Over the next several weeks, Chautauqua Ghost will be featuring a three part series about the Black Panthers of Chautauqua County: Past and Present. Find out the folktale that originated from the actual event that spurred over 67 years of sightings of this predator. Read original 1940’s -2013 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? Make up your own mind, if this creature still exists in the vast forests of Chautauqua County.
Most folktales originate from an actual event that took place in specific area. There are usually pieces of factual information woven throughout the tale. For over 40 years, I thought that the story of the panther attack in Busti, NY was merely a campfire story meant to entertain and scare children. Little did I know, that there was fact behind the tale!
When I was a little girl my family would visit my grandparents who lived on Baker Street Ext. in the township of Busti, NY. I loved those outings to see Bubbie and Granddad, as I called them. But, the most exciting part of the visit was when we were about to leave at night. The legendary stories of the black panther attack would begin….sending a shiver of fright down my spine and making me look behind me for days. My father would begin telling the story….. “Many years ago, when I was a little boy, my father took me to the circus in Busti. I loved the circus, the music, the clowns and ohhhh the wonderful animals. There were lions, tigers, elephants and my favorite, the black panther. We spent hours at the circus that day; what a wonderful day it was. The next morning on the front page of the newspaper was a story about the circus, but not the happy circus of yesterday. It was about the black panther which had escaped and was roaming the countryside. Over the next few days, several of our neighbors stopped by, and discussed the loud screams that they heard coming from the woods. A few of our neighbors claimed to have also seen the big cat. My father told me,my brothers and my mom to stay out of the berry patches and keep close to the house. A few days passed and the sightings and screams had stopped. Everyone thought the panther had left the area. Things started to return to normal. A neighbor of ours took his girlfriend, who lived on Shadyside Rd., to the movies. It was a bright moonlit night, a harvest moon. When he took her home, he heard a noise coming from the woods. He told her that he was going to find out what was making that noise and to stay in the car. He proceeded to go into the woods. After a few minutes, the girlfriend heard him screaming and saw him running from the woods. His shirt was bloody, torn to tatters and he looked terrified. Suddenly, a huge black panther was at his heels. The young girl could see the panther’s huge white teeth shining in the light of the moon. The creature knocked him down with his gigantic paw, took hold of his leg and dragged him back into the woods screaming, “Run for your life!” The girl stood in shock at what she saw. When she realized what had happened she ran to get help. The next morning, after hours of searching by the neighbors and police, the only thing they found of the boy was a tip of his bloody shoe.”
Next week read about the actual 1946 panther attack and the sightings of this predator that terrorized the citizens of Chautauqua County. View the original newspaper articles, sight maps and photographs all from 1946!