Australia’s biggest urban myths
FARMERS, wildlife rangers, residents and conspiracy theorists have long believed in the existence of a black panther living in the Blue Mountains, which feeds on livestock and wallabies.
Photos of scratchings on trees, scat samples, hairs and moulds of panther paws have all been used to prove the existence of the predator, but no solid evidence has even been shown.
That was until earlier this week when the Instagram and Facebook page "Blue Mountains Explore" shared alleged proof of the mythical beast in the form of a photograph snapped by "a freaked-out tourist" at the Pulpit Rock lookout, near Blackheath.
Was this finally the evidence needed to prove there are big cats lurking around the Blue Mountains? Radio hosts Kyle and Jackie O certainly thought so when they interviewed the manager of the social media page who had shared the picture.
Blue Mountains Explore page manager Cody told the radio hosts the backpacker who captured the picture was "unaware" he had possibly just closed the case on a long-running Aussie urban legend.
"There's never been a clearer shot of this panther," Kyle rejoiced.
The only problem with the "evidence" is a quick Reverse Google Image Search reveals the photo is actually from 2016 when it was used to claim there was a black panther living in Victoria, Australia. But does this mean there is a panther there? So many questions.
By 2010, there had been more than 460 sightings of the panther in Hawkesbury - one of the smallest towns within the Blue Mountains - with Former mayor Bart Bassett one of the many believers.
"There have been too many sightings by too many reputable people for it not to be true," he told the Daily Telegraph. "We're talking about a dentist, a retired magistrate and actual Department of Primary Industries staff."
Having spent a decade interviewing more than 750 witnesses from across the country, authors of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History Of Panthers, Mike Williams and Rebecca Lang, also believe the panther is real.
"There has been so many discrepancies with government testing of scat and fur samples. There is a big cat out there," Mr Williams said.
However, a spokesman from the Department of Primary Industries isn't convinced, suggesting most sightings are either of large feral cats or wallabies.
"Unfortunately there is rarely sufficient evidence such as clear photos or footprints to warrant further investigation," the spokesman told 9news.
"Where there is good evidence of large predators in the environment, and particularly if there is evidence of large predators attacking livestock or even pets, Local Land Services and DPI can investigate further."
While most of the evidence makes the existence of the panther seem unlikely, it brings to mind many of the other long-running Australian urban legends.
THE DEVIL'S WORK
On June 9, 1979, the Godson family were waiting for a ferry from Circular Quay to Sydney's Luna Park when they were approached by a Satanic-looking figure dressed in a loin cloth, mask and horned headdress.
The strange character placed his hand on six-year-old Damien's shoulder and a photo was captured.
Hours later, Damien, his four-year-old brother, father and four other children were killed when fire ripped through the Luna Park Ghost Train.
Conspiracy theories suggested a link between the strange hooded man and the horrific accident, but no solid connection was ever made.
BODIES IN THE BRIDGE
When they started construction on Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge in 1928, it's safe to say working conditions were not as strict as today.
Proof can be found of 16 official deaths recorded during construction, however an urban legend suggests there was three more deaths that were missed.
As the story goes, three men slipped into the bottom of the brick pylons as they were being built but given they were itinerant workers, no one noticed until it was too late.
Given the bodies would have been extremely difficult to remove and with pressure to finish construction growing, the three men were never retrieved and their bodies remain sealed inside.
While there is no evidence to confirm or deny the grim myth, it's very possible there could be entombed workers inside Sydney's architectural icon. It was 1928 after all.
THE HAWKESBURY RIVER MONSTER
It has been described as Australia's own "Nessie'', but does a prehistoric monster really haunt the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney?
Rex Gilroy certainly thinks so, with the cryptozoologist claiming to have seen the 12m giant surface in 2009.
After researching the 'river monster' since 1965, Mr Gilroy has found accounts of the beast dating back to pre-colonial times.
"We have rock art depicting them. It seems the Aboriginal people knew of these creatures," he told the Daily Telegraph.
Mr Gilroy said he believes the creature is a plesiosaur from the Jurassic period, but doesn't believe it's the only one found in the waters.
"We'd have to have a breeding population of no less than 300 to 600," he said. "We're dealing with ocean creatures coming into the river to breed. There are areas of ocean … anything could live down there and you wouldn't know it.''
WESTALL 'UFO' INCIDENT
Children as young as seven were confronted by men in sharp black suits and warned against talking, as emergency services and military swarmed the area.
It was 11.00am on April 6, 1966, when Australia's largest mass UFO sighting took place in Westall, Victoria.
Students and teachers from Westall High School and Westall State School, and members of the public claim to have watched as three metallic objects with no obvious markings manoeuvred silently through the sky.
The objects landed in a paddock adjacent to the schools before quickly flying away, leaving large circles of flattened grass with well-defined, discoloured edges behind.
In the hours following the incident, emergency services, the military and the media were in attendance trying to make sense of the baffling encounter.
Several witnesses claim sharply-dressed men in dark suits warned them from speaking about the incident.
Researcher Shane Ryan has spent the last decade of his life investigating the incident and after speaking with more than 100 primary witnesses, he believes something strange occurred.
"It was so unusual … it occurred in broad daylight and had been seen by so many people landing on the ground, before taking off again," he told news.com.au
Although federal and state government agencies refused to comment about the incident at the time, government documents unearthed in 2014 offer an explanation for the sighting.
The documents revealed a secret radiation-testing project known as the HIBAL program was to blame - a joint US-Australian initiative developed to monitor atmospheric radiation levels using large silver balloons equipped with sensors between 1960 and 1969.
It's believed a test balloon was blown off course after being launched from Mildura.
CROWN CASINO MORGUE
Every day gamblers visit Crown Casino in Southbank in the hopes to win big, but if you believe this urban myth, not all of them leave alive.
The legend goes that Crown has attempted to conceal the high mortality rate by building a morgue in the bowels of their Southbank complex to store bodies
It's also suggested there are personnel trained to smuggle bodies discreetly off the premises using secret passages.
Oh and apparently the high suicide rate in the bathroom stalls saw Crown engineer them to rotate for swift body disposal.
When contacted by the Herald Sun in 2014 a Crown spokeswoman emphatically denied the morgue's existence and appeared somewhat exasperated that the creepy story keeps coming up in conversation year after year.