Contemporary Legend – New York

“So at a pet store in New York, they sell baby alligators and then people buy them because they’re cute when they’re little. Then they start growing and people don’t know what to do with them, so some flush them down the toilets and others leave it outside near the drain things. Now people say that there are alligators in the sewers in New York and that they’re albino because there’s no light down there. They’re like white alligators because they don’t get any sun.”

Claudia heard this a few years ago from one of her friends when they were at dinner one day. She says that they just went on a tangent and started talking about strange things and her friend knew about the alligator story. According to Claudia, this story is very popular and a lot of people know it. She thinks that this story is usually told to amongst adults when they just find out and want to share an interesting, not mundane story. They know that it is not true, but they still tell it for entertainment reasons. It probably dates back to the early 1900s when sewers were being developed and improved in New York City.

She also thinks that people tell it to children when they are little because they would believe this more than adults. This urban legend could be used to scare kids to keep them away from the sewers. I believe that this could be partially true because some children like to play around the sewer drains along sidewalks. In order to keep kids away from it because it is unsanitary and could be dangerous if someone slips, parents may tell this to their kids as a preventative measure.

This urban legend also comes up in the movie, Alligator, which was released in 1980. It was directed by Lewis Teague and written by John Sayles and is based off of the legend of alligators being flushed down toilets into city sewers. The movie adds its own flare to the story by having the alligator become a giant, man eating reptile as it drinks in an experimental growth chemical that is dumped into the sewers. This is only part of the nature of folklore for people to add their own bits to it.

I also believe that this legend came from sewer workers who might have seen something while working down there in the dark. There is always the possibility for an alligator to end up in the sewers. This legend also exists in Europe where they have intricate underground sewer systems. Since sewers are an unknown place to the majority of the population because most people have not been in the sewers, it is only natural to come up with stories about the unknown. It adds excitement to everyday life and there is nothing that people can do to prove each other wrong unless they really want to climb into sewers.

Annotation: Sayles, John. Alligator. Alligator Associates. 1980.