Mysterious noise sparks talk of the legendary giant rat

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 12, 2004

A strange noise pierced the silence. As my brain processed the sound and attempted to decipher its source, my thoughts quickly turned to fear.

"Is someone outside trying to break-in?" I thought, as I headed for the back door to take a peek.

Nothing out back.

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A quick jog to the front of the house revealed no obvious source, either.

"In the basement?" I thought, heading downstairs.

Nothing there, either.

Casting the peculiar sound as just one of life's little mysteries, I cast it aside and went back to my normal business.

Then, suddenly, another noise - a hollow thud, quickly followed by a trailing series of ever-decreasing smaller thuds.

Something was in the basement. I leapt up and ran to the basement door, swung it open and saw the evidence - a can of spray paint lying at the base of the stairs. I looked at the shelf at the top of the stairs where it had been resting only seconds earlier.

"Whatever knocked it off," I thought, "It's pretty big."

I'm not sure what a can of spray paint weighs, but logic told me that something with some heft was required to knock it down. I grabbed a flashlight and heading down the stairs and looked into every corner, every crevice for the source.

Nothing. No sign of anything.

Finally, after exhausting all avenues that night, I went to bed. The next morning, I saw where "it" had begun scratching up a patch of carpet in the basement.

I headed for work and made the mistake of casually mentioning that I thought I had a critter in my basement.

"I bet it's a river rat," one co-worker said, holding up his hands. "They get really big."

"A 3-foot rat?" I asked, incredulous.

"Yes," he said. "We had to kill one with a shovel a few years ago. It was as big as our Dachshund."

Then began the big-rat discussion. One by one, almost everyone in our office had a story. It was Halloween night again and all were telling their horrifying rat stories.

"I knew someone who found one in their child's crib," said one woman.

"A guy that used to work here's ex-wife woke up when one bit her finger. She had her arm dangling off the bed," another co-worker said.

I couldn't help but laugh at the outlandish stories, but deep down, I wondered, "What if Orca, the man-eating, giant rat has taken up residence in my basement?"

Armed with several rat and mouse traps, a little poison and a shovel - just in case - I headed home to face the giant beast. The poison was set out like cookies and milk for Santa rat's pleasure. The traps, loaded with an irresistible dab of Jif peanut butter - creamy, not chunky - were armed and ready for the kill.

I turned off the basement lights and went upstairs to watch a little TV, with the volume down low so I could monitor Orca's moves.

In less than an hour, it happened. SNAP!

To the basement I ran, ready for battle, in case the trap had merely angered Orca.

And there he sat - all 6 inches of him - or her - without the tail. Standing over the lifeless little vermin's corpse, this 32-year-old man smiled, flexed my mini-muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger and in my best Clint Eastwood voice said "I got you, punk."

The rat was dead, but the legend of Orca, the dog-sized rat, lives.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to