Home > Urban Legends > Alligators in Sewers

Alligators in Sewers

By: Chris Welsh - Updated: 3 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
New York City Gators Alligators Sewer

In New York City a tourist can find any manner of person or thing stocked as the city is with cultures as varied as they are different. As for a local, they can find what the tourists can only imagine, familiar as they are with the local twists and turns…but what about the fabled NYC sewer alligators? Is there any truth to this Urban Legend that has persisted since the 1930s?

The Alligators in Sewers Urban Legend

The tales of giant lizards thriving beneath the streets of perhaps the most famous city in the world have been told and retold, and are as persistent as alligators are intimidating. The stories typically follow the same track- New Yorkers visiting sunny Florida- well known for its population of gators, bring back to the city a souvenir in the form of a baby gator pet. Once the gator begins to grow, however, they see the error of their ways (perhaps fearing for the life of other family pets, or themselves) and flush the offending alligator down the toilet. This mini saurian winds up in the sewer system beneath the city, where it survives on rats, until it grows large enough to hunt something larger…

No one can argue that there are some pretty frightening things in New York City, especially in places that hide from the light of day and scrutiny of the throng, but alligators? Where did such a tale come from?

The Origin of the Alligators in Sewers Urban Legend

There are two likely sources for this urban legend. The first comes from actual alligator sightings in New York. According to the New York Times, stories of gators being found and hunted for began in the 1930s, with concerned citizens reporting on or bringing in a dead gator and the like. In most cases a little investigation turned up the facts, that these gators emerged not from the sewers, but escaped their owners. People likely did bring gators up from Florida as pets and, in some cases, may have even flushed them down the toilet. The odds of a baby gator surviving to the sewers is minimal, however, and there remains the fact that no reports of gators in the sewers have ever been made from official sources. There was, however, a book.

This would be the second likely source of the urban legend. In the book “World Beneath the City” author Robert Daily told the story of the then-head of the sewer system, Teddy May. According to the book May doubted the stories of alligator nests in the sewers, but was pushed to check it out for himself. May found a thriving colony after all of 2- foot long gators; the book then detailed the various methods of dispatching the lizards.

Final Thoughts

With Daily’s writing, one might be tempted to believe the tales, but a quick look at the facts would prove enlightening. Gators are cold blooded creatures that would not long survive a winter in New York; they are also not likely to survive in the bacteria baths that are the sewer systems. The biggest fact of all to consider? The sewer workers of NYC receive no “alligator hazard pay.”

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Candice27
    Re: Spilling Salt
    However I would like you to contact me and I need more explanation I need to understand more things and if it’s your desire to help Someone please…
    5 March 2020
  • Mom3
    Re: A Black Cat Crossing Your Path
    Came on my front porch to a black cat lying in a broken chair not afraid of me or my kids at all ....is this bad
    19 November 2019
  • God
    Re: The Number 13
    I died being the 13th guest at a supper and now I hope no one will think 13 is a good number and love to you all and I am so sorry for your loss lily.
    13 November 2019
  • mdg85
    Re: Do Birds Flying Into A Home Equate To Death?
    6 years ago, I was visiting my mon & grandma at my mom's house. While there, a bird flew into my mom's back…
    3 November 2019
  • Jlove
    Re: Do Birds Flying Into A Home Equate To Death?
    After work and picking up my daughter frm school we get home to a lil grey bird in the house just flying…
    1 November 2019
  • Patron saint of fool
    Re: Saluting Magpies
    The Parastrategist and a General theory of strategy The first parallel of corporate strategy is customer focus and is designed for…
    30 September 2019
  • Tootie
    Re: A Black Cat Crossing Your Path
    I had a black cat on my porch all last night sitting there was does that mean
    22 September 2019
  • Dolce
    Re: Do Birds Flying Into A Home Equate To Death?
    Two small birds flew inside my house this morning through roof openings, and flew out again when my son…
    31 August 2019
  • CatLady
    Re: Stonehenge
    As a little girl,I always loved the 'Standing Stones' They were so magic seeming, and every year when me and my family drove down to Cornwall on holiday,…
    7 August 2019
  • Capt'
    Re: Use a Match to Remove a Tick
    I haven't tried it yet, but I read that the removal with match method has nothing to do with burning the tick off. Instead, the…
    15 July 2019