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Man Reports Sighting of Mysterious “Big, Black Animal” in Hartford, Wisconsin

The Singular Fortean Society was contacted recently by Christopher Pauls, 46, who wanted to report the sighting of a mysterious “big, black animal” he’d had as a child.

Initial contact came through an email with “Weird Animal Wisconsin” in the subject line.

Came across your article about a strange animal sighting in Beloit, WI. I got excited when I read the description as it was exactly what I had seen many years earlier near Hartford, WI. I was a kid when I saw it, but I often tell the story and when I read the witnesses’ description of the animal to my wife she freaked out and told me I should tell someone my story.

The report referenced in the email is that of a woman who said she and her husband had seen a bizarre, chimeric creature in the spring of 2013 near Beloit, Wisconsin.

A similar creature was later reported just eight miles away in 2019 outside of Rockton, Illinois.

Investigator Tobias Wayland was able to schedule a phone interview with Christopher to gather his testimony.

Christopher told the investigator that his encounter had taken place during the afternoon of a sunny day sometime around mid-August between 1980 and 1982, when he was four or five years old.

His family lived on Saint Patrick Circle in Hartford, Wisconsin, at the time, and during the day he was watched by a babysitter only a few houses away.

On this particular afternoon Christopher was being watched by his babysitter’s 16-year-old son, Mike, while he rode his tricycle on a new cul-de-sac that had been built in the otherwise rural, isolated area.

“There was a big cornfield. That’s what I remember,” he said. “I was off in that circle area, just peddling away on my little tricycle and Mike had gone to the right, doing something, off doing his own thing.”

At some point, he noticed that he and Mike were not alone.

“Just outside of the cornfield, there was like a 20- or 30-foot gap between the road and the cornfield where there was just grass. Right there, I see this big, black animal. It was just looking at me. It had been there longer than I had noticed it, because it was kind of fixed on me and then it started to like…I don’t remember if it was ever still, but all I remember is seeing it trot next to me. So, not a stalking pose, but kind of an upright…it was like it was running next to me just to keep pace, sort of. I mean, not running, but trotting, I guess,” Christopher said. “It was just fixed on me. It was staring right directly at me. It was about 10 feet from the cornfield, so maybe a third of the way towards the road. It must have only been 20 feet away from me. I was really close to it.”

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According to Christopher, the animal was quadrupedal and strongly resembled a big cat with a long tail.

“For a second, I thought it might be a mangey bear or something, but when I really thought about how it moved, I knew it was a cat,” he said.

The creature stood approximately three feet high, and its body was three or four feet long. Its tail was roughly the length of its body, if not a little shorter.

“My first thought was that it looked like a black version of the Pink Panther cartoon. It had that jet black hair. It was skinny though. It moved like a cat, and it had a cat’s tail. But the legs were longer for some reason. It wasn’t that typical barrel [body] that you would see on a jaguar or a tiger, you know how they have that kind of wide midsection, and their legs are a little bit shorter. It was different from that,” he explained. “And then the most unusual part was the head. One of the reasons that it did look like that cartoon is [its head] was really wide. It was very triangular in shape. I don’t remember if the ears had any tufts or anything on there. It didn’t have its mouth open, that’s for sure. But I remember thinking that it looked like it was smiling. Completely black, but I think the eyes were yellow.”

Oddest of all was the creature’s face.

It was the face. The face was odd. It gave me that feeling like when you’re spooked by something. 

This was definitely one hundred percent an animal, but it had this almost human quality to it almost.

It was acting like it was either going to play with me or deciding whether to pursue me. It didn’t make any noise or anything but just the look on its face was odd.

It may have been the smile feature, which I don’t think was its mouth, I think it was some sort of marking or something.

I’m looking at it and my brain is trying to match up its face with something and it’s not working.

Also strange, noted Christopher, was that he doesn’t remember being afraid.

In total, the encounter lasted maybe 15 or 20 seconds.

“I tried to pedal faster,” Christopher said. “I hadn’t said anything or yelled out or anything, but Mike grabbed a stick, a big branch, and then kind of ran at it making a bunch of noise and chased it back into the cornfield.”

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Afterward, Christopher was left wondering what he had just witnessed.

“I asked [Mike] what it was, and he said, ‘Oh, it was a wildcat,’ and just kind of left it at that,” Christopher said. “But I was going, ‘That was not anything I have ever seen before.’ I mean, I was young, but animals are like the first thing they show you. I had seen plenty of dogs, so I knew it couldn’t have been a dog. I tried to ask his parents what that could have been, and they treated me like a kid. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ they said. But it really kind of stuck with me because I had never seen anything like that. And I haven’t seen anything like that since.”

Decades later, Christopher saw something on television that grabbed his attention.

“It was when I was living in Boston,” he said. “I was in a Dunkin’ Donuts in Boston and I look up at a TV screen, it was like 2006, and it said that a DNR officer, something pulled a deer out of the back of his truck. It wasn’t quite the description that I remember seeing, but I thought it was quite a coincidence. It kind of brought it back up in my mind. Made me wonder what in the hell that was. I know it was at Holy Hill, and that’s very close to where I was living. I used to hang out at Holy Hill quite a bit, so I was like, ‘Hey, I know that area.'”

The incident that Christopher referenced was originally reported by Steve Kreuger, a DNR contractor who was picking up animal carcasses near Holy Hill in November of 2006—only a few miles from the site of Christopher’s encounter—when he said a strange creature, later dubbed a “Bearwolf,” stole the body of a deer out of the bed of his truck.

While Christopher’s experience doesn’t exactly match that of Steve Kreuger, he also doesn’t believe what he saw is easily explainable as a mundane animal.

I’m an avid hiker, and I’ve had some experience volunteering with animals, checking trail cams and finding bobcats and cougars or whatever, and number one, for a cougar to come out of the woods by people where, you know, I definitely wasn’t quiet, [is very unusual]. I mean, we had like 10 cougars in the state park that I used to work at, and no one saw one in like 12 years. They would just find the scat. 

As far as appearance-wise, it could have been the same size as a cougar, but the face was not that of a cougar plus it was a little bit taller. First of all, the smile thing was weird, and it seemed to have a flat face. A cougar, to me, has [a more pronounced muzzle]. And the head on the cougar is typically a lot smaller than what I saw. This one had, like, this weird triangle-shaped head. 

It was probably longer fur on its head, is what I’m thinking, and I know that lynxes can have this kind of mane almost. Some of them more than others and it depends on the season. It kind of looked like that, but it was bigger, I think, than a lynx or a bobcat. And a bobcat has those really long legs, but they’re kind of hefty, their fur is kind of puffy. And I know it can kind of vary a bit, but this looked to me like it was a hybrid of like a cougar mated with a lynx or something and it just happened to be melanistic or whatever.

A lot of it had to do with the long legs as well. I mean, the face was really weird, but that could also be because it was black. I think that cats have a lot of markings on their face typically. It being all black probably made it look a lot scarier. And it didn’t show dimension, you know. It was looking straight at the whole time. I never caught a profile. But I remember it having a long tail, which kind of disqualifies a lynx or bobcat.

“It didn’t look like any one animal that I’ve ever seen,” he added.

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Bobcats and mountain lions are the two largest species of cats most often found in Wisconsin, although according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), only bobcats are known to breed in the state. Adult mountain lions can be up to eight feet long with a 23-to-26-inch tail and weigh up to 160 pounds, standing 27 to 31 inches at the shoulder, while bobcats are around two-and-a-half feet long with five-to-nine-inch tails and weigh up to 40 pounds, standing 12 to 24 inches at the shoulder.

Melanism—the unusual development of dark color in the skin and fur—is not known to occur in mountain lions, but it has been seen in bobcats. The condition is far from common in bobcats, however, and the only known specimens have been found in Florida and New Brunswick, Canada.

Sightings of anomalous big cats, often reported as being black, have been reported extensively around La Crosse and the area west of Baraboo, Wisconsin, as noted in Return to Wildcat Mountain: Wisconsin’s Black Panther Nexus, a documentary by noted researcher, investigator, and author Linda Godfrey (deceased).

TO REPORT YOUR OWN ENCOUNTER WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE, REACH OUT TO US DIRECTLY AT THE SINGULAR FORTEAN SOCIETY THROUGH OUR CONTACT PAGE.

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