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Shuker and Coleman: Killer Kangaroo Konfusion

Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 13th, 2010

Mystery Kangaroo stories are intriguing, and Friday the 13th might be a good day to post an extension of this paradox. According to local media reports, as I have discussed often, during mid-January of 1934, an allegedly large kangaroo spread terror among the Tennessee hill farmers. This extremely atypical kangaroo was reported to have killed and partially devoured several German police dogs, geese, and ducks.

Reverend W. J. Hancock described it as fast as lightning, and looking like a giant kangaroo as it ran and leapt across a field. Another witness, Frank Cobb quickly came upon more evidence of the kangaroo’s activities. The head and shoulders of a large German shepherd or Alsatian dog were all that remained. A search party tracked the kangaroo to a mountainside cave, where the prints disappeared.

But sometimes trying to get to the bottom of an old story has researchers bouncing around all over.

After I wrote a recent Cryptomundo column, while I was still in Tennessee, Karl Shuker sent along the following:

What exactly is the current status re this 1934 ‘Tennessee killer kangaroo’ case? Loren Coleman included it in his list of ‘8 Worst Monster Hoaxes’ published in ‘The Book of Lists’ (1983), in which he stated: “Later, Horace N. Minnis of South Pittsburg, Tenn. – a stringer for the Chattanooga Times – admitted perpetrating the hoax”.

Since then, I’d assumed that it was indeed a hoax. However, as it is now being discussed here as a still-unresolved mystery, with doubt apparently being cast upon the supposed Minnis confession, I am naturally somewhat baffled. And as I am presently preparing an article re mystery kangaroos reported in the USA and elsewhere, I’d greatly value an accurate take on this case. Thanks for any help!

Of course, the amount of information that comes to one over the years changes. In the late 1970s, when I was first researching items for the piece that would eventually go into The Book of Lists published in 1983, I had only heard of the quick explanation then making the rounds, that the Killer Kangaroo story was a Horace Minnis hoax. This is what Charles Fort called “the Wipe,” where one newspaper or scientist or expert tries to undermine a report with an all-inclusive “explanation.”

But 1983 is not 2001 or 2010. Today, I understand that that quick debunking is not the entire story, and I have published my revised thoughts about this often.

As I wrote in Mysterious America, reports of giant kangaroos are nothing new to cryptozoology. Over seven decades ago, the notorious “Killer Kangaroo” of South Pittsburg, Tennessee, was reported in the pages of the New York Times.

But my understanding is not just based on what was written in 1934 about this case. In recent years, local rival newspaper writers have tried to blame this Tennessee Killer Kangaroo story on the pen of the late Horace N. Minnis, a South Pittsburg correspondent of the Chattanooga Times. But the main problem with this quick debunking and basis of this “newspaper hoax” theory is that Minnis was not a newspaper correspondent for the area in 1934.

Needless to say, I am openmindedly skeptical of a giant ‘roo killer in the hills of Tennessee, but then, I am presently extremely skeptical of the quick fix that it was a tale of a newsman who was no longer writing in the area too. It is a mystery worth pursuing, and remains an open case in my mind.

Perhaps as also has been suggested, this was nothing more than a lone wolf bounding about, killing livestock in 1934, if the stories were actually true?

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. 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.


2 Responses to “Shuker and Coleman: Killer Kangaroo Konfusion”

  1. Oggar responds:

    I commented on an earlier story about this “killer kangaroo” just a few days ago. Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood in the book, “Lt. Charles Gatewood & His Apache Wars Memoir” chronicles a series of encounters with a strange animal or animals.

    I am not currently in possession of a copy of the book but I was last fall for a research paper. He told a story of a large black wolf that actually hopped about like a kangaroo. Clearly, this would have been an animal afflicted by disease or injury- but it was somehow still fending for itself. Perhaps this killer kangaroo was something similar. The account I just mentioned however is somewhat muddied by another tale. He mentions having twice seen a kangaroo/wallaby which I believe he also says was black.

    The book chronicles the last Apache wars and his time both an officer and Indian agent. He was perhaps the man most trusted by the people of the Fort Apache Reservation (with the possible exception of George Wratten), but I digress. These are accounts written by a man who was regarded (and reviled) by his contemporaries for his honesty and integrity even when it was to his personal detriment. So is probably worthy of further investigation.

  2. sschaper responds:

    Tennessee rural folk would have known what wolves and cougars looked like, they wouldn’t have mistaken one of them for a kangaroo.

    I’m not say that such critters are roaming about, but if they were, they’d be chalked up as chupacabras, these days, don’t you think?



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