11/23/2011 11:43 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2012

The Tale Of The Miraculous Midtown Turkey

Every Thanksgiving the president of the United States "pardons" a turkey, allowing the lucky bird to dodge its fate on a dinner plate. It's a dull ceremony and they repeat the performance year after year, president after president.

No suspense. Nothing to tingle the spine.

It just can't compare with the Miraculous Midtown Turkey, a genuine tabloid legend.

The word came to the New York Post news desk, just days before Thanksgiving -- a big white turkey was running wild through Herald Square!

A photographer snapped pictures of the confused bird strutting around the area before cops threw a net over the flapping fowl and hauled him to the nearest precinct. The city editor turned to me.

"Get over there, Carillo!"

By the time I reached the precinct the turkey was in a holding cell, pecking at dry corn on the floor. More great pictures -- a doomed turkey behind bars, eating his last meal! Boy oh boy, I couldn't wait to get the story.

How the hell could a turkey get to Herald Square?!

Cops came up with a theory: a delivery truck filled with live turkeys must have hit a pothole going crosstown on 34th Street. The jolt had cracked open one of the crates, and the turkey escaped.

A million-to-one shot, but there it was: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET!

I raced back to the office to write it up. I remember dubbing the bird "Harold," the closest name I could find to "Herald," as in square.

(Time out for a journalistic tip: if the animal you're writing about doesn't have a name, give him one. Nobody relates to "a turkey," but "Harold" goes right for the heartstrings.)

The story wrote itself, as the saying goes, and the ink was still damp on the first edition when a kind soul with a farm in upstate New York came to the rescue, vowing to give Harold a home for life -- a length of time nobody could estimate, as most turkeys die quite young of CTTN (Cleaver to the Neck.)

But not Harold. Get out the Kleenex, readers -- this bird shall live!

A perfect story. Maybe a little too perfect.

"I still can't believe how that turkey got there," I said to one of my colleagues at the end of my shift.

She looked left and right before speaking.

"We put him there," she whispered.

"Excuse me?"

She rolled her eyes, the way teachers do when trying to explain stuff to dull-witted students.

"We hired a guy to buy a live turkey and stick him in Herald Square," she said.


The happy headlines could have gone a whole other way:



I've been careful not to tell anybody this story for a long time, but I figure Harold is probably dead by now, and any cops who got caught up in Turkeyscam are long retired.

So I'm singing like a canary about the Miraculous Midtown Turkey, even though it makes me look like the worst thing a reporter can be.

A pigeon.

Charlie Carillo's first two published novels, Shepherd Avenue and My Ride With Gus are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents. Visit his Website here. He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition.