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Friday, March 26, 2010

The Panther of Blackhole, Tennessee

The story of the Blackhole Panther was relayed to me by someone who has lived in the area her entire life.  I believe it to be fallacious (to a large extent) and classify it simply as Tennessee folklore of the region.  I relate it in hopes of hearing from others who may have heard the tale of the Blackhole Panther, or possibly even have an encounter of their own to share.

According to the subject, she, her future husband, his brother, and his brother's wife were "partying" on the Buffalo River in Humphreys County (Tennessee) at an area once called "Blackhole," at Exit 143 (I-240), late one night in the summer of 1980.  She had to think about the date, but settled firmly on 1980, as her child was born in 1981.

The spot was called "Blackhole" due to the depth of the river at that point.  According to the subject, "If you stood on the bridge in broad daylight, the water looked black, it was so deep."  She later relayed several stories of people who tried to reach the bottom but could not.  Neither she nor I know if Blackhole still exists as it did 30 years ago.

The couples were drinking and smoking marijuana, then decided to go skinny-dipping in the river.  All four went to the bank and began disrobing when they were startled by what "sounded like a woman screaming."

According to the her, local lore held that a "panther" frequented the area and she had "been hoping to see it."  When the shriek frightened the foursome, they saw "glowing" red eyes on the opposite bank.  Suitably scared, the party collected their clothing and made their way back to the single car in which they had arrived -- an early 1970's model Ford LTD (1974, according to her, but she was not certain).

She said the eyes belonged to a large, black cat which swam across the Buffalo River to their site and made its way to their car.  The width of the river at Blackhole was estimated by the subject to be about 40' -- or from one side of I-40 (a four-lane interstate) to the other.

She said the Panther of Blackhole approached the car, then mounted the hood.  The cat walked around on the hood before curling-up to gaze at the party, "Daring us to get out of that car."  It had a long body- - distinctly different from that of a bobcat which, though extremely rare, are still in the area -- and a long tail.  Bobcats can be black, but have a distinctive head and mane, which is often gray and tawny.  The bobcat is named for its "bobbed" tail -- a short, stubby, and fuzzy appendage.  The encounter lasted approximately 15 minutes from first appearance (on the opposite side of the river) to it laying on the hood of the car.

The subject continued: About a year after the incident at Blackhole, she and her (then) mother-in-law were at an undisclosed cemetery (the name of which escapes her) at Cuba Landing -- approximately 1/2 mile from the site at which they first encountered the Panther of Blackhole -- when they spotted several, small, black creatures in a field.  At first, she thought they dogs, due to their large size.  "They were fuzzy -- fuzzy and black.  There were a lot of stray dogs [that] used to run around out there, back then.  I was pregnant then and I wanted to take one home."

When she went to the fence to lure one, she realized they were large cats and told her mother-in-law, who was still behind the wheel of the car.  Partially inspired by her alleged encounter with the Blackhole Panther, she decided she still wanted one to take home.  As she stood there, her mother-in-law called excitedly from the car, "Those aren't just cats -- here comes their mama!"

The subject said a large, black cat, similar to the one she saw that night at Blackhole a year earlier, slinked from the woods.  Both it and the kittens were sable, with long tails.  She was within an estimated 20' of the kittens and the mother was about twice that distance from them (roughly 60' from the subject).  Her mother-in-law began screaming at her to get in the car.  She did so calmly, but quickly, and they left the area.

The subject says the Blackhole Panther legend was well-known amongst residents of the area at the time, but few claimed to have actually seen it.  She has not heard much about it since, but no longer lives in the area.  The friends she had at that time generally live elsewhere, or she has lost contact with them, and she has since divorced. She never saw the creature before nor since these, possibly related and entirely alleged, incidents.

I wholly discount the witness' alleged encounter at Blackhole, though I do believe she encountered a wild creature that night on the opposite bank -- possibly even one with "glowing red eyes" (that is to say, the eyes were red and may have appeared to be glowing to her and the others in her group). 

That the creature remains unidentified is not meant to suggest an Unknown or Cryptid; there is a very good chance that the creature unseen was, in fact, a bobcat -- or a cougar, bear, owl, even a large, stray dog.  Whether or not anything more happened beyond that point -- the creature crossing the river, and most especially mounting the hood of the car -- I cannot say, but do not believe it did.

I remain unconvinced of the story, though "The Blackhole Panther" sounds cool as hell.  This was the boom-time of the infamous "Beast of Exmoor" in England, and those accounts made headlines and network news here in the States several times throughout the era.  However, The OddBlog is always interested in tales relating to the subject matter we discuss.  If you, or anyone you know, has anything to add to the Panther of Blackhole, TN legend, please share!

© C Harris Lynn, 2010


  1. I want to reiterate that, while I do not find this account credible, I included it not for completeness, but in order to hopefully learn more about this legend - if, in fact, it exists outside the subject's circle of friends and family.

    I hate to "muddy the waters" with an unsubstantial account, but I did classify it as Folklore and suggest it is unlikely to have much merit. Again, if you have any information to provide concerning this, or Big Cats in general, in Tennessee, please share them!

  2. I collected some "confirmation" in the form of another person, who also lived in the area at the time. He said he grew-up hearing tales of a panther, but hadn't heard anything about it in several years and wasn't sure if it was central to Blackhole or not.