Alternate Perceptions Magazine, July 2021
Mystery "Big Cats" in Alabama - 1949
by: Rick Hilberg
Reports of big cats are certainly nothing new to those who peruse the Fortean literature on a regular basis. Year after year these reports come in despite the fact that in the eastern United States the Eastern cougar (Puma Concolor) has been declared officially extinct since the early years of the 1900s. Recent DNA studies of scat and other possible traces left recently by these animals suggests that these animals are indeed making a comeback in the East, and that they are animals migrating slowly eastward from the western United States where they are still thriving. Some state game officials in the East are slowly, but finally admitting that this indeed looks to be the cause of many solid citizens reporting these big cats on a regular basis.
That said, I recently received two clippings from 1949 that ran for two consecutive weeks in the Butler, Alabama Choctaw Advocate, a weekly newspaper serving Choctaw County in that state. My good friend and UFO/Fortean researcher Andy Etheredge of Sweet Water, Alabama recently came across them in a large batch of local news clippings that he found while cleaning his files. They give a tantalizing look at a brief slice in time when these cats were being seen by locals in large numbers and were causing serious predation of domestic animals. One only wishes that he had found more clippings to give the outcome, if any, to this local outbreak, but unfortunately we only have the two presented below.
Thursday, January 27, 1949 -
There are two "Lions" roaming the woods at Needham and they are killing and eating all the dogs in that community according to the hundreds of reports pouring into Butler daily.
These animals have been seen by several people in that area of the county, but Monday night was the first time anyone has had a chance to shoot the strange cats. Monday night, Roy Lucas and Cecil Turner saw two huge cats, "what they believe are Lions", on the Needham Road. They raced home for their shot guns, returning and shot one of the animals down. While trying to put their "jeep" lights on the second cat the wounded one escaped through the brush. Horace Allen who lives at Needham told this reporter that no one has been able to identify the cats. He described the animals as being about 8 feet long, colored like a Lion and making a track three and a half inches in diameter.
For several weeks the citizens of Needham have been complaining about some "varmint" killing their dogs. Several of the dogs were lucky to escape alive but were chewed and scratched up badly.
Since Lucas and Turner wounded one of the cats, 100 or more men have been trying to track down these prowling animals that have invaded their community. Late this afternoon the men have failed to pick up the animals' trail.
It was stated that the community dogs refused to trail the cats.
Thursday, February 3, 1949 -
Most any citizen from the Needham community will tell you "there 'is' Lions in those woods."
A cow was killed between Needham and Toxey Sunday night or Monday and half the body had been eaten by a big cat. The people of that area said the cats are Lions, so we will call them "Lions."
The dead cow was the first sign found of the cats since Roy Lucas and Cecil Turner shot one of the animals down near their home at Needham Monday night a week ago. There were two of the large cats together when Lucas and Turner shot one down, and while attempting to throw their jeep lights on the second cat, the wounded one escaped into the brush.
More than a week now, citizens of Needham and that area have been patrolling the roads nightly hoping to get an opportunity to kill the large cats. These "monsters", mountain lions, Panthers, cougars, catamounts or whatever they are, have been seen several times in the past three months by reliable men in the Needham area. The first report of the lions being in the community was taken very lightly and dismissed as an imaginary story, or that someone had seen an overgrown "bob cat" which are plentiful in this county. After four of the community dogs were found dead, their bodies crushed, the report of the lions in the neighborhood has caused much concern. Other dogs have been killed since and several have been mauled badly. The dead cow is the first evidence of the cats attacking livestock.
Horace Allen a resident of Needham [Coincidently, Etheredge worked with Allen during the early 1970s, and described him as reliable and truthful] and bookkeeper at the F. A. Miller store, said he saw one of the strange cats and that it was either a panther or a lion. It was three times the size of a bob cat, he said. Horace has extended an invitation to everybody that (cares to accept) to go lion hunting down at his home town. You don't have to have a permit or hunting license.
And that is where our story ends. One wonders what, if any, other evidence was found by the hunters in their quest to eradicate these threats to their community so long ago. We will probably never know more than this brief slice of a mystery unfolding before the eyes of those citizens of Alabama during the winter of 1949.
One of the things that does strike me as odd, is the fact that two animals were repeatedly seen together. Young male cougars are quite territorial and almost never hunt or even live in tandem. And also, the fact that cougars are not picky eaters, but usually only go after relatively small animals, makes me question whether these creatures were indeed real flesh and blood animals, or maybe "something else" entirely...