Animals In Appalachia

Painter Screams

two girls sitting on couch

The first weekend of December found the Blind Pig house bustling as usual.

Christmas preparations were under way at home and at the Folk School. The Deer hunter contracted some sort of respiratory virus and was huddled on the couch under a blanket with a gut splitting cough.

December 8th was the annual Pressley Christmas gathering at The Deer Hunter’s Aunt Wanda’s in Clyde, NC. There was no way he was going to be able to make it, so the girls and I decided we’d go and come back in the same day instead of spending the night like we usually do.

We had a wonderful time as always. That’s the only time of the year we get to see most of the Pressleys. There’s always news to catch up on and there’s good food too. You can’t beat Uncle Sam’s homemade soup and cornbread.

We got home that night at about 8:00 p.m. I swear The Deer Hunter hadn’t moved since we left him early that morning. He was still on the couch with medicine bottles and tissues covering the floor near him.

After unloading the car and doing the things I had to do I was ready for bed. I knew after the big day 5:30 a.m. would come quickly.

I was deep asleep when suddenly Chitter woke me up screaming “What is that sound? Momma! Momma what is that sound do you hear it?”

I was trying my best to crawl to the surface of consciousness, but just couldn’t seem to get there as quick as she needed me too.

I stuttered “What? What what is it, is something wrong? I don’t hear nothing.”

Chitter said “Oh it was horrible I think someone or some dog just died out back of the house. I was in my room and I heard the most awfullest sound I’ve ever heard. It was terrible! Momma! I’m afraid Molly (my niece’s dog) might be dead.”

Finally I said what I usually say “I don’t know go tell your daddy.”

In his feverish hopped up on cough syrup state The Deer Hunter was no use. When she asked him about the sound he mumbled something about it being under water parallel to the something or other.

Knowing Chitter was literally shaking from fear I begin to wonder what in the world she heard. I said describe it again for me.

Chitter said “It was just this horrific hair raising sound like something was dying or a woman was screaming.”

She said she was going to take a bath. After she left my room I laid there thinking about what could be out in the darkness of the night and remembered all the tales I’ve heard about a painter or mountain lion sounding like a screaming woman.

When Chitter got out of the shower she came back to tell me she’d texted my niece April to tell her to go check on Molly. Molly was fine, but April had her own screaming story to tell.

About three weeks prior to Chitter’s incident April was coming home from work one evening at about 7:00 p.m.

There’s a long sidewalk that begins at the parking area of their driveway and leads up to the front porch.

Just as April started up the sidewalk she heard a horrifying screaming that liked to have scared her to death.

Inside the house her mother was washing up the supper dishes and she heard the sound too. At first she thought it was April playing with Molly on her way in, but after a few seconds she got scared. She said “I took off running through the house. I just knew April had somehow managed to fall and break her ankle or leg and was screaming in pain.

About the time she got to the door April was pushing her way through saying “Let me in! Let me in! There’s something out there!”

I told Chitter what I remembered about folks saying a painter sounds like a screaming woman and she said maybe that’s what it was.

Even after a hot shower the girl was still shaking like a leaf. I told her she could sleep with me if she wanted to and she gladly took me up on my offer.

Just as I drifted off to sleep she woke me up one more time. She’d googled mountain lion screams and found one. She said “That’s exactly what I heard. I swear.”

On Christmas day we all discussed the recent hearings. I said “I just wish I could have heard it.” April’s mother said “No you don’t Tipper. Its the most terrifying thing I’ve ever heard. I haven’t got over it yet.”


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  • Reply
    January 3, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    I remember hearing a bobcat one night, use boys decided we were gonna go mud riding and went up an old logging road decided to pull over and get out, we were standing around talking and all of a sudden this what sounded like a women from _ _ LL screamed out, let me tell you didn’t take us as long to go down that logging road as it did going up, I don’t think all 4 tires ever touched the ground until we got to the bottom. Probable was a Bobcat, I’ve never heard one like that since but a quick Google search and there it is, sounded just like that Bobcat.

  • Reply
    Deb Kroll
    January 2, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    I never heard a painter scream, but we had one right behind our house a few years ago. I saw it with my own eyes even though the GA Department of Natural Resources says there aren’t any here. (We’re in White County, GA) Several people who live near us have seen them, too.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    January 2, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    How soon we forget the little jaunt thru the wood on new fallen snow!..Remember the big paw print tracks…remember the jump from one side of the trail to the other side in front of you, just before you arrived on the scene…Also, the “cat hair on the butt of Deer Hunters gun at the end of the hike!!! LOL
    Tell the girls that “painters” are not always silent stalkers and hunters…ooooohhhh, very skeery..!!! Another thing, on a winters night or day for that matter, sound travels in mysterious ways…what sounds to you as very close…may also be high on a ridge a long way from your position…One needs to be very familiar with hunting, like your better-half and folks like Jim Casada! In order to get your bearings, one needs to train their sense of hearing, when hunting in the mountains, to the relationship of the grunts, howls, screams as they bounce around hollers and hills…

    There are some sounds here on my little mountain that absolutely send me into one large goose bump…sometimes after it is over I have to laugh at myownself because of it…
    1…When it is quiet on a gloomy day as today…and suddenly that “stray old peacock” decides to give his bone chilling long call! (happens mainly in the Spring) For a split second shivers run up my spine…
    Gloomy day 2…I’m just quietly watching the little “song birdies”…When the great huge Pileated Woodpecker zips around the trunk of a large Oak decides he’s had enough of that tree and squawks so loud the bark on the next tree trembles as well as myself when he lands…
    Gloomy dusk 3…While in deep thought, the scream/screech of a Screech Owl in the big Maple right over my head…so skeery that I expect to see a woman hanging in the tree struggling to get away when I look up! Yes, a very practiced old Screech Owl sounds like a woman screeching/screaming…more than once this has happened to me..
    Gloomy dawn and dusk or day or night…The Bobcat…screeching cry…when you least expect it…shivers for sure…We have Bobcats all around us here…When they get in a tumble with another one of their species you’d think they would be well on their way to killing each other a showdown of dominance…LOL I really don’t think the female of the species is that impressed either…such a racket…LOL
    Coyotes….howling and yipping at the sound of ambulances on the distant roads! At night the group hunts are still a little unnerving…sounds like they are running right up on the porch sometimes. Their sound (travel)_ is hardest for me to distance out…
    Yes, I believe the girls heard a painter’ because I’ve seen one in WNC…cross right in front of us on the lonely hi-way…Long tail, tawny color…no doubt it was a big panther, cougar or painter’…
    Remember you saw one too when you traveled on the same road…?
    One good thing….they are probably more interested in another cougar….than humans this time of year….However, that doesn’t help deter the “chills going up your spine!”
    Thanks Tipper……Have Deer Hunter put up his trail-cam and catch that “booger” on film!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    January 2, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Early in the 1970s while on patrol on US 441 near Cherokee I saw a “Painter” cross the road in front of me, it was way to big to be a Bobcat and had a tail between 3 and 4 ft. and tail and all it was as long as one lane of the Highway. Earlier in the 1960s I used to walk home from football practice, down one stretch of road I often heard something pacing me in the dry leaves, when I’d walk it would also and when I’d stop so would it. This happened on several occasions, I got to where I could cover this half mile of road rapidly but so could it.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2020 at 12:56 pm

    Everybody in southern WV, eastern KY, and Bland County VA knows there are Painters or Cougars. I have been told from a child there are painters in these hills that sound just like a woman screaming. The government is in denial, but then their record of getting things right is not very good. The old folks would tell us tales of women screaming from the area of an isolated cemetery. One older lady born late 1800s told a story of long ago when a big eagle swooped down and took a newborn from the edge of the fields where the Mother was working. We were warned that the sound of a baby crying was also a sign of wildlife to avoid, but I don’t recall what. Needless to say this was not my parents, but these hair raising tales were from some interesting and possibly eccentric neighbors. Loved their stories and tales of the olden days. I have neither witnessed or heard either, but would love that.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    January 2, 2020 at 12:28 pm

    I remember my Grandma, Mama’s mother telling me stories of a Panther screaming. Grandma Delia was at home taking care of her babies, when she ran out of milk. She had to go to the Spring and get more, and saw a black kitten there. She found a container and poured the kitten out some, and on the way back, she saw what looked a large cat, so she hurried home to her children.

    When her husband got in from work, he worked at Hewitts Quarry and lived near the Green Hole in Nantahala. Hugh told Grandma Delia that he and three of his buddies was going to go Coon Hunting about Dark. After he left to get his buddies, Grandma was alone, with just the children. For a long time it was quiet, then Something jumped on the Roof. Hugh had taken the only gun they had and the dogs, so she grabbed the broom. Every time the Panther would Scratch, Grandma would punch, and the panther would jump someplace else and start Scratching. This went on till Hugh got home. Grandma had told Hugh what had happened, so him and his buddies and the dogs treed that Sucker, a good distance away and shot him out.

    This was before ten years before my daddy was even born. Those were Tough Folks back then. …Ken

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 2, 2020 at 11:12 am

    Tipper–For Miss Cindy’s information, the painter my grandfather shot was invading his hen house. He actually shot it in the air as it leaped from the roof the the shed. I guess you could call that wing shooting painters:).

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Earl Cagle
    January 2, 2020 at 11:03 am

    Tipper, I was saving this reminder for next Halloween, but the “painter” screams jogged my memory. Take a look in the “Reflections” book I sent you. The “Sweetheart Maples” is probably due for a retelling. Best Wishes and Happy New Year to you and all that read your postings.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2020 at 11:01 am

    I got land in SW Virginia and a couple summers ago as we were lying in bed in the cabin I heard a painter scream up the hillside from us…now i know good and well they ain’t supposed to be there according to govt (but who listens to them know it all anyways lol) but City Boy (my hubby) freaked out…he was ready to go find the woman that was screaming.. he didn’t believe me that it was a painter til i got home and googled up some sounds of them and made him listen…

  • Reply
    January 2, 2020 at 10:42 am

    Gosh Tipper , that brings back a awful memory. As a child we didn’t have a car so we had to walk to the store. It was about 3 miles or so. So daddy sent me to the store to get his usual., coffee and prince Albert. My dad was a hunter and i would go with him , i loved it but also momma was afraid something my happen to him. My dad and 2 of his neighbors was hunting a black painter. They had seen it. It killed one of their dogs on the hunt. I guess dad thought it wouldn’t be out in the day time. So i went to the store and was come back not knowing it was watching me as i was walking up the hollow. I was coming around a curve and here i hear the loudest scariest scream I have ever heard. Scared me to death. I just knew i was going to die . I just kept walking slowly and praying. It seen me but i couldn’t see it but i knew it was there. It kept screaming. And i just kept walking. I finally got kn up the hollow and I didn’t hear it no more. I never heard it again. I told daddy and he said he wouldn’t have sent me if he’d known it would have been out in the day. I think the dogs ran it out of the country. I sure can relate to this one. So scary.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 2, 2020 at 10:28 am

    The last time I heard a painter scream was when I shook his ladder!

  • Reply
    January 2, 2020 at 9:58 am

    About 20 years ago, we had tenants living in a house out in the boonies with the closest house being at least a half mile away. The firewood was stacked under a lean-to that was located 30 or 40 feet from the back door. The man worked night shift, leaving his wife and their two teenage daughters to maintain the woodstove. My ex-husband and I lived ten miles away and went to bed early most nights. The first time they called asking us to come investigate the blood curdling scream they heard was around midnight, just about the time they loaded their arms with firewood. The second time she called and woke him, my ex-husband got mad and told her to call the police, but told her it was just a peacock that had been heard screaming recently. He took back roads to come home from his job in Louisville. One evening he came in the house ready to have a heart attack after he said he almost hit a huge black animal that ran in front of his truck and stretched nearly the width of the narrow road as it crossed. A few days later, our local newspaper reported several mountain lion sightings. I have never heard any animal screams and don’t want to.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 2, 2020 at 8:29 am

    I’ve never heard a painter scream, it must be bone chilling! Would they go after your chickens? I remember that the Deer hunter put wire across the top of the chicken lot as well as around the sides.
    We do live in the mountains where the painters prowl!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    January 2, 2020 at 8:06 am

    Tipper–I’ve never heard a painter and don’t want to, but I’ll share two cougar-connected experiences. First, my Grandpa Joe killed one when he was a young man. That would have been not long after the turn of the 20th century. He could describe both that specific incident and the sound of a painter in graphic fashion.

    Second, I just might be the only one of your readers who has eaten cougar. I knew that the mountain men were mighty partial to the backstraps, and once when I was bird hunting in Idaho a guy killed one. I watched it be skinned out and realized they were going to throw the carcass away. I asked if I could cut the backstraps out and then convinced the cook at the lodge to prepare them. It’s a white meat similar to port in appearance and is delicious.

    Jim Spencer, whom you probably know from SEOPA, and his wife, Jill, are expert trappers and catch a lot of bobcats every year. They regularly eat the backstraps (and you may have seen Jill’s striking knee-length coat made of bobcat fur.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 2, 2020 at 8:05 am

    Never heard anything like that but was always told a ‘painter’ sounded like a woman screaming. I also remember being told that if I ever heard it I would never forget it.

    Speaking for myself, I would not automatically discount any report of a cougar in the southern Appalachians. With deer being everywhere now they have plenty of prey without being seen or interacting with humans or their animals. And being such roamers, they can turn up anywhere. The occasional appearance of bear in suburban neighborhoods is another illustration of the same thing, as is turkey showing up in pastures and even yards.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2020 at 8:03 am

    It’s a far piece from you, but a few years back game cameras in West/Middle Tennessee and DNA analysis of hair samples documented 9 or 10 cougar sightings that were confirmed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 2, 2020 at 7:59 am

    We have a bobcat wander thru here once in awhile. I have not heard the screams you talk about.
    Thank goodness. I love to take walks even in the winter so I hope I don’t encounter a bobcat or a painter. Seeing wildlife on our property is wonderful but they seem to be quiet and only come once in awhile. Our biggest thrill this year was a bear who danced with the bird feeder and after eating all of the sunflower seeds he just wandered off.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    January 2, 2020 at 7:58 am

    My Mamaw, Mother’s Mother, told of hearing panthers screaming when she was a girl and these were supposed to be black panthers. Mamaw was raised up close to the Little Sandy River country of Carter and Elliot Co. Kentucky This river and most feeder streams have many miles of high roughed cliffs. The stories fascinated me as a boy but after growing up and being told there was no longer any panthers in KY. I thought it was probably the blood curdling screams of a great horned owl. Fast forward 50 years. A man I worked with lived in Carter Co. and loved to bow hunt deer. When bow season was out he camera hunted deer on what is now the lake built by the Corps Of Engineers on Little Sandy River. He came to work one day and said he had taken a picture of a black panther near the lake. A day or so later he brought out the picture of the black panther. I knew the exact spot the picture was taken.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    January 2, 2020 at 6:55 am

    Not as good a story, but listen to a bobcat. Much more likely in our area. “The noise of the bobcat can sound human like a woman screaming.” (Having worked in law enforcement, I’ve heard a woman screaming, and a bobcat sounds like a bobcat to me.)

    I’ve heard these here in the Uwharries an more than one occasion, and it is the season for bobcats to be looking for company! Didn’t you have a game camera shot of a bobcat near your house on one of your posts?

    I’ve seen a couple, and killed one, well above average size bobcats. A number of years ago a neighbor saw one bobcat that was large enough to be dragging a doe across his pasture. I was not supprised because I’d seen that cat a few weeks earlier while deer hunting, but couldn’t get a shot. My father got a shot at it at the end of the season, knocked it down, but was unable to find the cat.

  • Reply
    Patricia Page
    January 2, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Same thing happened to me. I had driven my grand parents to what would be my grandpa’s last visit “home” to Marble (from the piedmont of N.C.). The year was 1969, and that weekend Neil Armstrong had just had his moonwalk. We were spending the night with my great aunt in her house with no indoor plumbing except for perpetual running water from a spring on top of the mountain. The juxtaposition of these circumstances were very ironic to me just out of college, but I loved my heritage and embraced all of this because it included biscuits cooked in a wood oven. That night I was awaken by the scream of what I was later told was a painter (panther?). It was bone chilling. I can still recall it exactly 50 years later. An experience never to be forgotten.

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