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The View from the East End (56)

By Inspector Hopkins

January 14 , 2007

Giant Rats

by Inspector Hopkins 

I recently bought an old mobile home located in a very rural and wooded area of Jackson, NJ and have been steadily making repairs and improvements to it.  Over the past several weeks, I plastered and painted a wall in the living room, reinforced the flooring, and had the roof recoated.  I also worked up enough nerve to replace the bathroom faucet and several electrical fixtures myself (truly remarkable accomplishments if I may say so!).

The renovations involved mostly cleaning, and I spent many long hours in that endeavour, ripping up carpeting, hauling out trash, vacuuming, wiping and scrubbing, etc. After weeks of having no furniture and hardly any lights, a small living room set was at last delivered and set up. With a great sigh of satisfaction, I plopped down on my new sofa, reached over, and turned on my new lamp. I then “made a long arm” and selected a book to peruse, something which I hadn’t been able to do all that time. It felt great to relax, but the pleasure was short lived: out of the corner of my eye, I saw a mouse run across the room.

I groaned, and got up to investigate.  I just couldn’t understand why he was there. There were no food scraps anywhere, and as I had practically sterilized the place, I thought I would never have any vermin. The mouse scampered across the brand new floor and into a corner. As I approached, he jumped nervously and ran around in circles. He was light gray and appeared to be clean and in good shape, almost pet-like.  I looked around for something to catch him with, but he darted back into the kitchen and under the stove. From time to time he would peer out anxiously at me. As I made a note to purchase a mousetrap, I thought of Sherlock Holmes’s reference to the Giant Rat of Sumatra, “a story for which the world is not yet prepared”.

It turns out that there really are such creatures, and if the interested Sherlockian does a Google search, he or she will find a number of references to giant rats. also has some good articles on the subject.  Giant rats are found around the world and can be as long as three feet (not counting the tail) and weigh as much as 200 pounds! Wikipedia also lists some of the pastiche written about the Giant Rat, and points out the interesting possibility that the rats could have been transported via the ship Matilda Briggs.  In particular, one of the tales involved a plot to destroy London with plague-bearing rats.  Presumably, the Giant Rat carried enough disease potential to wipe out the entire population.

The idea is not so far-fetched.  A few weeks back I noted an AOL article concerning giant rats in Florida, which had been brought over here from Africa. These particular rats were referred to as Gambian Rats, and although they are three feet long, they only weigh about three pounds. For the past few years the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has been tracking the movements of these Gambian Rats through the exotic pet trade, and into this country. The scientists suspect that these animals caused a monkeypox outbreak in the Midwest in 2003. This virus is similar to smallpox, and anyone would have to conclude that it is probably not a good idea to import an exotic pet, especially one that was captured in the wild.

Many other references to giant rats in fictional literature can be found, including books, novels, movies, and even games.  See for a listing of these.

There is even a Sherlockian scion society known as the “Giant Rats of Sumatra” located down in Memphis Tennessee.

Think about all that next time you see a rodent!

My own little mouse?   Not to worry.   I bought one of those humane mousetraps, baited it with peanut butter and caught him with it. I took him outside and released him next to my squirrel feeding station. He will have plenty of corn and sunflower seeds to eat from now on. Trust me.

Let’s just hope he doesn’t grow up to become the “Giant Rat of Jackson”.

Until next time, thanking you for your attention, and nervously looking out my window, I indeed remain,

Yours faithfully,