Rough Beasts

The brilliantly reported, bizarre account of the day in 2011 when a man in Zanesville, Ohio, released his menagerie of fifty exotic animals.

  • Byliner Original
  1. Chapter 1

    Near 5:30 p.m. on October 18, 2011—the day the world’s remaining wildness seemingly died in Zanesville, Ohio, of all places—Sergeant Steven Blake, of the Muskingum County sheriff’s department, inched his patrol cruiser up toward the brick farmhouse at 270 Kopchak Road and sounded his horn. A simple knock on the front door would have been standard procedure for verifying the whereabouts and well-being of any local citizen. But as Sergeant Blake well knew—and as much of the rest of the world was about to discover—the sixty-two-year-old owner of the home was anything but your average citizen.

    “Upon arrival at the Terry Thompson residence,” as Blake later recounted in his official report, “I noticed that there were several animals running loose including … lions, a mountain lion, a tiger, and black bears. It appeared as if the doors of [their] pens were opened.”

    Blake had first arrived at the locked front gate of the seventy-three-acre farm belonging to Thompson and his estranged wife, Marian, some fifteen minutes earlier and immediately confirmed a neighbor’s complaint about seeing a bear and an African lion loose just inside the property’s outer-perimeter fence. This being, oddly enough, a not altogether unusual occurrence at 270 Kopchak, Blake first tried phoning up to the house, set at the top of a hill about a half-mile in from the road. Blake and his fellow officers had been out to Thompson’s place countless times in the past to ask him to rein in another reported stray. ...

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