – at least those in Texas – can be attributed to sick, mangy foxes, coyotes, or domestic/feral dogs nine times out of ten. On the rare occasions when a healthy, strong, and fast “chupacabras” is spotted, in my opinion, it is a very strong possibility that a Xolo was seen. This is another case where I would welcome being wrong – a weird and new hybrid species of blood-sucking creature would be cool – but I do not think I am. 

*Source material claims Columbus mentioned the Xolo in his journal, but I have been unable to corroborate.

Sources:




https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_sarcoptic_mange

Thursday, April 25, 2019

New Website Now Online

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.

Link: Michaelcmayes.com

Mike

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jim Kaizer and the Beast of Oak Island

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.”


Sources:

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

Native American Lore: The Giants of the Northern Rockies

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

Black Panthers: Final Sightings of 2018 and First Sightings of 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.


Submitted 8/22/18

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). 

Submitted 9/6/18

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.


Submitted 9/10/18

“Hi, 

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."

Cheers,
Elena


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.


Submitted 10/4/18

“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.”

Steve Clark 
  
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.


Submitted 11/11/18

“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.

Thanks.”

Joe XXXX


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.


 Submitted 1/3/19

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.”

Respectfully,
Saul XXXX


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.


Submitted; 1/15/19

“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?”

Lacey ******


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.