Damien on… Stories Of Our Time
In late 1920s Mississippi, a man called Billy-Bob McWhirter got a Great Idea. He took his canoe out into the Okefenokee Swamp and returned with a hundred alligator eggs. These he placed in tanks with powerful lightbulbs overhead and in due course, found himself with a lot of little alligators.
He then packed them into cases and boarded a train to New York.
Once there, he began touring the pet shops of Manhattan, selling them to the vendors as “exotic pets”. His pitch was that posh people liked exotic animals and all they would need would be a half-filled fish-tank, a few rocks and then they could feed the little snappers with scraps from the dinner-table.
Some pet-shop owners agreed that while small – with their big eyes and feet – the alligators were certainly cute, but asked what would happen when they started GROWING. Billy-Bob laughed and told them not to worry. “Alligators don’t grow in captivity,” he assured them.
Soon, no up-market Manhattan apartment was complete without one or two of these little reptiles in a tank in the corner. Trendy New Yorkers loved them. While Billy-Bob – and those who followed him – made their fortune. Then they all moved on. This proved to be a wise move as slowly, the pet-owners discovered that actually ‘gators DID grow in captivity…
Initially, the Bronx Zoo took the now-lethal monsters off their owners hands – but eventually, they had all they could use and began turning away new donors. And since Okefenokee was an expensive and time-consuming distance away, some owners, hearing of the problems being encountered by other ‘gater-fanciers, decided on a quick method of ridding themselves of their impending burdens.
They flushed them down the toilet.
Some kidded themselves that the beasts would eventually make it out of the sewers and head South, returning to the land of their births – but most were just glad to be done with the problem.
It wasn’t until some time later that the first New York sewer-worker disappeared. Then another and another. Finally, an inspector went to investigate. A scream was heard – then silence. He also was never seen again. A detachment from the U.S. Army were sent down, armed to the teeth. After a while, guns were heard blazing. Only half the men made it out alive. But after a debriefing, at least the authorities now knew what they were up against.
It took two years before the sewers were declared safe again, but even today, workers are issued with shotguns – just in case.
A fascinating story, eh? The only trouble is… it is utter BOLLOCKS! It never happened – the story was MADE UP by a bored newspaper reporter on a slow news day. It was then picked up by the wire services and spread across the World. And for decades, every time a hack was short of a story, this twaddle would be dusted off and regurgitated.
It’s like the one about The Great Wall Of China being the only man-made structure visible from space. Think about it – sure, it’s over two thousand miles LONG, but it’s only TEN FEET WIDE.
If it were true, what about the Empire State Building, Red Square – even Wembley Stadium? Fact is, THIS one came from an astronaut who was in low orbit and as he was passing over China, remarked that he could see The Wall.
But for DECADES, like most people, I BELIEVED the New York sewers were infested with blind, shit-eating, albino alligators (although I couldn’t see the sense in the G.W.O.C. yarn). M’point is, these urban myths are all OVER the place, thanks to newspaper and magazine hacks who couldn’t be bothered to fact-check their damn STORIES!
And now that print journalism is on its way out and computers rule, the problem has multiplied a thousand-fold. Capture the e-public’s imagination and a totally bogus story can go global in DAYS, rather than years.
So let me just say that these days, I take NOTHING I hear – and sometimes repeat in these scribblings – at face value. And whilst I cannot guarantee EVERYTHING contained here is and always will be gospel, I CAN promise to do my BEST to make it so.
After all, while pro writers get PAID – I do this for ZILCH!