For three February days in the early Fifties, Oklahoma City residents were frozen in terror, their lives at the mercy of a runaway leopard.
The afternoon of Feb. 25, 1950, was just an ordinary Saturday for the metro, which included the usual crowd of attendees at the zoo. Some had come to see the zoo’s latest arrivals: Luther and Lil, two leopards who arrived from India not one week before. However, at 1 p.m., the 175-pound Luther leaped out of his 18-foot-deep pit.
Six boys witnessed the great escape, and immediately ran through the grounds, shouting, “The leopard’s escaped! The leopard’s escaped!”
“Being kids, nobody believed them, of course,” said Amy Dee Stephens, senior naturalist educator at the zoo. “The zoo staff were a little more quick to pick up on the seriousness of the situation.”
After searching the premises and finding no sign of the cat, zoo officials had to make the news public. Almost immediately, the city became “cat”-atonic, with members of the police force, highway patrol, Marine reserves, Civil Air Patrol and Air National Guard combing 100 square miles by land and by air, looking to capture the leopard ” now rechristened Leapy.
According to a Life magazine article, some 3,000 Oklahomans took part in the search.
“There’s a sense that a lot of people thought it was very exciting and wanted to be a part of it,” Stephens said. “A lot of people were acting crazy. They were grabbing their shotguns out of the closet, and there was a report of a guy out hunting with his ice pick ” just insane behavior.” “Rod Lott