Gordon MacCreagh tells a story of his hunting days in Burma.
Trapped By a Man-Eater
“A witch tiger,” the Burmese natives said.
“The soul of a sorcerer inhabits this one.” Already the man-eater had claimed three victims, and Gordon MacCreagh, whose story wins first prize in a “Narrowest Escape from Death” contest, was “sitting up” for him.
MacCreagh had built a trap, shaped like an A tent, with a falling trap-door to be released by a catch that an animal would have to tread upon when trying to reach the live goat pinned at the farther end as bait.
Night after night came the tiger, but he was too wary to venture in.
So there was nothing for it but to “sit up” in a native-built “machan” in a tree, and, at the first opportunity, shoot. A machan is a rude platform, and this particular machan was barely ten feet above the ground.
“Clammy hours passed,” says MacCreagh. “Queer things whispered in the underbrush. Shadows made shuffling noises.
Then all of a sudden it was there. If I saw what I thought I saw, it must be an enormous brute. Something looming dimly motionless before the door of the trap. Hungry. Whining in throaty indecision. A monster.” Just at that moment, crash! Down went the machan, and there was MacCreagh, “in the same small jungle glade with the killer, on his own ground, in his own night.” He had lost his rifle in his fall, and could not waste time groping for it.
There came a coughing roar. The shadow vanished from in front of the door.
Only one refuge now for MacCreagh—the trap—and it was twenty feet away.
“My mind registered nothing of how I got there,” he says. “But in my hurtling dive into it I lived through an eon of terror, wondering whether I could squirm round in the narrow space and drag down the door in time. But of course, as I plunged, my outflung arm tripped the trap lever, and the door slammed down at my very heels. And on the very heels of the slam came the grating snarl of the killer.” All the rest of that night, MacCreagh remained the striped beast’s prisoner. “Immense eyes blazed between the close-set poles of the trap,” he says. “They blazed and blinked and went out—and suddenly glared startlingly again from another place.
Hot breath snuffled in at me. Claws rasped along my wooden grille. Sometimes the whole structure would shake.” He never “got” that tiger, but a native did, shortly afterward, and now Field and Stream gets a story, MacCreagh a prize, and the goat at least a reasonable hope of long life.
[This article originally appeared in The Literary Digest, August 12, 1933. I have not found the Field and Stream story reference.]