So unless you literally never frequent this site (if so, hello, welcome) – you’d be well aware we have a true crime/mysteries podcast called The All Aussie Mystery Hour.
It’s basically two folks (myself and Head of Editorial, Josie) talking about a different Australian mystery each week. Often they’re unsolved murders – but sometimes, they’re just good-old wild yarns. Like this weeks, which is about… *scary voice* THE LITHGOW PANTHER.
A true phenomenon, the Lithgow Panther is a rumoured big cat that roams the Blue Mountains in NSW. There’s videos, pictures, and of course fantastic tales from folks who have witnessed the big boi over the years. Tales like this one from our Native Content Producer Steph‘s dad.
Tony Panecasio was a Program Director at The Department of Sport and Recreation back in the late ’80s, and spun us a yarn about his own encounter with what he reckons was the Lithgow Panther.
Without further ago, grab a cuppa and come enjoy this tale. Then, GO LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST, would ya?
Back in the late 1980s, I was working for the Department of Sport and Recreation as a Program Director at one of their Sport Camps deep in Newnes Forest, located 17km north-east of Lithgow.
The camp accommodated year 5 and 6 students, running activities like canoeing, bike riding, rock climbing and archery. Then at night, we’d take them on bush walks on the various tracks surrounding the camp – lit only by torchlight, huddling together in small groups.
Sometimes, if we had a particularly sh**ty group of kids who didn’t pay attention and caused trouble for us, we’d chat to their teachers and organise a prank. One of the camp staff would dress up in a gorilla suit and, as the kids neared camp after their night walk, run out and attempt to scare them.
One time we had a group from the western suburbs and they’d been total pains in the arses (to say the least). I tee’d it up with my colleague that it was definitely a prank night, and we set off.
It was a moonless night and I had the only torch, so the kids were already sh**ting themselves because of how pitch black it was. There were an array of animals in the forest including wallabies, wombats and the occasional feral pigs and cats, so the scurrying noises had them on edge from the beginning.
The students themselves were very quiet as they tried to peer into the dark. Suddenly we heard a massive cracking of a branch about 30 metres ahead – I figured my colleague was laying down the prep work for the scare. I played it up with the kids, pretending I was worried, and they all huddled closer.
As we walked along we could hear the trudging of something nearby, walking in time with us. I shone the torch around jokingly, while laughing to myself at how well it was going.
We were some 300 metres from camp before another loud cracking sound echoed through the area. This was above and beyond what my colleague would normally do, so I was stoked – I figured he’d just really gotten into character cause he’d had enough of the kids’ antics too. At this point the kids were terrified and half of them sprinted back into their cabins.
I headed back inside, laughing and ready to congratulate my colleague on his stellar efforts. But when I came inside and congratulated him, he replied saying, “what the hell are you on about? I’ve been crook all night”. I’d thought he was taking the piss, but the other camp staff (who didn’t know of the prank) confirmed that he’d been sleeping off a fever and hadn’t joined us on the walk.
Whatever had been following us wasn’t someone from our camp. A camp situated 16 kilometres away from the next closest building, only accessible by tricky to navigate corrugated dirt tracks.
The next morning, before the kids were up, a few of us went back into the forest to scope out what had actually happened. What we found still leaves me wondering what the f**k was there that night.
Strewn on the forest floor was a massive trunk, about 15-20cm in diameter that had been cracked off a tree from about three metres in the air. Walking further along the path, we found another one – too high for a normal human to reach and thick enough that you’d need a saw to cut through.
We reached out to the boys at the forestry department, who had similar stories about being stalked through that area of the forest. Nobody knew exactly what it was, but nearby there were areas of the park that were completely unreachable, deep into ravines that nobody had ever been in.
Anything could have been living down there, and whatever this thing was had to be bigger than any animal we’d ever seen in those forests. Needless to say, after that night there was no f**king way we would ever walk that track after dark.
Want more? Here’s our deep-dive on the Lithgow Panther – check it out below, or on iTunes.Image: Getty Images