1946 Panther Attack

Fredonia Censor August 8, 1946

Fredonia Censor
August 8, 1946

Fear and panic gripped the residents of rural Chautauqua County during the summer of 1946. Over a dozen documented sightings of two large Panthers/Cougars, roaming within an area of less than 10 miles, culminated into an attack of a young boy on August 14, 1946 in Busti, New York. Little did the residents of the townships of Busti, Ellery and Jamestown know that these predators were also seen several times, two year prior, in Forestville, Fredonia, Sherman, Ripley and other communities. The earlier sightings were a mere 20 miles away from the site of the attack. The territory of an average male Panther will range anywhere within a 100 to 125 mile radius. But, local officials during this time adamantly denied that any Panther, Cougar, Mountain Lion or any other Catamount of the same species existed because they were exterminated over a century ago. But, were they all exterminated?

Numerous local newspaper articles from 1836 – 1945 indicated that these large cats not only existed in this area, but actually terrorized the local farmers and their families for decades. Panther posses and hunts were organized in any attempt to control them. The question is, why would local officials in 1946 deny the existence of such an animal? Was it to give the residents a false sense of security? Perhaps the authorities’ intentions were to calm any mounting fears of a cat weighing approximately 100lbs, being over 6 feet long and standing 32 inches tall at the shoulder. The notion of an animal that stalks and ambushes its prey and having no known natural enemies other than man is enough to set off a panic. Let me share with you the actual 1946 events and my personal family connection to this fantastic case in Chautauqua County history.

The summer of 1946 was dry and hot. The people of Chautauqua County were just reeling from the ending of World War II. The GIs were coming home and life on the home front was returning back to normal. Busti, NY was an extremely rural area, sparsely populated with dense forests, heavy underbrush and second growth trees. In the early summer of 1946, “many of the area residents of Baker Street Extension, Hunt Road and the nearby vicinity had seen and heard two different Panthers, one was black and the other tawny in color. The general description of the large cats was approximately four feet long, weighing between 60 and 120 pounds with a three foot long tail. From direct sightings to finding half eaten calves in the fields there were a total of fifteen occurrences within a ten mile radius from the site of the aforementioned attack from June through November 1946.

Paul Rosen

Paul Rosen {Brother of Merrill/ Panther Hunter/ August 17, 1946/ Age 16}

Jack Rosen {Father of Merrill/ Panther Hunter/ August 17, 1946/ Age 48}

Jack Rosen {Father of Merrill/ Panther Hunter/ August 17, 1946/ Age 48}

My grandparents, Jack and Anna Rosen, lived on Baker Street Ext. from 1943 to 1976. One of their sons, Paul, saw the black Panther upon coming home one night in June of 1946 on the corner of Shadyside Rd. and Baker St. Ext. An experienced hunter, he proceeded to grab his gun and look for the large muscular cat through the night, but to no avail. The whole family remembers the sightings and screams of this big cat throughout July and August of 1946.

Baker ST Jamestown

Father’s Homestead, Baker St. Ext. 1946/ 1 mile from Panther Attack

August 14, 1946 stated out as any other day for young Robert Crandall, a local 17 year old boy who lived with his parents and sister on Baker St. Ext. According to a Jamestown Post Journal article, of August 15, 1946, Robert and his father, Lawrence Crandall, brought in the hay until 9:30 PM that evening. Robert then went to pick up his sister, Janice 14, and her friend, Patricia Kidd 16, at a church social in Busti. He dropped off his sister at their home first and then proceeded to drive Patricia Kidd to her house on Shadyside Rd. Upon arriving at the Kidd home around 10:45 PM, he heard a large cat screaming near the house. He went to investigate the sounds about 150 yards away. Meantime, Patricia became afraid and went into the house and watched from a window. According to the girl:

Jamestown Post Journal August 17, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal August 17, 1946

It was moonlight, I thought I heard a noise in the brush, then I saw him running and staggered back towards the road (the intersection where his car was parked). A tree cut off my view as he neared the car. I waited, but the car didn’t start, so I got worried. I called my mother who was asleep and we went outside and found Robert sprawled out by the road near his car.

The young boy was unconscious and had to be aroused by shaking him. When he finally came to he dragged himself across the lawn toward the house. According to Patricia Kidd:

He kept demanding that we go inside so the cat wouldn’t come back and attack us. He told us a Panther, yellow with a white stomach, had jumped on him, tearing his shirt and knocked him down. I could see the scratches on his chest.

His father, Lawrence Kidd, a local furniture factory worker, was contacted and informed about the attack and the family doctor, Dr. Clyde Wilson, was called to attend to the young boy. According to Robert’s father, around 1:15 AM, an ambulance was called by the doctor who determined that the
Injuries warranted admission to the hospital.

Mr. Kidd stated:

I placed a blanket near the front door and covered Robert up. I went into the house and got a .22 rifle and went outside and shot it into the air to scare away the Panther if it was still in the vicinity.

I didn’t hear the Panther again, but the Seaburgs said they heard screams a few minutes after the time of the attack on Robert.

According to hospital officials, Robert Crandall was suffering from shock, contusions and a back injury due to the attack.

For over a month, sightings of this large Catamount came in fast and furious from area neighbors within a 10 mile radius; over fifteen documented sightings were reported. Neighbors in the immediate vicinity of the attack stated to the Post Journal on August 15, 1946 that they saw the Panther:

Merle Carr, town of Busti, four miles from the scene of last night’s attack saw a tawny colored animal he identified as a Panther a few weeks ago. A man named Riley, who lives near the Crandall farm, spotted a black Panther earlier in the spring.

Another neighbor, Ray Champlain, who lived a little further out on Baker St. Ext. reported that

A Panther followed him while he was setting up wheat on his farm two weeks ago.

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 Part 1 of 3

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 Part 1 of 3

Several other direct sightings occurred after the attack, from Busti to the city of Jamestown to Levant. One sighting occurred during a baseball game near the Dahlstrom Metallic Door Co. on 2nd Street in Jamestown. Michael Ceci, one of the players who saw the cat stated:

It weighed about 60 pounds, was tawny in color and had a very long tail. -JPJ 9/19/46

Another eyewitness from the southeast corner of Jamestown stated:

Saw two cats one afternoon a few weeks ago, one at a distance of two feet with the window of a chicken coop between them. Described one specimen as brown-black in color. JPJ 9/19/46

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 (Part 2 of 3)

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 (Part 2 of 3)

A widespread Panther hunt was formed by the residents of Lakewood to find the cats, but was called off pending an official investigation of the attack. According to the Post Journal article of August 16, 1946:

At the office of the Sheriff’s Department in Mayville and at headquarters of the State Police in Westfield it was stated that no official request for an investigation had been made. At the Sheriff’s Department, however, it was stated that deputies went to the scene of the alleged attack yesterday and made inquiries.

The question is why? Documented sightings of the two large predatory animals, “a Cougar and a black Panther” had been reported from 1944 through 1945, in the townships of Forestville, Fredonia, Sherman, Ripley and other northern communities and had been widely decimated in the local newspapers? {See Dunkirk Observer Article 1944 & 1945}

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 Part 3 of 3

Jamestown Post Journal August 19, 1946 Part 3 of 3

Was this an action attempting to falsely calm the fears of the area residents of Busti, Jamestown and Levant about the encroaching intrusion of two predatory animals in residential areas?

Jamestown Post Journal August 17, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal
August 17, 1946


Jamestown Post Journal
August 17, 1946

Tensions mounted as each day passed and more and more sightings were reported. On August 30, 1946 two men stated that they saw a Panther and a cub on the Big Tree Road in the township of Busti. Less than 1/8 of a mile from the scene of the attack. According to the Jamestown Post Journal article of August 30, 1946 one of the men described the Panther:

The Panther was about four feet long, shiny black and moving along at a slippery pace. His tail was straight out behind him. As we watched it, the Panther went up a bank at the left of the road, then turned around, crouched and looked back across the road. It was then that we noticed a cub on the other side of the road.

When asked about the length of time that the two men saw the Panther and cub, their response was eight or nine minutes.

Jamestown Post Journal August 22, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal August 22, 1946

On September 3, 1946 County Sheriff Clarence D. Bell stated that he doubted that there was a Panther in the area based on “cold logic and statistics”. According to the September 3, 1946 Jamestown Post Journal article, Sheriff Bell stated:

Jamestown Post Journal August 22, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal August 22, 1946

Deaths of domestic animals, the ordinary prey of beasts of the cat family, have fallen to a low comparison to the last few years. If any animals of the Panther’s appetite and ferocity were in the vicinity of the county then surely the number of deaths of domestic animals would be on the increase instead of decrease.

To bear his contentions he quoted figures given to him by County Treasurer, Leslie Price, on the number of claims for the deaths of domestic animals in cases where other animals caused the deaths. The number of claims were 10% less than in 1944.

Jamestown Post Journal August 30 ,1946

Jamestown Post Journal August 30 ,1946

Basing his statement on these facts, Sheriff Bell said, he believed that there was some sort of wild animal loose in the vicinity, but he didn’t think it could be a Panther inasmuch as it had shown none of the blood-thirsty ferocity of such an animal.

Jamestown Post Journal September 7, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal September 7, 1946

As a source of fact, Panthers, Cougars and Catamounts are all of the same specie. The main food source for these predators are wild animals such as deer, Rabbits and birds. Only when there is an extreme wild animal shortage would a Panther attack a domesticated animal. We had and still have an ample supply of deer, rabbits and birds in Chautauqua County. In addition, the Cougar/Panther prefers a habitat that encompasses dense forest, heavy under-brush and second growth trees. Hmmm…. Just what we have here in Chautauqua County. Sheriff Bell’s statement was and still is illogical. Was he simply grasping at straws while attempting to calm the residents in hopes that the whole situation would disappear? You decide.

By September 7, 1946 the concerns were still evident among the residents of the area. W.A. Young, who lived on Buffalo St. Ext., claimed he shot and killed a black Panther, which weighed 72 pounds near his home. He reported that he had shown the cat “to authorities” and they identified it as a young male Panther. The September 7, 1946 Post Journal article stated that the claim was still unsubstantiated. Further sightings of Panthers continued, even after the unconfirmed claim of shooting and killing the young male Panther in September of 1946. In 1947 – 1949, a few sightings were reported in the Busti area near the mouth of Goose Creek. For a few years, reports of a panther or panthers subsided. Then, on November 5, 1957, a tawny colored panther was sighted by three area hunters; one sighting in Kennedy, NY and the other in Southeastern Chautauqua County. According to the Post Journal article of November 5, 1957, two hunters, R.T. Eastrom and Otis Petell stated:

“They came upon the beast in a deep defile where, apparently hiding in a rocky crevasse it Snarled in defiance before leaping over a huge boulder and disappeared in dense underbrush. The animal weighed about 100 pounds.”

Another hunter, Willis McCoy reported:

“He saw a yellowish animal, twice the size of a large dog while he was at his hunting Camp with his wife and two friends”.

Jamestown Post Journal November 5, 1946

Jamestown Post Journal November 5, 1946

Although there have been over twenty-four documented sightings, within a 25 mile radius, of this big cat from 1944-1957, naturalists insist that the last Panthers or Mountain Lions vanished from this area over a century ago. How could there be so many documented sightings of this creature, the vast majority by seasoned hunters, and not be believed. Did this, elusive by nature, natural predator actually vanish or are they still in existence in the dense forests of Chautauqua County?

You be the judge.

The final segment in this series of articles will appear in December 2013. Does the black panther still exist in Chautauqua County in 2013? Has there been sightings of this predatory beast in the last 10 years. The answer is YES! Read current local newspaper articles, interviews from eyewitnesses, photographs of the elusive big cat, sight maps and in depth information from Wildlife Biologists and officials from the Eastern Puma Research Network . Fact or fiction?

As Mrs. Crandall, mother of Robert Crandall stated after the 1946 attack on her child:

I hate to think about it for many people think I am imagining things. I don’t know how they can laugh off this attack.

Review the map of sightings at this time… Panther Map

Chadakoin Monster


It was no coincidence that Jamestown sprung up along the banks of the Chadakoin River. It was a decision made by James Prendergast when he first laid his eyes on the land that he decided to purchase so that he could create the city that now bears his name. Ideal for lumbering the Chadakoin first assisted the industry in allowing the lumber to be floated down the river to be sold in parts unknown. Ever since the Chadakoin has been the hub of Jamestown industry. Little did Prendergast know that many years later the Chadakoin would be the site of a mystery never truly solved.

It was rumored that sometime in the 1960’s radioactive waste was being dumped into the Chadakoin, it was even a possibility that confiscated weapons were being discarded at the bottom of the river, but even if those rumors are not true the industrialized banks of the Chadakoin could have spawned a monster.  The Chadakoin Monster has stalked the banks of the river since 1994. Tracked by a local biologist and a private investigator evidence was located of an unknown creature. Partially damaged fences and the feces of an unknown creature were collected over the years.  Even strange footprints were found at places the creature was sighted.

During a hunt by a local group a radiation meter registered extremely high radiation levels. The group then was amazed that in the bushes not too far from where they were standing a rustling started. Then without warning a huge creature emerged with a loud wail and ran off.  It was described by an eye witness as, “huge, slimy and frightening…. unlike anything he had ever seen.”

What this creature was and where it came from is something that may never be answered. Could it have been a carefully orchestrated hoax over a two-year period culminating with an eyewitness account during a hunt for that specific creature?  Or could the possibility exist that the Chadakoin spawned a creature not of this world? Either way it may just be a good idea to keep your eyes open for anything strange when you are by the Chadakoin. Sightings still persist and no answers have ever been put forth as to what lurks along the Chadakoin.

The Skraelingr

There is mention in a few books that I have looked through, namely The Myths of the North American Indians by Lewis Spence, of a race of small people living in the eastern portion of North America prior to the arrival of the Naïve American tribes. The first mention of these pygmy men is from Norse recordings from their attempt to colonize the lands of North America. Somewhere in what is now known as Boston it was told that Thorwald, brother of Leif the Lucky, was slain by a group of these dwarfish men. Later, in further attempts to colonize North America, Norsemen came and were consistently attacked by the Skraelingr causing them to finally return without accomplishing their task.

Not much is known of these men called Skraelingr by the Norse but descriptions told that they were small in stature and had Eskimo like features. Later in an Iroquois myth there is again mention of these strange dwarf men who they referred to as pygmies. The story is told that when returning from a raid on the Cherokees a group of Iroquois left behind a Chieftain who had taken ill. Thinking that he was lost they left him behind to be discovered by a small group of pygmy men who nursed him back to health. Two separate accounts of a small race of men living in North America indicate that the possibility that such a race of men could have existed. It can be understood that with the size of Norsemen in general any inferior race could be distinguished and labeled as dwarfish but descriptions by the Iroquois would be more accurate. Who the Skraelingr were and what happened to them may always be one of the great mysteries of our area.

Recommended Reading

Legends of the Iroquois

The Mead Road Bigfoot

Awhile back when Chautauqua Ghosts was first started I received a few submissions from local people and trying to preserve them seemed easy enough.  Instead digital records degraded and the hard copies seemed to not connect. This story was submitted to me back in 2001 and concerns the sighting of a Hairy Hominid. Is it Bigfoot?

May 14, 2001

An undisclosed female related to me the story of her sighting of an unidentified Hairy creature that she saw around her home on Mead Road just outside the city of Jamestown. She stated that her relatives that lived there would hear noises outside late at night and that their dog would bark uncontrollably at times but would not venture off the porch. A short time after a group of her friends decided to go out into the woods and camp for the night, knowing something may be out there they took along baseball bats as a form of protection. Shortly after midnight they started hearing noises around the camp. First it was footsteps that sounded like they were going all around them like something was out there stalking the perimeter of the camp. Then there was a loud crash as if, “this thing pushed over a very big tree roots and all.” Before anything else progressed they ran back to her Aunt and Uncle’s house just on the other side of the forest.

Of course there was nothing witnessed only loud crashing and stalking noises. It could have been anything. A Bear, perhaps? Of course here is exactly what was submitted to me in her own words, I will let you decide.

“That’s not all. About two weeks later I was in my kitchen talking on the phone looking out the window. I could not believe what I saw walking through the cow pasture. It was very big and hairy looking and had long arms and a large body and walked in very large strides. It was walking through the cow pasture in broad daylight. I didn’t know what to do I just couldn’t believe it. Whatever it was it went into the pines and didn’t come back out.”