Copyright 2007 by William A. Mays, Proprietor
January 11, 1879
The Famous Lager Beer Drinking Bear of Coney Island
Seizes a Young Lad at His Play and Crushes Him to Death
Before the Eyes of the Horrified Spectators.
       The premises known as the Club House, kept by William S. Thoms, on the Ocean Parkway, at Parkville, about two miles from the Brooklyn City line, was the scene of a tragical occurrence on Monday afternoon, the 30th ult., when a boy lost his life in a terrible manner. The victim was a bright and interesting child of thirteen years, the son of Samuel Stretch, a respectable workingman residing in that village, and his slayer was a bear that was supposed to be tame and harmless. About half-past two o'clock on that afternoon Peter Stretch, the deceased, was in company with two younger brothers and two boys named John Bush and John Morne. According to custom of late the boys took a seat on a box beneath a horse shed adjoining the club house above mentioned, where two large bears--male and female--were chained. After some time had elapsed they rose from their seats and began to play and shout. Young Bush ran round the bears once or twice, when Peter Stretch undertook to follow him. As he was passing round the male bear, which was named Ben, the animal stood upon his hind feet, and when the boy's back was turned he reached out his fore paw, and grappling him by the leg,
                     DREW HIM TOWARD HIM.
The child, who was thirteen years of age, feeling the claws penetrating his tender flesh, screamed, and his companions joined in the chorus. But in an instant Bruin, bent on the death of his human prey, had drawn the screaming boy to his deadly embrace. Clasping his vice-like paws, one across each shoulder, he stifled the cries of the poor boy, and then with savage ferocity implanted his huge fangs, an inch in length, deep into the right side of the neck of the little fellow cutting the jugular vein and killing him. While the struggle, which, according to eye-witnesses, did not last more than two minutes, was taking place a stableman seized a pitchfork and thrust it into the side of the brute. Mr. Thoms, who was sitting by the stove in his hotel, a few yards away, on hearing the outcry rose from his chair, and, looking out of the window, saw the trouble. He lost not an instant, but seizing a bale stick that was at hand he struck the bear several violent blows with it, compelling the animal
                    TO RELINQUISH HIS HOLD.
Medical assistance was summoned immediately, but it was of no avail.

While sympathetic hands were busy the mother of the deceased rushed in frantically upon the scene, and, in her maternal frenzy, insisted that her child was not dead, and that a little brandy would revive him. To gratify her that stimulate was procured, but, of course, it was useless. During the struggle the she bear, who is known as Kate, stood up on her hind legs and glared upon the murderous work of her mate, but she neither growled nor did she make any attempt to go near him. Ben having been beaten off, proceeded, to the horror of the spectators, to lap the gore from his paws. Officer Miller, of the Flatbush police, was then called on to shoot the brute, and he fired no less than five bullets into its head. This had not the desired effect, however, and young Ravenhall procured a shot-gun loaded heavily with No. 3 shot, which he fired under the left shoulder of Ben. Still Bruin writhed, and Mr. Ravenhall, Sr., stabbed the animal with a long dirk knife, while Mr. Thoms struck him several blows on the head with an ax, finally despatching him effectually.
The bears, during the summer, were kept at Garret Katen's inn, Coney Island, where they had always been docile and well behaved, never showing any dangerous temper. They would frequently go into the bar with people and drink lager beer out of bottles, pulling the cork out themselves, often consuming from forty to fifty bottles a day. Sometimes they would get a little full and would act as though under the influence of the beer, but it is said that they were always clever and well behaved. They had had no beer on the day of the fatal occurrence.
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