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

panther-17-2

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

Black Panther

black-panther

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!

 

P.T. Barnum’s “Genuine Fake”

Around 1822-famed master of the “Humbug” P.T. Barnum acquired and object of much intrigue from his friend Moses Kimball, then proprietor of the Boston Museum. The object was to be Barnum’s greatest known “Genuine Fake” called the FeJee Mermaid.  This curiosity was purported to be actual proof incarnate of the existence of mermaids captured by Japanese fishermen off the coast of Fiji.  The hype generated by Barnum created a media sensation for his American Museum.  However, as many came to see the mermaid they began to wonder if it was the real deal.  In reality, the famed FeJee Mermaid was nothing more than a fish’s body and tail, the breast of an orangutan, and the head of a baboon.  This “genuine fake” as it soon became known still generated a stir among Barnum’s patrons and granted him the notoriety as one of the greatest entertainers of the day. Skating very close to out an out fraud Barnum displayed many more Humbugs throughout his life but none would be more notorious than the so-called FeJee Mermaid would.

Now on display in the first floor atrium of the Quick Center at Saint Bonaventure is a FeJee Mermaid, Assumed to have come from Barnum’s collection it was discovered in a locked storage space in 1996.  Resembling the actual FeJee Mermaid there is no real proof it is the one thought to have been destroyed when Barnum’s American Museum caught fire in 1865.  Where it came from originally could be anyone’s guess but since its discovery, it has generated as many questions of its authenticity as Barnum’s original “genuine fake.”

Recommended Reading

P.T. Barnum

Lady in Glass

Lady in Glass

Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown houses a very unique monument affectionately called the Lady in Glass.  This monument has the name Galloway carved into the granite base, above rests the statue of a woman encased in glass forever memorializing the life and death of Grace Galloway who died Nov, 2 1898 at the age of twenty-seven.  Over the years many legends and stories have sprung up around this peculiar monument.  Stories involving the life of a young bride cut short, or to that of the recent embellishment, which pronounced that, Miss Galloway passed away on a prom date.  Whatever the fascination with this monument is it has left a lasting impression on our little community and has survived over the generations to be passed down mutating along the way.

In passing when I first started my expedition to find the stories and local legends of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus county I stumbled across an account telling of a local cab driver or bus driver that picked up a woman in a white dress late at night around the entrance to the cemetery.  He found it strange that she should be dressed like she was going to a wedding or fancy ball.  He also found it strange she was so pale and quiet but he picked her up all the same and began to drive past the cemetery toward town.  Not paying too much attention for a few blocks he finally looked up to find that the woman he had just picked up was no longer on the bus. There was no sign of her or that she had ever gotten on.

Like I said whatever the story there is a fascination with Miss Galloway that I believe will endure for many more generations as the mysterious  “Lady in Glass” at Lakeview cemetery.

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George George

In the rural community of Clymer out in the midst of a vast wood there is a lonely dirt road that cuts its way through dense foliage and swamp called “Pond Road.” Pond Road is nothing more than a dirt path, which is little traveled and forgotten by the local community.  However over the years and infamous legend has cropped up regarding this lonely stretch of road and swamp.  The legend is that of George. 

George’s roots are disputed between two popular accounts but the most prevalent is that of the accidental death of children at his hands.  Sometime in the past, we can only assume at least twenty plus years, there was a bus accident within the town of Clymer.  George was the unfortunate soul driving the bus and in turn blamed himself for the death of the children that were under is care.  Distraught he made his way to the third bridge on Pond Road and hung himself from the railing.

The legend goes that if you should drive out to the bridges, there are three that cross across the swamp that is on either side of the dirt road; you can experience a strange phenomenon.  The story goes that late at night you can drive to the first bridge and say “George, George, George” when you get out of your car, drive to the second bridge and repeat the chant, then drive to the third.  Getting out of your car and leaving the keys to your car on your hood you say “George, George, George” for the third and final time.  Upon the completion of your chant your car will start and underneath the bridge you can hear thrashing in the water.  Supposedly the death throes of the tortured soul of George unable to rest for the guilt of what he had done keeps his soul bound to the earth.

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