This past August, the College Park community was shocked to discover that a dead hippopotamus had been uncovered underneath the floorboards at R.J. Bentley’s Filling Station. Originally a mystery, The Thirsty Turtle Times has uncovered the true story through a variety of sources, public and private.
In June of 1928, what is currently known as R.J. Bentley’s Filling Station was just a five-year-old gas station named College Park Auto Place.
Current Bentley’s owner John Brown reveals to us that then-owner Jonas Giller was furious with a zoology expedition at the University of Maryland. Out of an abundance of caution, local authorities had forbidden automobiles from entering town, robbing Giller of any business for the day.
As the expedition wound down, the hippopotamus keeper stopped at College Park Auto Place for gas. Giller then allegedly ordered his hourly staffer to open the hippo pen, intending to cause a diversion.
Both hippos escaped. While one vanished into the woods, the other went rampaging on Route One, killing dozens of students who had been drinking at the bowling alley up the street. Giller used the diversion to steal two pigs from a separate cart.
The story of the hippos faded quickly, as locals were much more enraged that students were drinking underage at the bowling alley. The students who died were condemned; those who lived were expelled. The hourly worker who opened the hippo pen was hailed as a hero for helping to expose the corruption.
“If those students hadn’t been drinking, they wouldn’t have died. It’s their fault,” remarked University of Maryland Police spokesman Marc Limansky, who had no knowledge of a second hippo.
Since the first hippo was causing so much damage, it is believed that the second hippo, which was never found, wandered unnoticed into Bentley’s, whose remaining staff had gone to help at the bowling alley. Likely pursuing the pigs that Giller had hid in the cellar, the hippo scaled shelves and somehow wedged itself into a two-foot crawl space to eat the pigs.
After that, it did not immediately die. Living under a busy autoshop during a time when regulating the environment was laughable, the hippo survived for a while on leaking gasoline and used motor oil, which slowly corroded its innards. Eventually the hippo developed a block in its intestines, making it impossible for the animal to have bowel movements. As the gasoline mixed with the pig remains, the beast swelled.
The hippo’s life was extended in a coma-like state until 1978, when R.J. Bentley’s Filling Station replaced College Park Auto Place. Interestingly, the new owners chose not to inspect the cellar or floorboards, assuming all was well.
“I didn’t even know this place had a basement until last week,” remarked Brown.
Though there was no more gasoline for the hippo to survive on, soon excess amounts of beer were leaking through the floors, and miraculously, the alcohol cleared the hippo’s intestinal block.
And yet, the hippo was still stuck in its own feces. The mess, combined with the heavy yeast in all the beer, gave the hippo a rectal fungal infection, as well as terrible indigestion and flatulence.
Slowly the clientele shifted from alumni to students, increasing the vomit the hippo was eating. The bar also began to see a much more active nightlife – more dancing, more people, more sweating.
Sexual activity increased on the dance floor, and it appeared at one point the hippo was impregnated with a half-human-half-hippo baby from fresh semen that leaked through the floor. Officials say there’s evidence to suggest this may have happened more than once.
The hippo was believed to have died in the mid 1980s, and with its death, the anal fungus spread throughout the Bentley’s floorboard. Nothing was discovered until the summer of 2011, 83 years after the pigs were first stuffed into the basement.
The unearthed mess included a hippo full of everything it had ever consumed since 1928, including at least one dead pig, over a ton of ultra-refined semi-digested gasoline, several thousand gallons of beer, vomit, semen, a dead half-human half-hippo baby, all covered in several inches of sopping wet slimy mold, which clearly had an apex at the creature’s anus.
“I don’t believe that story,” said Chad Killian, a student and frequent attendant of Bentley’s. “It just smelled a whole lot worse than that.”
The smells have somewhat persisted, and the investigation continues.
Steve Irwin contributed to this report
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