Cryptid Profile: The Beast of Eau Claire
On March 19th, 1908, Wisconsin newspaper The La Crosse Tribune ran a very short article with the headline “Beast Causes Terror”. With only a few lines, the story told of how a wild beast (described as a panther) was terrorizing the residents of Eau Claire, attacking and eating their livestock, and stalking the child of a local farmer. The article never mentioned if any of the locals had banded together to hunt the beast or if any notable evidence had ever been collected. It appeared to be nothing more than a short article set between many other articles in a newspaper that many people outside the area would never see.
But what the newspaper failed to follow up on was that the beast continued to be seen long after the article was posted. In fact, the Beast of Eau Claire would go on to be spotted numerous times well over the course of a hundred years.
While sightings of the Beast never made the paper again, they continued with regularity. The residents of Eau Claire knew that something potentially dangerous was stalking around just outside their homes, but there wasn’t really anything they could do about it. The creature became legendary around the area but wasn’t really known to anyone outside the city. It wasn’t until 93yrs later that people would again know the Beast of Eau Claire.
In 2001, a woman finishing her night shift job at the local hospital (Sacred Heart) was making her way back home along the dark highway 37 when she encountered something she had never seen before. As the woman made the routine drive, she caught sight of something large up ahead of her that appeared to be crouching low to the ground and off to the side. Unsure of what it was, the woman slowed down to get a better look. Originally thinking that it was possibly a very large dog, the woman got a shock when she realized she was staring into the eyes of (what could only be described as) a large black panther. The woman stated that when her car was in front of the Beast, it rose up on all four legs and she could clearly see that it was the size of a bear yet had the overall shape of a large feline. Fearful that the Beast could possibly attack her vehicle and cause her harm, the woman sped off towards home.
Nearly one year later in 2002, the Beast would be encountered again. Strangely enough though, the encounter would be almost identical to the one a year prior. During this second modern sighting, the Beast was seen by an evening news producer who was leaving work around 11pm. The woman had to take highway 37 home and she too would see the unknown animal off to the side of the road. The only difference with this encounter though is that this woman saw the Beast run away. The witness claimed that as she slowed down to view the large object, her headlights illuminated it and caused it to flee into the surrounding countryside. The woman described the creature as being the size of a bear, but that its body shape was more like that of a cat. The color was reported as being all black.
While there have been no recent sightings of the Beast of Eau Claire, that doesn’t mean the creature isn’t still out there. Large cat sightings continue to be reported throughout Wisconsin even though state wildlife officials claim there are no big cats within the state. Sightings of mountain lions as recently as 2016 have taken place in Milton, Clinton, Milwaukee, Spooner, Monona, Marshfield, Kenosha, and Janesville (my home city).
In fact, there have been over 2,400+ reported large cat sightings in Wisconsin over the past 16yrs. Could one of these large cats be the legendary Beast? Honestly, yeah, it could have been. But like all ABC sightings, the only way to prove them is with irrefutable evidence. Someone needs to produce extremely clear photographs or video, unmistakable foot casts, scat and hair samples, or better yet, a body.
-The Pine Barrens Institute
*Image Credit: Google