Monday, March 15, 2010

Did a phantom kangaroo once haunt Chicago?

Sort of cute story recently found.The illustration is a shirt from CritterJitters at Etsy.A link to the shop and to the full article will be at the end.

" Did a phantom kangaroo once haunt Chicago?
March 11, 2010

Dear Cecil:

I came across a cryptozoology reference which claims Chicago police pursued a mysterious kangaroo or kangaroo-like creature in October, 1974, but the critter escaped. What was that all about? Did it even happen?

It wasn't a kangaroo, Una. It was a phantom kangaroo. A kangaroo is a cute story in the newspapers for a couple months. A phantom kangaroo, as the cryptozoologists prefer to put it, takes us into the realm of myth. Mark my words, the legend of the phantom kangaroo(s) of Chicago will be told around the campfires a thousand years hence.

The story broke on October 19, 1974, when the Tribune reported that a 150-pound kangaroo had made monkeys out of two Chicago cops in Jefferson Park. That should put you on your guard right there. Nothing ever happens in Jefferson Park, and the cops have a lot of time on their hands. This tempts them to be inventive. (I have personal knowledge of this. No, I'm not giving you any details.) Ain't claiming that's what happened here, just saying I wouldn't rule it out.

Here's what happened, according to the Trib:

The visitor from Australia, owner unknown (she called the police to tell them she was missing her kangaroo, but they forgot to get her name and telephone number), was sighted in the Jefferson Park district early Friday morning by homeowners taking out the garbage.

Police were summoned, and two of them, Leonard Ciangi and Michael Byrne, cornered him/her in a gangway between two houses on Meade Avenue between Eddy Street and Cornelia Avenue.

They were thoroly kicked for their troubles.

"We were trying to grab him and put handcuffs on him," Byrne said. "He took off, and we chased him for about a block and a half before we lost him."

Byrne said the kangaroo is about 4½ feet high and … was making "strange noises," and added:
"He was, well, he was growling at us. It scared the hell out of us, seeing him in a gangway growling."...

"To no one's surprise, the story proved to have, you should pardon the expression, legs. The headline over the next day's report read: Invader still staying jump ahead of police. Lame, you say? OK, Mr. or Ms. Literary Critic, we'll put you on the copy desk and hand you a kangaroo-eludes-cops story. I dare you to resist."...

"The account had its dubious aspects. I quote:

They stood eyeball to eyeball, and the kangaroo blinked.

That's how Kenneth Grieshamer, 13, described his dawn counter Saturday with the mysterious Northwest Side kangaroo as the marsupial continued to bemuse residents and elude police.

Grieshamer, a Tribune news carrier, was delivering papers at about 7 a.m. when he heard the screech of brakes and turned, expecting to see an accident, but instead saw the 150-pound kangaroo, just a few feet away.

Let's pause right there. The kid is a Trib news carrier. The news carriers work for the circulation department. The circulation department's job is to (duh) increase circulation. What better way to accomplish this than to find excuses to keep running ridiculous stories about kangaroos? You don't suppose … ?"...

"By this time the kangaroo story had been picked up by the wire services and was running around the country and in Australia. The Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post all weighed in. Radio stations played the old Rolf Harris song, "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport." President Gerald Ford, discussing the kangaroo situation before a gathering of Republicans in Chicago, said, "The Democrats want to register it [i.e., the kangaroo] to vote, at least once." The crowd busted a gut. We post-moderns may scoff, but it beats what passes for political discourse today....

I'll omit the Christian Science Monitor's page 1 story on December 31, and skip past the Washington Post's July 15, 1975 bulletin about a kangaroo sighting near Decatur, Illinois. I merely note that today if you Google "Chicago cryptozoology kangaroo," you get a lot of hits like this:


Phantom kangaroo - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

X-Project: Phantom Kangaroos

The Elusive American Kangaroo? : Extraordinary Intelligence.

See? Right up there with the abominable snowman and the Loch Ness monster. Maybe the phantom kangaroo legend began on a slow news night in Chicago, but it belongs to the ages now.

— Cecil Adams"
Youth Kangaroo Tshirt Vintage Australian Animal Nature Tee 2/4 6/8 10/12 14/16


Winklepots said...

I'd never heard of the Phantom Kangaroo, but he does sound a lot like Big Foots cousin. Thanks for enlightening me. :o)

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