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Fact from fiction: common drain and sewer myths

Posted on November 30, 2017

With sewers and drains being somewhere few will ever see or venture, it is perhaps unsurprising that myths and stories about these underground networks emerge. Whilst there are many tales of peculiar items making their way through drains and into sewers, there are some stories which stand out and stick around more than the rest. Let’s take a look at some of the most enduring urban legends, and whether there’s any grain of truth to them.  

Alligators of New York

The story of alligators lurking in the sewers of New York is one with staying power. The myth seems to originate from the 1930s when there was an apparent spate of people buying baby alligators as pets. The reasoning goes that when they grew too big, they got flushed down toilets or released into the sewers which then became their home. Over time, many reports have come in about sewer workers encountering alligators in the murky depths of New York’s sewers. Some of the legends go further with tales of exceptionally large or mutated reptiles.

Whilst many of these stories – particularly the fantastical ones involving monstrous characteristics – are likely fiction, there does seem to be some truth behind them. There have been many news articles telling of alligators being captured or killed in New York sewers, particularly in the ‘30s. Reports continue right up to the present day though, with an 8 foot alligator which had been preying on local dogs being pulled from a sewer near Central Park in 2013.

Black swines of London

During the 19th century, an urban legend developed that there were great, vicious black pigs roaming the sewers of the city. Rumour had it that a pregnant sow somehow found her way into the grimey network below the streets, had offspring, and reared them on the constant stream of feculence from Victorian London. These black swines were said to be freakishly large and ferocious and there were many claimed sightings.

By the 20th century, these stories largely died out and so the black swines of London remain unsubstantiated. With no captures or physical evidence from these frightful pigs, it seems likely these reports are indeed just myth.

Giant rats of Tehran

Many cities around the world have problems with rats but recently in Tehran, Iran, there has been something of an epidemic. As water levels rose unusually high, vast numbers of rats emerged from their sewer homes, causing an influx of vermin in the streets of the capital. Whilst the plague of rats was very much a reality, reports started coming in of ginormous rodents with weird mutations. People claimed to have seen peculiar looking rats which were up to 5 kilograms in size – the size of a cat!

Initially, locals proposed maybe the rats had mutated because of the chemicals used against them. However, this is highly unlikely – if mutations did occur, they’d also likely be detrimental. There are many species of rat which can reach the ‘giant’ sizes reported, though. It seems probable that, in amongst the inundation of normal sewer rats, these giant mutated rats were simply another species or just the result of exaggeration.


Whilst not practiced in dealing with alligators, swines or mammoth rats, Wildon UK are experts in wastewater and sewage treatment. With over 20 years of experience and a team of highly skilled engineers, we can install and maintain a wide array of sewage and drainage systems across domestic, commercial and agricultural premises. For trustworthy professional advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our helpful team today.

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