The Great Central Park Zoo Escape

It’s 1874. Central Park is about 15 years old, the playground of New York’s leisure class. One of the park’s most popular attractions is the menagerie near East 64th Street, home to elephants, zebras, bison, big cats, and monkeys, among other creatures.

zoohoaxheadlineOn November 9, the New York Herald ran an article reporting that all the animals had escaped their cages and were roaming free in the park, leaving dozens of people “mutilated, trampled, and injured,” not to mention killed. 

It wasn’t true of course; at the very end the writer admits it’s a completely made up version of what might happen if conditions in the menagerie aren’t improved.

But how many people read all the way to the end of the piece? Not many, considering the panic that gripped New Yorkers that day. The entire city fell into a frenzy before finding out that it was all a hoax.

The rival New York Times was miffed enough to editorialize about the stunt. The Times article called it “a violation not only of journalistic propriety and a due respect for the public, but also of common decency and humanity.”

I love this last line in the article at left, “Governor Dix Shoots the Bengal Tiger in the Street.” Can you imagine Governor Paterson doing that?

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5 Responses to “The Great Central Park Zoo Escape”

  1. That Would Be an Imaginary Menagerie - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] Great Central Park Zoo Escape of 1874. [Ephemeral New […]

  2. That Would Be an Imaginary Menagerie - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] Great Central Park Zoo Escape of 1874. [Ephemeral New […]

  3. Roosevelt Island 360 (Eric) Says:

    Having two small children I can only think of the first Madagascar movie when the four main players, newly escapred from the CPZ, plus the penguins are captured iin Grand Central Station.

  4. Perley J. Thibodeau Says:

    I should have thought the Times would have run a headline stating all the animals got mugged.
    Both of the Times were different back then!

  5. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    As a questionable, journalistic farce, I enjoyed the idea of : ‘The Governor shooting a tiger!’ Hahaha… It’s the perfect plot for this tale; The Bengal was ‘mistaken’ as an escapee from The Central Park Menagerie, but in fact, was from the infamous NYC Tammany Hall instead!

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