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Sewer Alligators are said to be alligators living in the sewers. Dissenters view them as urban legends, though many alligators have been discovered. They are often thought to be pets released into the sewer due to them growing too large. Most often reported in New York City and other popular cities, they have also been found in states where alligators are common, such as Florida. Sewer alligator stories date back to the late 1920s and early 1930s.
In coastal cities, tourists could often buy small baby alligators. A common belief is that these alligators would be brought back into the city, and discarded when they grew too large.
In 1959, a book entitled ''The World Beneath the City', written by Robert Daley, mentions the fabled creatures. Based on interviews with Teddy May, the previous Commissioner of Sewers in New York, who describes his experiences. May states that in 1935, sewer inspectors reported alligators, but were seen as liars. These reports persisted, and increased awareness in the newspapers caused May to visit. May reported that "the beam of his own flashlight had spotlighted alligators whose length, on the average, was about two feet." Afterwards, he began baiting the alligators with poison and repeatedly flushing out the tunnels to drive them towards the main pipelines, where hunters were waiting. In 1937, the alligators were confirmed gone. Reported sightings in 1948 and 1966 were not confirmed.
As you will recall…noted in A. G. Sulzberger’s breaking New York Times article…in an era when several news items told of out-of-place gators being found…
The most widely cited of these was an article in The Times on Feb. 10, 1935, headlined “Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer.”
That article described several people — led by a teenager named Salvatore Condoluci — who had caught and ultimately killed a seven- to eight-foot-long alligator they discovered beneath an open manhole on 123rd Street near the Harlem River.
The occasion of this reexamination of these stories is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Robert Daley’s 1959 The World Beneath the City. The reporter interviewed Daley and others last week for this new article. I was one of those people he interviewed, for his background work on his piece.
I conducted a great deal of research on this topic in the beginning years of the 1970s. (Of course, it continues today, as well.) I made a unique discovery that alligators-in-the-sewers were not all just legendary, not from the 1960s as folklorists thought, but had a firm newspaper history three decades earlier.
I tracked down articles that noted real alligators were found and killed in New York City, specifically in that city’s sewers in the 1930s. My formal published contribution on this appeared as “Alligators-in-the-Sewers: A Journalistic Vehicle,” in the Journal of American Folklore, September-October 1979. No one had before then, found, linked it to the “urban legend,” and re-published anew the The New York Times, February 10, 1935, article.
I put a chapter in my book, Mysterious America, and kept updating it (1983, 2001, 2007), about these specific gators. The reports also are heard from elsewhere too.
Here’s how the New York Times puts it:
“These tales had a journalistic background,” said Loren Coleman, director and curator of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Me., who has researched and written about the topic for decades. “Daley’s book came along, and it was almost like independent confirmation.”
Description (White with Pink Eyes)
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 or pink 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.