Bladen County is predominately rural. A few small towns are scattered across the landscape, providing locals with work opportunities. Otherwise, farming is still a primary way of life. The rest of the county is dense forests and swamplands teeming with bears, bobcats, and other beasts.
In this sleepy county lies the small town of Bladenboro. Sometimes I pass through on the way to Whiteville or one of the Brunswick County beaches. We actually stopped there yesterday on our way home from Holden Beach.
Brandon didn’t understand my fascination with the little town, but I grew up on tales of Bladenboro. The community is famous for a series of animal killings attributed to an unidentified creature known as the Beast of Bladenboro.
The Beast of Bladenboro
On the night of December 29, 1953, a local woman called law enforcement to report a disturbance around her home. She claimed that her neighbors’ dogs began barking and whimpering just as the sun went down. When she went to see what was causing the ruckus, she saw a sleek, black, cat-like creature disappear into the woods.
The police had a good laugh at her expense, believing she had misidentified a black bear. Unfortunately, those laughs would come back to haunt them two days later.
Bladenboro Police Chief Roy Forbes was called out to the Storm Farm on New Year’s Eve. When he arrived, Mr. Storm led him to the bodies of two mutilated dogs.
That day rumors began to swirl in the small town, and eyewitness accounts poured in. People reported seeing a panther stalking around the county. Others claimed to hear screaming from the swamps around town.
On January 1, two more dogs fell prey to the beast. Their bodies were ravaged by the creature stalking the town. An autopsy conducted on the remains determined the animals had been drained of all their blood.
The findings caused concern in the community, where some began to fear a supernatural being was the source of the mutilations. “Vampire” was whispered in some circles.
Then the beast did the unthinkable: it attempted to attack a human. On the evening of January 5, Mrs. C.E. Kinlaw heard her dogs whining outside. When she went to check on them, she was charged by a large cat. Mrs. Kinlaw screamed, bringing her husband out of the house to her aid. The creature fled into the swamp.
Newspapers picked up the story, and Bladenboro was soon overrun with eager hunters. But no one knew what they were hunting. The outsiders were convinced the only way to figure out what the beast was would be to kill it.
While the hunters staked out the woods and swamps, the town lived in fear. Families on the west side of town went indoors and stayed there after sunset. These residents were afraid to let their children roam after dark and refused to allow pets or livestock to go unguarded.
The hunt abruptly ended on January 13, when a local farmer trapped a bobcat. The feline was run up a flagpole in town above a sign reading: This is the Beast of Bladenboro.
But was it? The deaths of dogs, goats, and rabbits were blamed on the Beast of Bladenboro – yet there was no evidence the trapped bobcat attacked any of them. And many question whether such a small cat could have eviscerated such large dogs.
The truth is, no one knows if the Beast of Bladenboro was caught — or if it still lurks in the darkness of the swamps.