Our feline friends have been the subject of superstition for millennia. Black cats are regarded as omens of bad luck to this day, no doubt the result of a centuries-long disinformation campaign waged by a dog-biased secret society. This wasn’t always the case: In Ancient Egypt, black cats were venerated, while the Norse goddess of fertility traveled in a chariot conveyed by two mighty black cats.
But beyond these superstitions, there’s a deep well of contemporary paranormal lore about otherworldly cats possessing uncanny powers. Here are some of the most fascinating and outrageous.
Toonces, the Cat Who Could Drive a Car on SNL, might not be the only feline to pilot a craft on a wild ride. On March 1, 2011, Siberian air traffic controllers reported a "high speed UFO" traveling 6,000 mph over the frigid city of Yakutsk. Allegedly, communication with a Russian airliner was interrupted by transmissions from the mystery craft, from which emitted "some female voice, as if a woman was saying miaow-miaow all the time," according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Was the ship helmed by feline-fluent aliens returning to communicate with the whiskered companions they brought to Earth centuries before? A space-faring race of highly evolved cats? Or was it military test-craft pilots having a laugh at the expense of some earthbound Russians? Or perhaps simply the hallucination of exhausted air traffic controllers consigned to remote Siberia? Judge for yourself.
Great cats: native to Africa, the Middle East, the Americas, and … Great Britain? That’s the claim of cryptozoologists who point to decades of anecdotal reports of large-cat sightings by frightened Brits out for a stroll on the common green — including recent (and recently debunked) sightings of the “Essex Lion.” Most notorious is the feared Beast of Bodmin Moor, a phantom feline said to resemble a panther, which garnered plenty of ink from the British tabloids during the 1980s. An investigation in 1995 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food found "no verifiable evidence" of such a creature, which included a dubiously identified skull.
Regardless, sightings persist and are collected by the research group Big Cats in Britain. In 2009, the Forestry Commission stated that reports of big cats in Gloucestershire were "reliable." And while one could surmise that these giant felines are materializing from the same transdimensional portal that brought us Nessie, the more likely explanation is that Britain’s big-cat sightings are known species that have escaped from captivity.
The occult lore of Washington, D.C., is so extensive that the tales could fill a wing in the National Archives, or at least a third History Channel spinoff. Examples include deceased politicians roaming the halls of White House and Congress, and secret Masonic symbolism hiding unknown treasure or conferring mystical or even satanic power to shadowy power brokers. White House residents including Hilary Clinton, Harry Truman, and (ahem) Jenna Bush have claimed or alluded to ghost sightings in the executive mansion.
Fittingly, the nation’s capital is not without its own tales of paranormal cats. The "Demon Cat" of D.C. is a ghostly specter that, as legend has it, materialized before the killings of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln. According to D.C. lore, the "Demon Cat" materializes as a harmless kitten before enlarging in size and menace, like a feral stray let loose in a Fancy Feast factory.
Origin stories for the feline wraith are as numerous as D.C.-centric conspiracy theories, but it’s probably a mix of superstition, the oft-intoxicated Capitol Police force of the 19th and early-20th century, and the early practice of bringing cats into the basements of D.C. buildings to dispense with rats.