Berry Lewis, organizer of the Nov. 2 BeastFest in Bladenboro, said the celebration usually brings about 6,000 people to the town, which has a population of less than 2,000, The Charlotte Observer reported Monday.
"The biggest thing we had going for us, what put us on the map, was the beast," Lewis said.
The legend of the Beast of Bladenboro began in 1953 when about a half dozen dogs were discovered with their heads crushed and their bodies drained of blood. The mystery brought an estimated 1,000 visitors to the town to hunt the unknown creature.
Jefferson Weaver, a reporter for the Bladen Journal, said legends spread about escaped circus animals in the area, but no such incidents were officially reported. However, many considered the mystery solved when an ocelot, a wild cat native to Mexico, was discovered in the area.
The beast's popularity was revived as a means to draw in tourists after the town's mill closed down in 2000. The seventh annual BeastFest is scheduled to include food, live music and an appearance from the festival's mascot.