Black cats are everywhere this time of year as Michiganians start festooning their lawns with Halloween decorations. No respectable witch would be seen without her yowling companion. But parts of Michigan were seeing a different kind of black cat â€“ one weighing over 100 pounds and with fangs like ivory daggers â€“ starting around the mid-1950s.
The Gogomain Swamp south of Sault Ste. Marie â€“ also known as the Forest of Doom â€“ was where the ebon-furred creature started clawing its way into the Wolverine State’s consciousness. The first report of a phantom-like, black great cat came from nearby Munuscong Bay in 1954.
In 1972, a deer hunter heard the sounds of a large animal kill in the woods near his camp; when he dared to go look three hours later, all the remained was the head and antlers of a ten-point buck. The mystery cat was blamed.
In 1984, citizens of Manchester near Ann Arbor saw a great black feline prowling around their homes, and in 1986, the black cat was believed to have ripped the throat out of a palomino horse in its pasture near Milford. Police saw and confirmed that it was a panther-sized black cat and tried to shoot it twice but missed. The owner of the palomino also got a shot off at a large black cat a year later. In 1990 a Muskegon area family saw the creature several times.
Since biologists claim the big cats native to North America known variously as cougars, panthers or mountain lions, are not likely to be black, the official opinion nationwide is that any loose, large black cat must be a South American jaguar or black Asian/African leopard, probably imported illegally. Some may be escapees of animal shows or preserves, but no one really knows where they come from. Perhaps they originate from the same place as their canine counterpart, the Michigan Dogman. And while a few have suggested that large black felines are actually phantoms from some other realm, the owner of that palomino would probably not agree.
Read the entire story in Weird Michigan, Your Travel Guide to Michigan’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Linda S. Godfrey.