Every New Yorker has heard urban legends about alligators skulking inside the city’s warm, wet sewer system. But there actually is at least one record of a gator spotted underground.
It happened on February 9, 1935. According to a next-day story in The New York Times, some teenage boys shoveling snow into the sewer on East 123rd Street peered through an open manhole and saw an 8-foot alligator “threshing about in the ice.”
After getting some rope and lassoing the reptile, they pulled it to the street, where the gator started snapping his jaws. “Curiosity and empathy turned to enmity,” the article explained. The boys proceeded to beat it to death with their shovels.
So how did the gator get to Harlem? The theory was that “a steamer from the mysterious Everglades, or thereabouts, had been passing 123rd Street, and an alligator had fallen overboard,” the article reported rather dramatically.
“Shunning the hatefully cold water, it had swum toward shore and found only the entrance to the conduit. Then after another 150 yards through a torrent of melting snow—and by that time it was half dead—it had arrived under the open manhole.”
All that way only to be clobbered to death with snow shovels.