1938 : Monkeys on the Loose At Belle Isle

June 28, 2018 all-day

As if a fancifully written news report about escaped monkeys on Belle Isle weren’t adorable enough, a police inspector’s six-year-old daughter had to get involved.

June 28, 1938

Escaped Belle Isle Monkeys Make Picnic an Adventure
Snatch Sandwiches from Hands of Visitors, but Shun Banana Bait in Traps

Night fell over Belle Isle Monday, and the timid might have fancied that they heard the dread drums of the gorilla dance, deep in the jungle.

Less fanciful persons, however, waited beside banana baited traps and hurled unmentionable names upwards into the trees, where escaped monkeys sat secure and chattered back.

Earlier in the day picnic takers thought that they had wandered by mistake into a Dorothy Lamour movie set. The monkeys swung down out of trees, grabbed all the loose sandwiches in sight and scampered to safety. The marauders were small, tan rhesus monkeys of the kind known chiefly as pets.

Most disturbed by these — well, monkeyshines — was Curator John W. Ireland, who began by declaring that “people would get suspicious” if newspapers printed stories saying the monkeys were at large. At a late hour Monday night, after a day of excursions and alarums, Curator Ireland was mad at everybody, most of all the monkeys.

The picnickers, as far as complaints at the Belle Isle police station indicated, were the placid, genial kind who thought it mildly amusing to have their lunches disappear.

Inspector Millard Brown threw out a police dragnet for monkeys Monday when his six-year-old cousin, Lela Brown, had sugar taken from her hand by one of them as she went to feed the bears in the park.

… Ireland said that the monkeys had escaped through a hole in a cage into which they were put while their regular cage was being painted. He insisted that most of them had returned voluntarily. Other attendants said the monkeys came from monkey mountain, a stone hillock surrounded by water, and that they swung out on a rope left by a careless workman.

God damn, guys. MONKEY MOUNTAIN.

Article called Monkeyshines by Amy Elliott Bragg reposted from the Night Train June 17, 2010.

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