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Giant Earthworm

When a stretch of street swelled, cracked and then returned to normal within 20 minutes last summer, one city official joked that it was the work of a giant earthworm. Fire Dept. spokesman Charlie McCafferty, who make the quip, later chalked the 20-foot-long bulge up to a natural gas accumulation and forgot about it. Until Tuesday, when he learned that the weekly National Examiner carried the headline, “20-foot earthworm terrorizes city.swallows dogs.” The story told readers about a “top-level investigation ordered into the horrifying sighting of a giant earthworm.” McCafferty said he heard about the article when two frightened women phoned him about a creature “eating up dogs” they’d read about in the magazine. The tabloid quoted unidentified city officials and witnesses who said they saw the worm grab dogs and swallow them whole. Cliff Linedecker, news editor for the West Palm Beach, Fla. weekly, said the paper got the story from Frank Kendal, a stringer who “has given us some pretty good stories. It was a very good story and I saw no reason to question it,” he said. “We run into a lot of really unusual stories here.” When asked if he believed in such giant earthworms, he said, “Well I do now. When you’re dealing with the printed word. All I had to deal with was the printed word.”

February, 1985, Spokesman Review, of Fort Worth, Texas