Rumors abound that the ancient creature — believed to weigh more than 40 pounds and stretch nearly two-feet in length — plods among the nearly 560,000 permanent occupants of Brooklyn’s 478-acre Green-Wood Cemetery, before sunning itself near the graveyard’s ponds and casting its large shadow on the tombstones of famous and infamous residents, including William “Boss” Tweed — who built a 19th-century political empire and an historic city courthouse on a foundation of corruption.
But they were just rumors.
For today, this newspaper, after years of failed attempts to find the unfindable — to prove the unprovable — has finally obtained photographic evidence of a beast so elusive it had become known as the Sasquatch of Green-Wood.
That creature, of course, is Godzilla — the heretofore mythical saurian that struck fear into even the most lionhearted of gravediggers wary of crossing its path.
Whispers of its existence have persisted for years, with tales of its razor-sharp beak slicing up fallen trees and yet-to-be-buried corpses like a Ginsu through a tomato.
On warm days, it is believed to bubble up from the Sylvan Waters and lay its gnarly, pointed shell on a nearby monument to attorney-turned-artist George Catlin, a cemetery resident who gave up a life of lawyering in the 1800s to paint Native American tribes living out West.
Or so it was said.
Green-Wood’s own Eric Barna, who claimed to have spotted it just once about four years ago, thought it was some kind of dinosaur.
That comparison, of course, led to its, shall we say, nom de tombe.
Caught on film for the first time, that title seems a misnomer.
For this armored giant, which many say is more befitting of Green-Wood than its crowd-pleasing Monk parrots and koi fish, turns out to be your basic chelydra serpentina — or, as the kids today call it, a snapping turtle.
But calling him Gamera, for the equally imposing giant flying turtle from the equally exhilarating Japanese monsterploitation films of yore, just doesn’t work — a fact you can chalk up to linguistics.
The common snapping turtle, in fact, is nearly identical to similar fossil specimen that date back 228-million years, a point not lost on those that have tracked Godzilla.
“They co-habitated with archaeopteryx and brontosaurus,” said excited wildlife ecologist Michael McGraw, who works for Brooklyn-based firm Applied Ecological Services. “It just blows my mind.”
And despite the fact that turtles like Godzilla are fairly ubiquitous in North America, the same cannot be said for the County of Kings, where they were nearly hunted to extinction back when Gage and Tollner’s lunch special included a turtle soup so delicious, it sent lines out the Fulton Street institution’s revolving door and down Red Hook Lane.
Much like elephants, it is said that turtles never forget, so it is not unbelievable that any remaining would keep a low profile — thus the difficulty in finding the critter lurking amidst the burial ground’s headstones and within its ponds.
But now that its existence has finally been documented, it begs the questions, “Are there more out there, and, more urgently, should we be afraid?”
Local herpetologists suspect at least one mating pair occupies each of its four ponds — an educated guess based on studies done at graveyard leaders’ behest.
“Breeding occurs in the water,” McGraw said. “It looks like a wrestling match between two giant turtles.”
Females often take to land following the aquatic love making to fuel gestation with the sun’s rays and find safe places to lay their clutches — meaning Godzilla is probably a she, and the mother of more than a few hatchlings.
“We hope there are baby Godzillas out there too,” McGraw said.
But those with the intestinal fortitude to see the creature up close be warned: slow as it may be, it can slice off extremities in one bite.
“They’re called snapping turtles for a reason,” McGraw warned.
Editor’s note: The Sunday Read is written for fun, and not intended to be entirely factual. But the turtle is real.