Subject: Re: alligators in sewers? In article +lt;;

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From: (Terry Chan) Subject: Re: alligators in sewers? In article <> (A.T. Fear) writes: +> In article <> +> (Generator) writes: +>> Hey, I was wondering....Anyone know why people claim there are +>> alligators in sewers? + +I don't know, maybe its the fear of the nearby unknown. In Victorian London there was a scare about savage +black pigs living in the sewers. Are there any present day reports of +subterranean porcine horrors? Sounds like a great story. I'd like to hear of some details/updates. Well, it's been a while since I've written a long post, so here goes. A wealth of detail on the "alligators in the sewers of New York City" legend is detailed in _The Vanishing Hitchhiker_ by Jan Harold Brunvand (more abbreviated versions are in _More of the Straight Dope_ and _Rumor!_). While I won't recount the details of the legend this time around, I will share some details on what may have been the origins of this story in _The Vanishing Hitchhiker_. Anthropologist Loren Coleman checked out "unusual phenomena and events" and especially animal lore in the United States. He found over 70 such reports from 1843-1973 but only one pertaining to sewers. In the February 10, 1935 _New York Times_, there a report of kids in the East 123rd Street area who were dumping snow into an open manhole. Salvatore Condulucci, 16 yrs old was watching near the rim of manhole and would direct his friends to dump more slush in as the level went down to ensure that the sewer wouldn't be overly clogged. Then there were signs of clogging 10 feet down where the sewer connects to the Harlem river. He saw something black moving and then shouts to everyone, "Honest, it's an alligator." The story is summarized in the Times' headlines as: ALLIGATOR FOUND IN UPTOWN SEWER Youths Shoveling Snow into Manhole See the Animal Churning in Icy Water SNARE IT AND DRAG IT OUT Reptile Slain by Rescuers When It Gets Vicious-- Whnce It Came is Mystery The reporter speculated that the alligator came from a passing boat from "the mysterious Everglades." Separately, Robert Daley in _The World Beneath the City_ writes that there was apparently a problem with alligators in the sewers in the 1930s. Former Commissioner of Sewers Teddy May personally inspected the sewers and told Daley that he found alligators with an average length of 2 feet. He then commenced on an eradication campaign and announed that all were exterminated by 1937. These two points then seem to form a pretty good basis for the enduring legend. Daley's writeup of his talk with May was published in 1959. Brunvand includes a fantasy-paradoy of the alligator story in the 1974 _New Yorker_ and also mentions that Thomas Pynchon's 1963 sci-fi _V_ contains one of most detailed treatments of the legend. Brunvand speculates that Pynchon may have been influenced by hearing of Daley's discussion with May. If the accounts are true, then perhaps the "alligators in the sewers" legend may be similar to the Shergold stories. I think there is some debate as to whether one would say that the alligators were indeed living in the sewers or were they dumped and found there or whatever. Terry "tastes like chicken" Chan


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank