Who Was the Naked Wild Man of Tennallytown?

The newspapers during the summer of 1894 were full of bizarre stories about a wild man wandering the vicinity of Tennallytown (when was it renamed Tenleytown?). Beginning on July 22nd, sightings of a “half-nude crazy man” were happening across the area, so much so that an organized man hunt was put together to find and get rid of the “mysterious lunatic.” Descriptions of the individual were lacking in details as he was often quick to appear and disappear.

Naked wild man
Naked wild man

The tale starts with a policeman, Officer Hartman (not Officer Sprinkle) stopped at the intersection of Tennallytown Rd. (Wisconsin Ave.) and Woodley Lane Rd. when he spotted a straw hat at the bottom of a deep ravine. Next to the hat was a coat and dark gray twill coat and vest, neatly folded.

The following day, a local butcher reported to the police that he saw a heavyset, half-naked white man running through the woods south of Old River Road. He called out to the man, but the man turned, shook his fist and kept going on his way. Later that day, the same naked man was seen running around Conduit Rd. (MacArthur Blvd.). All subsequent sightings described the man as running at “breakneck speed over the fields” or “swiftly working his way through the woods.”

Further descriptions of the man say “the wild man is about forty years of age, well built, and muscular looking, with dark hair cropped close … and some state that behind his uncouth appearance he seems to be a man of some refinement and intelligence.”

Later that week, the following frightful experience by an electric railway employee was reported to The Washington Post.

The latest disturbance in the neighborhood attributed to the mad wrath happened in the power house of the Tennallytown Electric road. Motorman W. M. Bogt, of car No. 5, reported on Saturday night on the down run he passed a man walking in the middle of the road. It was too dark to see as the car shot by how much the fellow had on in the way of clothes, but he waved his arms and yelled something about coming down to tear up the track. The carmen thought he was drunk, but on the return run the same man was seen cro’uching by the side of the road, and as the car approached he darted off into the bushes at a rate of speed that indicated anything but intoxication.

July 26th, 1894
July 26th, 1894

After this sighting, the wild man went into hiding as no additional sightings were reported, possibly due to the fact that it had been raining, pushing him to find cover. The newspapers comically reported that he “was in retirement.”

Finally, on July 26th, The Washington Post reported that the wild man had been identified. Not only that, but he walked himself into the police station, and, with a look of shame on his face, asked for his bundle of clothes back. The most amusing part of the story is the excerpt below.

In spirt of his claim to identify with the ferocious wild man, he gave the very pacific name of Lamb and confided to the station-keeper that his dementia had been only temporary, of the variety that comes in a bottle.

He disclaimed responsibility for a number of the alleged doings of the wild man of the woods, but stated, so far as he could recollect, and his recollection was not of the best, that he had carried a large load of vinous stimulants into the country with him some time late last week.

He was not certain how he got there nor exactly how long he stayed, but the first lucid interval that came to him was on returning to town in a butcher’s wagon that he had met on the road.

Such a great story from 1890s Tenleytown about the wild man, who, according to the paper had been “indulging in bacchanalian stimulants.” It reminds us of this crazy story of the naked dancing man in Baltimore.

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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  • Sheila

    LOLOL Love It!

  • alohaloaha

    This is so hilarious, wow

  • Jessica Ferrer

    Great stuff!