Tom Collery was walking in the woods with friends in August 1972 when he did a double take.
Was it a bird? Was it a toy? Actually, it was a six-legged frog, splashing in a pond in a wooded area near his Oyster Bay home, and later dubbed “Superfrog.”
“I saw this one that looked a little peculiar,” Collery, who was 14 at the time, said in a recent interview. “I caught this frog and it just happened to have six legs.”
Collery, now 58 and still living in Oyster Bay, recalled being in awe at the finding. He and his friends were just out for a few hours of catching frogs, a common activity where he lived on Singworth Street, across from a wooded area with plenty of ponds to explore.
“We were just little boys, we’d catch turtles and frogs and stuff,” he said. “We had a good life.”
First came the awe from his friends and then, someone made a call to the Newsday newsroom — Collery said he can’t remember who. A reporter and photographer came out to Oyster Bay and the story ran on Aug. 23, 1972, under the headline “Plucked From Pond: Superfrog!”
In that story, Collery said that he was keeping the frog in a fish tank at home and had named him Freddie. The photo shows Collery holding up the amphibian, its two extra rear legs dangling from the back.
A scientist interviewed by Newsday at the time called the finding “very rare” and “rather marvelous.”
Ultimately, though, Collery decided to let Freddie live out the rest of his six-legged life in the pond he came from. He released Freddie not long after the story ran.
“I had a couple people call me, scientists, wanting me to donate it,” he said. “But I just let it go.”
His family clipped out the newspaper article to preserve the memory instead and friends often tease him about the story — in fact, he thought it was an elaborate prank when a reporter called earlier this month.
Collery is now retired after a career in law enforcement. As a recreational fisherman, he still keeps an eye on Long Island’s waters, he said. A few of his nine children will sometimes join him on fishing trips, but after all these years, he’s never seen anything quite like Superfrog, he said.