BEAST OF BLADENBORO (CRYPTID)
The Vampire Beast (A.K.A the Beast of Bladenboro) is a vampire-like monster that made several livestock and pet killings in Bladenboro, North Carolina in December of 1954. It lasted for ten days. In 2007, the beast returned, but in other regions such as Boliva, Greensboro, and Lexington.
Bladenboro is a small community surrounded by pine forests and swamps at the southeastern edge of the North Carolina piedmont. It was also the setting for the greatest monster flap North carolina has ever seen.
The story begins in Bladen County in the town of Clarkton. On Decmeber 29, 1953 a local woman heard her neighbors’ dogs barking and whimpering. When she went out to investigate, she saw a large, cat-like creature skulk off into the darkness. That was the first sighting of The Beast of Bladenboro. Two days later, the creature would strike.
On New Year’s Eve, Bladenboro Police Chief Roy Fores was called out to the farm of Woody Storm. Two of Storm’s dogs had been killed by something large and powerful. The poor dog’s bodies had been completely drained of blood.
More reports started coming in. D.G. Pait said he watched from his service station as a dog was attacked by a large creature and dragged into the woods. Chief Fores was inundated with reports of dogs being attacked from across the county. People said they saw an animal “like a bear or a panther” that was “three feet long, twenty inches high, with a long tail and a cat’s face.” Others reported hearing the creature’s scream coming from the swamps near the town, saying it sounded “like a woman with a knife stuck in her back.”
On January 1, the bodies of two more dogs were discovered. These, too, had been drained of blood. Chief Fores decided it was time to call for help.
A team of professional hunters was brought in from Wilmington to track down the animal. Chief Fores accompanied the tracking party and said he saw footprints “the size of a silver dollar.”
Then, on January 5, the Beast of Bladenboro attacked a human.
That evening, Mrs. C.E. Kinslaw heard the sound of whimpering dogs outside of her house. She went outside to investigate. She saw a large, cat-like creature rush towards her. Mrs. Kinslaw screamed and her husband rushed outside. The beast was frightened off and fled back into the woods.
Newspapers picked up the story, and soon Bladenboro was overwhelmed with a flurry of hunters coming in, eager to bag the beast. Over 600 men from as far away as Tennessee descended on the town. A fully armed pack of fraternity brothers from UNC Chapel Hill made its way down to the town to see about putting the beast’s head on their wall.
But nobody knew exactly what they were hunting. Speculation began running rampant. Some thought that it was a Carolina Panther, a species of large cat that had lived in the area until the early 20th Century, but was now thought to be extinct. Others said they were dealing with a coyote or stray dog. Most of those who had descended on Bladen County thought that the only way to find out for sure what the beast was would be by by killing it.
The town was terrified. Ev Butler, who was a young man in Bladeboro at the time, recalled “Night time was the feared time around these parts. As the sun set, the entire community on the west side of town went indoors and didn’t come out unless necessary.”
The fear of the beast had a very real effect on Mr. Butler and his family, “We didn’t live in the town limits at that time and almost everyone had an outdoor privy… To supplement the outside convenience, most houses had a ‘thunder jug’, a big jug that could be used at night and emptied into the privy during the day. That jug got plenty of use during the scare.”
Deciding that things were getting too dangerous, Bladenboro Mayor Bob Fussell and Chief Fores called an end to the hunt. On January 13th, taking an unusually large bobcat that had been trapped by a local farmer, the two men hung it up a flagpole in the center of town. They posted a sign underneath stating “This is the Beast of Bladenboro.”
After a week or so, things settled back to normal. The hunters left town, and the reports of killings stopped coming in. Whatever the Beast of Bladenboro was, it had vanished back into the night and the swamps from where it had first emerged.
But there’s more to the story than the story. Learn the scary truth about the Beast of Bladenboro.
So what was the Beast of Bladenboro?
There was certainly something that killed some dogs in the woods of Bladen County in the early days of 1954. But what exactly that something was and whether it warranted the hype that went around it remains unknown.
And there was a lot of hype. But hype was something that Bladenboro knew well. For a small North Carolina town, Bladenboro was home to an unusually high number of showmen in prominent positions. Among these was the mayor, Woodrow “Bob” Fussell, who also happened to be the owner of the local movie theater.
It was Mayor Fussell who first called the newspapers and organized the party of professional hunters to come in from Wilmington. It was also Fussell who booked a horror movie called “The Big Cat” into his theater at the peak of the excitement, advertising “Now you can see the Cat! We’ve got him on our screen! And in Technicolor!”
The early 1950s were the height of the craze for gimmicks promoting films, with producers like William Castle installing buzzers in the seats of movie houses and having ambulances waiting outside in case anyone was overcome with terror during a show. Fussell can’t be blamed for knowing a good gimmick when he saw one.
The was also another Bladenboro resident, Dick “The Half-Man” Hilburn, who, despite being born with no legs and only one arm, had a genuinely remarkable career. Hilburn had traveled with the circus for some years, working as a tattoo artist and running a sideshow with his partner Carl “The Frog Boy” Norwood. Hilburn had returned to his hometown of Bladenboro after tiring of constantly traveling with the sideshow. Hilburn was a much-loved member of the Bladenboro community. This remarkable man was known for endlessly entertaining children, doing tricks on a skateboard, and causing people to marvel at the seemingly endless number of feats he could accomplish despite his disability.
In addition to his many other skills, Hilburn was a talented artist who had set up shop as a sign painter when he returned home. When the monster madness began going around, Hilburn saw opportunity. He began to produce license plates and other memorabilia with the vampire beast painted on it. He had no trouble selling them to the scores of hunters who had descend on the town.
Describing the incident years later, Mayor Fussell confessed “A Little publicity never hurt a small town,” and stated that the beast was “10% real, 90% imagination.”
Fussell definitely had a hand in stoking that imagination, but he never anticipated how out of control the situation would get. The story had hit the papers in an otherwise slow news week, getting a great deal more attention and trouble than expected. The only other big item of regional interest that week was a local-boy-makes-good story about a little-known comedian named Andy Griffith making his first appearance on The Tonight Show.
National news was slow that week as well, and newspapers from across the nation picked up the sensational story. As a result, far more people than could be managed by Bladen County’s very small police force flocked into the town. With that much overexcitement and that many guns, Chief Fores was afraid that there could be consequences. The decision to call an end to the hunt came about because of the very real danger that an overanxious hunter would shoot someone thinking he was killing the beast.
What was the beast? What exactly it was that killed those dogs will never be known. But dogs disappearing or being killed in a rural community isn’t all that rare of an occurrence. A fabulous story about a vampire killing dogs that thousands of people across the nation become engrossed with definitely happens much less often.
But the excitement that started the whole affair may have been helped along from within the town.
To some people, seeing a bunch of fools chase through the woods looking for an imaginary monster can be a good for a laugh. There have been persistent rumors that a group of men in Bladenboro fanned the flames of the story, spreading more and more exaggerated tales of the beast to the news media, just to see who would believe them. The Beast of Bladenboro incident mat have been the largest snipe hunt in history.
Today, the fuss in 1954 is a source of pride for Bladenboro and the town even hosts a yearly Beast Fest to commemorate the event.
The beast returned to North Carolina in 2007, bringing more surprises and fear with it. In Lexington, 60 goats were found with their blood drained and their heads crushed. Thirty miles away in Greensboro, another farmer lost his goats in the same way.
In Bolivia, a man named Bill Robinson lost his pit bull to the creature. He buried it, but the next day it was in the same location were it was killed. Four days later, another resident, Leon Williams, found his pit bull dead, it was covered in blood and it was missing a few body parts. There was sign of a struggle, which is strange for a pit bull. Other places lost a total amount of ten dogs in just two weeks. More tracks were found, these ones were measured 4 and a half inches in diameter.