The Museum of Hoaxes
hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive hoax archive
   
The Central Park Zoo Escape (text)
"Awful Calamity" -- The New York Zoo Escape, continued

THE CONTINUATION OF DESTRUCTION.
The rhinoceros, after trampling down the keeper, Archambeau, made directly for the cage of the brown bear, which stood on the grass recently. The ease with which he overturned the structure well illustrated the vast muscular power of the brute. The brown bear escaped with some bruises. The grizzly bear, on being knocked out of his house, advanced to give fight, but was bowled over on the grass three times in succession.

THE LEOPARD,
after killing a little child and mutilating several women who strove to run before him, made his way into the inclosure containing the pelicans, the pea fowl and ostrich and killed all before him. The terror among the storming party lasted long enough to give ample time to the escaped animals to spread havoc all through the park and city besides.

THE JAGUAR
had been forgotten at meal time, and, made desperate by hunger, jumped over the fence surrounding the tall and gentle giraffes, and in less time than it takes to tell it had slaughtered one of the noble but helpless animals.

OVER ONE HUNDRED SHOTS
were fired at the rhinoceros in vain. His sides appeared to be covered with slabs of wrought iron. "Shoot him in the eye" was the general cry, but no one was lucky enough, as all were nervous with fright, to strike that particular organ. A long reaching crowbar, however, struck him in a sensitive spot under the jaw, not with the effect of checking his headlong career, but only to drive him onward to

WORSE DEEDS THAN EVER.
In the same half trot with which he issued from his quarters and swaying like a ship at sea, he struck over to the cages near Fifth avenue, where the herbivorous animals were stationed. The havoc made in this direction was frightful. All the cages tumbled to pieces, and, to add to the destruction and confusion, the liberated elephant joined forces with the rhinoceros, and the joint attack of the weaker animals, such as the camel, the zebras, the sacred bull, the guanaco and the llama was simply irresistible. The sacred bull was killed instantly, and one of the mild-eyed zebras was crushed without pity. The other escaped into the Park and ran toward Eighth avenue. He is reported to have badly bitten and kicked a number of daring boys who endeavored to effect his capture. He is still at large.

THE BIRDS.
The destruction of the bird cages was marked by terrific screaming. The eagles fought gallantly for their eyries, but nothing could withstand the united charge of the elephant and rhinoceros. It was late in the evening before the organize force of the menagerie subdued the former of these two powerful animals, and not before both had destroyed several lives and ruined a vast deal of property. The rhinoceros, the parent of all the destruction, made away toward the Mall when

THE ELEPHANT HAD BEEN LASSOED
by the hind leg, a huge log being tied to the end of the stout rope with which the leg was lariated so as to impede his progress, while other parties with ropes similarly hampered the other legs, until they were able to throw him on is side and effectually "hobble" him so that he could not rise. They were then about to shoot him at point-blank range, when the strange sight was presented of the elephant's keeper, with streaming eyes and outstretched arms, planting himself between the pointed and cocked rifles of the angry crowd, who had seen the deaths and mutilations and the prostate beast, whose trumpetings of defiance were still ringing on the ear. The keeper would not move, and, with many curses, the great brute's life was saved.

THE RHINOCEROS
escpaed, as we have said, toward the Mall. Here he attacked a party of young girls, killing the sewing girl, Annie Thomas, and frightening the others terribly. One of them, subject to heart disease, Ellen Schubert, has received such a nervous shock that her death may be looked for at any moment. The beast left the Park at one of the upper Eighth avenue entrances, and gored a horse at Ninetieth streeth, overthrowing the heavy wagon to which he was harnessed, and dislocating the shoulder of Isaac Parker, milkman, who was driving. In this neighborhood he overthrew a shanty on the rocks, which fell before him like a house of cards. The wretched inmates were at supper, and the falling planks took fire. All the family escaped except a child in the cradle, which was burned to a crisp. Continuing on his career until he reached Eleventh avenue, he was followed by a crowd of men and boys, who were evidently unaware of his ferocious nature. He must, too, have been nearly spent with his terrible efforts, but continued on toward the North River. A fortunate accident put an end to his career. It was now very dark, and he was seen to fall into a sewer excavation on the Boulevard, fifteen feet deep. Had it been a week day, and at an earlier hour, he would, no doubt, have ended his life in killing, by falling on some of the men at work. As it was, he fell ingloriously.

The Park from end to end is marked with injury, and in its artificial forests the wild beasts lurk, to pounce at any moment on the unwary pedestrian.

THE LEOPARDS AND WOLVES
made short work of the deer, and all the blood for which they are responsible is not even yet fully computed. The subsequent fight between

THE LION AND TIGER,
when they met on the open space at Fifty-ninth street, outside the Park wall, in the presence of a thousand terrified spectators, was the great combat of the day. The lion tore away at one bite half the tiger's flanks, while the latter, with characteristic ferocity, buried his teeth in the lion's neck until the king of beasts howled with the keenest anguish. Now it was the lion underneath and the tiger on top. The next moment positions were reversed.

BLOOD COVERED THE AVENUE,
and off in the distance the awestruck spectators looked on in breathless fear. Finally the two sanguinary brutes rushed from each other as a bullet from the rifle of General Wingate, who came promptly on the ground, whistled between their ears. Lester Wallack took aim at the same moment from behind the unfinished iron building on the east side, and perforated the tiger to some slight degree. Many other gentlemen came rushing to the scene in the meantime, among them ex-Mayor Hall, Erastus Brooks, of the Express; Manton Marole and Mr. Bangs, of the World, who had been visiting Governor-elect Tilden, and were on their way uptown in a carriage; Judge Daly, Judge J.R. Brady, General Arthur, Hugh Hastings and Prosper Wetmore. But they were all a trifle nervous from running, and the beasts escaped on their raid down town, where, as everybody knows by this, they had a bloody and fearful carnival.

TRAGIC DEATH OF THE BROWN SEA LION.
When the ponderous rhinoceros plunged through the sea lion's cage the latter was in an apparently profound sleep. Awakened by the startling noise around him, and struck with terror at the appearance of his visitor, the poor seal uttered one long, piercing howl, partly resembling the shriek of a locomotive, and the next moment tumbled into his tank and disappeared. The rhinoceros, breaking down the whole structure, was soon floundering in the tank also. Then it was the sea lion, driven to bay, showed fight; but the contest was as unequal as a ferryboat in conflict with an iron-clad man-of-war. For a time the seal seemed to stand a chance for his life. Being lithe and slippery, he easily avoided the unwieldy attacks of his visitor. Indeed, he had every hope of safety but for an unfortunate slip made by the rhinoceros, who, keeling suddenly over, fell with all his immense weight on his prostrate foe and killed him. During the fight the roars of the sea lion were incessant and painful to hear. It was unlike any other cry of bird, or beast, or fish. It was something strange and weird, and had a half human sound that struck the ear with a singular impression. The little seal escaped by hiding under the water.

DEATH OF THE ANACONDA.
In the destruction of the various cages the anaconda was roused from his torpor, and pivoting himself upon his tail made a spring at the neck of the tall and beautiful giraffe that occupied the adjacent cage. Only a few boards separated the two. The long slender neck of the giraffe bending over the partition proved a tempting mark for the anaconda. The graceful neck was quickly bowed to the ground in the coils of the powerful constrictor. The giraffe made but a feeble struggle and death speedily ended his sufferings. Then it was the awful spectacle was seen of the anaconda seeking to swallow the body of his victim. He had but commenced this disgusting task when he was observed by Dr. F.A. Thomas, of Eighty-third street, who attacked the reptile, armed with a sabre, who at one blow severed the great snake's body and then retreated in haste.

IN THE MONKEY HOUSE.
When the elephant smashed the cages with his trunk and drove the monkeys into every hole and corner the scene of disorder and noise was perfectly indescribable. The monkeys screamed and laughed and laughed and screamed. Two green monkeys perched themselves on the elephant's back, but for a very short time. Over twenty monkeys escaped from the house and made off in various directions. Two of them climbed into a carriage standing outside the Park on Fifth avenue. One was killed by the laughing hyena, several were wounded by the black wolves; but, considering the risks they ran and the familiarity they made with many of the liberated beasts of prey, they escaped very well.

THE NEWS OF THE PROCEEDINGS
in the Park, and the terror excited throughout the city at the prospect of having a visit from the wild animals at the domestic fireside, drew an immense number of sporting men and Yorkville fast boys and rowdies in the direction of the menagerie. There was dangerous sport enough for everybody as far as hunting down the fugitives went. They penetrated everywhere. The African lioness, after saturating herself in the blood of eighteen victims -- men, women, and children -- was finally killed at Castle Garden by a party of emigrants. She lay down under one of the great trees in the Battery Park, having leaped the rails. Although followed at a safe distance by a large crowd, she was allowed to remain in this position.

A PARTY OF SWEDISH HUNTERS
who had arrived in the Thuringia, on their way to farms in Nebraska, undertook to kill the beast, although bears were the only large animals they had practised on. Ten in number, and armed with rifles, they scattered themselves in a semi-circle in pairs, and advanced, crawling on their bellies, until within a few paces of the recumbent lioness. Her head was turned toward Broadway, but, suddenly suspecting danger, she arose and shook the heart of the onlookers with her sounding roar. It was at this moment that Jansen Bjornsen, the leader of the hunters, blew his shrill whistle, and five rifle balls were buried in the body of the lioness. She fell with a dull thud evidently dead, but the five hunters whose guns were still charged rushed up and emptied their pieces into the prostrate carcass. This was the signal for a deafening cheer. The hunters were carried round on the shoulders of the First warders, and the proprietor of the Stevens House and Nicholas Muller headed a subscription list with $50 each as a testimonial to these brave children of the Norseland for their maiden service to the great Republic. It is announced that Superintendent Webster, of Castle Garden, will receive subscriptions. It is said that nearly $500 is already down on the lists. Commissioner Lynch has put his name down for $10, Whitelaw Reid subscribes $50, C.A. Dana adds $50 also.

THE BENGAL TIGER
having counted up a score of victims, surrendered his life to the trusty rifle of our aged Governor, John A. Dix, who shot him as he rounded Madison avenue and Thirty-fourth street. This was an extremely fortunate occurrence. The Governor, a splendid shot, was in town in the neck of time. This gallant act will be remembered by the citizens of New York, although it is now too late to mark that esteem at the ballot box. it may be mentioned as a fortunate circumstance that a minute after the death of the tiger Archbishop McCloskey's carriage drove up. A fright or injury to the horses by the ferocious beast might have ended the career of the aged prelate. Hearty congratulations were exchanged between the Governor and Archbishop.

FRIGHT ON FIFTH AVENUE.
The crowded condition of the Fifth avenue sidewalks on Sunday afternoon is well known to all, and the effect upon the host of elegantly dressed promenaders when the breaking loose of the beasts was made known was curious. When the beasts made their escape from the building mainly devote to the great carnivorae a number of excited people rushed down Fifth avenue, shouting as they ran. It caused a general stampede of the fashionables, who ran in various directions down side streets and into the churches, which thus received full congregations long before the hour of service. The Hon. Richard Shell, who was standing near the Brick Church on Murray Hill, and who at first believed the report of the breaking loose to be a cruel hoax, told one of our reporters that the rapidity with which the avenue was cleared beggars description. The excited, shouting party

SEEMED TO SWEEP THE AVENUE
before them. In ten minutes there was not a soul visible in either direction from the Park to the Fifth Avenue Hotel. It was puzzling to think where they had gone. Mr. Schell proceeded to state that he turned and walked up the avenue, but met no one for three-quarters of a mile. He felt then fully convinced it was a hoax. As he neared the Park, however, he heard a number of shots fired. He, in turn, became excited, and commenced running toward the Arsenal. On his way he was met by a party

BEARING A DEAD BODY,
that of a youth, fearfully disfigured about the head and face. A terrifying roar was heard behind them, when the party let the body fall and ran precipitately. Mr. Schell ran too, and jumped in among some shrubs off the main road. The incline leading to the Arsenal is unfinished, and up this road he saw some animal of the tiger species come with a light, swift movement. The beast was evidently following the blood trail, for he went straight up to the abandoned corpse, and after striking one paw upon the breast and touching it with his head, as if smelling, he gave forth a series of horrible howls. "I felt my blood run cold," said Mr. Schell, "but kept perfectly still, lest the brute should be attracted to me from

THE HORRID MEAL
he was evidently about to commence. I soon heard a number of shouts and saw a party of citizens and police running toward the animal, but unconscious of the fact. They were running away from danger in their rear. I shouted to them. They suddenly halted and looked back. Two of the party fired revolvers at the animal, which, to their relief and mine, uttered a howl of anguish and ran, pursued by men who themselves were running away (from the lion they said). I ran until I gained the entrance to the Park and made down Fifty-ninth street, as the animal was proceeding at a limping trot down Fifth avenue. I had not proceeded far when I saw a large object careering madly toward me. I recognized it as a buffalo bull. I turned to run back toward the Park, when to my horror I observed an animal ambling toward Fourth avenue. I saw it was a brown or black bear. I rushed up the stoop of one of the houses and tugged at the bell. I saw as I turned that the buffalo and the bear had met, and that a fight was in progress. I cannot tell which got the better. The fight was short, and I heard that the bear was seen to limp away. I got into the house, but was almost summarily ejected, although I made an urgent appeal to be allowed to remain." The animal first referred to by Mr. Schell is, doubtless, the one that

ENTERED THE CHURCH OF ST. THOMAS,
of which Dr. Morgan is pastor, at the corner of West Fifty-third street, causing such a deplorable panic, with injuries to many. A party carrying one of the wounded down Fifth avenue to St. Luke's Hospital, at Fifty-fourth street, was tracked by him. Just as the bearers neared the corner a deep bass growl was heard behind them, and losing their presence of mind, they ran down the avenue and past the hospital. Descrying the church a little ahead they hurried toward it and entered the edifice, with fright on every countenance. The sight of the wounded man caused the greatest consternation. Shrieks were heard on all sides. The women grasped their protectors and the utmost confusion succeeded. The church door must have been left open, for a minute after the animal (cougar, some say, panther others) came stealthily, with his head down to the blood trail and growling gutturally. His presence once discovered, a frightful scene ensued. Men and women rushed in all directions away from the beast, who sprang upon the shoulders of an aged lady,

BURYING HIS FANGS IN HER NECK
and carrying her to the ground. In the haste to get away over the seats many injuries were sustained, Mrs. Catherine Ransoin, of West Forty-fifth street, breaking her leg by falling between two pews. Some one ran to the Windsor Hotel for assistance, and one of the guests ran with a loaded rifle to the church. The beast was in the middle aisle, sitting crouched above the form of his victim, when a tall, fair man, with a rifle in his hands, entered. Without a moment's hesitation he brought the weapon to his shoulder and fired. The beast tumbled over and the rifleman ran up and struck him over the head, driving the hammer through the brute's skull. When the aged victim was examined life was found to be extinct, although the flesh wound in the neck was in itself not of a very dangerous nature. Up to this hour the remains have not been identified. An inquiry at the hotel as to the name of the rifleman elicited the single word,

"RIGBY!"
In several parts of the city the greatest danger resulted from people firing rifles and pistols from windows. There is no instance reported of any of the animals having been hit, while it is believed many citizens were struck by the missiles. One policeman, Officer Lannigan, of the Seventh precinct, was wounded in the foot near Grand Street by

A SHOT FROM A WINDOW,
during the chase after the striped hyena, which was mistaken by the crowd for a panther. This cowardly brute was finally killed by a bartender, armed only with a club. He was treated as a second Sampson by the entire neighborhood, and is undoubtedly a young man of courage. His name is Dan Brenan, and he is a native of the Nineteenth ward. Counsellor Spellissey distinguished himself by stopping a causeless stampede in the Fourteenth ward.

THE FERRYBOAT CARNAGE.
Perhaps the most deplorable of all the incidents of the terrible evening was that which took place on the ferryboat of the Twenty-third street line, North River. Several of the animals made their way down Fifth avenue. Among them was one of large size (almost the only description now obtainable). It is thought to have been one of the tigers, but its passage along West twenty-third street appears to have been unnoticed in the general amazement. At any rate, just as the gatekeeper at the Twenty-third street ferry was closing the gates he saw a fierce animal bound past him and rush on to the ferryboat. The boat was well loaded. Some horses attached to light wagons were seen to rear and show every sign of terror, and then rush forward

INTO THE RIVER,
carrying their human loads with them. Several people were mangled by the ferocious brute in a very few minutes. The boat had just begun moving as the beast leaped on board. When the pilot saw the horses and wagons going overboard, the boat was not quite clear of the dock. He immediately

RUNG TO REVERSE THE ENGINES
and put back. To this providential circumstance must be attributed the saving of so many lives. Numbers were seen to plunge overboard to escape the beast, which at last sprung into the water after a young man. The wonderful escape of Larry Jerome is an incident of breathless interest. Overborne by the crowd, he was forced into the river, and although a heavily built man, is a splendid swimmer. he was seized around the neck by a desperate man, whom he shook off with the greatest difficulty. Striking out for shore, he touched against a female who appeared to have given herself up to death. He piloted her to the spiles near the dock, and both were rescued by the fast gathering crowd. The tide was running swift ebb, and it is feared most of the bodies have been carried out to sea. This is one of the cases in which days must elapse before the full list of fatalities is known.

THE HOSPITAL HORRORS.
In Bellevue Hospital many touching sights were seen. The doctors were kept busy dressing the fearful wounds, and the cries of the unfortunates in the accident ward were most painful to hear. It was necessary to perform a number of amputations instantly. One young girl is said to have died under the knife. Few of the wounded were visited by their families last night, but the ministers of the Gospel of all denominations took their places by the bedsides of the unfortunates. The handsome face of Rev. George H. Hepworth was seen bending over a moaning street Arab. Bishop Potter, Rev. Mr. Morgan Dix, Rev. Mr. Armitage, of the Fifth avenue Baptist church, and Fathers Farrelly and McGlynn were seen moving among the sufferers, ministering to the souls of the suffering and the dying.

The following is a partial list of the casualties: --

LIST OF KILLED
James Badley.
Owen O'Reilly.
Peter Ryan.
Michael Murphy.
Peter Kerr.
Thomas B. Styles.
James Hewson.
Ellen Lalor and three children.
Stephen Long.
Mary Brady.
Fred McDonnell.
Alex H. Henderson.
Pedro Velasquez.
Christopher Anderson.
---- Hyland.
John Judge.
William Meredith.
Jacob Kuhne.
Benjamin P. Steiner
Thomas Fagan.
George Cross.
John F. Coloman
Abel Garrett.
P.D. Comstock.
Fred C. Gamble.
George Hanley.
Stephen Bruce.
William Mapes.
Annie Thomas


LIST OF WOUNDED
John Morrissey, very slightly.
General Butler
Alexander O'Leary.
James Haydon.
Michael Rafferty.
George D. Bancroft.
Silas Hammersmith.
Julien D. Brown.
Amos Hardy.
John Connors.
Mark Habelstein.
Jacob Wort.
Julia Denison.
Anne Cushman.
Sarah White.
Mary Ann Gough.
Pat Byrnes.
George Seaver.


Of the number actually killed it will be impossible to tell for some days. Of those wounded no full list can be ascertained. The charge of the savage beasts was the most unexampled in the history of cities. They tore through the leading thoroughfares with all the freedom they might have enjoyed in their native wilds.

LIST OF THE SLAUGHTERED ANIMALS.
1 rhinoceros.
1 zebra
6 American deer.
2 giraffes
1 American bison.
1 white-haired porcupine.
1 prairie dog.
1 sea lion.
2 leopards.
1 grizzly bear.
1 striped hyena.
1 ocelot.
2 brown Capuchin monkeys.
1 bengal tiger.
1 Chacma baboon.
2 camels.
1 Sambur deer.
1 African lion
1 African lioness.
1 American tapir.
1 anaconda
1 woodchuck
4 Syrian sheep
1 sacred bull.
2 American eagles.
1 two-toed sloth.
1 great kangaroo.
1 alligator.
2 water turkeys.
4 pink-footed geese.
2 pelicans.
1 trumpeter swan.
1 clapper rail.
1 red-breasted merganset
1 pied-bill grebe.
1 pine snake.
1 Derbian wallaby
1 Dorcas gazelle.
1 nvighan
1 guanaco.


ANIMALS AT LARGE.
The following animals are at large in various parts of the Central Park and city, and, of course, are extremely dangerous: -- The cheetah, the manatee, the Cape buffalo, the panther (a most ferocious beast, supposed to have killed the two policemen near the Belvidiere tower and eaten the goats whose skeletons were found on the Ramble), the opossum (not dangerous), the wild swine, the palsano (a vicious beast, supposed to be on the west side of town, in the neighborhood of Manhattan market, and credited with killing the young lady found near Sir Walter Scott's statue), the mangabey, the puma lion (a very savage animal) destroyed most of the deer in the northern enclosure and bit a large piece out of the shoulder of Henderson the policeman; supposed also to have killed the nursery girl discovered in the Carousel. Three snakes escaped and are believed to be hid away in the grass and shrubbery near the Casino. More than a dozen monkeys are playing truant through the Park and are not to be depended on when they become hungry. The black leopard, whose fight in the building with the Bengal tiger disabled him considerably, is limping about the upper end of the Park. The Polar bear that killed the two keepers, Ryan & Murphy, is said to have been shot by Recorder Hackett near the upper reservoir. There is a sharp look out for the black wolf. He escaped into the city, but looks so much like a Dutchman's dog he may evade detection until he has committed some lamentable tragedy. The musanga paradoxure and many other beasts of prey whose names are not immediately available are scattered over the island. Five or six bald-headed eagles escaped and many valuable tropical birds. The prairie wolf is not to be found, the suricate is also missing and no tidings have been received of the brown coatimundi.

GENERAL DURYEE,
by the excellent disposition he made of the police force, saved hundreds of children in the vicinity of Tompkins square from being devoured. Had the same precautions been taken on the west side of town the American buffalo and the brown bear would never have accomplished so much fearful havoc.

NATIONAL GUARD PRECAUTIONS.
General Shaler deserves credit also for having order promptly issued to turn out the National Guard, as the danger from the wild and savage animals at large in all the thoroughfares proved too much for the police. The scene at the Fifth Avenue Hotel when the Malayan tapir that killed the two policemen burst in among the mob of gentlemen standing in the portico can never be forgotten. John Morrissey escaped with a flesh wound. General Butler, who had come on in the morning, was in conversation with General Gilmore, and received a bite in the calf of the leg. Major Bundy, of the Mail, and Mr. Stone, of the Journal of Commerce, assisted to calm J. Jones, the button manufacturer, who was thrown into a paroxysm by the appearance of the animals. Secretary Robeson and Alderman Vance were thrown violently against a pile of baggage. Leonard Jerome pursued the animal two blocks after it disappeared from the hotel, and made some excellent practice with a revolver but failed to bring the brute down. The Buffalo overturned Earl Roseberry's carriage in front of the Brevoort, and subsequently ran into another carriage, containing Moses Hanz of Forty first street, but without doing any serious damage.

It would be impossible at this late hour to describe the numberless scenes of dismay and disaster. The hospitals are full of wounded. There are fifteen bodies at the Morgue and several in the various precincts. A sentiment of horror pervades the community.

THE GALLANT POLICE.
It is now time to say that the police deserve the greatest credit for their courage, if not for the success in dealing with this unheard of danger. Everywhere they are at the front, and among the slain and mutilated they count heavily. General Duryee's order to clear the streets was a master stroke of policy. It gave the rapidly gathered up platoons work they could undertake without further direction, while it gave the squads of officers he despatched to the angles of the leading thoroughfares a chance to deal efficiently with the animals running a muck and without further danger to citizen life. There was only a case reported of a citizen shot by a police bullet, and, as the unfortunate victim had been warned to leave the streets, the officer cannot be blamed.

THE MORAL OF THE WHOLE
Of course the entire story given above is a pure fabrication. Not one word of it is true. Not a single act or incident described has taken place. It is a huge hoax, a wild romance, or whatever other epithet of utter untrustworthiness our readers may choose to apply to it. It is simply a fancy picture which crowded upon the mind of the writer a few days ago while he was gazing through the iron bars of the cages of the wild animals in the menagerie at Central Park. Yet as each of its horrid but perfectly natural sequences impressed themselves upon his mind, the question presented itself, How is New York prepared to meet such a catastrophe? How easily could it occur any day of the week? How much, let the citizens ponder, depends upon the indiscretion of even one of the keepers? A little oversight, a trifling imprudence might lead to the actual happening of all, and even worse than has been pictured. From causes quite as insignificant the greatest calamities of history have sprung. Horror, devastation and widespread slaughter of human beings have had small mishaps for parent time and again.

Page 2 of 2 pages  < 1 2


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