Bladenboro, a quiet rural community, was established in 1857. To this day, it remains tucked away in the swamps and pine forests of the southeastern edge of the North Carolina Piedmont (Scary Truth). The population of the area remains limited to this day. In 1954 the peaceful community of Bladenboro experienced two weeks of terror that would put it on the map forever.
Newspapers all over the southeastern United States covered the mysterious incidents. Gallehugh mentioned that even the United Press International and Associated Press carried the story. Those articles were unable to be located for confirmation. The creature that stalked the countryside for those two weeks was never able to be accurately identified.
The authorities never successfully identified the creature. As such, the Beast of Bladenboro would continue to be
As a result, the monster panic that gripped the community would be remembered as a “standing joke” for North Carolinians (Gallehugh 53).
The Elusive Vampire Cat of North Carolina
The story of the vampire cat of North Carolina is one that stretches back seventy years. Unlike many urban legends which are based primarily on stories passed around verbally from person to person, this legend has a basis in fact. Whether the antagonist of the story was truly a vampire cat is up to you to decide. We here at Puzzle Box Horror believe that anything is possible, especially given the evidence.
December 29, 1953
A woman local to Clarkton in Bladen County heard the neighbor’s dogs barking and whimpering in the evening. Her curiosity spurred her to investigate since she didn’t often hear the dogs at all. She would later recall that what she saw was a sleek, black catlike animal. She believed it to be about five feet long with a round face just before it disappeared into the darkness. The creature had only eaten a piece of the body, according to Police Chief Roy Fores (Gallehugh 53).
Reports from D.G. Pait stated that he saw a dog being attacked by a large creature and subsequently dragged into the woods, from his service station.
New reports of canine death flooded Chief Fores’ office from all across the county. These reports varied between sightings of bears or panthers, but the description was consistent—three feet long, twenty inches high, long tail, and a face like a cat.
December 31, 1953
Woody Storm, a local farmer, called Chief Fores out to his property. Storm had found two of his dogs dead, slaughtered by something large and powerful. Fores found a disturbing similarity between Storm’s dogs and the victim from the day before. Something had completely drained their blood.
January 1, 1954
Gray Callihan, a local farmer, found his dog slaughtered. Just like the previous victims, the carcass had no blood and a crushed skull (Gallehugh 54). Two more dogs turned up dead and drained of their blood. Fores called in a team of professional hunters from Wilmington, NC to track down the animal. (NCG)
January 2, 1954
“Several imaginative townspeople” brought around the theory that they were dealing with a vampire-like creature, due to the state in which they found the bodies of the slaughtered animals. Despite his skepticism, Police Chief Fores organized a small search party. Their efforts to locate the animal before dark were hindered by the dense swampy land they had to cover. The town became noticeably more anxious as the creature continued to go undiscovered. (Gallehugh 54)
January 3, 1954
Fores examined the carcass of another dog that had been killed at a service station on the outskirts of Bladenboro. He concluded that “all except a drop or two of blood had been sucked.” A witness found another dead dog within city limits later that day. This would cause fear and rumors to begin to run wild. Mayor G. W. Fussell took more direct control over the investigation and ordered Fores to form a larger search party. Nearly thirty armed men and seven dogs scoured the Big Bay and Red Hill Swamp areas to find the creature. (Gallehugh 54)
The search party returned by nightfall, unsuccessful in their venture to find any sign of the creature. The failure of yet another search only served to bolster the apprehension the residents of Bladenboro felt in their own homes. This newfound fear for the residents of the small town caused them to lock their doors, concerned that the next victim might not be “just a good dog,” fortunately there were no new sightings that night. (Gallehugh 54)
An increasing number of newspapers had taken up the story of the mysterious “Vampire Beast of Bladenboro,” and the news spread like wildfire. Professional hunters throughout the state eagerly flocked to eastern North Carolina for a chance to kill the notorious creature. Speculation on what the beast really began to grow, some stating that it was a black panther, or a large bobcat, while still, others claimed that it was just a rabid dog or a wolf. None of these theories accounted for the immense force the beast possessed, nor did they consider the vampiric tendency to lust for blood. (Gallehugh 54)
January 4, 1954
The next morning, a citizen reported “unusual tracks” at the edge of the swamp behind the mill section. That same morning, three illustrious hunters arrived from Wilmington, fifty miles away, to aid in the hunt. The hunters brought their professionally trained dogs and began their search where they found fresh tracks. Their hunt for the creature was fruitless, but they gained some helpful insight into its behavior. They deduced from the evidence of the creature’s tracks that it traveled in a circular pattern and stayed within an approximately three-mile radius. The three men believed that this might indicate the creature had a mate and therefore presumed that there was more than one creature making the killings. (Gallehugh 55)
As the day passed more hunters joined the fray to locate the creature—before the end of the night, there were between forty and fifty men seeking out the elusive beast. When darkness fell, they gave up the hunt for the day. They knew that if it were indeed a large cat that it would undoubtedly be capable of eluding them under the cloak of darkness. (Gallehugh 55)
January 5, 1954
Despite no new incidents overnight—no unusual sounds, tracks, or drained animal carcasses to speak of—the hunting party continued to grow (Gallehugh 55). Most notably, a man by the name of Sam Spivey came from Tabor City and brought along with him his bear dogs.
Escalation of the problem…
The attitude of the hunting party changes dramatically when “a dog within a hundred feet of the hunting party was attacked by the vampire beast.” It was reported to have been dragged screaming into the swamp nearby before anyone could arrive to help it, or a shot could be fired at the creature.
Another Body Found…
Eventually, they found the dog with its head crushed and drained of all of its blood. They got a break in their search, however, when they found tracks that revealed claws that were at least an inch long. This indicated to the hunters that the beast was approximately a hundred pounds. When the hunt ended that night, the town was abuzz with inquisitive tourists, newspaper reporters, and an inpouring of hunters hoping to be the ones to catch the dreaded community menace. (Gallehugh 55)
The Clemmons Incident…
Mill worker Lloyd Clemmons and his wife heard their two dogs growling that night and to them, it was highly unusual. Mr. Clemmons decided to investigate the commotion. Clemmons was on record saying, “I glanced out of the window and saw this thing … [the beast] had me plumb spellbound.”
Before Clemmons was able to load his shotgun the beast had already disappeared into the darkness, so he called the police to report his sighting and provide his description of the creature. In his words, it was “about three feet long and 20 inches high. It had a long tail, about 14 inches long. The color of it was dark … it had a face exactly like a cat … Only I ain’t never seen a cat that big.” (“Vampire on Loose” 1)
The Beast attacks a woman…
The story of the Beast of Bladenboro made front page news across several different news outlets across the state. One such report from the Raleigh News and Observer detailed an incredible close-call with the creature on the same day as the Clemmons sighting. Not too far from the Clemmons’ home, Mrs. C. E. Kinlaw heard two of her puppies whimpering outside of her house. The beast charged from the darkness the moment Kinlaw stepped out onto her porch to investigate.
Her screams prompted her husband to rush immediately to her aid, which gave the beast an opportunity to escape back into the night. When questioned by authorities as to what she saw near her dogs, she reported that there, “was what looked like a big mountain lion.” It had apparently raced from three houses down the dirt street on which she lived to just a few feet from her porch. When Chief Fores had a chance to investigate around the Kinlaw’s home he reportedly found tracks that were “bigger than a silver dollar.” (Gallehugh 56)
The Beast attacks a woman…
After this incident, an armed posse of around five to six hundred people and scores of dogs thoroughly searched the mill section that surrounded the Kinlaw home. They remained on the premises until daybreak and yet found no sign of the evasive beast. When hunters compared two sets of tracks found, they surmised two different animals created them. On that same night, D.G. Pait and Chief Fores were standing together in the mill section when they heard a dog yelping in pain. Fores believed the dog was being dragged into the thicket that enclosed the houses, but when Fores and Pait arrived to save the dog, there was no sign of either creature. That dog’s body was never found. (Gallehugh 56)
January 6, 1954
The continued search for the beast was hindered by the excessive amounts of armed hunters who were vying for the chance to claim the life of the beast for themselves. “By midafternoon, all hopes of killing the beast were given up,” but that didn’t keep the beast from attacking another pet. It was later found out that a pet rabbit had been killed, its head bitten off, and the blood sucked from its body. Even more disturbing, is e fact that the rabbit’s body was still warm and found in an area that had been covered by the search parties earlier in the day. (Gallehugh 56)
A new hope emerged to put an end to the monster panic. A group of volunteer hunters with their purported “cat dogs” (think bird dogs, but for hunting big cats). Their first tactic, the night previous had been a lure-and-chase strategy which unfortunately ended in failure (“News Shorts”). Traps were set and baited with dogs as a way to bring the beast out of hiding and lure it to its death. Police Chief Fores, Bladen County Sheriff John B. Allen, and the State Highway Patrol were tasked with crowd control. Despite the traps, people refused to move out of the area where they were set. The threat of the Beast of Bladenboro was superseded by the hundreds of nervous armed people milling around the outskirts of town. Chief Fores and Mayor Fussell decided to stop the hunt to avoid the possibility of someone getting accidentally shot. (Gallehugh 57)
January 11, 1954
Two cars full of witnesses watched, shocked, as the “Beast of Bladenboro” crossed a road at its leisure near Bladenboro. Each of the six witnesses gave Chief Fores an expectedly similar description to those of the past two weeks. One of the witnesses, by the name of Jeff Evers, described the beast as having a large head with “runty-looking” ears. The road it crossed was near the bridge at Big Swamp, an area approximately four miles away from Bladenboro and near to the area where the creature and its tracks had been spotted frequently. (“Runty-Looking Ears”)
January 13, 1954
Five days after the hunt had been called off, Luther Davis a local farmer brought in a 25-pound bobcat that he had trapped and killed around 8:30 that morning. The authorities believed that the bobcat fit all of the descriptions and tracks of the Beast of Bladenboro, but in retrospect, it seems as if they were trying to make it fit the descriptions so as to ease the townsfolk of their fears.
The only thing they could not manage to explain was how a wildcat so small could manage to take down dogs twice its size. Regardless, Mayor Fussel decided to report to the newspapers that the beast had been killed, as a means to quiet any remaining excitement over the creature.
Despite the claims that the bobcat was the infamous beast, townsfolk continued to report sightings of a large catlike creature in the Big Swamp section of Bladen County. The bobcat was nonetheless hung from a flagpole in the center of town by Fores and Fussell and displayed with a sign that read “This is the Beast of Bladenboro”. (Gallehugh 58)
January 21, 1954
As an added curiosity to the claims that the beast had been killed, Berry Lewis, a farmer local to the area reported that he had found a half-grown hog killed near Big Swamp to Chief Fores. When examined, Fores saw that the hog’s bones had been crushed and part of its flesh eaten. (Gallehugh 58)
February 8, 1954
By February the entire incident would become akin to satire. Bladen County assigned S. Ray Johnson as its newest Wildlife Protector. People began to doubt the copious amounts of evidence collected and the beast would remain an unverified story. (“S. Ray Johnson”)
May 5, 1954
The Tabor City Tribune ran a story by W. Horace Carter about a trip he took to Burgaw on April 29, in order to attend a Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting. Carter stopped in Bladenboro to pick up Lumberton Jaycees, Jim Phillips and E.J. Britt. The meeting ran much longer than they expected, so they didn’t leave Burgaw until approximately 10:30 PM. (Carter)
The three drove through Elizabethtown toward Bladenboro and around a quarter to twelve they witnessed “a huge cat-like animal” jump out of the woods into the road around 100 feet in front of the car. It disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, but the three witnesses were positive that it wasn’t a bobcat, as they all saw it had a long tail, which “appeared to be about half the length of the cat itself”. The three witnesses described a creature remarkably similar to the vampire cat. Carter didn’t explicitly state that it was the Beast of Bladenboro. It was clear, however, that it was a frightening experience that he wished to not repeat. (Carter)
December 15, 1954
An alleged strike from the beast, had residents of Robeson concerned that the Beast of Bladenboro was back “on the prowl.” The attack happened “within shouting distance” of Robeson Memorial Hospital, where the beast killed five pigs and three chickens on a farm belonging to K. M. Biggs. The killings left behind no blood evidence. This indicated that there was a recurrence of the blood-sucking traits associated with the vampire cat. (“’Beast Of’”)
The Return of the Beast of Bladenboro
The shocking pattern returned with a vengeance in October 2007. More than fifty pets and livestock died in a strikingly similar way to the killings of 1954. The victims showed little sign of struggle, this indicated that they died instantly. Leading experts believe that the creature is an efficient predator. Those who examined the bodies postmortem would find that the victims not only had their blood drained, but their skulls crushed as well. (MonsterQuest)
The beast claimed a larger hunting ground and roamed an approximately two-hundred-mile range. This information shocked authorities, as it meant it had a larger range than any known predator of the region. Townspeople reported incidents in Bolivia, Bladenboro, Lexington, and Greensboro. A new name for the creature circulated—The Beast of Bolivia.
More Dogs found dead…
After the more recent attacks, new witness descriptions of the creature surfaced—with claims that it was dark brown, approximately 4.5 feet long, with the face of a cat, claws of a dog, and vampiric teeth. Due to the areas the creature has claimed as its hunting ground many assume that the predator dwells primarily in the swamps.
In Lexington, a local farmer found approximately sixty goats with their blood drained and heads crushed. Thirty miles away, in Greensboro, another farmer lost his goats in the same way. Residents of Bolivia became concerned that the vampire cat had returned after several dogs had turned up dead. One morning Bill Robinson, a resident of Bolivia, found his pitbull gutted in his yard. Robinson proceeded to bury his dog quite a distance from where he had found it laying dead. The next morning Robinson discovered his dog was back where it had been lying dead the day before. The beast allegedly unearthed and dragged the carcass back to the origin of the kill. Robinson’s dog was just one of ten that had been found slaughtered in the area, over a two-week period.
New tracks found…
Four days after Robinson found his dog dead in his backyard, another resident of Bolivia—Leon Williams—found his own pit bull dead, covered in blood, and missing a few body parts. There was no sign of a struggle which Williams found incredibly strange considering his dog’s breed. Around that time, Robinson found unidentifiable tracks in the surrounding area. Robinson measured the tracks and found that they were 4.5 inches in diameter. The town of Bolivia grew more apprehensive, due to the inexplicable dog deaths, and as a result, parents kept their children inside.
Scientists Remain Skeptical and Unimpressed
Over the decades this alleged vampire cat has had several eyewitnesses who have all come back with fairly similar descriptions. Skeptics theorize that it’s due to the Beast being a variety of Eastern Puma, since common descriptors include the beast being black in color, 3-4 feet in length, with an approximately 14-inch tail, and an estimated 20-inch shoulder height (Eberhart 37).
MonsterQuest aired an episode about the Beast of Bladenboro in 2008 due to a recurring pattern of animal deaths. In this episode, Tom Padget, a now-retired biologist from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission appeared to lend his expertise. He spoke on the claims that he received yearly calls on the death of wildlife and pets, but his scientific background leads him to question the existence of a vampiric beast. Instead, he hypothesizes that the killings are simply other, known predators and that it happens more regularly than most people are aware of. (MonsterQuest)
For Padgett, it was clear that the physiological abilities of cougars would surpass that of the dogs and other animals in the area. Extreme habitat loss and logging at the turn of the last century had all but extirpated the cougar from North Carolina. Up to that time, there had been no documented evidence that cougars existed in North Carolina for the past century.
New Evidence Surfaces…
The evidence came one month after the initial investigation when Bill Robinson and Brian Gardner received an update from a photographer that happened upon a startling find. Less than half a mile from the homes of Robinson and Williams, the photographer captured a blurry image of a cougar. MonsterQuest did not bother to authenticate the photo in question, but they concluded that people were experiencing a resurgence of cougars reclaiming territory. This, of course, took into consideration the fact that the cougar had been extinct through the east coast of America—except the tip of Florida—for the past century. (MonsterQuest)
Immortalized into Folklore
To this day, the Beast of Bladenboro remains a genuine terror to central North Carolinian communities. The North Carolina Folklore Society added the story of the Beast of Bladenboro to its annals in 1976. Over the last seventy years, the residents of Central North Carolina have pieced together a recurring pattern they have imputed to being the alleged vampire cat.
Check out this list of related creatures to learn more about Cryptids alive in legend and urban folklore:
- Ball-tailed Cat
- Wampus Cat
“Beast Fest.” Boost the Boro, Inc., https://www.boosttheboro.org/beast-fest.html. Accessed 9 May 2023.
“’Beast Of Bladenboro’ Type Killer Strikes In Robeson” The Robesonian [Lumberton, NC], 15 Dec. 1954, p. 9.
“Bulletins, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 8 Jan. 1954, p. 1. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-08/ed-1/seq-1/.
“Bulletins, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 14 Jan. 1954, p. 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-14/ed-1/seq-2/.
Byers, Thomas. “The Vampire Beast of North Carolina.” Exemplore, 16 Mar. 2023, https://exemplore.com/cryptids/The-Vampire-Beast-Of-North-Carolina.
Carter, W. Horace, “Carter’s Column: That Bladenboro Beast Again” Tabor City Tribune [NC], 5 May 1954, p 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn91068761/1954-05-05/ed-1/seq-2/.
Eberhart, George M., Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc, 2012.
Gallehugh Jr., Joseph F., “The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro.” North Carolina Folklore, vol. 24, no. 2, Aug 1976, pp. 53-58.
Godfrey, Linda S., American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America, Penguin Publishing Group, Aug 2014.
“Mad Wolf Feared: Vampire Killer Roams At Large In Bladenboro,” Charlotte Observer [NC], 5 Jan. 1954, p. 1.
“News Shorts, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 7 Jan. 1954, p. 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-07/ed-1/seq-2/.
“’Runty-Looking Ears’ Beast of Bladenboro Seen Again” The Daily Tar Heel [Chapel Hill, NC\
“S. Ray Johnson Takes New Post.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 8 Feb. 1954, p. 5. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-02-08/ed-1/seq-5/.
“State News Briefs, Bladenboro'” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 5 Jan. 1954, p. 6.
“The Beast of Bladenboro.” The Beast of Bladenboro | North Carolina Ghosts, https://northcarolinaghosts.com/piedmont/beast-bladenboro/. Accessed 5 May 2023.
Georgia-based author and artist, Mary has been a horror aficionado since the mid-2000s. Originally a hobby artist and writer, she found her niche in the horror industry in late 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. Mary’s evolution into a horror expert allowed her to express herself truly for the first time in her life. Now, she prides herself on indulging in the stuff of nightmares.
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