Did You Know About… The Phantom Kangaroo?

Mysterious kangaroos in unusual places

Listener J.D. wrote in and asked if I’d heard about the phenomena of ‘Phantom Kangaroos’? I hadn’t but it sounded like something I’d like to get lost in for a while, so I did. It turns out that people have reported spotting kangaroos hopping all over the United States for decades.

In some cases it turned out to be wallabies, or jack rabbits, and even on occasion, an actual kangaroo that escaped from a circus or zoo. In other, more bizarre instances, there was no explanation for the footprints and multiple reports of the native Australian marsupial.

Have you ever driven down a highway at night and thought, “was that a kangaroo?” No? Well these people have.

South Pittsburgh, Tennessee 1934

In 1934, over the span of a week, a “kangaroo-like beast” was reported by numerous different witnesses. The kangaroo was said to have taken the lives of several ducks and geese along with a pair of German Shepherds and a bird dog. It was even blamed for eating some of the animals. A search party was formed and the beast was tracked to a nearby cave where the tracks just stopped. Newspapers nationwide picked up on the story and Tennessee was teased for weeks after.

Of the four main types of kangaroos; red, eastern grey, western grey, and antilopine, none of them eat meat. They’re considered herbivores and while they will defend themselves, they won’t eat you.

Chicago, Illinois 1974

In 1974, two of Chicago’s finest police officers were working their shift when a call came in to investigate a report of a kangaroo relaxing on someone’s porch. The officers conducted a search and finally located the animal in a nearby alleyway. A fight ensued, one of the officers was kicked in the shin and the ‘roo fled.

In the weeks that followed, reports of a kangaroo were phoned in all over Illinois. The kangaroo even crossed state lines into Indiana and Wisconsin. No arrests were ever made and the kangaroo could still be on the run today. Like the fine folks of Tennessee, the police officers became the butt of jokes, but with so many sightings, it’s believed to have been an actual kangaroo.

Waukesha, Wisconsin 1978

In 1978 the Haeselich family was sitting down to enjoy a meal together when they swore that they saw a kangaroo jump through their backyard. The husband gave chase but couldn’t catch up to the animal, either because it was too fast or not really there.

Two men reportedly saw the same animal and snapped a grainy photo (that I can’t find), but that was the extent of the evidence. It was determined by a leading expert at the time that the animal was actually a Bennett’s wallaby. Despite not being native to Wisconsin either, it was a more likely option for the ‘loose pet’ explanation that was given.

Despite numerous other reports, the search proved fruitless and the story became that of urban legend.

Explaining the un-explainable

In an article from 1999, Davy Russell of XprojectMagazine.com wrote of the mysterious jumping apparitions.

“It’s hard to believe that Australian kangaroos could be hopping around all over the United States. But what’s even harder to imagine is that these out-of-place marsupials appear to posses supernatural abilities as they rummage through the backyards of bewildered people in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Indiana, to name a few. Phantom kangaroos have been spotted in a variety of urban and rural settings and are said to be particularly hostile. They are described to be 3.5 – 5.5 feet tall with glowing eyes and ghostly characteristics. They have been blamed for slaughtering numerous dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and other small animals in areas with high kangaroo activity.

According to W. Haden Blackman’s Field Guide to North American Monsters, the first reported phantom kangaroo sighting was on June 12, 1899 in Richmond, Wisconsin.

From 1957 to 1967, phantom kangaroos haunted Coon Rapids, Minnesota and were spotted by numerous startled witnesses who dubbed it “Big Bunny”.

In 1980, a kangaroo was said to haunt San Fransisco’s Golden Gate Park.”

More sightings

What do you believe?

Are they someone’s bad idea for a pet? Animals that broke free from a nearby zoo? Or could they be ghostly monsters, lurking around any corner no matter what continent?

Thank you for writing in, J.D.! I now know way more about the subject than I knew I wanted to know.

I did ask A.I. to show me what it thinks a ‘Phantom Kangaroo’ looks like. It didn’t disappoint.

Who is really to blame?

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