Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 22nd, 2006
Black panthers in Illinois are not merely melanistic jaguars far from home.
I grew up in central Illinois (1947-1965, 1969-1974) and went to undergraduate school at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale (1965-1969). I was out searching for black panthers when I was 14, for example, in Macon County, doing field work on big mystery cat sightings in southeast Illinois when I was 16, and slushing through swamps in southern Illinois more than I was in some classes during my college years at SIU.
Needless to say, all those first few years, I wasn’t writing too much about what I was doing, because I was busy just “doing cryptozoology” out in the field, so to speak.
I feel lucky to be able to recall those days fondly, and now I am able to honor others by writing about how new, younger researchers are out there doing similar things in the same fields. It is good to know, for example, that someone else is still seeking answers to all the reports of the big black cats in southern Illinois.
The Harrisburg Daily Register notes that Virgil Smith is just such a man. He told the paper:
“A lot of people in localities of Saline, Hardin, Gallatin and Williamson counties are reporting cats,” Smith said.
He said many reports are of large, dark cougar-variety cats. He is receiving reports and forwarding the information given to him to government officials, he said. Most sightings are from hunters and outdoorsmen who he said request anonymity from the media.
“We are getting some reports of livestock being killed and cats in trees,” Smith said.
“Anyone with photographs, we would like to get a copy of the photographs.”
Smith reassured folks that he is an independent investigator who uses motion sensing cameras, night vision, and has a live trap. He goes on to make some observations, saying there seems to be:
…a large cat that regularly walks a route from Illinois Route 13 east of Harrisburg to south of Jim Hayes Inc., across Muddy, across Illinois Route 34 near the double bridges, to the back side of Galatia Mine, to the outside edge of Harrisburg Lake and back.
He also believes there is a cat that walks in the area of the Eagle Mountains and Williams Hill.
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.