'Story Told By My Mother', painted in 1955 by Carroll Cloar (© Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee, USA – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
In various previous ShukerNature articles, I've documented several fascinating examples of apparent cryptids depicted by famous artists. Now, I am adding yet another such example to this select company.
I am very grateful to American correspondent David McAvoy for bringing to my attention a remarkable painting on display at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Tennessee, USA. Entitled 'Story Told By My Mother', and opening this present ShukerNature article, it was produced in 1955 by highly-acclaimed Arkansas-born artist Carroll Cloar (1913-1993), and depicts a snow scene in which a woman is stepping briskly away from a very large black panther-like cat standing at the edge of some trees.
David informed me that it was inspired by tales that Cloar had heard from his mother concerning so-called black panthers that had once roamed Arkansas. Moreover, David himself hails from Arkansas, and he mentioned that he has heard such stories for as long as he can remember. Indeed, mysterious, unidentified big cats of black panther-like appearance (i.e. resembling melanistic leopards, which are uniformly black in background coat colouration) have been reported all over North America for centuries.
Leopards of course are not native to the New World, so if such beasts are indeed roaming the wilds here, they can only be escapee or released individuals from captivity. However, their eyewitnesses often claim that these cats are not black leopards anyway (nor black jaguars either, although normal spotted jaguars have been confirmed to exist at least in certain southern states such as Arizona and California on a fairly regular basis in earlier times), but are instead black pumas. (Other names for pumas, incidentally, include cougars, mountain lions, catamounts, painters, and - very confusingly - panthers.) Yet no such cat form has ever been scientifically confirmed from North America, only two such specimens have been procured in tropical Latin America, and no captive individuals are currently known to exist anywhere (I have previously documented one possible example exhibited at London Zoo during the 1800s). Moreover, all three of these latter specimens were not uniformly black anyway, but were only black dorsally; ventrally, they were much paler.
In short, even if they do occur, black pumas are exceptionally rare as far as physical evidence for their reality is concerned, and those few confirmed specimens do not match the sightings of large all-black felids in North America. Bearing in mind that countless normal-coloured pumas (i.e. either tawny or grey) have been shot there, however, and also bearing in mind that in view of the numerous reports of black panther-like cats on file from this continent, whatever this cat form may be it does not appear to be especially rare, why are no North America specimens ever forthcoming if it is indeed a melanistic version (morph) of the puma? This apparent paradox remains a major riddle for New World cryptozoology to solve, but at least we do now have an additional and most interesting, unexpected piece of evidence supporting the existence of black panther-like cats in North America, regardless of their formal taxonomic identity.
For a comprehensive examination of the black puma controversy, please click here, and see also my books Mystery Cats of the World and Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery.