The day had started just like any other for the Florida man, but then he was disturbed by a strange noise at the end of his driveway. Naturally, he followed the disquieting sound and discovered it was coming from a storm drain in front of his house. Curiosity then made him crouch down to look inside, and he was chilled to see something monstrous looking back at him from the darkness within.
Since the summer 2017 release of Stephen King’s horror film IT, sewers have become scary. In fact, anyone who’s seen the film is unlikely to investigate anything untoward in a storm drain. Louis Camacho, however, didn’t have the benefit of such a cautionary tale.
That’s because his scary storm drain encounter took place the previous winter, in November 2016. Camacho is a 54-year-old car salesman who lives in Apopka, near Orlando, in Florida. Camacho, moreover, claims to enjoy being around the local wildlife. But after what the Floridian saw in the sewer that day, no-one could blame him if he started thinking differently.
It began with an everyday ritual for Camacho: he’d gone to the bottom of his driveway to check his mailbox. Suddenly, though, he detected a disturbance, but to say he heard it is only half true. You see, Camacho has since claimed that he felt the noise in his actual being just as much as he heard it that morning.
In fact, in December 2016 he told the ABC-affiliate local channel WFTV that he had initially thought what he was experiencing was an earthquake. “I could hear [it] and feel [it],” Camacho explained. “I could feel it under my feet, the vibration; it was pretty loud [and] it definitely got my attention.”
Camacho, then, realized that the rumbling noise was coming from somewhere close by, and he followed it to its source. Indeed, the brave man tracked the disturbance and discovered that it was emanating from a storm drain. Then, with blatant disregard for any lessons learned from horror movies, Camacho decided to have a look inside.
On his hands and knees in the street, Camacho peered into the darkness and saw two bright-yellow, predatory eyes glaring back at him. As his own eyes adjusted to the gloom of the storm drain interior, the car salesman then began to make out a sinister form. Unbelievably, Camacho had discovered a massive growling alligator nestled in the sewer. And the huge reptile then let out a heart-stopping hiss at the sight of the inquisitive man.
Indeed, curiosity could well have killed the cat. Fortunately for Camacho, though, he was saved by the inner structure of the storm drain. You see, the gap was thankfully too narrow for the adult alligator to pass through. The thwarted monster, meanwhile, opened its fearsome mouth and hissed instead. “I guess [it wanted] to warn me to back off,” Camacho recounted.
Moreover, Camacho even recognized the gator; it was one he had seen recently at a nearby artificial pond designed to cope with run-off water in the vicinity. Possibly realizing that the lurking reptile would be the perfect villain in a monster movie, Camacho activated the camera on his cell phone. He also later uploaded the video that he had shot that day to YouTube, and the footage swiftly attracted more than half a million views.
Naturally, the video of Camacho’s disturbing storm drain discovery has caused quite a stir on social media and internet news sites worldwide. But is it so unusual to find an alligator in the sewer? After all, there have been plenty of urban legends circulating about crocs and gators in the sewers down the decades.
These rumors can, in fact, be traced as far back as the 1930s. And perhaps the most famous location for these apocryphal alligator tales are the sewers of New York City. The story goes that in the ’30s baby crocodilians became all the rage among Manhattanite animal lovers, only for the enthusiasm to subsequently wane once the reptiles started to grow. Jaded New Yorkers would then flush their scaly pets down into the sewer system, where the discarded novelties thrived. But while it is true that snapping turtles have been widely witnessed in the NYC sewer system, most alligator sightings have largely been dismissed as fictional.
The legend of the New York sewer-dwelling gator continues to endure, though. This is in part thanks to the efforts of Michael Miscione, a tour guide and amateur historian who specializes in the mythology of Manhattan. “The concept of alligators in city sewers is a great myth,” he told the website CityMetric in August 2014. “[I have] done a little research on it.”
Miscione continued, “I found that it has a strong basis in reality; I felt people should know that.” New Yorkers, moreover, even celebrate an annual “Alligators in the Sewers Day” every February 9. In fact, it was Miscione himself who launched the event. The first celebration took place in 2010 and marked the 75th anniversary of an alarming alligator incident in East Harlem, when one of the beasts was allegedly spotted emerging from a manhole. Unlike Camacho, however, no-one in those far-off days was able to capture the Harlem alligator on camera.
But Camacho is far from the only person in Florida to have had an alligator sewer sighting. And the many encounters prove that Floridians have more to fear from gators in their sewers than they do from IT-style evil clowns. On June 13, 2016, for instance, the Lee County Department of Transportation (LeeDOT) made a startling discovery in Fort Meyers.
But it was the sense of smell not sight which first hit people on that occasion. “LeeDOT was alerted to the situation by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office,” the local government stated in a press release. “[Officers] received a call related to an odor coming from a storm drain. [LeeDOT] arrived on site and confirmed the odor was consistent with that of a decaying alligator.”
But despite guessing what had caused the smell, even the LeeDOT operatives must have been surprised by what they found in Fort Meyers. Yes, a massive 11-foot-long alligator was located rotting in the city’s sewer pipes. Randy Cerchie, director of LeeDOT, said, “This was an abnormally large gator, but removal is part of what we do.”
Furthermore, 2017 has seen at least two other reports of Florida sewer gators. On March 21, 2017, local news website PalmBeachPost.com ran a story about a nine-foot-long alligator trapped in a Tampa sewer manhole. Understandably, it gave people in the neighborhood quite a fright, but on that occasion, the reptile was successfully extracted and relocated safely.
The second alligator incident did not have such a happy ending for reptile lovers, though. In April 2017, a prime specimen was discovered in the city of Cape Coral’s storm pipes, but tragically it was too late to save the gator. Utility workers had found the skeletal remains of the alligator 500 feet down in the overflow system, and they would have been stunned by its size. Indeed, the giant gator was believed to have been up to 15 feet in length when it was alive.
In addition, LeeDOT said that although it is not unknown for gators to enter sewer systems, its department is only called to extract about two from storm drains every year. And officials at the government agency the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also concur that sewer gators are a relatively rare occurrence. But the organization advises that anyone who witnesses a similar sighting should report it to them immediately.
For his part, Camacho claimed to be more fascinated by his encounter than scared. In his video clip, he is heard joking, “Just when you thought you’ve seen everything.” And Camacho later told WFTV, “I respect nature, you know… I give it its space and they’ve given me my space. Honestly, I love it.”