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Magazine Claims Giant Earthworm Loose in City

February 6, 1985

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ When a stretch of street swelled, cracked and then returned to normal within 20 minutes last summer, one city official joked that it was the work of a giant earthworm.

Fire Department spokesman Charlie McCafferty, who made the quip, later chalked the 20-foot-long bulge up to a natural gas accumulation and forgot about it.

Until Tuesday, when he learned that the weekly edition of the National Examiner magazine carried the headline, ″20-foot earthworm terrorizes city ... swallows dogs.″

The accompanying story told readers about a ″top-level investigation ordered into the horrifying sighting of a giant earthworm in and around a bustling city.″

McCafferty said he heard about the article when two frightened women phoned him about a creature ″eating up dogs″ they’d read about in the magazine.

″I got a copy and couldn’t believe what I read,″ McCafferty said.

The tabloid quoted unidentified city officials and witnesses who said they saw the worm grab dogs ″in its slick and dripping mouth″ and swallow them whole.

Cliff Linedecker, news editor for the West Palm Beach, Fla., weekly, said the paper got the story from Frank Kendal, a stringer who ″has given us some pretty good stories.″

″It was a very good story and I saw no reason to question it,″ he said. ″We run into a lot of really unusual stories here.″

When asked if he believed in such giant earthworms, he said, ″Well I do now.″

When told McCafferty was joking when he referred to a giant earthworm, Linedecker said, ″That’s (humor) very difficult to tell when you’re dealing with the printed word.... All I had to deal with was the printed word.″