Hoaxes & Rumors

Classic Urban Legend: Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant

Classic Urban Legend: Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant

A classic urban legend states that a man posed as a car attendant at a zoo for 25 years before retiring with a fortune.

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Bristol Zoo Hoax

This classic urban legend has circulated for nearly 10 years. It tells the story of a man who parked cars for over two decades at the Bristol Zoo Gardens. After he stopped showing up for work, it was discovered that he had never actually been employed there, and had instead been pocketing all the money collected during those years before retiring to Spain.

Below is a recent version of the tale.

Apparently, a true story…

Outside Bristol Zoo, there is a car park for 150 cars and 8 coaches.
It was manned by a very pleasant attendant with a ticket machine charging cars £1 and coaches £5.

This parking attendant worked there solid for all of 25 years. Then one day, he just didn’t turn up for work.

“Oh well”, said Bristol Zoo Management “we’d better phone up the City Council and get them to send a new parking attendant…”

“Err no”, said the Council, “That car park is your responsibility”…

“Err no”, said Bristol Zoo Management, “the attendant was employed by the City Council, wasn’t he?”…

“Err NO!”

Sitting in his villa in Spain , is a bloke who had been taking the car park fees, estimated at £400 per day at Bristol Zoo for the last 25 years…

Assuming 7 days week, this amounts to just over £3.6 million…


Some details of the story have evolved over the years (23 years vs 25), but the essence of the tale has remain unchanged since it began circulating around 2007. Although many readers want to believe that a man could quietly beat the system for two decades in this manner, the facts of the case are easy to check, and have been thoroughly debunked.

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The Bristol Zoo Gardens itself has attempted to put the urban legend to rest for several years. In 2009, a post appeared in the Bristol Post where a current zoo parking attendant named Cliff Smith discussed the legend. That article was included on the zoo’s website for several years before being removed.

“I’ve worked here for about five years and it was about two years ago that this email started to circulate. It was around April time, which might explain things, but we didn’t really take much notice of it. Then in about April of this year it appeared again. Someone mentioned it to me, then a couple of zoo members said it had been circulated around their companies. Three days later a policeman turned up because it had gone to Bath and North East Somerset Council and someone there had told the police,” Smith said.

“It’s getting a bit boring now but it still seems to going around.”

The humorous tale has circulated via email and social media for years, and many readers have passed it along without checking its veracity.

Bottom Line

The Bristol Zoo Parking Attendant urban legend is a humorous tale, but it never happened.

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