Sewer Alligators: Fact or Fiction?
Ever imagine what it would feel if one of our darkest fears comes true. There are stories that are told around the world to scare us. It is up to each and every person who will hear it, if they would believe it or not. A story that is told throughout the years with different variations depending on the teller is classified as an urban legend. Different variations can be caused by tellers changed the plot of the legend to a local setting, the teller may say the legend wrong because they forgot the story, or the teller may change something like the model of a car. With so many variations, it’s very hard to tell if any of it is true and where the story originated. Urban legends exist around the world. The ways urban legends are told reflect people’s fears. There is a particular urban legend which states that there are alligators in the sewers. Sewer Alligators, this particular urban legend is pretty famous, but can this be real? What caused this story to obtain such widespread belief? How did it circulate? Are there any proof that this is could be true? What determines the validity or fallacy of this particular urban legend?
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. Believe it or not there is a grain of truth behind this legend. In February 1935 a large alligator was reported by the New York Times as being discovered in a New York City sewer. According to the story, several teenage boys were disposing of snow into a manhole when they spotted an alligator, allegedly 7 feet 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 swam into the Harlem River and then 150 yards up a storm conduit to where it was found.
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It was once a fad among New Yorkers vacationing in Florida to bring back baby alligators for their children to raise as pets. These infant gators eventually grew up and outlived their cuteness, sad to say, at which point their desperate owners flushed them down the toilet to get rid of them. Some of these hastily disposed-of creatures managed to survive and breed in the sewer system, so the story goes, producing colonies of giant alligators beneath the streets of New York City. Their descendants thrive down there to this day, completely hidden from human eyes.
The alligator in the sewer myth has been circulating for a long time now. Many radical stories have been told. Some people say that sewer-gators are white because there is no sunlight under the sewer system. With red eyes and apparently they would grow gigantically, because there are tons of rats to eat. Some sewer workers also tell stories just to pass time and scare kids. They would tell people that they would organize a hunt, but none of these hunts were ever reported.
The earliest published reference to alligators in the sewer in what Jan Harold Brunvand refers to as the “standardized” form of the urban legend (“baby alligator pets, flushed, thrived in sewers”) can be found in the 1959 book, The World Beneath the City, a history of public utilities in New York City written by Robert Daley. Daley’s source was a retired sewer official named Teddy May, who claimed that during his tenure in the 1930s he personally investigated workers’ reports of subterranean reptiles and saw a colony of them with his own eyes. He also claimed to have supervised their eradication. May was a colorful storyteller, if not a particularly reliable one.
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It is impossible for alligators to live under sewer conditions for a long time. People believed that the sewers would be a good place for alligators to live because it should be hot and steamy down there. Furthermore, there should be plenty of rats for the alligators to eat. But the sewers are not for alligators, they are too polluted, too cold and there is not enough sunlight. The temperature of an Alligators blood follows the temperature of the environment. They can take the cold for a while but not winter. Alligators cannot digest their food when it is cold. If they eat anyway, the food will rot and kill them. It was also believed that baby alligators that were flushed into the sewers. But without the sun and the D vitamin their skin produces when in the sun, they could not utilize calcium and their bones would get soft.
Alligators the sewers myth is just a myth. This story gained popularity because of its possibility. But when you try to dig up information about this myth, eventually It will convince you that It is in fact impossible for an alligator to live and thrive under the sewer system. Bacteria and pollution would kill anything down there. This story began because people didn’t know what danger is lurking down there. They used the alligator image because it fits the environment. This urban legend was born because of a creative human mind. For hundreds of years, various folklore and local legends have been prime subjects of human intrigue and fascination. Over the past century, such folklore has been dubbed “Urban Legend.” Also referred to as contemporary or modern legends, urban legends have become sources of education, entertainment, and explanations. What often starts as a mere rumor can potentially develop into an urban legend; a tale which attains this status somehow gains “truthfulness,” subscribed believers, and occasional media attention.
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Brunvand, Jan H. (1999) Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends. New York: W.W. Norton
Daley, Robert. (1959)The World beneath the City. Philadelphia, Lippincott
National Geographic, Retrieved on July 25, 2009