By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Queens doesnt have many folk legends. But the few we do call our
own are beauts. The story of the creature of the 64 Worlds Fair is more than
legend. It is a campfire story based on a real occurrence.
Authorities have tried to keep it quiet. But I know, I was there.
Those of you who remember those carefree days of Belgian Waffles and
Corporate and International Pavilions recall the joy of youth shared some 36 years ago.
But those who walked the grounds of Flushing Meadow Park (they added the Corona to its
name years later) the last week in October 1964 may recall the most terrifying night ever
in our fair borough.
The first season of the New York Worlds Fair was coming to a
close. It had been a rebirth of wonder for the people of Queens. Right there, our own
backyard was the most exciting place on earth. For us kids, young enough not to worry
about anything but old enough to go by ourselves, the 64 Worlds Fair was the
highlight of our youth.
Food, rides, exhibits, girls, fun, knowledge but most of all freedom
awaited us just off Lawrence Street (now College Point Boulevard). That was the closest
entrance to Kew Gardens Hills where I lived. It was where my friends and I would walk,
hitch a ride, borrow a car, take a bus and head on down to visit the future.
It was fun.
Except for one night.
It was Saturday, October 31, 1964 Halloween.
GEs Carousel of Progess
It was also the closing day for the Fairs first year.
Twenty-seven-plus million people had visited and still the Fair was sparkling new to us.
Sure, there were many pavilions in need of intensive work to get them ready for the April
65 opening. Perhaps, the first season just took its toll. But things werent
the same that night.
We were there with Linda Pryor. There were four of us and Linda. Linda
was the star miler on the Queens College track team. She was the best bridge player on
campus. Linda taught judo after school. She wrote for the Phoenix, the school
paper. Linda was just about perfect. Linda had a body that was just about perfect, too.
And Linda loved to show it off.
She was 20 and a senior. I was an 18-year-old junior. She was wild; I
wasnt. We all were perhaps a little out of our league with Linda. But, we loved
being with her.
She picked me up in her fathers car. She came to my door wearing
the tightest sweater no bra. Back in 64 people did that. At least
uninhibited, free college girls. I was smitten. I had been since the first day of my
freshman year when I met her in Symbolic Logic. She was beautiful and bright. She was out
of control. Linda didnt have limits.
Lindas view from
I remember her being caught for topless sunbathing on the roof of
Remsen Hall. She was the first person I knew busted with marijuana on campus. But she was
quick and charming and a straight A student. She got away with it all.
Our plan for the evening was to head directly over to the GE Pavilion
we wanted to see the seasons final demonstration of "Fusion On
Earth." In addition to their superb "Carousel of Progress," in the middle
of their "Progressland" pavilion, GE presented the first demonstration of
controlled thermonuclear fusion to be witnessed by a general audience. A magnetic field
squeezed a plasma of deuterium gas for a few millionths of a second at a temperature of 20
million degrees Fahrenheit. There was a vivid flash and loud explosive sounds as atoms
collided and created free energy. Instruments on the wall recorded the fusion and energy
produced. It was like being part of the experiment.
It certainly was that night.
Lindas escape route.
The last scheduled fusion didnt go as planned. I had seen
it before. This time, the crash was louder, the light was brighter, and the instruments
maxed-out and broke and then a tiny beam of light energy pierced the steel wall of the
huge atom accelerator and bounced off the nearby shiny stainless steel Unisphere.
At what seemed like the very same moment, it ricocheted to the right
and blasted a small hole into the side of the Pavilion of Two Thousand Tribes.
I had been to this unusual pavilion, which was modeled on an aborigine
hut and named for 2,000 tribal groups throughout the world which were still so primitive
they had no written language. It was sponsored by the Wycliffe Bible Translators, an
American society dedicated to carrying the Scriptures to primitive peoples. The Wycliffe
folks would reduce the unwritten tongues to simple phonetic systems, and translate the
Bible into a new, easily understood writing.
In the pavilion was a museum of artifacts from many tribes. On view
were totem poles from the Indian tribes of the Pacific Northwest, brightly colored feather
capes, carved wooden ornaments, bowls and woven work from North and South America. An
exhibit also showed how Amazon Indians made blowguns and mixed the poison they put on
their darts just one of the hazards WBT missionaries had encountered. Large
photographs showed Wycliffe emissaries teaching basic hygiene and agriculture to primitive
tribes, and providing medical care.
On the stage of the 100-seat theater were panels, 10 by 25 feet,
depicting in dramatic scenes the conversion of an Amazon jungle headhunter who learned to
read and write, then taught fellow tribesmen.
In the final room was a Tibetan homage to the Yeti a mammoth
hairy, man-like creature said to inhabit the snow covered Himalayas where the primitives
live. Castings of footprints, photos showing a distant Yeti and recorded audios of stories
and sounds of the creature surrounded a large glass freezer containing a block of ice
which seemingly contained the frozen, preserved body of a Yeti.
But I knew better. At least I did until that night Halloween
We left the Disney Carousel of Progress the blast forced them to
close down the GE Pavilion. We headed on over to the commotion outside of the Wycliffe
Pavilion of Two Thousand Tribes.
A British evangelist, who had been to the Himalayas, stood outside. He
was a tour guide and seemed to be concerned by the momentary shock that hit the pavilion.
We stood outside with an ever-increasing crowd.
But not Linda Pryor. She never had limits or fears. Carefree and
curious, she pushed past the concerned staff and descended the steps into the cavernous
exhibition hall of Two Thousand Tribes. We followed sheepishly.
From the top of the stairs, we could see water and chips of ice all
over the floor. Roughly half way across the room, one of the guides was pointing to a set
of large manlike tracks in the crumbled ice.
"Yeti tracks" the guide said, "but there is nothing to
fear." He assured us, "They are not dangerous."
"One thing you must know," he insisted: "Do not, under
any circumstances, touch the Yeti."
Our fears slightly calmed, we heeded his warning and continued to enter
Linda was across the room by now, following the quiet thud, thud,
thudding sound behind the stage. "Does anyone have a camera," she shouted before
we saw it.
Linda tumbled backwards onto the stage looking up at an enormous
eight-foot Yeti standing above her.
Even for Linda, fear took over at that moment. She jumped up and headed
for the back exit banging into the Yeti in the process. The Yeti, after being touched by
Linda, let out a deafening howl and began to chase her out of the Pavilion of Two Thousand
Tribes and across the Worlds Fairs International area.
She was fast! Linda was an athlete, a track star, and ran away from the
Yeti as quickly as her legs could carry her. After she passed the Greece Pavilion and
entered the Garden of Meditation, she looked back to see the bounding form of the Yeti
still chasing her.
So she continued to run, reaching the edge of the Worlds Fair
Marina. She jumped on the Bounty the famous recreated British merchant ship
and slid down a rope on the other side of the boat into a small dingy. Above her, on the
ship, she could hear the soft thud, thud, thud of Yeti feet.
She took the dingy to the Sunoco Fuel Pavilion (the beautiful large red
and white dome now houses La Motta Restaurant in Port Washington) and scrambled onto the
dock. She began running again. She dared not to look back.
Outside of the Chun King Inn a pagoda style restaurant that
provided take-out and delivery service to pavilions throughout the Fair, she jumped on a
rickshaw-like delivery cycle and started peddling for all she was worth.
The journey throughout the fairgrounds seemed endless to Linda. She hit
people, objects, and buildings. She crashed and fell several times. Each time she
immediately lifted herself up, cut and bruised, back onto the rickshaw-bike and peddled
with all of her strength.
She reached the Monorail station, with athletic precision, pounded up
the stairs and looked down to see the Yeti still in pursuit.
The monorail train was in the station getting ready to leave. Linda
hopped on board and collapsed into a corner seat. Hesitantly, she peered out the window
and looked below. The Yeti was running and screeching loudly pointing to the monorail
The fifteen-minute ride to the Lawrence Street parking lot allowed
Linda to regain some of her composure. We had parked near the Monorail exit and Linda was
at her car in a flash. She started the engine and was home in fifteen minutes.
She showered, tended to her minor scrapes and collapsed into bed.
The next morning, Sunday, Linda awoke to what was by now a familiar
thud, thud, thud. The Yeti had followed her home by foot.
Quickly, she threw on some clothes, into the garage, into the car and
into Forest Hills not stopping for lights. She parked the car and took an E train
to Manhattan. She called a high school friend who was attending NYU and had an apartment
in the Village. She phoned home and told her folks where they could retrieve the car.
Linda skipped school on Monday and Tuesday. Queens College didnt
seem the same place. She remained in the city recovering, recuperating and thinking.
By Wednesday, she was feeling better. She got up early. Took the subway
uptown and caught an E back to Continental. She took the Q65 to Jewel and Kissena and
walked to the campus.
She slowly walked to her political science class in the dome (you might
know it as part of Powdermaker Hall) where she knew she could relax while Professor Mary
Dillon talked about government and other mundane stuff.
She slumped back into her seat and looked through the glass wall at a
beautiful autumn day. The leaves were falling, the colors bright and the campus beautiful.
She had run, Monorailed, fled by car, took the train and spent three days using any means
she could trying to escape from the Yeti. Now she was there, in class, contemplating the
meaning of it all.
An instant later, through the glass walls of the dome, the figure
The Yeti stood outside, howling and pointing to her.
Linda got up. She ran through the adjoining Social Science building out
the back door. She dashed across the open space to Fitzgerald Gym. As she looked back, the
creature was coming. Inside the back of the gym and out the front, across the parking lot
to Colden Center, Linda fled in panic. The Yeti was gaining. Out of Colden, across the
Quad, she could run no more.
With the Yeti less than 30 seconds behind her, Linda finally stopped
and turned around to face the oncoming creature. She collapsed on the grass. With the last
of her strength she lifted herself and stood up straight as the Yeti caught up with her.
The eight-foot-tall Yeti towered above Linda, who could only stare in
The Yeti extended his hand and poked Linda Pryor squarely in the chest
with one long finger and with a low rumbling voice the Yeti began to speak:
"Tag! Youre it!"