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Gators Take New York City


The sewers of New York are swarming with alligators. They have been spotted everywhere including in people's back yards, the Bronx River, and even coming up through people's toilets!
On August 12, 1982 a 26-inch alligator was found swimming in Kenisco Reservoir in Westchester New York (part of the water supply for the city). There have been problems with gators long before '82. On February 10, 1935 some boys who were shoveling snow into a manhole discovered a 6-foot alligator trying to get out of the sewer. He was not a healthy gator and at first the boys tried to help the poor guy out, but when he started snapping at them, they got scared. They beat the gator with their shovels and killed him.

Last but not least, there are the numerous horror stories about people in New York City apartments going to use the bathroom and finding a gator trying to make it's way into their house from their toilet bowls.

The reason gators are swimming free in the sewer? Carnivals in Florida sold baby gators, especially to city children from New York. And when the novelty wore off, kidz just flushed them down the toilet where the gators have lived ever since.

Believe it or Not? Take our poll to see what others think.

I'm sure we've all heard different versions of last weeks Believe It or Not called Nasty Boil. None of them are true,including last weeks, but it's still fun to tell them.

source: kidzworld.com


Sewer alligator stories are part of an urban legend that date back to the late 1920s and early 1930s. They are based upon reports of alligator sightings in rather unorthodox locations, in particular New York City.


Medieval sighting
The urban legend may have originated in the Byzantine Empire. Crocodiles were thought to have dwelled in the city sewers of Constantinople.[citation needed]

Modern sighting
It was not until February of 1935 that a large alligator was reported in a New York City sewer. According to the story, printed in the New York Times, several teenage boys were disposing of snow into a manhole when they spotted an alligator, allegedly 7 feet (~2.1 m) long, that had gotten stuck in icy water. The male youths then dragged the trapped reptile to the surface. After the alligator snapped at one of them, the teenagers beat it to death with their snow shovels. The report suggested that the alligator had escaped from a ship traveling from the Everglades and had then swum into the Harlem River and then 150 yards (~137 m) up a storm conduit to where it was found.

Sewer reports
That same year reports were given to the city's Superintendent of Sewers, Teddy May, that swarms of alligators were thriving beneath the city. May, convinced that the men filing the reports were drinking on the job, took the suggested sightings lightly. It was not until he found that there was no real drinking of alcoholic beverages taking place in the sewer that he followed up the claims. To his shock, he witnessed a large number of alligators, most only about 2 feet (61 cm), to be living within pipes that emptied into the trunk lines below major streets.

Sewer clean-up
All the reptiles were apparently exterminated within a few months, killed mostly using rat poison, flushing them out to sea through trunk lines or even shooting them.

Following the reports of sewer alligators in the 1930s, the story has built up over the decades and become more of an urban legend. Many have even questioned the extent of truth in the original stories, some even suggesting it to be fiction and that Teddy May's creative mind may have contributed to the tales. However, the story of the 'Sewer Gator' in New York City is well known and various versions have been told.

Florida to New York
The original story was that wealthy families would return from vacation from Florida to New York City, bringing alligators with them, as pet presents to their children. The time frame of this tradition is rather gray, but it has been suggested it originated in the late 1930s. When the alligators grew too large for comfort, the family would proceed to flush the reptiles down the toilet.

What happens next varies. The most common story is that the alligators survive and reside within the sewer and reproduce, surviving by feeding on rats and rubbish, growing to huge sizes and striking fear into sewer workers. In Robert Daley's book, 'The World Beneath the City'(1959), he comments that one night a sewer worker in New York City was shocked to find a large alligator swimming toward him. Weeks of hunting followed.

The Journal of American Folklore has this to say on the subject of May, 'The World Beneath the City' and Alligators in the Sewers:

In 1959 a book entitled The World Beneath the City was published by Lippincott. Written by Robert Daley, it is a history of the problems involved in the development of the network of utilities underneath Manhattan Island. And in the midst of the stories of engineering problems and political deals is a chapter entitled "Alligators in the Sewers" (see pp. 187-189). It is based on the author's interviews with Teddy May, who had been Commissioner of Sewers in New York for some thirty years.

According to May, sewer inspectors first reported seeing alligators in 1935, but neither May nor anyone else believed them. "Instead, he set men to watch the sewer walkers to find out how they were obtaining whisky down in the pipes." Persistent reports, however, perhaps including the newspaper item discovered by Coleman, caused May to go down to find out for himself. He found that the reports were true. "The beam of his own flashlight had spotted alligators whose length, on the average, was about two feet."

May started an extermination campaign, using poisoned bait followed by flooding of the side tunnels to flush the beasts out into the major arteries where hunters with .22 rifles were waiting. He announced in 1937 that the 'gators were gone. Reported sightings in 1948 and 1966 were not confirmed.

However, there is no mention of "blind, albino" alligators, and May suggests that the baby alligators were dumped down storm drains rather than "flushed down the toilet."

Versions including albino mutants
Some versions go further to suggest that, after the alligator was disposed of at such a young age, it would live the majority of its life in an environment not exposed to sunlight, and thus it would apparently in time lose its eyesight and the pigment in its hide and that the reptile would grow to be completely albino, pure white in color with red eyes. Another reason why an albino alligator would retreat to an underground sewer is because of its vulnerability to the sun in the wild, as there is no dark pigment in the creature's skin, it has no protection from the sun, which makes it very hard for it to survive in the wild.

The albino alligator, which does in fact exist, has rarely ever been sighted in the wild. The albino alligator got caught up in the urban legend, predominantly because of its scarceness within the wild, because of its color, the bright white and pinkish skin makes it vulnerable to predators as an infant as well as an obvious sight for any source of food it may attempt to collect. The urban legend developed into believing that since these alligators could not survive in the wild because of their color they retreated to the sewers where their unusual skin would not disadvantage them.

The albino story is what gives the urban legend its character, as many see the story as one of 'mutant alligators beneath New York City.' There have never been any official sightings of this kind of alligator in New York City.

source: wikipedia.org



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