Mysteries In The Woods: Whangdoodles And Devil Beasts
By - Roger Jewell
Through the years many stories have been told of strange animals lurkining in the woods, killing livestock and pets from the Whangdoodle of Union County to the Devil Beast of northern Greenville County to the Black Panther of Travelers Rest and the Whompus Cat of Blue Ridge. Some of those mysteries were solved and some were not. Regardless of status the news reports and stories are a part of our mysterious woodland and mountain history and continue through present times.
Last year many people in Travelers Rest and Marietta reported seeing a black panther, mountain lions and bobcats. After several days of research we have compiled a host of news reports from across the state dating from the 1800s to present day concerning strange animal sightings including the 1892 sighting of a wild boy that ran with wolves in Arkansas.
THE 1891 MONSTER OF ABBEVILLE - Fear and pure terror filled the streets and roads and woods around the town of Abbeville in mid-October, 1891 when residents heard strange groans were heard all over town. A news report stated a wild and ferocious animal was at large. Some people thought it might be a bear while others believed it was a panther or a catamount. Whatever it was, cows in the area were frightened and started to lower themselves to the ground whenever the thing voiced its horrible groan every night. Nobody ever saw the animal and it eventually went away.
MONSTER HOG OF ORANGEBURG - In 1898 a woman living near Orangeburg left her young baby in the yard of her home while attending to something inside the house. When she returned only a few minutes later she found that the baby had been killed by a large hog which had run from the woods to the yard. The baby was horribly mutilated and the child died within minutes of the attack. The hog was a notorious chicken eater but nobody had ever heard of a hog attacking a child before.
Also in 1898 in Lancaster William Mackey heard a noise shortly before daylight. He discovered a huge wild hog was attacking his pig. As Mackey approached the wild hog the monster turned and vigorously attacked Mackey. The hog made serious deep gashes in Mackey's leg which required stitches. The wild hog killed the pig.]
THE WHANGDOODLE OF SPARTANBURG COUNTY - Something was terrorizing southern Spartanburg County in 1894 for several weeks near Woodruff. The Whangdoodle's cry which sounded like a woman's scream could be heard at night and finally the men of the area grabbed their guns and tracked the strange animal. News reports stated, "The group of men organized at the fork of the Tyger River and tracked their way by Walnut Grove for eight miles but lost the trail around Moore's bridge. Mrs. Walker saw the beast cross the road at her home and blew a horn for help. The men came to her and she directed them as to the direction the beast had walked. As the beast continued to run down the road people saw it and immediately ran inside their houses. The men followed the beast as it walked down the middle of the road and then ran through some bushes. When the men's gunfire killed the beast they said it resembled a monster sized Newfoundland dog that had been crossed with some other kind of animal. But questions have been raised that it may not have been the original Whangdoodle. Reports were received of other animal screams and sightings in northern Spartanburg near Fingerville and if the reports are true there must be two Whangdoodles.
WHANGDOODLE OF ELLENTON 1901 - In May of 1901 two places in Aiken County reported the presence of a strange wild animal. A large beast with the short end of a broken chain around its neck frightened a fisherman on the upper Three Runs. The fisherman dropped his fishing rod, abandoned his fish and fled. People in the area of Ellenton believe the beast was a tiger that escaped from some circus. However, no circus had been through the state prior to the sighting. A man in Sally, SC also reported a strange animal had been prowling around there and its tracks resembled a large dog but the hind feet were much larger than the fore feet. The mystery was never solved.
THE 1906 GREER MONSTER - The State newspaper reported people around areas of Greer were being terrorized by a sure Whangdoodle. "The beast fears no man and prowls at night with the agility of a leopard, the cunning and strength of a lion. Will Few, a respectable and well known man of Greer had an encounter with the beast. Few had heard about the strange animal and carried an axe handle with him as he walked to prayer meeting recently." The report went on to say, Few came up on the beast as it blocked his path. He took a swing at it with his club and the animal sprang about eight feet in the air. Few dropped the club and ran back home. On the next morning Few went back to the scene and discovered the ground had been clawed and tracks that were larger than a man's hand. It was believed the beast had a den near the Enoree River. The mystery was never solved.
ANOTHER WHANGDOODLE IN WOODRUFF - In 1937 The Greenville News reported another strange animal was terrorizing the Mills Mill village in Woodruff. The report read: "for weeks now groups of men and women have been gathering at night in the area of the mill baseball field trying to catch a strange animal in the woods that appears at 10 o'clock nightly. Just off of Gray Street the beast appears but disappears in thin air when gun shots are fired. The beast makes a choking sound like a dog with something stuck in its throat, some folks claim. Others say it makes sounds like a snort and grunts like a pig. But the animal does not make any sound when walking or running. It does not leave any tracks. Niles Rhodes got within twenty feet of the thing and took a shot at it but it disappeared so quickly that he couldn't get a good look at it. He said it was about the size of a bulldog. Raymond Harrington said it was the size of a cat and grunted. A child saw it and said it was shaped like a goat but it didn't have any horns. Everyone agreed it was white in color. G.H. Leonhardt said years ago he lived at the foot of the mountains and a while animal appeared there and killed several dogs. He said the men tracked it down and shot it and they took the body to Kings Mountain to be identified but nobody could ever identify what it was. The 1937 mystery was never solved.
THE 1933 PIEDMONT VARMIT - In 1933 people in the town of Piedmont heard sounds of a woman screaming on a nightly basis and they knew they had some kind of panther stalking the area at night. R.L. Davis said they animal had been seen and it was not scared of gunfire. He said it is black or brown in color, about three and a half feet long and two feet tall and travels around between 9:30 at night until daylight. The mystery was never solved and officials said panthers were extinct.
THE 1938 ROCK HILL UDILACUS - Newspaper headlines proclaimed "Strange Animal Roams Streets". It was said to be the size of a cow while others said it was more like a gorilla. It started between Rock Hill and Ebenezer in York County when a man claimed a strange animal attacked him and tore off his clothing. A large calf was also killed by something. Two men described it was large and black and also small and sleek. It following days it was described as a gorilla, a hairy beast, a cat the size of a calf, It dislikes dogs, hates water and daylight. One man that was walking down a street and thought he heard the monster glanced backward and walked into a phone pole. The mystery was solved when the local newspaper admitted the original front page story was - a hoax.
THE 1945 ANDERSON VARMIT - In October of 1945 a mysterious creature stalked Anderson County and the news really got people's attention when Anderson County Sheriff W.J. Erskine reported that he saw the creature as it ran across the road in front of his car. "The headlights of my car picked up the thing on the Portman Highway. It was black, short and about five feet long.." The sheriff also recalled an earlier incident when a tourist from Texas and his wife stopped at The Greasy Spoon cafe at around 1 A.M for a bite to eat. "His wife was upset and nervous because something black had flashed across the road in front of them just as they came within sight of Anderson," the sheriff said. "This was the same night that eight people riding in two cars reported seeing a werewolf stumbled down an embankment near the cemetery. They all claimed it had a hog like face." The Anderson mysteries remain unsolved.
THE 1955 PICKENS COUNTY PANTHER - In February of 1955 citizens in Pickens County were up in arms over sightings and killings from a strange animal. Several hunting dogs were clawed, another suffered a broken neck and livestock were killed in the Midway section of the county. Everyone that saw the creature said it was big and black. Some people claimed it was a panther, others said it was a mountain lion and a few claimed it was a wolf. The mystery was never solved.
THE DEVIL BEAST OF NORTHERN GREENVILLE COUNTY - From 1956 - 1959 a "Devil Beast" terrorized areas of northern Greenville County but judging the places the strange animal was seen and based on what people saw, we would have to say there were more than one beast. For at least three years residents of upper Greenville County heard scary, blood curdling screams and shrieks at night. Chickens and livestock were being snatched away or found mutilated. Dogs were also being attacked and killed. It was a tense period of time. In February of 1958 residents of Marietta the creature turned out to be a huge 50 pound wildcat. The critter was caught and killed by an area farmer who used two adjoining traps. Residents of Marietta said it was the biggest wildcat they had ever seen. But the sightings and strange screams continued. By 1959 the strange animal had earned the name, "The Devil Beast." In mid 1959 two Travelers Rest area men saw the creature and were close enough to describe it. John T Hopkins, a retired farmer, said he had seen plenty of animals in his time but he had never seen anything like the creature he saw sunning itself on a large boulder near Travelers Rest. Hopkins believed the animal he saw was the famed "Devil Beast." Hopkins said the creature was tan in color and it was ringed with whitish stripes clear out to the tip of its tail. It has a large head with bulging eyes and stood as tall as a big collie dog and has a dog like snout. He said it walked like some kind of large mountain lion. He added that the creature also had two cubs. Hopkins' neighbor, M.L Loftis, also saw the creature and tried to take a shot at it but it moved away before he could pull the trigger.
Within the next few days the "Devil Beast" was seen again, in the area of North Highway 25 and Mountain Lake Colony above Cleveland. Another report was issued stating the Beast was heard in the Locust Hill area of Travelers Rest where several dogs had been killed. A Greenville truck driver who was making his run through the North Saluda reservoir thought he saw the animal run off the side of the road. He said it sort of looked like a 90 to 100 pound groundhog but he wasn't sure. Meanwhile a woman at Mountain Lake Colony said she hear the thing screaming in the nearby woods.
In early July 1959 a rancher, Ken Williams of the Flying F Ranch located about two miles from Travelers Rest said he had captured what he thought might be the "Devil Beast" on his ranch. He said on the night of July 1st his dogs cornered the beast and it was a huge goat weighing about 60 pounds with 22 inch horns and the horn span was 34 inches. He secured the goat on his ranch and hoped it was an end to people being scared across this part of the county.
About a month and a half later a report came in that the beast was seen again in the Locust Hill area on August 18th 1959. Richard Jones said he saw the animal run across the road and it was a large bobcat. jones said he had heard the bobcat's scream several times during the previous night.
The Devil Beast was seen and heard in the Blue Ridge area several times since but should not be confused with the "Whampus Cat" of Lake Robinson, Groce Meadow, Double Springs and Mountain View areas.
1959 SOMETHING IN THE SANDY BAY SWAMP - In 1959 Ed Miles hit a strange animal with his pickup truck near the swamp in Sandy Bay near Kingstree. Thus began a long debate, was it a strange form of canine or would the animal be proof that panthers still roam around South Carolina. "The thing was much larger than a dog," Miles said. "It was brownish in color and looked like the kind of thing you would see in the movies. It has bushy hair on the neck and shoulders and a long tail with a clump of hair at the end of the tail. The head looked like the head of a lion."
People of the area had suspected something strange was in that swamp after horses and cattle acted nervous near the swamp.
Dr. R.E. Atkinson, a Kingstree veterinarian took one look at the dead animal and said it was a member of the canine family. "Whatever it was it was old," he said. But the good doctor changed his mind and said he thought it might be a member of the Jackal family but could possibly be something else. In other words, he didn't know what it was.
The people of Sandy Bay said they have see all kinds of animals come out of the swamp but they had never seen anything like the animal Ed Miles hit with his pickup truck.
1964 BAMBERG PANTHER - It was either a panther or mountain lion that stalked the Bamberg area near the swamps in 1964. Many people saw it and even a state senator and his wife saw the creature. Senator P. Eugene Brabham and his wife almost hit the thing with their car as it leaped across the road in front of them on two occasions. South Carolina Game Warden raised turkeys and mallard ducks at his camp near the Edisto River. The creature that looked like a panther killed all eleven mallards and ducks. Many large tracks were found but the mystery was never solved.
1988 ORANGEBURG COUNTY, STRANGE ANIMAL CHEWED CHROME FROM CAR - A strange animal in Orangeburg County attacked a couple's 1986 Chevrolet. Nobody was sure what kind of animal it was but the thing chewed chrome from the car, scratched up the hood and somehow got under the hood and destroyed some of the vehicle's wiring. The creature left white hair, saliva stains and tracks at the scene. Over $600 in damages were done to the car.
1977 YORK COUNTY BIGFOOT - Whatever it was left a big toed, flat footed huge foot print in the backyard of Helen and Leonard Gromoske's backyard. Fort Mill police said the print measured 12 inches long, five inches wide and one inch deep. They said an animal with a foot that size would have to weigh around 400 pounds. A plaster cast was made of the footprint and was sent to Winthrop University for identification. The mystery was never solved.
1982 WHAMPUS CAT AND WHANGDOODLE OF O'NEAL, DOUBLE SPRINGS, BLUE RIDGE, GROCE MEADOW AND FROG LEVEL - For over 60 years people of northern Greenville County have heard the cries and screams of a strange animal that people have named the Whampus Cat. IT has been heard around the old Double Springs School as well as the old Mountain View School. Residents say if you have never heard it you have been inside watching too much television. One woman who lived behind the Double Springs Church said in 1982, "back in the 1950s there were panthers here, you could hear them at night from here to the Dark Corner and they screamed like a woman in distress.
1992 THE KANGAROO OF WELLFORD - In 1992 a Wellford woman looked out her kitchen window and saw a kangaroo like snimal in her backyard. "It was hopping around the woods behind the house," said Ada Fowler of Highway 29. She described it as a four legged creature about two feet tall, a gray fur coat and hopped along on two big hind legs with two small short legs curled in the front. Police officers from Duncan, Lyman and Spartanburg County searched the woods but they didn't find anything and gave up the search due to darkness. owners of nearby Hollywild Animal Park said he didn't know of anybody in South Carolina that owns or keeps a kangaroo or wallaby. The mystery was never solved.
2021 THE BLACK PANTHER OF TRAVELERS REST - Last Spring a woman told Travelers Rest residents on Facebook that she had just seen a black panther in her yard in the Sunny Slopes community. That information resulted in many folks in and around Renfrew, plus areas of Coleman Heights, Tigerville Road, Fernleaf Drive, Rabbit Road, Keeler Mill Road, Locust Hill Road, Old White Horse Road and Tugaloo Road saying they had either seen or heard the panther in their neighborhoods. Sightings continued through the autum months. A huge debate followed with some folks either reporting they had either seen and heard the thing while others said panthers are extinct. Others said the creature wasn't black at all but brownish or tan in color and the creature was a mountain lion. Several years earlier in 2016 SCDNR officers were said to be searching areas of Tigerville Road and told one resident they were looking for a mountain lion in the area. Also in 2021 black bears were seen and photographed in downtown Travelers Rest as well as many surrounding areas.
2021 HORRY COUNTY - Last fall Horry County officials said wild hogs and coyotes were taking over the county. This followed reports and complaints in 2012 about coyotes roaming areas of Surfside Beach. At Surfside, coyotes were killing pets and roaming areas of 5th Avenue. People petitioned the city to do something about the wild animals. Today coyotes are in every county of South Carolina including the barrier islands on the coast.
1882 THE WILD BOY OF ARKANSAS - Okay, this one was not in South Carolina but when we discovered this story we felt it should be included. In March of 1892 it was reported seven miles north of Benton, Arkansas that a wild boy was living in the wooded hills and he has been seen by several people. In early March of 1892 David Williams was traveling to Benton by horse and wagon. As he passed through dense woods near a river bottom he saw three wolves running through brush and with them was a strange animal. Williams stopped to investigate and tied his team of horses and entered the woods. Williams said the strange animal was undoubtedly a boy of about fifteen or sixteen years of age. He said the boy was perfectly wild, unclothed, and while it occasionally got up on two, it ran on hands and feet and could run that way with and as fast as the wolves. The boy ran as a part of the wolf pack and showed from its actions that it was nothing but wild.
Williams watched from a distance and tried to get closer. The wolves and the boy rant through the brush with marvelous speed and Williams could not get near them.
It is believed the boy must have been stolen as a baby by wolves and raised by the wolves. A concerned effort was made to locate and capture the boy and bring him to civilization but those efforts failed. The mystery of the wolf boy has never been solved.