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New York Herald's Massive Central Park Zoo Escape

About a story that ran in the New York Herald about a massive Central Park Zoo escape that never happened.

MEMORABLE NEWSPAPER STORIES THAT NEVER HAPPENED

3. AWFUL CALAMITY. SAVAGE BRUTES AT LARGE. New York Herald, 1874

So read the headlines to an eyewitness account "of the mass escape of the animals in the Central Park Zoo." The alleged toll: 48 people killed (27 identified by name) plus 200 people hurt by beasts that had run amok. Supposedly, some of the animals had been captured when the story went to press, but 12 of them still eluded the searchers--said to include Samuel J. Tilden and Chester A. Arthur--who were checking out churches and businesses on Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The mayor had suggested that people stay home, the article warned. Only the last paragraph revealed that the story was a hoax: "The Moral of the Whole" explained that the managing editor was trying to call the public's attention to the zoo's problems. But readers wanted to believe. Even the owner of the Herald, James Gordon Bennett--who should have known better--stayed home in bed. Reporter George W. Hosmer (later associated with Joseph Pulitzer) charged into the newspaper's offices brandishing two revolvers, shouting, "Well, here I am!" And the city editor of The New York Times, George F. Williams, went so far as to berate the police for giving the Herald an exclusive on the zoo story.

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