5 True Stories of Killer Animals Too Unrealistic for a Movie
In any showdown of man vs. man-eating beast, man is usually the bad guy. The kinds of predators we make scary movies about are in reality just scared, or trying to defend their territory, or hungry.
But that's precisely why it's so freaky when actual animals turn into serial killers, stalking prey and evading capture in a way that makes the shark in Jaws look like an incompetent asshole. Like ...
The Devilish Cunning Panther of India
In 1858, the Central Provinces of British India had more to fear than British occupation and an unhealthy obsession with cricket. They had a serial killer of Dexter-like proportions, if Dexter was a leopard with balls of steel. In a supreme act of don't-give-a-fuckery, this leopard would invite itself into a person's residence at night, suck all their blood from the neck, and then simply leave the corpse there, as if to prove that it wasn't killing out of necessity but for the pure hell of it. Despite heightened alerts, the leopard managed to go on merrily offing people for over a year, racking up a body count of nearly a hundred goddamned victims (other sources say 150).
It's almost as big as the leopard's body count in the pre-Disneyfied Jungle Book.
The leopard acquired the evil, yet generic nickname of "The Devilish Cunning Panther," and such was its reputation that people in the area were afraid to even leave their houses (as if that could help). And so Britain did the only thing they could do -- send in a white guy with a gun. And that's when things got really creepy.
As the hunter soon found out, this wasn't your average vicious man-eating feline. The hunter tried to outsmart the leopard by setting up the corpse of one of its victims in the forest as bait and waiting up in a tree with a loaded rifle. However, the leopard showed up at night, when it was too dark to shoot accurately. The hunter shot into the air to try to spook the animal into coming out where there was more light, but the thing didn't even flinch. It just kept feeding on the corpse and stayed there until it decided it was done with its meal, which is to say, when only hands and feet were left.
"I've seen how you use those hands. No thanks."
Defeated, the hunter returned to the village and went to sleep for the night ... only to wake up to the distinct sound of a leopard stalking him outside his tent and even clawing at the fabric, trying to get in. At this point, it's no longer accurate to refer to the human as the hunter and the leopard as the prey. If a villager hadn't shouted at that moment, we're pretty sure the guy would have ended up as a rug inside a cave.
After outwitting a professional hunter that had tracked it for a month, the infamous Leopard of the Central Provinces ended up getting shot to death by a local goat herder who didn't realize what it was. Its skin and claws were turned into souvenirs, at which point they presumably managed to kill 50 more people.
The Malawi Terror Beast
Malawi is your typical central African nation. Lately, they've only been in the news for stuff as mundane as trying to qualify for the World Cup or the occasional coup attempt. In 2002, however, it was not war, soccer, or a deadly combination of the two that brought Malawi into the limelight -- it was its wildlife. Specifically, one creature that looked like this to eyewitnesses:
"It was horrific. It had the body of a beast, the claws of a monster, and the facial hair of a date rapist."
The beast was officially described as a rabid hyena, but residents disagreed, noting that its legs were way too long. Whatever the hell it was, throughout 2002 it managed to kill five people and maim 20 more in particularly gruesome ways -- the BBC reported that it "crushed their skulls and ate their intestines and private parts." It also seemed to have a special predilection for human faces (survivors were left massively disfigured). Again, we're getting all these details from the BBC, not some crappy Chupacabra blog.
In August of 2002, a team of game wardens and paramilitary forces tracked down and killed the animal, which was confirmed to be pretty much a hyena ... but that wasn't the end of it. In March of 2003, the same signature crushings of human skulls were back, inspiring 4,000 Malawians to get the fuck out of their villages as fast as possible. The same description was given again: a rabid hyena on steroids.
Debate continues as to whether they should add an asterisk to its kill record.
Despite murdering at least three more people and maiming 16, the aptly named "Malawi terror beast" was never caught this time around. The displaced villagers eventually returned to their homes, even though the authorities admitted that the animal was still at large, salivating at the thought of tasting their faces and/or gonads.
So many questions are left unanswered: Did they kill the wrong animal the first time around? Was this a copycat? Some of the residents believe that the terror beast was killed in 2002 and its ghost returned the following year for bloody vengeance before presumably slipping back into doggie heaven. You know what, we're gonna go with that explanation, because that's still less terrifying than the notion that there was more than one of these things out there.
The Man-Eating Wolves of Paris
Despite what movies starring Liam Neeson's fists would have you believe, wolves almost never attack people. Like most wild animals, they prefer to leave our throats intact unless we go out of our way to bug them, like by kicking dirt in their faces or building capital cities right in the middle of their hunting grounds. Some folks in Europe found out about that last part the hard way.
"You're not Italian, are you? Italian always gives me heartburn."
You see, in the middle of the 15th century, Paris was less the metropolis of cheap wine and sex that we know today and more of a tiny walled-off village on one island in the middle of the Seine. What the Parisians hadn't realized, however, was that they'd built their home right in the middle of a nearby wolf pack's grocery store. The wolves saw this less as their corner store getting closed down and more as it being replaced by a supermarket.
The alpha wolf was dubbed "Courtaud," or "Bobtail," because its tail was bobbed and French people are very unimaginative when it comes to naming things. A better name might have been "furry ravenous murder machine," because good ol' Bob preferred human flesh to other kinds. After picking off livestock for a few months and generally scaring the shit out of everyone, Bobtail led the pack right into the middle of town and slaughtered somewhere between 30 and 40 people.
"Ugh, I always overdo it at buffets."
When the Parisians tried to track down the wolves' lair, they couldn't find it. Instead they found an empty wolf den, probably with a bunch of human bones carefully arranged to spell out "Fuck you, two-leggers."
Finally, the Parisians came up with a plan: They laid out a trail of bait leading the entire pack into the center of town, and there, on the steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral, they fought. As in the entire town fought the whole pack of wolves with rocks, sticks, and whatever else they could find, right in front of Europe's most famously dramatic cathedral.
Some locals fashioned bread dough into weapons, and thus the baguette was born.
And remember the thing about the French being very literal at naming things? Well, some believe "Louvre" is derived from the Latin word for "wolf," hence the name of the famous museum in Paris. This proves that France actually is more badass than America, for the simple fact that there's no Giant Killer Shark Museum in New Jersey.
The Giant Mutant Catfish of Kali River
In 1998, villagers on the Kali River in India started reliving the plot of Jaws, only with a twist: Occasionally a tribesman going into the river would be sucked underneath and devoured, not by a shark or any of the sea creatures we've been taught to fear, but by a huge mutant catfish.
It lures in its human prey by pretending to be a hot girl online.
Since when do catfish eat people, you ask? Why, ever since we accidentally taught them to. Apparently the tribe's tradition of setting the corpses of their loved ones on fire and pushing them down the river in funeral pyres came back to bite them in the ass in a horrifyingly literal way. A massive catfish (called a goonch) began feeding on these bodies and developed a taste for human flesh. Eventually it stopped settling for the precooked meals that were being sent its way and started going out to find more food on its own.
Even more disturbing is the fact that this particular goonch began synchronizing its attacks by figuring out the times when humans would regularly go to the river for water (presumably eating human brains had multiplied its mental power). By 2007, it became a terrifying menace not only in India, but in nearby Nepal as well, where it also began dragging people underwater, killing at least three bathers along the way. For nine years, the locals tried to hunt it down, but the goonch was always one step ahead of them, leading British biologist/fisherman/TV personality Jeremy Wade (who had caught goonches before, albeit regular-size ones) to volunteer to go after it.
As the old Indian proverb says, "When the going gets tough, call a cable channel host."
Since standard lures proved ineffective, Wade and the locals tried something a little different: An actual funeral pyre was set up in the river to tempt the killer, and it worked. Once Wade had the fish in his sights, he managed to reel it out with a good old-fashioned fishing rod -- revealing a massive, 6-foot, 161-pound monster.
Wade had no way of knowing if this was the man-eating catfish -- it's not like it had a distinctive tattoo or anything -- but the fact that the killings stopped immediately would seem to confirm it. That, or the killer goonch just moved to another neighborhood. We're gonna go ahead and cut it out with the funeral pyres in our area, just in case.
The Unknown Beast of Gevaudan
Over a hundred people were killed by the Beast of Gevaudan, which was a ... well, actually, we have no idea what kind of animal it was. One reason is that record keeping was a lot sketchier in the 18th century when this whole thing went down. The other reason is that all the evidence points to this thing being a goddamn demon.
A goddamn sexy demon.
Reports vary (because 18th century), but the general consensus is that the Beast attacked and killed at least 113 people over a period of four years, focusing on women and children. Those who survived left weird descriptions that sounded like a mismatch between a wolf, a hyena, and a bear. This information has led some Internet detectives to theorize that it could have been ... a wolf/hyena/bear hybrid. We'll pause while you imagine those three animals having sex with each other.
Anyway, King Louis XV eventually heard about what was going on and sent a dragoon captain and a force 20,000 strong into the woods to find the creature, but they came back empty-handed. Then he sent his master-at-arms Francois Antoine after the creature, and he managed to kill a 6-foot wolf. However, people kept getting eaten, proving that Louis XV was just about as good at catching monsters as he was at keeping a country together.
Although he was pretty great at memorializing terrifying shit.
Finally, a wolf hunter named Jean Chastel managed to track down and kill the creature, stopping the deaths and proving that the monster was a ... um, we still have no goddamn clue, somehow. Even though Chastel displayed the body at Louis XV's court and all.
"Ah yes, that's clearly a *coughs, mumbles* yes, of course ... Wine, anyone?"
After interviewing zoologists and historians all over France, the makers of this hilariously overproduced video couldn't find any two people who agreed. The best (well, most interesting) guess is that it was an African striped hyena imported by a crazy French aristocrat who then specifically trained it to hunt and eat people, like some kind of goddamned hyena-themed supervillain.
That may sound farfetched, but when you put it next to "Or maybe it was a mutated bear wolf!" and remember that this is 18th century France we're talking about, where fancy beasts were a sign of wealth and human life was cheaper than smelly cheese, it suddenly doesn't seem that unlikely.
JF Sargent would like you to make a donation to the Defenders of Wildlife Organization. You can also read his free science fiction adventure novel. Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. He can be found on Facebook, or you can read his new book, The End of the Line.
Related Reading: Ever heard of the Tsavo Man-Eaters? They killed 135 people over six months. Some terrifying animals are too adorable to run away from. Like the giant otters that regularly whup alligator ass. Other animals, like lions are just cockbags.