Friday, May 7, 2010

The Legend of the Ape Boy

Photobucket
Gossamer from Lizzy Marboc's album

Hey, kids can be cruel - and not just today. Back in the pre-revolutionary days, there was a homely boy who lived in Chester. We're talking big-time whipped with an ugly stick here.

He was a tall, gangling, red-headed child, and the other kids ragged him terribly about his looks, or lack thereof, as only rugrats can. One day he had all he could take of their taunts, and fled into the peace and quiet of the swamps around the Delaware River, near where the Commodore Barrie Bridge now connects Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

He never rejoined human society. The swamp rat roamed the mire and woods and foraged for his food. Eventually, he mutated into a half-ape, half-human critter with thick red fur covering an Ichabod Crane physique, sorta like Gossamer of Looney Tunes fame.

Now back in the day, the Chester Swamps covered a huge expanse, but over the centuries it's been drained for homes, businesses, industries, and the Philadelphia International Airport. Civilization may be surrounding our Swamp Boy, but the Tinicum Watershed Wildlife Preserve remains, and should be off limits to developers for quite a while.

It seems like both the swamp and its denizens have survived modern times. It's been said that Delaware River fishermen and folk hiking through what's now called the John Heinz Wildlife Preserve at Tinicum have reported seeing a half-human, half-ape creature loping through the undergrowth, with dirty, matted, red fur. Could it be our boy, still around after 250 years? Hey, who else?

And ya know what? If you look across the swamp, you'll see the Pine Barrens, home of another legendary critter, the Jersey Devil. Maybe Swamp Boy finally found a friend.

The story is featured in Weird Pennsylvania, written by Mark Moran, Matt Lake, and Mark Sceurman.

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