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By: Alex Postrado
A Mysterious Terror Comes to North Carolina
In every town, there is a horror story that keeps children from stepping foot outside the house upon nightfall.
From olden folklore to urban legends, there seems to be no shortage when it comes to these fear-inducing tales.
However, what you have been told as a child probably pales in comparison to the story of the infamous Beast of Bladenboro.
Unless it involves animals — commonly dogs and livestock — drained of blood, with bones broken or crushed, caused by an aggressive animal-like creature ready to pounce in one breath.
If that’s the case, are you sure you’re not talking about the Bladenboro beast?
It all started in the winter of 1953 — when the story of a vicious, vampiric monster brought shivers to the residents of Bladenboro due to the bone-chilling deaths which surrounded the otherwise quiet town.
The Story Behind Bladenboro’s Vampire Beast
Near the end of 1953, residents of Bladenboro, a small town in Bladen County, North Carolina, were shaken to their core upon finding that dogs had been brutally attacked and killed by an unidentified animal-like creature.
The first recorded sighting of the said creature took place in Clarkton within Bladen County — one of the many townships in North Carolina — on the night of December 29, 1953.
A local woman reportedly heard barking and whimpering from her neighbor’s dogs, prompting her to go outside and investigate.
To her surprise, she saw a feline-like figure retreat into the darkness.
Two days later, the first attack happened in the town of Bladenboro!
Two dogs were found dead. And to add to the gruesomeness, the dogs’ blood was drained and their bodies were horribly mutilated.
On New Year’s day, a couple more dogs have been found lifeless at a local farm. And on the day that followed — January 2, 1954 — another death was reported by a dog owner.
Seemingly on a roll, the next twenty-four hours only ensued more deaths when a couple more slaughtered dogs were found.
These last two victims showed signs of being attacked the same way as the rest of the animals found prior — with their heads, flattened, and their bodies bone-dry as if their blood was completely sucked out of them.
The harrowing description of the crime left the townsfolk reasonably terrified. And who could blame them?
So, on the evening of the same date, January 3, 1954, Chief of Police Roy Fores attempted to find out who or what had been causing the series of animal deaths around town.
Chief Fores and his canines went out on a hunt for the creature. However, his dogs — surprisingly — would not follow the trail, and so, the idea was shelved.
Halting the initial plan of action, though, proved to be one regrettable move since it gave the beast even more opportunity to spread terror.
On January 5, 1954, one local reported the death of their pet rabbit and detailed that it had been “cleanly decapitated” and was “still warm“.
With a one of a kind method of killing — unnaturally violent and even bordering on bizarre — as well as a distinct pattern of selecting victims, the townsfolk were able to immediately identify that the deaths were caused by the Bladenboro beast.
The beast seemed to be fixated on blood.
This horrible detail of the murders ultimately led the people to believe that they were dealing with something far from a wild boar or any animal gone wild.
Some believed that the culprit may be of a supernatural kind, one with bloodsucking tendencies — a vampiric monster, to be specific.
On the following day, around 500 to 800 people, along with their dogs, had amassed to hunt down the feared creature — searching through the woods and swamps in pursuit of the notorious monster.
However, the hunt was once again stopped due to safety concerns.
The usually quiet town of Bladenboro suddenly found itself in a flurry of scared citizens, interested onlookers, and hunters looking for their next big game.
It was on January 7 when the beast struck again, claiming another dog and a goat — the poor animal’s head flattened — as its victims.
Fed up with the horror brought by the killer beast, another 800 to 1,000 people gathered once more to hunt down the bloodsucking creature.
To appease the growing fear of the townspeople, on January 13, Bladenboro Mayor Bob Fussell and Chief Fores presented the body of an “unusually large bobcat” — even branding it with a sign stating, “This is the Beast of Bladenboro” — ending the nail-biting search.
Seemingly satisfied with the Mayor’s action, the interest started to die down in the town.
The hunters left and reports of the killings stopped.
Wherever the beast was, it had — as far as one can tell — vanished into the dark from where it was first spotted.
Theories and Likely Candidates
Often dubbed as Bladenboro’s Vampire Beast, the thing that perhaps made the creature so noteworthy is its anonymity.
Multiple accounts maintained that the beast is of feline classification.
Ranging from wildcat, lion, panther, to coyote, many of the townsfolk were convinced that the creature was indeed a member of the cat genus.
Despite several witnesses and even trackers claiming that the beast was most probably a wildcat, a hunter from the nearby city of Wilmington, S.W. Garrett, claimed to have heard the beast scream with a panther-like sound.
However, a curator at the Raleigh State Museum named Harry Davis vouched that the existence of panthers in the country is highly unlikely and instead suggested that the sound must have been that of a coyote.
The local newspaper also had its own account of the creature’s description:
About 20 inches high with a long tail around 14 inches in length, a dark color, and a face of a cat. Only, cats are almost never that big.
The newspaper also described the creature to be moving stealthily.
On January 13th, a bobcat — the one that was eventually presented to the townsfolk by Mayor Fussell — was found struggling in a metal trap.
It was local farmer, Luther Davis who was credited for shooting the animal.
The town’s own Police Chief, however, believed that the Bladenboro creature was nothing but a wolf.
He recalled how “old folks say they remember seeing wolves in the bay-swamp area and talk about them every now and then.”
Contrastingly, a number of others affirm that the beast is likely a wolverine.
While others argue that it is most probably a police dog gone mad.
Keeping with the theme, a Lumberton local, A.R. Stanton, reported that the Vampire Beast was actually his German Shepherd and Hound mix, named Big Boy.
He claimed that he handed over the dog to a Native American boy living on the banks of Bladenboro’s Big Swamp.
Stanton’s dog was said to be capable of leaping over a six-foot-tall fence and has previously been confirmed to kill chickens — furthering the confusion on the true identity of the Vampire Beast.
Despite the varying accounts regarding the creature’s real identity, there were some things that were clear as day when it came to the beast.
True to its vampiric reputation, the Beast of Bladenboro had an evidently bloodthirsty nature and was unforgivingly vicious.
An Annual Tradition?
Who would have thought that the grim happenings that took the lives of a number of animals in the winter of 1953 leading to 1954 would end up becoming an annual festival celebrated by the people of Bladenboro?
Held by Boost the ‘Boro — a community booster for the town — the “Beast Fest” is held every October 29th and 30th of each year.
Complete with food stalls, entertainment, and other interests meant to stimulate family-friendly fun, the event has morphed into a full-blown festivity.
Be it a way to commemorate the events that took place during that fateful winter, a way for the townsfolk to cope, or simply a publicity stunt to boost the small town’s tourism — the Beast Fest is surely one thing that the people of the once quiet town look forward to.
But, while Bladenboro celebrates the festival yearly, to some, the secrets of the Vampire Beast narrative remain of interest.
Amid this year’s celebration, who can say that the Bladenboro monster is no longer lurking in the darkest corners of the town — prowling and waiting for another chance to attack?
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