From reports published in the New York Times on June 22, 1904, we learn of a problem faced by policemen working a lonely post in the Bronx. According to numerous officers, a giant winged creature was causing so much turmoil that the location earned the nickname "the hoodoo post."
Some thought the creature was merely a large, aggressive owl, others were convinced it was something of a more supernatural nature. According to information posted in the Times:
Acting Captain Wilson of the Bronx Park Police Station last night asked the Superintendent of the Zoological Gardens to try to take into custody a big brown 'owl' for which the past three weeks has been scaring the policemen who were assigned to Post 16, which is one of the most lonely posts in the gloomy old Bronx.
For many days, it was believed that a winged demon had deigned to hover over Post 16, and the policemen who were assigned to duty there came into the old station in the Lorillard Mansion night after night with wonderful tales of what had happened on the hoodoo post.
Policeman Patrick J. Hickey said it was the most horrid thing he had ever encountered.
"It's not an owl, it's a devil with wings. Sure I know an owl when I see one, but no man ever seen an owl with wings six feet wide. And it "whooo's" like a ghost in a graveyard too, when it's not growling beneath its breath. Why men, he's no owl; he a devil; and I'm going to get transferred."
After Hickey was transferred, a German policeman was assigned to Post 16, which takes in Lorillard Lane. The German policeman had only been on the post an hour one night when he came running into the station house to report that he had seen the creature, shouting at his fellow officers:
"I've seen it! It had a stick on its claw, and it tried to smash my head. When I ducked, it ducked too, and I had to run behind a tree. I think it is supernatural, that's what I think."
Policeman Walter Kane was the next one assigned to the now infamous post but he put in for a transfer in a hurry after reporting that a strange, winged creature had knocked his helmet off while he was patrolling the lane.
Next up was Policeman Frank Campbell, sent to the Bronx station from a downtown Manhattan precinct. He was on duty on Post 16 for only two nights when he encountered something strange that flew down out of the trees and attacked him. Campbell had not heard about the other reports from previous officers on Post 16. He entered the station with his face scratched and his helmet battered in and wrote out his report:
"Shortly before midnight, encountered a dark, flying object with four legs and two wings, the beast attacked me, if it was a beast, and I fought back. Has the resemblance of a tall, slim man at times, and at other times assumes the form of a mountain dwarf."
On the night of June 21st, Julius Wensch, a resident of the Bronx, ran into the police station and shouted for help. He told Sgt, Appel, who was at the desk, that he had been attacked by something wild that "yelled like a tiger." He said the strange thing had carried away a young woman who was in his company, and he asked for police assistance. Policemen Ollet and Baker were sent to rescue the girl, and they found her running through Lorillard Lane screaming. She explained that a "wildcat with wings" had attacked her and had torn the feathers from her hat. The policemen went back to the station and reported that it was undoubtedly the big, brown owl which had been frightening policemen for the past three weeks. The acting Captain notified the Bronx Park folks and a squad of men were sent out to capture the thing at midnight.
Curiously, there are no further reports about this string of attacks. No record of an owl or any other creature being captured, or, of any further sightings.
What were all of these people encountering in the Bronx? Was it a devil as one officer proclaimed, or was it an owl, or even Mothman?
Perhaps there was a rational explanation, or perhaps it was something unearthly. Unfortunately we'll never know exactly what the creature was so we're left with a curious historical note of some unusual encounters.
Original sources: The New York Times, and Kate Massingill writing in the Magonia Exchange List.