Black cats are a staple of Halloween, right? But this may be taking it just one step too far…

For many years, cougars and mountain lions have been seen in Michigan…but black panthers? Or black leopards? Jaguars? It seems so, beginning in the 1950’s and up to now.

Experts say there are no such things as black panthers, but leopards or jaguars that are either all black or have dark fur that covers their spots.

Large black cats, the size of German Shepherds and wolves, with long, thick tails have been seen in Adrian, Camden, Coloma, Flint, Manchester, Milford, Monroe, Muskegon, Sault Ste. Marie, Webberville, and Wixom. These cats have been mostly seen wandering fields, in yards, and roadside.

According to the allthingshalloweenguide web site, “The first report of a phantom-like, black great cat came from nearby Munuscong Bay in 1954. In 1972, a deer hunter heard the sounds of a large animal kill in the woods near his camp; when he dared to go look three hours later, all that remained was the head and antlers of a ten-point buck. The mystery cat was blamed. In 1984, citizens of Manchester near Ann Arbor saw a great black feline prowling around their homes, and in 1986, the black cat was believed to have ripped the throat out of a palomino horse in its pasture near Milford.”

Police have also seen these large cats.....so the belief that civilians were making up tales seems unlikely.

So how did these creatures get into Michigan?

Linda S. Godfrey wrote in Weird Michigan about an area in the U.P. called "The Forest of Doom". It’s part of the Gogomain Swamp, 25 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. She writes that the forest is so thick, that the temperature in the woods is 30 degrees hotter than outside the forest border. It’s possible these large cats were able to breed in this area.

Other theories say there was someone in Montrose who bred large cats, and some got loose.

Whatever the origin, it seems plausible that these creatures could exist in our state. Cougars have been proven to exist, so why not? Keep your eyes peeled…