; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, October 26, 2020

Appalachian 'Wolf Thing' vs 'Captain, the Black Bear'

This is a tale of confrontation between 2 beasts in the North Carolina mountains. 'Wolf Thing' vs 'Captain, the Black Bear.'

I came across the following interesting account:

This was not a report I myself witnessed but instead one my grandmother told me about that my aunt later corroborated independently so I think they're trustworthy. At the time I'll note there wasn't much talk of "dogmen" as this was about a decade before the infamous song came out, though there was talk of wolves or werewolf like monsters in Appalachia for a long time so my aunt and grandmother just always called it "That wolf thing/creature".

For a little background my grandparents', currently aunt's, home is in backwoods of western Grayson county Virginia, which to this day is still sparsely populated outside of one or two large towns on the east side; and back then it was even less so. Extremely thick forest with hilly terrain in all directions. You have to get on a dirt path and follow it for about half a mile to get to a gravel covered side road, and then follow it for about 30 minutes to reach a very small town just across the North Carolina border. If you go a short ways North you find yourself at the Blue Ridge mountains and parkway that lead up into Appalachia proper. The forest is mostly low-lying shrubs up to around 4 feet high with pine and a lot of black oak trees making up the canopy. There is a very clear stream about 30 yards from the house which has fish quite frequently. This along with wild blackberries, tender leaf shrubs, and some apple trees make it very lucrative for wildlife. The house itself is an old two-story house built onto an incline of the hill that overlooks it. This was back in the 1970s, my aunt believes it was 1978 as she was finishing high school at the time.

My father had graduated from college and was going on to the Air Force, so he had already moved out. My grandfather, although he was old enough to retire, liked to remain busy so he worked his old job as an electrician and power pole technician; just now in an advisory role because he was getting up there in years. He had just gotten the contract down in North Carolina so he was away from the house for about a week and a half. This left only my 17-year-old aunt and grandmother at the house.

As I said there usually was a lot of wildlife in the area. A typical morning for my grandmother was making breakfast and sitting out on her porch watching deer and rabbits eat at the shrubs. Sometimes she would also see or hear a bobcat, fox, or coyote about. On one occasion a mountain lion and her cups strolled right past the house. One animal she was familiar with in particular was a very large black bear who could be recognized by folks around those parts from a white patch on his chest and a hole in his left ear. My grandmother nicknamed him "Captain" because he had a habit of sitting on his haunches and reaching up with his paws to pick apples, a motion that looked like he was saluting. Captain was a very big black bear but wasn't very aggressive unless tested. He seemed to have an agreement with my grandmother and grandfather that if they left him alone he would leave them alone. He'd just strolled by the house every now and then to have some blackberries on the bushes or apples that had fallen down, which meant he came by the house's yards often as he was too big to climb trees much more and the fruit trees around the house were low enough he could reach up and pick food. My grandfather guesstimated he was somewhere in the 500 to 600-pound range and roughly 6 feet tall as my grandfather once measured some scratch marks he left on a tree.

During the week my grandmother noticed a fairly sharp decline in the animals nearby. It was the latter part of summer in a wet season so most of the plants were full-bloom and the leaves were at their tenderest, yet she couldn't see hide nor hair of any rabbits or dear coming to graze. A coyote she had her yapping every night for the past month seemed to vanish. A few neighbors (by neighbors I mean people who lived within 5 miles) who stopped by told her something had taken their dog and their chicken coop had been smashed into. They assumed the mountain lion that lurked about had done it since it was the only other thing that could feasibly take down a large farm dog as they had seen Captain, the only other predator nearby big enough to take down a 80+lb farm dog, the day after in a completely different area gorging himself on a dead deer.

They checked around the couldn't find anything. The next night my grandmother was woken up by my aunt who told her that she heard something bang against the outside of her wall. They checked around in the morning after and found one of the deer butchered with a bloody smear on the wall. Judging from the way the gravel was disturbed, the deer had been walking by the house when something ambushed it and in the struggle, it got smacked against the wall. My grandmother, having grown up in the woods, was familiar with predator kills and methods. Mountain lions tend to jump on the back and rake their claws across the flanks to hold on as they bite the neck, black bears will usually break the neck or the back with their paws while biting the head, and the rare occasions coyotes attack deer they usually do it by biting down on the inside of the leg and twisting to rip the muscle and arteries. This kill clearly had the throat ripped out, but there weren't any claw marks to be found and the bite looked narrower than what a cougar would do. Plus she could gander there was only one predator from the way the ground had been disturbed, which didn't make sense for coyotes as they typically hunted in pairs since just one alone isn't usually enough to bring down a full grown deer.

After disposing of the carcass the next few nights were relatively uneventful except for the fact several times my aunt or grandmother would be woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of something panting outside. Now in these woods you can hear a pin drop if it's close enough and at some points, they could swear the animal making the painting was directly outside the wall. One day my grandmother was picking some berries when she noticed what looked like dog tracks of a very large hound going through a mud flat bordering the nearby stream. Thinking it might be the missing farm dog who had maybe just run away, she followed the tracks until she heard something loudly growling at her from across the stream.

She looked up to see the partially obscured face of what look like on large, bulky, brown colored coyote or wolf standing in a thicket on the other side of the stream. She quickly began to back away, glancing back only to check her footing on the slope that led down to the stream. When she looked back she saw the very distinctly canine face in much greater detail because the animal had moved out from under cover. But instead of stepping out of the leaves like she thought it did at first, she soon noticed that it was instead standing up on its hind legs and peering over the shrubs. Now she had seen canines stand upright before. Dogs do it, foxes can do it, coyotes sometimes do it. It was the size that took her off guard. She had been to that exact same thicket of shrubs just the other day and her head only just barely reached the top, and my grandmother was around 5'3. This thing had its head pitched clear over the shrubs with a little bit of extra visible. And usually, when a predator is making no attempt to hide, it's usually because its trying to intimidate someone. My grandmother managed to back away to the hill without turning around, and when she started to get out of sight the creature stepped out of the thicket on its hind legs. It strolled forward in a very uncanny way she had trouble describing but she insisted it never went back down on all fours. Needless to say, she ran to the house in a backpedal sprint. That night they heard the panting again along with a distant howl and scraping sounds. They found the garage door, back door frame, and kitchen window frame all had claw marks on them from something investigating them.

The canine creature was seen a few more times across the week by my grandmother and the neighbors; usually on or near the area of my family's property. My aunt finally saw it when she saw a pair of fuzzy ears outside her window. Now she wasn't startled right off the bat from this as Captain had come by her window a few times before and she gradually lost some fear of the big bear over the years. But in his case his ears just barely reached the edge of the window seal whereas in this case, you could clearly see them and the top of their owner's head. She quickly realized it wasn't the bear because of the pointed shape, brown coloring, and the fact it had two fully intact ears. They also started to detect a very pungent smell on a side door porch, one time finding what look like some urinal or some other liquid stains on it; suggesting an animal had scent marked it to claim the spot.

It all came to a head on a Wednesday night when they heard howling in the distance grow closer. My grandmother flipped on a porch light and glimpsed the canine animal quickly sprinting across the lawn on its hind legs again, her sighting confirming how big it was. She'd seen timber wolves at the zoo up to 150lbs and she was certain this was at least a bit more than twice that size. For several hours of the night, they could hear it roaming around the property and pressing against doors like it was trying to find a way in. They glimpsed at several points eye shine of yellow eyes peering in through the windows as well as broad, long-fingered paws being pushed against the glass briefly. This was the day an age before cell phones and 24-hour police service in some rural areas, so no one had a means of immediately calling the police. Instead, my grandmother had to wait arduous minutes on a dial-line with connection difficulty trying to call the police station two towns over.

She was distracted by my aunt screaming, running into the bedroom to get one of the guns out. She had been sitting in the living room when she felt clicking against the glass and saw "that wolf thing" pressing its face and bared teeth against the surface with its claws fully outstretched. Both of them started to try to get the rifles or shotguns out, it was becoming increasingly clear the creature was trying to get into the house and knew they were in there.

They heard it panting through a wall before there was the sound of heavy footsteps and a very loud "Thump!" with a flash of fur on the edge of the window. They ran to the inner-most room, the pantry locker, and stayed in there with the guns. Now it's not like in the movies when creatures roar, snarl, and hiss constantly no matter what they're doing; but they did hear a commotion outside. My aunt and grandmother hadn't the faintest idea what was going on and didn't investigate until the morning after, but they could tell something was antagonizing something as occasional grunts, barks, and rumbles were audible through the blackness for about a minute and gradually moved off.

They found no bodies but there'd clearly been a ferocious altercation. The ground was ripped up in multiple spots, the wall had a dent in it, and there was some oxidized blood traces on the grass and dirt. My grandmother also found a trail where something had charged through the shrubs and recovered several vague dog prints as well as wider tracks moving the same direction. The animals all seemed to come back by the end of the week and the howls stopped.

When my grandfather came back home he, my aunt, and some neighbors surveyed the area to make sure they couldn't find the wolf creature. Evidently the neighbors had also heard howls around their property at night that stopped recently too. They couldn't find it despite surveying the whole property, though they did find what looked like a track way leading out of the property and running off into the mountains.

Several days later my grandmother saw Captain again, marking his territory by rubbing up against a tree in their yard and scratching the bark. He had several cuts across his muzzle, was missing patches of fur, had some healed bite wounds on his arm, and the hole in his ear had been torn open to the point he was missing half the ear flap, but other than that and a slight limp that went away with time; he was fine. My aunt joked he looked rather proud of himself.

When he was told about the urine like smell on the doorstep when the wolf creature was running amok, my grandfather speculated it was trying to claim the territory. Usually black bears are relatively docile but evidently Captain took issue with this newcomer imposing on his space and became aggressive, so what my grandmother and aunt heard that one night was the bear charging while it was distracted and engaging the intruder. While the wolf looking creature was taller, it seemed skinnier and less massive. And apparently in a confrontation and threat displays that likely followed, sheer bulk won out.

Apparently it decided it wasn't worth claiming this spot if it meant having to square off with a quarter ton of claws and teeth for it. Captain had run the intruder off to protect his territory and coincidentally helped my family. As a thank you and so he could recover his strength quicker my grandmother trimmed the apple trees to down all the fruit and let the bear enjoy himself without feeding him directly (don't want to associate humans with food). Winter would be in a few months and she wanted him fattened up so he could stick around for the next year, just in case. As she put it, the forest will always have a "boss" and its better to have one who's not interested in eating you.

Decades have gone by and while both my grandparents and Captain have passed, the dogman creature never returned. There's been about three black bears who've moved into Captain's place since and each has grown about as big as he was. Thankfully that seems to have been enough to ward off any large canines." Name withheld