Beast of Bladenboro
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The Beast of Bladenboro refers to the creature responsible for a string of deaths amongst Bladenboro, North Carolina animals in the winter of 1953-54. According to witnesses and trackers it was likely a wildcat, but the uncertain nature of its identity lends itself to speculation. According to reports, the entity was known to most commonly crush or decapitate its victims, which were mostly dogs.
Possibly related to the Bladenboro incidents, a dog was found dead in Clarkton, North Carolina (about eight miles from Bladenboro), killed by what Police Chief Roy Fores reported witnesses as describing as "sleek, black, about 5 feet long...." on December 29, 1953.
On December 31, two dogs belonging to a Bladenboro man named Johnny Vause were found dead. There was reportedly a significant amount of blood at the scene near their kennels. The two dogs were "torn into ribbons and crushed," according to Vause.
My dogs put up a good fight. There was blood all over the porch, big puddles of it. And there was a pool of saliva on the porch. It killed one dog at 10:30 and left it lying there. My dad wrapped the dog up in a blanket. That thing came back and got that dog and nobody's seen the dog since. At 1:30 in the morning, it came back and killed the other dog and took it off. We found it three days later in a hedgerow. The top of one of the dogs heads was torn off and its body was crushed and wet, like it had been in that thing's mouth. The other dog's lower jaw was torn off.— Johnny Vause
On the next day, January 1, 1954, two more dogs were found dead in Bladenboro at Woodie Storm's farm. One was "sort of eaten up," according to a witness.
On the night of January 2, a farmer named Gary Callahan reported that a dog of his had been killed.
Two more dogs were found dead on January 3. One of the dogs was autopsied, and according to Police Chief Roy Fores "...there wasn't more than two or three drops of blood in him [...] The victim's bottom lip had been broken open and his jawbone smashed back." Fores also said of the dogs found dead so far, "The ear of one dog was gnawed off and the tongues of two had been chewed out."
Julian "Tater" Shaw, who owned a local gas station, heard that a goat had died in a strange way and traveled to the edge of town to see for himself. According to him, "His head was flat as a fritter [...] it had a great big ol' track... It was weird." Shaw also claimed that whatever killed the goat killed cows and hogs.
Encounters and descriptions
Resident Malcolm Frank reported seeing the animal crossing the street. He described it as "about four and a half feet long, bushy, and resembling either a bear or a panther," according to the January 4 edition of the Wilmington Morning Star. A son of a Bladenboro man named Carl Pate reported seeing the monster as well on the night of January 3. According to him, "it was small, and a little one just like it was running beside it." A third sighting on January 3rd was reported by James Pittman: "[...] about 11:00 o'clock I heard a strange noise outside my window, like a baby crying." He went outside to follow the noise for "close to a mile [...] I saw bushes moving, but I never did actually see whatever it was. However, I think it must have been close to 150-pounds, the way it went through the bushes."
Around 8 o'clock in the evening on January 4, Lloyd Clemmons claims to have seen the beast. The following account, reported in the Wilmington Morning Star, contains a physical description.
I got two dogs, Niggy, the little black one, and Peewee, a brown one, that's bigger. Me and my wife were sitting here in the living room. We heard the dogs get awful restless. My front light was on and Larry Moore [...] had his back light on. I glanced out the window and saw this thing. It had me plumb spellbound. It was bout 20 inches high. It had a long tail, about 14 inches. The color of it was dark. It had a face exactly like a cat. Only I ain't ever seen a cat that big. It was walking around stealthy, sneaky, moving about trying to get to Niggy and Peewee. I jumped for my shotgun and loaded it and went out to shoot it, but it moved into the darkness right away and I couldn't find him again.
A group of hunters from Wilmington including S. W. Garret, G. V. Garret, and Joe Gore spent that night tracking the creature for three miles around swampland. According to them, the tracks showed claws at least an inch long and indicated an 80 lb. to 90 lb. animal. The beast's circling movement suggested it might have had offspring or a mate nearby, the hunters said. During the early hours of January 5, Chief Fores and one D.G. Pait witnessed the beast attacking a dog from a hundred or so feet away. According to them, the dog ran away, yelping, and was not found. Pait also reported seeing tracks along a creek bank near one of the attack sites. He said that there were two sets of prints, and one was smaller. Later that day, in the early evening, Mrs. C. E. Kinlaw went to her front porch upon hearing whimpering dogs. She saw what she described as looking like "a big mountain lion" near the dogs, three houses down. The creature ran toward her, but turned and fled when she screamed. Outside her home, the tracks left in the dirt road were "bigger than a silver dollar" according to Police Chief Fores.
After we first saw it, and my husband [scared it away], it circled back and came running toward the porch where I was standing. I screamed and it stopped on all fours, turned and ran off. [...] You know, the Bible speaks of sights and wonders before the end of time. This could be one of them. The Bible's coming true, day by day.— C. E. Kinlaw
A young boy named Dalton Norton reported seeing what he called "a big cat" on January 6. According to him: "We heard a noise on the porch [...] whatever it was made a noise like a baby crying. It jumped off the porch and I watched it through the window. It went over to one house, then went off towards another and I didn't see it anymore."
On January 11, two cars stopped for an animal reported to be four feet long. Jeff Evers, one of the men in the cars, was quoted as saying the animal had "runty-looking ears" and being "brownish and tabby." Fores said the animal "really upset the women. They were wringing their hands and like that."
Hunt for the Beast
The night of January 3, Police Chief Roy Fores searched for the creature with his dogs, but they reportedly would not follow the trail.
"A half-dozen brave youths" and their dogs spent January 4 searching for the creature responsible for the deaths. That night, Police Chief Roy Fores and eight to ten other officers conducted their own hunt. Hunters who traveled to Bladenboro from Wilmington also searched for the beast that evening, reportedly tracking it for 3 miles around the swamp.
On the night of January 5, more than 500 people and dogs hunted through the woods and swamps for the creature.
On January 6, more than 800 people turned out to hunt for the beast in the swamps. Fores planned to tie up dogs as bait to lure the creature in. This particular plan was called off, and the hunt itself was also ended by officials as safety became a concern.
On January 7, another 800 to 1,000 people gathered to hunt the creature.
During the evening of the 8th, four fraternity brothers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were the only reported hunters. Mayor Fussell officially called off the hunt unless the creature made another obvious kill or there was a legitimate sighting. The armed hunting parties of previous nights had become too large for safety, and Fores received a telegram from a humane society in Asheville, North Carolina protesting his plan to stake out dogs as bait for the creature.
In an interview with Amy Hotz for Star News, Julian "Tater" Shaw recalled, "Everybody was scared. Everybody, near ‘bout, that had a gun was carrying it. [...] Anyhow, it was getting so bad, it was getting in the newspapers and the radio [...] There came hunters from all over, I mean big hunters." Another gas station owner, Jabe Frink, said the panic "[...] kept snowballing and snowballing. It got so nobody would walk out on the street at night."
Luther Davis, a local farmer, produced a dead bobcat on January 13. He found the bobcat struggling with a steel trap in Big Swamp, four miles from the city, at 6:00AM. He proceeded to shoot it in the head at about 8:30AM. Woodrow Fussell, the mayor of Bladenboro, told newspapers that the beast of Bladenboro had been found and killed. According to Gallehugh, however, it was unlikely that such a small cat could have killed and mangled the dogs. On the same day, Bruce Soles from Tabor City was leaving Bladenboro when he hit a cat with his vehicle. According to reports, it was "spotted like a leopard," about 20 to 24 inches high, and weighed between 75 and 90 pounds. He took the cat home with him to Tabor City. Yet a third man is credited in some newspapers as having killed the animal. There are conflicting newspaper reports about whether it was Davis's or "professional hunter and guide" Berry Lewis's cat that Mayor Fussell photographed and sent out to the press. According to Corey, from The Carolina Farmer, Lewis was hunting in a different part of Bladen county when he shot and killed his bobcat.
Many reported accounts describe the Beast of Bladenboro as feline, but do not agree on any one species.
Malcolm Frank described the animal as "[...] resembling either a bear or a panther." Wilmington hunter S.W. Garrett claimed to have heard the creature scream while hunting, and likened it to that of a panther. Harry Davis, curator at the Raleigh State Museum, has said that a panther "[...] never occurs in this country [...] We've checked on panther stories before. One turned out to be a big house cat." He was of the opinion that it might have actually been a coyote: "[...] they've been traded around quite a bit, brought East as pets and released after owners got tired of them."
James Pittman claimed the beast had tracks like those of a dog, but he also said "only I've never seen a dog that large." Chief Fores was also reported as believing the beast to be a mad wolf. He said that "old folks say they remember seeing wolves in the bay-swamp area and talk about them every now and then."
C.E. Kinlaw described the creature as looking like "a big mountain lion" when it charged her on January 5. ('Mountain lion' is another name for 'cougar'.) The January 7 edition of The Bladen Journal reports that some people described the animal as likely being a wolverine. The article goes on to mention that there is speculation the creature may have been a "wild police dog."
A.R. Stanton, a man from Lumberton, North Carolina thought that the beast of Bladenboro was a German Shepherd and Hound mix named "Big Boy" that he gave to a Native American boy who lived along the edge of Big Swamp. Big Boy was dark and had a "long, bushy tail." Stanton was quoted as saying: "I raised him from a pup [...] but if I met him in the woods I wouldn't call him I'd kill him." He claimed Big Boy was capable of leaping over a six-foot fence and killed chickens from time to time. Lumberton veterinarian N.G. Baird said, in regards to Big Boy, that it was "very feasible" he was responsible for the attacks. Baird also said that it was possible Big Boy (or another dog) could have killed the other dogs and lapped up blood, rather than sucking it.
In a letter to the editor of The Robesonian, Daisy Morris claimed to have heard a wild panther years before, and remarked "a dog can't scream or cry like a baby - and I can testify that towns mean nothing to a hungry panther and certainly not to a mad panther."
Literature about the events of the winter of 1953-54 tends towards skepticism, particularly because of the publicity involved for the town through the sensational news reports.
Mayor Woodrow Fussell, who operated the town theater, went to Charlotte, North Carolina on January 6 to book the film The Big Cat for a day. Leaflets published by the theater proclaimed "Now you can see the 'Cat.' We've got him on our screen! And in Technicolor too! 'The Big Cat.' All day Saturday, Jan 9." In an interview with John Corey, Fussell said that he believed the creature to be a hoax, even though he was the one who called the Wilmington newspapers about the dead dogs. He found the manner of their deaths strange, and said that "a little publicity never hurts a town." What he didn't anticipate however, was how far the Wilmington Morning Star, The Wilmington News, and other newspapers would take the story.
We had to do something. The town was armed to the teeth. Even small boys carried guns. Chief of Police Roy Fores and I knew someone would be shot accidentally. [...] The animal was about 90 percent imagination, 10 percent truth. Newspaper reporters labeled it 'The Beast of Bladenboro' and called it a vampire.— Woodrow Fussell, mayor of Bladenboro during the Beast of Bladenboro incident
Corey writes that a "one-arm sign painter" tailored his art to fit the sensationalism surrounding the incidents in 1954, making bumper plates proclaiming "Home of the Beast of Bladenboro."
On the morning of December 15, 1954 on a tenant farm near Robeson Memorial Hospital, a man named Marvin McLamb found "five mediumsized pigs and three chickens" dead. According to The Robesonian, "[...] strewn around a sty approximately 10 by 15 feet in area. The animals were mutilated and four had crushed skulls. Three of the pigs had legs torn apart from their bodies. Strangely enough, no blood was evident, indicating the killer employed the same blood-sucking traits as the Bladenboro beast." The next day, a stray dog weighing 65 pounds was killed. Carol Freeman, the County Dog Warden, said it was "most probably" the killer from the day before, even though the tracks found at the farm were not compared to the dead dog's, and it was not explained how the dog could have reached the chickens, who McLamb said were roosting in a tree. According to Dog Warden Raymond Kinlaw, the feeding of raw meat to pet dogs "[...] definitely would cause a dog to become blood thirsty."
Boost The 'Boro, a community booster for Bladenboro, holds an annual "Beast Fest" in which the Beast of Bladenboro (or 'BOB', as they call him) serves as mascot. Boost The 'Boro makes use of the beast's sensational history amongst locals to generate excitement for the community event.
- ('Vampire' Charges Woman, 1954)
- (Mystery Beast Slays Dogs of Bladenboro, 1954)
- (The Beast Of Bladenboro - They All Know 'It'll Come Back', 1954)
- (Vampire Tendencies Found In Bladenboro's 'Monsters', 1954)
- (Fresh Dogs Seek 'Beast' At Bladenboro, 1954)
- (The Beast Of Bladenboro, 2006)
- (Bladen Beast Still Prowls, 1954)
- (Beast Takes Stroll; Frightens Autoists, 1954)
- (Mysterious Beast Still At Large, 1954)
- (Hunters, Dogs Tracking Bladen Mystery Killer, 1954)
- (Monster Strikes Again, Slays Dog, 1954)
- (Vampire Beast Wins Battle Of Bladenboro, 1954)
- (Bladen Man Traps Bobcat; Is It The Ferocious Beast?, 1954)
- (Gallehugh, 1976)
- (Is The Beast Dead?, 1958)
- (Guns, Dogs Circle Blood-Lusty Beast, 1954)
- (Hunt Animal Blamed With Killing Eight Dogs At Bladenboro In Week, 1954)
- (Thinks Bladen Killer Dog He Gave Indian, 1954)
- ('Vampire' Theory Fails To Draw Comment From Officer, 1954)
- (Screams Of Panther Recalled; Likened to Bladenboro Beast, 1954)
- (Enterprise!, 1954)
- ('Beast Of Bladenboro' Type Killer Strikes In Robeson, 1954)
- ('Beast Of Bladenboro' Scare Ends In Death Of Large Dog, 1954)
- (Hester, 2007)
- 'Beast Of Bladenboro' Scare Ends In Death Of Large Dog. (1954, December 16). The Robesonian, pp. 1, 7.
- 'Beast Of Bladenboro' Type Killer Strikes In Robeson. (1954, December 15). The Robesonian.
- Beast Takes Stroll; Frightens Autoists. (1954, January 12). Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- Bladen Man Traps Bobcat; Is It The Ferocious Beast? (1954, January 14). The Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- Corey, J. (1958, June). Is The Beast Dead? The Carolina Farmer.
- Enterprise! (1954, January 8). Wilmington Morning Star.
- Fresh Dogs Seek 'Beast' At Bladenboro. (1954, January 8). The Wilmington News. p. 1.
- Gallehugh, J. F. (1976). The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro. North Carolina Folklore Journal', 24, 53–58.
- Grady, S., Scheer, J., & Green, R. (1954 January 7). The Beast Of Bladenboro - They All Know 'It'll Come Back'. The Charlotte News.
- Hall, J. (1954, January 5). Vampire Tendencies Found In Bladenboro’s “Monsters.” Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1,3.
- Hall, J. (1954 January 6). Bladen Beast Still Prowls. Wilmington Morning Star.
- Hall, J. (1954 January 7). Guns, Dogs Circle Blood Lusty Beast. Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- Hall, J. (1954, January 8). Monster Strikes Again, Slays Dog. Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- Hall, J. (1954, January 9). Vampire Beast Wins Battle Of Bladenboro. Wilmington Morning Star. p. 1.
- Hester, H. (2007). The Beast of Bladenboro : a compilation of articles and writings. Bladenboro, NC: Boost the ’Boro.
- Hotz, A. (2006, October 29). The Beast of Bladenboro. Star News.
- Hunt Animal Blamed With Killing Eight Dogs At Bladenboro In Week. (1954, January 7). The Bladen Journal, p. 1.
- Hunters, Dogs Tracking Bladen Mystery Killer. (1954, January 7). The Wilmington News, p. 1.
- Morris, D. (1954, January 14). Screams Of Panther Recalled; Likened To Bladenboro Beast. The Robesonian, p. 4.
- Mysterious Beast Still at Large. (1954, January 4). The Wilmington News, p. 1.
- Mystery Beast Slays Dogs of Bladenboro. (1954, January 4). Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- Thinks Bladen Killer Dog He Gave Indian. (1954, January 13). Wilmington Morning Star, p. 1.
- 'Vampire' Charges Woman. (1954, January 6). The News and Observer, p. 1,6.
- 'Vampire' Theory Fails To Draw Comment From Officer. (1954, January 13). The Robesonian, pp. 1, 4.