Cataloging reports of unknown animals—cryptids to folks in the business–is one of my guilty pleasures. Who doesn’t love a goose bump-raising tale of giant footprints in a creek bed or anomalous shrieks in the night?
Sometimes, though, the juxtaposition of familiar critters in impossible places can be just as unnerving.
It’s hard to believe that Australian kangaroos could be hopping around all over the United States. But what’s even harder to imagine is that these out-of-place marsupials appear to posses supernatural abilities as they rummage through the backyards of bewildered people in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Indiana, to name a few.
Phantom kangaroos have been spotted in a variety of urban and rural settings and are said to be particularly hostile. They are described to be 3.5 – 5.5 feet tall with glowing eyes and ghostly characteristics. They have been blamed for slaughtering numerous dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and other small animals in areas with high kangaroo activity.
According to W. Haden Blackman’s Field Guide to North American Monsters, the first reported phantom kangaroo sighting was on June 12, 1899 in Richmond, Wisconsin.
Interestingly, the phantom kangaroo activity appears to occur in waves. Several witnesses in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, including a Reverend W. J. Hancock, spotted the creature in January of 1934. The sightings coincided with mysterious killings of a dog and several chickens. The Kangaroo was allegedly seen fleeing the scene carrying sheep.
From 1957 to 1967, phantom kangaroos haunted Coon Rapids, Minnesota and were spotted by numerous startled witnesses who dubbed it “Big Bunny”.
Hundreds of people witnessed a phantom kangaroo in Chicago, Illinois, on October 18, 1974. It kept people away with viscous displays and vanished over a fence before police could capture it.
The story in question takes place during the early 1980s, while Dakota’s father Ken was driving a late-night trucking route between Western North Carolina and Kentucky. On the evening in question, the Senior Waddell had brought his rig along quiet stretch of highway between the towns of Corbin and Lexington in the great Blue Grass State, when he saw what he described as a “black panther” dart across the road in front of him in the truck’s headlights. “I don’t know what he was doing there,” Mr. Waddell recalled of the event, “but I saw him as clear as day.” He slowed down as the animal moved across the road, and although he was able to discern clearly that the animal’s fur was black or dark brown, he was unable to make out any further details.
“Black panthers do have a spot pattern,” Dakota told me recently, as we spoke about his father’s encounter by phone. “Given the details of the situation, he wasn’t able to see clearly enough to discern those kinds of details, but he was certain it was some sort of large, black cat.” His father’s peculiar late-night encounter remains of great interest, and eventually spurred Waddell into collecting information about the potential for mountain lions and other large cats to exist throughout the Southeast.
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