The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

June 3, 2014

Gator hunting in the sewer

Not all tales of strange or out of place animals occur in wild sites in some exotic location. Some of these stories are from urban locations in the United States.

A classic example is the legendary “alligators in the sewers” in New York City. This urban legend has been handed down for several years and was believed to be just a story until a few alligators were discovered in New York sewers. It seems the story started in 1932 when a rumor began that a “swarm” of alligators had been seen in the Bronx River.

While there was not a swarm of gators, one was found dead on the banks of the river and several more were found both dead and alive from 1932 to 1937. I’m sure all of these had been pets until they grew too large to be cute and then had been turned loose to either live free or die, which most did in a cold climate.

The sewer legend began in 1935 when some boys were near an open manhole near the Hudson River when they saw an alligator down in the sewer. Being adventuresome, the boys obtained a rope, lassoed the gator and pulled it up through the manhole. The alligator was not happy and tried to attack the young men. They had some shovels and beat the reptile to death.

After they had killed the alligator the boys took it to a nearby shop where it was weighed and measured. The gator was seven and a half feet long and 125 pounds. The New York police were contacted and the New York Department of Sanitation sent a truck which picked up the dead animal and took it to be incinerated.

Apparently there were alligators or caimans, which are often sold in pet stores, down in the sewers and it was not just a legend. It was not long before sanitation employees began to tell their supervisors they had seen not only large alligators, but also huge rats which the gators fed on down in the sewers.

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