Why Be Normal When You Can Be Paranormal?
We just wanted to start off by saying that we still have about 100 pieces of Halloween candy left, despite the fact that at least 4 people- one of them weighing about 235 pounds- have been chowing it since before November started. I may actually require an Intervention, a thought which has never crossed my mind in 20 years of drug use. I'm wolfing it down.
As you can see, we also have several pictures left over from Halloween. You'll notice the ghosts, which were haunting near Chestnut Street in Duxbury.
Another thing we have leftovers of from Halloween is Spooky Stuff. We wrote a large article last week, arguing for Cape Cod's inclusion in the infamous Bridgewater Triangle. The man who coined the term- cryptozoologist Loren Coleman- actually rejected our arguments, noting (correctly, as it is his baby... although I do feel that our theory is strong and would hold up in discussion) that the concentrated nature of the Triangle is what makes it distinct.
I go for the bigger/better theory, but it's all apples and oranges at that point. The conversation did steer me towards a few cool things of the paranormal nature that pertain to my coverage area here.
Mr. Coleman is an expert on New England's paranormal history, and a lot of his work focuses on southeastern Massachusetts. Several good ones are from our very own sandy spit of land. I thought I'd research some of them and share them with you over the next few weeks.
Cape Cod, as we mentioned as a sort of thesis in that article, can lay claim to a lot of strange happenings. As one of Americas oldest regions, we have a high probability of Haunting. If you had to insure your house for Haunting, you'd pay a higher rate here on Cape Cod than you would in Denver or San Diego.
We have strange beasts, both natural and supernatural/mythic, that can kill you and eat you. We're the only region of America that has had a mermaid sighting by somebody famous, and- if you go by Cape Cod Bay- we have also had a sea serpent sighting by someone famous.
We own America's most famous car crash, her most famous Curse, her bloodiest (per capita) war, a lion's share of her shipwrecks, and a dozen other eerie distinctions.
We have lots of great stuff, like beaches and seafood and tourist attractions. We also have a lot of strange stuff, like serial killers and shadowy military bases. We write about plenty of walkathons and scallop festivals, but today we shall focus on more disquieting matters.
The Beast Of Truro
The particular Beast in question was newsworthy enough to make the New York Times in 1981.
One advantage Cape Codders hold when discussing Not Being Killed By A Beast with mainlanders is that we got here first, cleared the forests first, and that the most dangerous thing on Cape Cod for a lot of White Man History was a Bluefish. We had wolves and bears and other scary things at one point, but they were all chased westward into the frontier as European civilization encroached upon Cape Cod.
The other edge we hold is that we chopped Cape Cod off from the mainland in 1914 or so. Anything that wasn't on Cape Cod already wasn't getting on, short of a perilous swim across the Canal or a highly-visible trot across one of the bridges. Even before then, most of Massachusetts had been cleared for farmland. This eliminated the routes that something like a cougar would use to get some Cape Cod eatin; in. Cape Cod was also cut off by a stretch of urban territory that lays between Eastern Massachusetts and the more like-nature-used-to-be wilderness of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine and Canada. Nothing that couldn't slink unnoticed through Worcester or Cambridge was going to be visiting Cape Cod.
This (and our particular climate) saves us a lot of the bears, wolves, cougars, wolverines, giant hogs, Sasquatch and other megafauna that other parts of the country have to deal with. We had it pretty easy. When former farmland in mainland Massachusetts was abandoned as farming ceased to be America's primary occupation, wilderness crept back into eastern Massachusetts. We were protected by the urban corridor and, later, by the Cape Cod Canal.
Truro is a small town (2000 souls) right now. It was smaller (1500 or so) in 1982. Much like today, the majority (I read 80% somewhere, lost the link) is undeveloped swamp. There are about 5 reasons to live to Truro.... 1) you like beaches, 2) you inherited property there, 3) you're an artist, 4) you dislike living near other people, or 5) you're an artist who loves beaches but dislikes living near people and you inherited property there. If it exists, Reason #6 would almost certainly be "Nothing ever happens there."
That's why it was so disturbing when a series of animals began to be slaughtered in Truro. At first, it was the local cat population. More than a dozen Meow Machines from the same part of Truro turned up un-living. Then, whatever was responsible started going for bigger prey. The time was about September, 1981.
A hog that weighed 175 pounds was mauled badly enough to warrant euthanasia. The flanks of the hog were grooved with claw marks, and it's throat was mauled. A few days later, another hog pen in Truro suffered an attack by a mystery hunter. In this incident, two hogs were clawed in their pen. People across Truro also reported hearing strange, eerie, cat-like screams.
Experts said that the attacks were the work of either a dog or a pack of dogs. Packs of dogs are not unusual in the countryside, and they roll deep enough to kill deer and livestock. Anything beyond that- even things that we know are here now, like coyote, wildcat, and bear- would have been close to science fiction in the minds of authorities back then.
Hogs don't talk (except in Charlotte's Web), so they make poor witnesses. However, you can tell a lot by the damage that was done to them. You can't tell enough to say anything definitively, however. The wounds to the throat could have been canine, feline, or even ursine. The slashes to the flanks appear to be only feline or ursine.
Big cats, wolves, and bears all will tear out the throat of prey if able to. Cats use their claws to latch on to the animal. Bears will attack by swatting with their powerful paws in an attempt to break the prey's back. Either attack would be consistent with the wounds seen on the hogs. The problem is that the animals were still alive and not consumed. A bear or a mountain lion would destroy a hog, while smaller animals wouldn't be able to inflict the wounds that the animals suffered. You can imagine the slashed hogs were maybe attacked through fencing somehow, which you'd think a bear would knock down or a lion would leap over. A cougar's killing bite is applied to the back of the neck, head, or throat and they inflict puncture marks with their claws, usually seen on the sides and underside of the prey, sometimes also shredding the prey as they hold on. Coyotes also typically bite the throat region, but do not inflict the claw marks.
One thing was for sure... it wasn't a pack of dogs. It was something we hadn't seen before around here, at least in our lifetimes.
The mystery got wilder soon after. A local couple, the Medeiros, saw what they described as a mountain lion on Truro's Head Of The Meadow Beach. Other sightings soon followed, including a policeman, an accountant, a noted sculptor, and a school principal. All spoke of a slender, big cat with a long, J-shaped tail. The couple described it as knee high, 60 pounds, and definitely not a fox.
The sightings led to some terror. A cougar is a very bad thing to be attacked by. Several or so Californians a year are mauled/killed/eaten by cougars, also known as Mountain Lions. One of those walking around Truro would be very bad for the locals. Pets, livestock, kids and even adults were at risk. Unless it met an armed man or jumped into the water with a shark, it displaced the Cape Codder as the apex predator on Cape Cod.
The sightings also led to some skepticism. Eastern Cougars, which once roamed all over America, were then (and are still now) the subject of debate. Many experts feel that North America has two sorts of cougars. One school of thought is that the Eastern Cougar is a subspecies of regular Cougars, while others feel that they're all in the same gang. Many biologists (then and now) believe that the Eastern Cougar is extinct, while others feel that it is making a comeback.
Cougars show up in New England now and then (one was killed by an SUV in Connecticut in 2011), but some and maybe even most officials feel that these are either escaped captives or western cougars who wandered extensively. The cougar killed in Connecticut was actually found somehow to be from South Dakota.
Either way, a cougar in Truro would be amazing. The last confirmed cougar of any sort in Massachusetts was in 1858, before the Civil War. A cougar in the Berkshires would be amazing. One in Truro would almost defy science.
The Beast of Truro, who was also known as the Pamet Puma (the Pamet River, named after the Paomet tribe, lent the Beast his second nickname), was national news for a while in 1982. An article by the New York Times went viral (pre-Internet), and our Beast was being spoken of in New York, Florida, Maine and probably a bunch of other newspapers that I didn't actually see. Long before she was dishing in the Herald, a then-unknown Gayle Fee was sent out to obscure little Truro to seek the Pamet Puma for the Cape Cod Times. Fee listed a "Bengal tiger" as a possible culprit.
Then, by early 1982, he was seen no more. This led to another mystery. Unlike other monsters like an alligator or an anaconda (which would freeze like a popsicle up here as soon as winter fell), a cougar can survive a Massachusetts winter, especially the milder Cape Cod variety. A cougar would be the apex predator on Cape Cod the instant he arrived, meaning that- unless he went swimming off Chatham- nothing ate him. No one reported hitting one with a car, and no carcass was found. There are more than enough deer on Cape Cod to support a big cat.
With no physical evidence (eyewitness sightings are not considered to be as reliable as tracks and scat, meaning that humans actually know less than sh*t), no definitive analysis could be made. State officials, who always try to be conservative in such cases, say that it was a dog or a pack of dogs. With 20/20 hindsight, we can read and laugh at officials saying, "Some people even claimed it was a fisher!" Fishers, then thought to be urban legend on Cape Cod, are now accepted as legitimate residents.... just like bears and bobcats were thought to be extinct here until people started getting video.
Maybe he realized he was the only Beast for 300 miles, and the instinct to get laid drove him back to the mainland. Maybe he went for a swim, and a shark ate him. Maybe he was shot by a hunter who then realized that he had just blasted an animal that was thought to be extinct and which probably had a jail term attached to it.
Or maybe, just maybe.... on certain nights when the moon passes too closely, someone on Cape Cod- maybe even someone you know- sprouts fur and claws, and roams the night in search of his next 15 pounds of meat. It sounds funny now, but it wasn't so funny in 1981.
The moors of Truro have been quiet for 30 years now. State officials view the whole thing as the work of a dog pack. The locals who even remember the tale do so with a sense of humor- the Pawmet Puma has been immortalized with a 5K road race, for instance. The Pawmet Puma even has a Twitter account, and seems to be a Dawson's Creek fan.
The local white trash staggering out of the nearby taverns pose a greater threat to Trurorians than cougars do, and probably always have. The last megafauna attack on a human there was from the current villain, a Great White Shark. With a monster like that just offshore, hunting humans... only a fool would worry about a most-likely-mythical Beast of Truro.
Still... anyone who was sentinent and living in Truro in 1982 most likely will never feel 100% at ease on the moors of Pamet, on a dark night when the wind is up and the Hunter's Moon shines.
Washington Street, Duxbury.... came up with no candy when we knocked, but I rarely egg the home team.
Halloween is always cooler in Hockey Towns.
Nice spread below....
Trick or treating in a wealthy neighborhood rules. This nice couple off Washington Street had this set up in their barn. You stop in, grab some candy, have some cider, marvel at the giant house next to it... and thank the people for their hospitality. I palmed a few Ginger Snaps for the later.
The Sinatra pumpkin was in Rhode Island, where they had some sort of pumpkin festival (photo by Scott Mallon)
As you can see below, the Beast of Truro (who we had to Photoshop earlier, as Beasts of Truro look less threatening when you notice they're in their car seats) was quite easily captured by a Penguin.