Social media post, comments from Watertown ‘Owl Man’ historic hoot | local history

WATERTOWN – The history-themed Facebook page “Nostalgic Watertown NY” is lit up with comments following a post about the town’s “Owl Man.”

There are comments of surprise and remembrance:

“I remember that. I went to the Cooper school. It was the speech on the north side, scary. — Déborah Jenne

“I lived there, never heard of that.” -Eileen Phillips

There are also several questions posted. A direct debit:

“Has he ever been caught? —Glenn Curry

“I would still like to know the precise years. I may have been a victim. I worked at the show and came home alone after 10 every night. —Paula Chamberlain

“What kind of owl was the Owl Man?” —John Horbacz

“That’s very interesting. Do you get all of this from the Watertown Times? —Barbara Ann Devine. (“Partially,” the page admin claimed, and “victims.”)

We have answers. But no resolution of the “Owl Man” mystery.

The first recorded report by the Watertown Daily Times of “Owl Man” was on January 30, 1960. “Boys Soar Like Birds Seeing Owl Man,” read the headline.

“A man screeching like an owl was sought by police at 9:10 p.m. Friday night after pursuing two 10-year-old boys returning home from the North High School ice rink,” the story read. “A boy who ran four blocks to his house told patrolman Gordon W. Rowland that the man, his hands shaped like claws, came screaming out of the shadows as they crossed a field near the school.”

The suspect was wearing a black leather jacket and engineering boots.

The following evening, a police department “patrol car” escorted a group of children home from the rink. There was no report from Owl Man.

But by mid-February, sightings of Owl Man had returned.

A WDT headline from February 13, 1960 said he was “seen as the full moon illuminates the city”.

Two boys, aged 11 and 12, “reported a dark figure lurking in the light of a full moon. The man ran behind the houses on Burchard Street when the boys tried to get a closer look.

The story continued, “Police were called on the theory that the intruder was the nocturnal figure who is supposed to perform talons and a strange hairstyle in order to scare children with his hooting noises.”

Police checked the moon maps and told The Times that Owl Man “made appearances around the time of the new moon and the full moon.”

Because of the reports, an officer said “Patrollers had to ‘baby-sit’ for frightened kids.”

A February 15 Times headline noted, “‘Owl Man’ Seen By Baby Sitter.”

“A masked man and strange eerie sounds were the latest indications that the mysterious ‘Owl Man’ is still preying on the town’s nighttime scares,” the story read.

A 17-year-old babysitter at 510 Cooper St. reported that at 8:30 p.m. on a Saturday, a masked figure appeared twice at a window. She was too scared, police say, to give a description.

The story also said “strange mournful sounds” were heard by a housewife in the 800 block of Cooper Street. Police questioned several youths “in their efforts to cage the ‘Owl Man'”.

The Times had four other reports on “Owl Man” – all from February 1960. There was no indication that the man was dressed as an owl, but rather a person dressed in black and making unusual sounds.

The February 1960 WDT headlines on the Owl Man sightings:

“‘Owl Man’ on Prowl, adult scare, 53 years old.” — February 16.

“City Hall Becomes Rookery for ‘Owl Man’ Reports.” – February 17.

“‘Owl Man’ blamed for knife and car theft.” — February 18.

“The police are questioning the youths in the case.” — February 22.

In this most recent report, the youth, a 19-year-old parolee, was interviewed. A February 23 article said two witnesses did not identify the suspect as Owl Man.

Apparently, the town’s Owl Man remained suspicious, and there’s no report of whooo Owl Man was.

WDT Archives Librarian Kelly Burdick contributed to this report.

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