Monkey Rampages, Raids Drug Store, Plays Piano, Eats Meal at Restaurant

angry capuchin
angry capuchin

One of the stranger GoDC titles yet? I’d say so. We dug up a bizarre article from July 31st, 1909 in the Washington Post. You have to read this one to believe it.

This is a monkey tale; the story of a live simian, evidently crazy with the heat, and bent on stirring up a little midsummer excitement.

After escaping from the cage in a Twelfth street animal emporium between 4 and 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon, this monkey threw the occupants of several apartments in the Carolina into consternation, made a rapid, hair-raising descent on the fire escape, swept a score of medicine bottles from a drug store shelf, dyed his sleek brown coat a livid green in a dyeing establishment, scampered over the keys of several pianos in a music store, revisited the apothecary shop to finish his bottle-breaking job, snatched food off tables in a cafe, and escaped for parts unknown.

Is that the good lead-in to a story or a great one? Surely you’re going to read this entire post now to find out what happens. The article continues.

The owner of the simian, policemen, and a crowd of excited men, women, and children hotly pursued the monkey for more than an hour, but the animal eluded all his would-be captors, and was last seen doing a Marathon [sic] down an alley between Eleventh and Twelfth and F and G streets northwest.

What an amazing monkey! He’s like Daniel Craig doing some crazy parkour. For some reference points, check out the map of the block from the 1909 Baist real estate atlas. Also, check today’s Google Map of the same block.

block between 11th and 12th, F and G streets NW
block between 11th and 12th, F and G streets NW

Now that you can picture the location, let’s get back to the monkey.

Seized with a humane impulse the proprietor of the animal store yesterday let the monkey out of the cage. The simian had been quiet all day and spent most of its time curled up and asleep. Once outside the cage the monkey danced about in a fiendish glee, and a few minutes after it had been liberated from close confinement chewed the tethering rope in two. Retiring into a corner the monkey watched the main door, and darted through it as a customer entered the store.

Chattering and jabbering, the animal leaped and bounded to the entrance of the Carolina, darted into the main corridor and scampered up a flight of stairs, heralding its coming with piercing cries of joy and exultation. Occupants of flats rushed to their doors to ascertain the cause of the strange noise, but the escaped monkey jumped at them, and drove them back into their apartments.

After a record run through the corridor it sprang out on the fire-escape and shot down like a dad weight, although it clung to the iron railing with four feet and a long rope-like tail.

this capuchin will steal your food
this capuchin will steal your food

Are you loving this story as much as I am? Are you picturing a capuchin monkey similar to Marcel (aka, Ross Geller’s pet in Friends)?

Reaching the alley in the rear of the apartment house, the monkey decided to explore the drug store, and created a furore [sic] of excitement by jumping up on a shelf and shoving full bottles off on the floor. With difficulty the grinning beast was dislodged from the shelf, whence it sprang across the store to a showcase, where it knocked a telephone to the floor and tore down a cigar lighter.

Chase from the drug store, the excursionist sought a hiding place in a dyeing establishment in G street, near Twelfth. Dashing into the rear room of the establishment the overheated animal plunged into a tub of green dye, and luxuriated there until the crowd of pursuers reached his bathtub. As the hunters closed in on him the monkey showed its long, sharp teeth, and sprang toward them. He ran out of the store between two lines of intrepid would-be captors, and rushed into the music store directly opposite, in G street. Hopping on the keyboard of a piano, the animal pounded its feet on the keys, and leaped from instrument to instrument, as if springing from tree to tree in the jungle.

Two-score men and boys entered the store and attempted to catch the wily simian, but it dodged into out-of-the-way places and kept constantly on the move until an opportunity to dart through the open door presented itself.

Followed by an excited crowd, which he had beaten by half a block, the monkey scooted down Twelfth street and suddenly bounded across to a restaurant, where a number of patrons were enjoying their evening meal. The diners were panic-stricken, and hurried out of the place, while the monkey busied itself gathering viands from the abandoned tables. Filling its mouth with food, the simian skipped through the kitchen, skillfully dodging a meat cleaver hurled in its direction, and reached the alley in safety.

The pursuers searched every yard and outhouse near the alley, but were unable to find the escaped simian. Police of the First precinct have been asked to locate the animal.

This. Is. Amazing. Imagine having a quiet lunch with your co-workers at the 12th and G Pret A Manger, when a monkey busts through the door and starts stealing food from tables. Probably not something you see every day.

About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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