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The Central Park Zoo Escape (text)
On November 9, 1874 the New York Herald published an article claiming that the animals had escaped from their cages in the New York zoo and were rampaging through the city. The article caused widespread panic. Reproduced below is the complete text of the article. See The Central Park Zoo Escape for a discussion of this hoax.

Note: the illustrations are from Harper's Weekly (June 3, 1893), "A Famous Newspaper Hoax". They did not appear in the original article.

"Awful Calamity" — The New York Zoo Escape

The Wild Animals Broken Loose from Central Park.
A Shocking Sabbath Carnival of Death
Awful Combats Between the Beasts and the Citizens
General Duryee's Magnificent Police Tactics
How the Catastrophe Was Brought About -- Affrighting Incidents
Governor Dix Shoots the Bengal Tiger in the Street

Another Sunday of horror has been added to those already memorable in our city annals. The sad and appalling catastrophe of yesterday is a further illustration of the unforeseen perils to which large communities are exposed. Writing even at a late hour, without full details of the terrors of the evening and night, and with a necessarily incomplete list of the killed and mutiliated, we may pause for a moment in the widespread sorrow of the hour to cast a hasty glance over what will be felt as a great calamity for many years. Few of the millions who have visited Central Park, and who, passing in through the entrance at East Sixty-fourth street, have stopped to examine the collection of birds and animals grouped around the old Arsenal building, could by any possibility have foreseen the source of such terrible danger to a whole city in the caged beasts around him, as the trivial incident of yesterday afternoon developed. The unfortunate man to whose fatal imprudence all accounts attribute the outbreak of the wild animals of the menagerie has answered with his life for his temerity, but we have a list of calamities traceable from his act which one life seems inadequate to expiate. We have a list of forty-nine killed, of which only twenty-seven bodies have been identified, and it is much to be feared that this large total of fatalities will be much increased with the return of daylight. The list of mutiliated, trampled and injured in various ways much reach nearly 200 persons of all ages, of which, so far as known, about sixty are very serious, and of these latter three can hardly outlast the night. Many of the slightly injured were taken to their homes, so that for at least another day the full extent of the calamity cannot be measured. We have onto to hope that no further fatalities will occur. Twelve of the wild, carnivorous beasts are still at large, their lurking places not being known for certainty, but the citizens may rest assured that if they will only exercise ordinary prudence and leave the task of hunting down the animals to the authorities, who have, somewhat tardily, taken the matter in hand, there will be no further casualties to register as the outcome of the unfortunate act of a reckless keeper in Central Park. It was an apparently small cause for a huge and horrible result, but the overturning of a kerosene lamp in a dingy cowshed in Chicago laid the Queen City of the West in ashes, and the spark from a hod carrier's pipe was parent to the flames that destroyed in a night the great granite buildings of Boston as if the solid stones were fuel. It is not long since a herd of Texan cattle threw New York's million of human beings into consternation, defied the police force and injured so many. It was at least to be hoped that the somewhat similar, although more fearful calamity of the breaking loose of the wild beasts at Central Park would have found Superintendent Wailing with some plan to meet the emergency. In all such cases promptitude is invaluable, and although General Duryee deserves credit for his plan, formed, we are assured, on the instant, and carried out so far with effect, we must regret that he was not earlier informed of the terrible event. A telegram from police headquarters to the General's residence did not reach him, and thus a valuable hour was lost, as he was first informed of the catastrophe by seeing the mutilated body of the unfortunate sewing girl, Annie Thomas, borne on an improvised stretcher to the Thirty-first precinct station house, near West Eighty-sixth street. He was visiting at the house of a friend, and the passing crowd with the mournful burden on the shoulders of the police, attracted the attention of a young daughter of his friends. Her screams brought the entire party to the windows. In an instant the general was in the street. Learning from a hundred tongues the horrible truth in the few words, "the wild animals at the Park have broken loose," he ran like a deer to the station house, and seating himself by the telegraph instrument directed from that point the operations which first resulted in staying the paying. Had he lost the time which it would have taken to reach Police Headquarters, it is impossible to say where the panic and affright and their consequent fatalities would have ended.
Commissioners Matsell and Disbecker were heard from at various points throughout the evening, but their efforts were not of a nature to produce any good result. Orders and counter orders were issued by them in confusing succession. Happily the steps taken by General Duryee made them practically subordinates and diminished their inefficiency -- to give their stampeded zeal no harsher term. Commissioner Voorhis could not be found during the entire evening. To General Shaler, also, the thanks of the community are due. His promptitude in calling out the Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Sixty-ninth regiments, a call manfully responded to, and placing them at the service of General Duryee deserves unqualified praise. It is to be hoped, too, that the proclamation issued by Mayor Havemayer, after consultation with General Shaler and Commissioner Duryee, will meet with the obedience which its gravity merits. Discipline is the only means of meeting and conquering such an untoward chain of circumstances, and we here point out that the obedience which is given by the militia to General Shaler, by the police to General Duryee, the hero of the hour, should be cheerfully rendered by the citizens at large to the proclamation of his Honor the Mayor. The deaths and mutilations are already too numerous to risk their increase, and the authorities will only serve the common cause by enforcing the law against those whose curiosity leads them to defy the mandates of the civil power.

The following is the Mayor's proclamation: --

A Proclamation.
Mayor's Office, Sunday Night, Nov. 1, 1874

All citizens, except members of the National Guard, are enjoined to keep within their houses or residences until the wild animals now at large are captured or killed. Notice of the release from this order will be spread by the firing of cannon in City Hall Park, Tompkins square, Madison square, The Round and at Macomb's Dam Bridge. Obedience to this order will secure a speedy end to the state of siege occasioned by the calamity of this evening.
An account will be opened at the City Hall of the city of New York for contributions to the sufferers.


The location of the zoological collection in the Park is well known to most New Yorkers; but it appears that changes were made recently in the disposition of the various animals, and to realize the exact nature of the catastrophe it becomes necessary to indicate where the various animals were situated yesterday when the frightful event occurred that spread such terror throughout the city. If you enter the menagerie from Fifth avenue you will find on either hand, running parallel to the street, the houses where the herbivorous beasts were domiciled. In former times several bears from the northern regions occupied the right hand corner where a few beautiful zebras lately gladdened the eye. To the extreme left were the cages of the several foreign birds formerly devoted to a large collection of monkeys. To the extreme right were the vultures and eagles, and the visitor, by making a short circuit of the large building, known in times gone by as the Arsenal, found himself in front of a handsome wooden structure, one story high, where the principal wild animals resided. Of course the residence of the sea lion was known to everybody. On the inside of the garden the stately giraffe occupied a somewhat large enclosure, and adjacent were a number of pelicans, intermingled with several specimens of the ostrich tribe. The bears were in isolated cages on the green sward, near the common pedestrian route from the Fifth avenue entrance.

in the quadrangle nearest to Fifth avenue were the bison, the nyighau, the zebu, the sacred bull, cow and calf, the zebras, the young elephant, the capybara, the guanaco, the fat tailed Syrian var, the aoudad and the fallow deer. In the valuable monkey collection was the sooty mangabey, the bonnet macaque, the Toque monkey, the pigtailed monkey, the Arabian baboon, the black handed spider monkey, the brown capuchin, the Teetee and the black eared marmoset. Such was the scene before

of yesterday -- the bursting forth of the most ferocious of the beasts within the menagerie of the Park, the awful slaughter that ensued, the exciting conflicts between the infuriated animals, the frightful deaths that followed, the destruction of property and the fearful and general excitement, making an era in the history of New York not soon to be forgotten. How singular that Sunday, of all days in the week, should make the occasion of such great panics as mark the record of the past four years. It was a Sabbath morning that witnessed the destruction of Chicago and Boston, and a Sabbath afternoon beheld the streets of New York given up to the fury of a drove of Texan cattle. It was on a Sabbath that the Westfield exploded heer boiler. But yesterday capped the climax of unthought possibilities, and it was the Sabbath, too, that deepened the significance of the great disaster.

As everybody knows, the Central Park on Sunday is the popular resort of all classes. The rich and fashionable in their carriages and the poor and humble on foot, alike sally forth to enjoy its beauties. It is safe to say that at least 20,000 people filled the various walks, drives and avenues yesterday. To nine-tenths of the pedestrian visitors the Menagerie is a chief source of attraction. That it contained the elements of sanguinary disaster to a multitude of human beings hardly entered into the philosophy of anybody. It would be vain of the writer to presume himself capable of picturing the harrowing scenes of which he was a distressed and involuntary spectator. To give, for instance, an adequate conception of the frightful incident where Lincoln, the Numidian lion, urged to indescribable fury by the bullets that pierced his flanks and shoulders jumped into a landaulet occupied by a nursemaid and her four young charges, mangling the delicate little things past all sign of recognition, would be a difficult task. But let me endeavor to describe the fearful scenes with some attempt at order. My head is so confused and my nerves so unstrung with the fearful scenes through which I have passed that I confess I am barely equal to picturing them.

The writer stood within a hundred yards of the menagerie when the first ominous symptoms of the approaching catastrophe were heard. The doors of the main structure, wherein the principal wild animals were confined, were closed at five o'clock. Hundreds of people, men, women and children, were still lingering in the vicinity. Five or six of the Park police were stationed in the neighborhood. One stood at the entrance on Fifth avenue and sixty-fourth street, making a record of the number of visitors passing in. Another was stationed for a similar purpose on the roadway approaching from the southeastern entrance, at the corner of Fifty-ninth street. Within the arsenal there appears to have been a number of the Park police. The Captain was off duty and did not appear until late at night. Mr. Conkun, the director of the menagerie, was at his post, like a good soldier. It was

in the early hours of the afternoon. Children ran about from cage to cage in the perfect fulness of delight. A stream of people released from the cares and labors of the week wandered through the grounds, pausing here to admire the beautiful zebras and stopping there to laugh over the amusing antics of the monkeys. The idea of danger could only be suggested to create laughter and derision. Certainly nobody seriously contemplated the possibility of peril where seemingly massive cages restrained the wild and savage instincts of the various beasts of prey. The rhinoceros appeared the

the Numidian lion wore a look of the grossest indolence, the Bengal tiger seemed as harmless as a prostrate forest tree, the bears invited a caressing acquaintance, the boa constrictor might have been petted with the hand, the elephant eating biscuits from the fingers of a little child suggested an extreme condition of tameness and docility. In all the rest, saving the restless and savage-eyed hyena, the spirit of the day appeared to dwell.

In a very few moments the whole aspect was destined to be changed. It is now well authenticated that Chris Anderson, the keeper, one of whose charges was Pete, the rhinoceeros, in walking around after the public was excluded, stopped in front of the den of the huge animal above mentioned. He was seen to poke his cane through the bars at the great beast, and was warned by Keeper Miller to desist. The latter was leaving the building at the moment he remonstrated with Anderson, and to this circumstance, doubtless, owes his life. He says that Keeper Hyland also called out to Anderson. The latter had a fashion, it appears, of teasing the animals, although he was often known to eject persons from the building for similar practices. Anderson paid no attention to the warnings of his fellow keepers, and, it is thought, a heedless thrust must have entered the eye of the rhinoceros. A number of boys who were peering in through the windows on the north side of the building attracted the attention of the writer by their cries,

There was a crashing heard within and the boys were seen to flee precipitately. I rushed to the window, drawn by a curiosity which was irresistible. My example was soon followed by others, many women struggling for a place. It was some moments before I could make out what was transpiring within. A keeper was standing in the middle of the open space apparently spellbound. Another was standing further down, grasping a crowbar, his gaze directed toward the pen of the rhinoceros. The short, angry, squeaking cry of the rhinoceros, like sudden blasts on a fisthorn, were heard amid the sound of snapping bars and crashing planks. It at once struck me that the huge animal was breaking down the walls of his pen in the endeavor doubtless to reach his tormentor. Not aware of any cause for this sudden exhibition of rage, none of the fascinated crowd at the window measured the danger of their position or the object of the infuriated beast. The keeper (afterward found to be Anderson) now rushed forward and struck at the animal. We could not see whether his blows reached the rhinoceros or not, but their effect was soon told. A crash which shook the building followed and the front of the pen fell outward and the horrid, misshapen mass of Pete, the rhinoceros, rushed out, his double-horned head close to the ground. Anderson made a spring sideways to evade the monster's onslaught and might have succeeded in gaining at least temporary safety by this means, but he was too close to the animal, for the latter, swinging his unwieldy body toward him, knocked him down with a touch of his shoulder, and an instant after had trampled him out of recognition. Backing down from the mangled body with a swiftness almost incredible from his bulk, the rhinoceros plunged his horrid horn into the dead keeper, dashing the last possible spark of life on against the walls of one of the pens, which likewise gave way. All this tragedy transpired in an instant. Horror stricken, I tried to push my way from the window, but the crowd was now dense behind me, and I could not stir. I cried: --

"For God's sake, let some one run to the police station for help!"
I struggled to get out, putting my hands against the window and my feet below it, and pushing with all my might. An accursed curiosity in the crowd, who were only vaguely conscious of what was transpiring, made my efforts useless. When I looked in through the window again the destruction at the further end had increased, the rhinoceros breaking open the dens of the animals on the left hand side.

whom I had first seen standing spellbound, was advancing, pale as marble, and a navy revolver in his hand, toward the enraged rhinoceros. The animal saw him, turned and made for him in an instant. He sprang aside and fired. The ball hit the rhinoceros on the left shoulder, for he swerved over for an instant; but it can scarcely have more than hurt him a little, as he turned with a whiff, whiff, whiff snort, his head down toward the keeper. The latter, with cat-like agility, retreated toward the lions' and tigers' cages, evidently making for the space between them; but too late. The horrid horn impaled him against the corner cage, killing him instantly, tearing the cage to pieces and releasing the panther, who landed in the middle of the open space with a spring. The cries of all the animals were now joined in horrid chorus by the loud and long-sustained roar of the lion and lioness, the tigers and all the wild beasts, that doubtless had their carniverous instincts whetted by the smell of human blood and the sound and sight of the bloody struggles outside their bars.

I yelled, and the savage chorus within bore out my words. At last curiosity seemed to give way. The crowd fled in all directions, women falling as they ran, and no one staying to help them out of the way of the coming danger, which was then shaping itself so swiftly. I ran to the police station in the Arsenal Building, and found that the sergeant on duty was dozing quietly. I shook him up, told him in a few words what was the matter, and ran round to the space in front of the Arsenal. There I found Keeper Miller talking to the policeman, who was just coming off duty. Miller laughed at my story.
"Come around," I said earnestly.
"Too thin, young fellow," said the policeman.
"Don't you hear?" I said, as the roaring of the animals sounded ominously in our ears. The sergeant now came running out in search of the policeman.
"Anderson and Hyland are killed," said he to Miller. "Why don't you stir yourself."

Miller is a tall, stalwart man of about thirty-three, and it is but just to say that from the moment the sergeant spoke he sprang into action. He rushed into the keeper's room and grasped a sixteen shooter rifle, which is kept loaded for such emergencies, and ran out through the central door in the rear of the Arsenal to the window the crowd had just deserted. What he saw evidently appalled him, as he let the butt of his rifle fall to the ground and continued gazing in through the window like one in a dream. From his own lips I have learned what he saw. He said: --
"An attentive glance through the window revealed the fact that

He had apparently made no more of the massive barrier that enclosed him than of a sheet of pasteboard. I saw the dead bodies of Hyland and Anderson, the former nearer to me than the other. The panther was crouched over Hyland's body, gnawing horribly at his head. I recognized his body by the striped shirt which I could just see hanging tattered from the arm. It was growing dark, and this made everything look twice as fearful. I saw the rhinoceros plunge blindly forward against the double tier of cages where the black and spotted leopards, the striped hyena, the prairie wolf, the puma and the jaguar were lying. Judging from the condition of the cages the onset of the powerful and infuriated rhinoceros must have been tremendous. In some cases the bars were only bent to an elbow, but, as a rule, they snapped asunder like kindling wood before the smashing weight brought against them.

mentioned angered still more the lions and the tigers and all the rest within the building. The rhinoceros in the meantime was busy in the work of destruction. In a few moments more he had broken down the pens of the wild swine, the manatee, the American tapir, the two-toed sloth and the pair of kangaroos. Just then, too, Lincoln, the Numidian lion escaped from his cage, through some unfortunate oversight committed at feeding time. The bolt of his prison door was insecure, and when the raging rhinoceros butted his head against the bottom it flew wide open. Hardly had Lincoln the lion bounded into the centre aisle of the building when the three cages containing the black and spotted leopards, the tiger and tigeresses, the black wolf and the striped and spotted hyenas were sprung open by an overpowering charge from the now desperate rhinoceros. The noise of this crash might have been heard several blocks away. It was followed by a series of fights between the liberated beasts. Close by a window on the western side of the building the black wolf sprung upon the flanks of the Bengal tiger. The lion stood a little distance away pawing the floor, awaiting rather than offering an attack. Between the wolf and tiger the conflict was brief. The latter, shaking off the feeble hold of the other, turned quick as lightning on his hind legs, and falling, with open, gleaming jaws, upon his less muscular foe, rolled him over in the dust. The great fight ensued

of poor, brave Hyland. There was evidently a fight over the body of Anderson; but I could see nothing more than a mingling, gleaming mass whence arose the most awful cries. Nearer to me, where Hyland lay, the lioness, the panther, the puma, and presently the Bengal tiger, were rolling over and over, striking at each other with their mighty paws. The lioness tore the skin off the puma's flank with one blow. The coming of the tiger was something terrible. I never shall forget the awful, splendid look of him as he landed with a spring in the thick of them. I could not move. It was too awful for anything. Oddly enough, while the fight was going on, now one furious beast tugging and crunching at the arms or legs of the corpse, now letting go with his teeth to plant his paws upon the bleeding remains and snap with his dripping jaws at another beast, writhing and awful as they were, I could not help looking at Lincoln, the lion, who was standing behind them, pawing the ground, roaring and lashing his sides with his tail, every muscle in uneasy tension. All of a sudden I had a flash.

I said to myself. It seems to me I felt him looking at me. I saw him crouch. I turned and ran. My God, I had no idea there was anybody near me.
Miller had not been a minute and a half at the window when I saw him run towards me, shouting at the top of his lungs.

It is here necessary to explain Miller's statement. "My God? I had no idea there was anybody near me." Those who ran from the window in the first instance had not run far before they looked back. There was of course no pursuit, and a great many lingered by, but at a safe distance. The coming of the keeper, however; his standing listless looking before the window for over a minute, had had the effect of inspiring a return of confidence in the more curious, and when Anderson, frightened by the eye of the lion, ran precipitately toward the Arsenal there were perhaps a dozen persons near the window. He had only sped a few paces when, with a terrific roar

I saw a young man fall from a blow of the awful paw, and another crashed to earth beneath the beast's weight. The crowd fled in all directions, but the lion did not pursue. Planting his paws upon one of the bodies he filled the air with the fearful rumble of his roar. I started to run, but Miller called on me to stop. I turned and saw him kneel down deliberately and take aim. There was a good chance for a shot, as the lion stood almost facing him, but with the right shoulder more toward him. I have no reason to doubt the steadiness of Miller or his reputation as a shot, but I waited with inpent breath as he took aim. He had hit him. I could not see where, but the wound was far from fatal. The bellowings were renewed, his mane erect, his tail switching his sides, while he pawed the earth and swung his huge head from side to side. Drawn by the report of the rifle and the roaring of the beasts, crowds of people were entering the enclosure from the Sixty-fourth street entrance. I saw that already a number of Park

and citizens with rifles, were on the ground. I had no weapon and so ran down the incline by the refreshment stand, toward Fifth avenue; and almost on my heels, as it were, came the Numidian lion, with a series of bounds. So sudden, fierce and powerful was the leap he made into the midst of the storming party that he paralyzed the coolest calculations and scattered half a hundred armed and unarmed men like chaff before the wind. Springing in the air over the stooped form of Policeman Murray, who ducked in time to save himself from possible death, Lincoln landed in a fast widening

of fainting women, screaming children and terrified men. Lincoln paused a second, lashing himself with his tail and glaring horribly around him. On the ground before him were two young men, who had tripped and fallen in the precipitate retreat from before the building. They were struggling fast to rise, and had nearly succeeded, when Lincoln, with another awful roar that echoed over the Park, pounced upon the nearest, and, with one stroke of his fore paw, tore clothes and flesh to pieces. A shout of horror went up from the distant witnesses of the deed; but they were given little time to meditate upon it. I was just in the angle between the two aviaries, which contained yesterday the doves and the eagles respectively, when the last mentioned deed of blood was enacted. I was about to escape by rushing past the house where the wild animals were caged, and had just reached the path near the sea lion's tank, when what I had feared most came to pass. The rhinoceros, in his infuriated career, had at last found the gate and crashed through it. Had he done so at first there would have been less lost lives to count. A storming party, which had been formed by Colonel Conklin, of keepers, citizens and police, near the Fifty-ninth street entrance, and which was powerfully aided by the arrival of a platoon from the Nineteenth precinct, under Captain Gunner and Mr. Hunt, of Ninety-third street, was within a hundred yards of the building when the rhinoceros emerged, giving his short, vicious cry. His appearance was the signal for a misdirected volley, which, of course, did little or no execution on his thick, tough hide and double-horn protected proboscis. It confused him momentarily, however, for he turned and re-entered the building on a sort of ambling trot. Misled by this retreat a cheer went up from the firing party, and they rushed forward, Colonel Conklin leading to secure the door. Had the great brute deliberately planned an ambuscade it could not have better succeeded. When the party were within a dozen feet of the door the puma sprung through the shattered portal into their midst, overthrowing several, doubtless injuring some. Almost on the heels of the puma came the black and spotted leopard, followed by the jaguar, the African lioness and tiger. The latter came forth with a slow and stealthy tread. Archambeau, one of the keepers, had the temerity to try and lasso the beast, knowing that there was none more dangerous and bloodthirsty in the whole collection.

of the keeper, and without a moment's warning sprung fifteen feet into the air and caught Archambeau by the right shoulder. The two went down together, the tiger on top. Instant preparations were made to save the poor fellow, when unfortunately the rhinoceros came lumbering at a half trot out of the entrance and drove the rescuing party from their purpose. He also drove the tiger before him, but at the same time planted one of his enormous feet on the prostrate Archambeau and squeezed the breath from his body. The storming party was for the moment completely disorganized. The animals were running in various directions, and the attacking forces and the curious spectators were fleeing in every direction, scaling rocks, climbing trees, falling in their flight, and a case is reported of a citizen stabbed at this moment by an Italian over a quarrel as to which should first ascend a tree. The wounded man, Calvin Morley, of Flatbush, L.I., is at Bellevue Hospital, but cannot give the police any description of
I mention this terrible incident from a host of others to show how overwhelming was the fright and how blinding the stampede. The lion had escaped the bullets of the firing party in the front inclosure, or rather being maddened to further desperation by them careered wildly through the Fifth avenue entrance, and was followed shortly after by the Bengal tiger, a number of demoralized Park policemen, who still had a sentiment of duty, pursuing them with halloes, as if they were sheep, not sheep devourers.

From this point it has been found extremely difficult to gather anything like a coherent or complete story of the depredations of the uncaged beasts. From a number of statements made to our reporters by eye-witnesses, many of these statements abounding in patent impossibilities, but all of them given with an apparent conviction of truthfulness, the following continuation of the story is given. The writer of the preceding on the pell-mell breaking forth of the animals ran to the Seventy-fourth street entrance and hurried down to the Windsor Hotel, whence he telegraphed to the Herald office for assistance.

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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.