Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Hostages in Maine

A gunman, Randall Hofland, 55, who had been on the lam for a week held 11 fifth-graders hostage at a Stockton Springs, Maine, elementary school on Friday, Halloween, October 31, 2008. He was tackled outside a classroom without any harm to the children, police said.

Hofland had released all the students and had turned over a loaded gun to one of the young hostages before he was arrested at the Stockton Springs Elementary School, authorities said. The school in the small coastal town of Stockton Springs has about 80 students.

He was taken to jail and all of the school's pupils were taken by bus to an elementary school in neighboring Searsport.

"These children are very brave. They did a tremendous job," Gov. John Baldacci said.

The gunman walked into a fifth-grade classroom in the small coastal town (in Waldo County) around the start of the day. State police were called at 8:42 a.m. and Hofland was arrested about 20 minutes later after he was tackled by a state trooper.

Hofland was the object of a manhunt that began on the night of Oct. 23 after he allegedly pointed a gun at a police officer who stopped him during a seat belt safety check in Searsport. Hofland drove off, eventually abandoning his car in a field.

A two-mile stretch of U.S. 1 was closed to traffic for a time during the search, which involved more than three dozen police officers, including the state police tactical team. Schools in School Administrative District 56, including Stockton Springs Elementary School, were closed for the day after Hofland fled, out of concern for students' safety.

Hofland was charged Friday with criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon in the Oct. 23 traffic stop. Police and prosecutors were meeting to discuss charges related to the hostage situation.

Baldacci praised school and police for their fast response on Friday. He said the school secretary called a "code blue" and then dialed 911. After being locked down on Oct. 24, the day after the traffic stop, the schools have been in a state of heightened security.

Details of the school's emergency plan weren't immediately available, but district school Superintendent Raymond Freve said they included a code broadcast on the intercom to advise teachers there was a serious situation and classrooms had to be locked down.

"Everyone was calm. They did what they were supposed to do. The bottom line: Nobody got hurt," Freve said.

The Maine Department of Education began requiring schools to enlist local police, fire and emergency preparedness officials in creating emergency response plans in 2002.

The school district has scheduled counseling sessions for students and meetings with parents Saturday.

Hofland had lived in the area for about seven years, most recently in a trailer off a dirt road, Searsport Police Chief Dick LaHaye said.

LaHaye said he was aware of reports that Hofland may have posted comments on an Internet message board questioning whether police had the right to stop motorists at roadblocks.

Hofland once appealed a parking ticket he received in Concord, N.H., to the Supreme Court of New Hampshire. He claimed his constitutional rights were violated because the city didn't have signs that provided notice of a city ordinance prohibiting parking on city streets for more than 30 minutes between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. The court rejected his appeal.

This location, Stockton Springs, Maine, is not to be confused with the Stockton, California event of 1989. On January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy, also known as Patrick West and by other names, returned to the school he had attended 15 years before. Purdy, wearing a t-shirt with the word Satan on it, opened fire at the playground of the Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, killing five children and wounding 35 youngsters and a teacher with his AK-47. All were the children of Southeast Asian refugees. Purdy then turned the gun on himself, and died by suicide.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Self-Immolation at UW

A 61-year-old man poured gasoline over himself and set himself on fire on Thursday afternoon, October 30, 2008, in Red Square, a crowded University of Washington plaza, in an attempt at suicide, local Seattle police told the Associated Press.

The man was taken to a hospital with second- and third-degree burns, said Ralph H. Robinson, assistant campus police chief. The unidentified individual died late on Thursday.

The fire was reported in the early afternoon in Red Square, a brick plaza at the center of campus, said Robinson and city Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick.

Robinson said witnesses told him, "All of a sudden there was this big flame and a ball of fire."

UW student Jayoung Kim said she initially thought the flames were a joke. People threw clothing and tried to squirt the man with water bottles, she said; one man even took off his jeans and tried to use them to douse the flames.

"Nobody could do anything. We couldn't help," she said.

The square was full of people at the lunch hour, said Bjarne Varnes, a university maintenance worker.

Tom Giardino, a student walking to work near the square, said a crowd gathered as the man was put into the ambulance.

"The guy wasn't part of any sort of organized protest and didn't make any declarations before he started," Giardino said.

After the flames were extinguished, the man appeared to be badly burned and was incoherent when medics arrived, UW student Jacob Maria told KOMO-TV. There was a strong smell of gasoline and a gas can in the man's backpack, he said.

It appeared to be a suicide attempt, Robinson said, adding: "We do not know why he did this. We do not know whether he was a student or staff or what his affiliation was."

The King County medical examiner's office has not identified the man. One report indicates the individual is a former UW staff member.

Self-immolation is suicide by fire, and has historically been used as a form of anti-war protest.

A number of Buddhist monks used self-immolation in protest of the South Vietnamese regimen in the 1960s. Their protests were copied worldwide, including in the USA. On November 2, 1965, Norman Morrison used kerosene to burn himself to death outside The Pentagon as a protest against the Vietnam War. Roger Allen LaPorte did so one week later outside the United Nations headquarters.

The wars in Iraq have resulted in little publicized self-immolations too.

The elder George Bush had sent U.S. forces against Iraqis during the First Gulf War, and his actions were stirring up war protests. Fire suicides soon followed.

Gregory Levey understood the power of the media and symbolism; after all, it was in his genetic makeup. On February 18, 1991, Levey, 30, son of newspaper reporter Bob Levey and stepson of Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman, set himself on fire in protest of the First Gulf War in the university community of Amherst, Massachusetts. Levey identified with Buddhist beliefs and left clear symbols of his intentions at his side, a placard with the word “Peace” on it, and a statue of the Buddha. Three days later, in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, Raymond Moules followed suit.

Malachi Ritscher was a Chicago musician and anti-war protestor who died by suicide by fire in 2006, as a political protest against the War in Iraq.

The motivation of today's self-immolation in Seattle is unclear, tonight.

October 31, 2008 update.

No identity of the man has been released. Rumors that he was a former professor have been denied and UW will only say he is a former staff member.

"We do not know the motive," UW Police Department spokesman Ralph Robinson said. "Obviously, that's the primary question."

Robinson said there were no planned activities or political events in Red Square before the incident.

Tom Yang, a 21-year-old international studies undergrad at the UW, who was an eyewitness, said there were no protest signs, but said another man at the scene -- partially clothed after having used his own clothing to fight back the flames -- was bowing and praying loudly over the victim.

"I don't know what that was about, but it reminded me of the Vietnam War," Yang said. "We kept asking him to stop, and eventually some people dragged him away."

Red Square was cordoned off with yellow tape and closed for more than an hour by police after the incident.

Police said the man wasn't close to others when he lit himself on fire. No other injuries were reported.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Phantom Clowns On Coast to Coast

I was driving around Portland the other day, minding my own business. Then, while stopped at a red light, the driver in the car (not a van) next to me pulled up alongside, rolled down his window, and yelled out: "Are you Loren Coleman, who is on Coast to Coast?"

Thank goodness, he wasn't in a clown suit!

I'm not sure how he recognized me from my radio appearances, but what could I say? One hardly expects such things to happen on a busy roadway, but, of course, shocked or not, I merely said, "Yep, that's me."

As it turns out, I'll be on George Noory's Coast to Coast AM again soon ~ on this Friday's Halloween 2008 program, briefly, during the first hour's news segment. Although cryptozoology may be mentioned, I will be mostly there to update listeners about the recent wave of "Phantom Clown" sightings. The strange potential child abductors have now shown up in Bloomington, Illinois, which is quite a few miles from the original Chicago area encounters.

Earlier in the week, Coast to Coast AM's website mentioned my recent blog postings on the new Phantom Clown accounts, and it caused a lot of comments to my Copycat Effect blog.

No telling what I'll see out there on the streets after my Friday guest appearance.

Just a footnote again, it is in Mysterious America where I detailed the national wave of 1981 sightings of costumed sinister jokers in vans, trying to kidnap children, from Boston to Kansas City. I coined the term "Phantom Clowns" to describe them because they are seen but never caught.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Plan 88: The Plot to Assassinate Obama

In Neo-Nazi jargon, "88" equals "Heil Hitler," the twilight language that underlies today's overturned plot.

Federal agents have broken up a plot to assassinate Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and shoot or decapitate 102 black people in a Tennessee murder spree, the ATF said Monday. In court records unsealed Monday, federal agents said they disrupted plans to rob a gun store and target a predominantly African-American high school by two neo-Nazi skinheads. Agents said the skinheads did not identify the school by name.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville field office for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the two men planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

The men also sought to go on a national killing spree, with Obama as its final target, Cavanaugh told The Associated Press.
"They said that would be their last, final act - that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama," Cavanaugh said. "They didn't believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying."

According to sources within their movement, eighty-eight (88) is used as code among Neo-Nazis to identify each other. H is the 8th letter of the alphabet, so 88 is taken to stand for HH which in turn means Heil Hitler. For example, the number is used in the song "88 rock`n`roll band" by the neo-Nazi group Landser.14 is used similarly, referring to the so-called "Fourteen Words," often found in combination with 88 (1488, 14/88, etc.). This form of the number has inspired the naming of the groups Column 88, Unit 88 and White Legion 88.

The "Fourteen Words" is a phrase used by white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and others. It refers to both the 14-word slogan: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Also, this is found in the 14-word slogan: "Because the beauty of the White Aryan woman must not perish from the earth."

Both 14-word slogans were coined by David Lane, a member of the Neo-Nazi organization The Order. The first slogan was inspired by a statement, 88 words in length, quoted from Volume 1, Chapter 8 of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf:

What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. Every thought and every idea, every doctrine and all knowledge, must serve this purpose. And everything must be examined from this point of view and used or rejected according to its utility.

It can be combined with 88, as in 14/88 or 1488. The 8s stand for the eighth letter of the alphabet (H), with HH standing for Heil Hitler. 88 can also stand for the book 88 Precepts by David Lane. It can also refer to the Ubermensche, the Neo-Nazis superpower.

As I have written and stressed extensively in The Copycat Effect, the significance of dates in several school shooting scenarios point to the heavy influence of Neo-Nazi thought and symbolism. This all needs to be taken very seriously by those guarding Senator Barack Obama. His protection and security details must be aware of this symbolic but real level of danger to the man who certainly seems in line to be our next president.

More info later:

According to a court affidavit sworn out by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent, Daniel Cowart, 20, and Paul Schlesselman, 18, began discussing the murder plot after meeting online about a month ago. In the ATF affidavit, a copy of which you'll find below, Cowart and Schlesselman "discussed the killing spree to include targeting a predominately African-American school, going state to state while robbing individuals and continuing to kill people."

The pair's "final act of violence" would be an attempt to kill Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee. In separate interviews with investigators, the men said that they planned to speed their vehicle toward Obama while "shooting at him from the windows." Apparently befitting the historic assault, Cowart and Schlesselman "stated they would dress in all white tuxedos and wear top hats during the assassination attempt."

Cowart and Schlesselman were arrested last Wednesday night by Tennessee sheriff's deputies soon after the pair used chalk to write "numerous racially motivated words and symbols," including a swastika, on the exterior of Cowart's automobile.

The city of West Helena, Arkansas has been under a 24-hour curfew (a virtual declaration of martial law) since Thursday, Aug. 7th, 2008, in response to a surge of violent crime in parts of the town, as noted by Todd Campbell.

Connecting The Dots of December 5th

George Bush, Dick Cheney, the Westroads Mall shooting, and the mysterious death of reporter Anne Pressly? A coincidence in time, space, and fiction only?

Anne Pressly, 26, the Little Rock anchor for KATV-TV, played a conservative news commentator in Oliver Stone's new movie, W.. She died on Saturday, after an unsolved savage attack, without forced entry, in her home on October 20, 2008. It turns out an event in her past has a strange temporal overlap with Vice President Dick Cheney and President George Bush. And a mall shooting.

On December 5, 2007, Pressly had the brush with history that brought her to the attention of Oliver Stone, leading him to pick her for his movie. That was the date of Pressly's famous interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. Pressly was returning from a story, and traveling through Stuttgart, Arkansas, when she found the highway blocked in front of a hunting supply store, Mack's Prairie Wings. It turned out that inside was Dick Cheney. Pressly asked him for an interview, which she conducted in the ammunition aisle.

On that same day, on Wednesday, December 5, 2007, at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, Robert A. Hawkins, 19, killed nine (counting himself). He used a hooded black sweatshirt to sneak in the AK-47 he used.

SWAT teams were able to respond quickly to Omaha's Westroads Mall shooting because they were on high alert due to President Bush's quiet visit to the Nebraska city.

President George W. Bush was in Omaha, Nebraska, on the morning of December 5, 2007. While in Omaha, Bush visited the OneWorld Community Health Centers, a clinic that provides medical, dental and nutritional aid. Bush was mainly in Omaha to support candidate Mike Johanns for the United States Senate. The Johanns fundraiser was held at the large estate of billionaire businessman and philanthropist Walter Scott Jr. It was closed to the media. Reportedly, Bush also went shopping - perhaps at the Westroads mall for a scarf or tie, supposedly. Soon after Bush departed, a mall shooting occurred at the Westroads Mall.

Bush is in Nebraska shopping. Cheney is in Arkansas shopping. Pressly ran into Cheney. Bush almost ran into Hawkins.

The Westroads Mall shooting occurred on December 5, 2007, beginning at 1:42 p.m. (local time) at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. The main location of the shooting happened at the Von Maur customer service desk.

The gunman was identified as Robert A. Hawkins, 19, who was armed with an SKS assault rifle. A month before, there had been an infamous Finnish school shooting. The Jokela school shooting occurred on November 7, 2007, at Jokela High School (Finnish: Jokelan koulukeskus), a public secondary school in the town of Jokela, Tuusula municipality, Finland. The gunman was 18-year-old Pekka-Eric Auvinen, and the end result was nine people were dead. Auvinen was a known Columbine copycatter. The recent September 23, 2008, Finnish college shooting that left eleven dead in Kauhajoki, in western Finland, appears to have been a copycat of the Jokela shooting. The shooter of the 2008 incident even went to Jokela to the same gunshop as Auvinen to obtain his guns.

The Finnish music (H.I.M.) was admired by Omaha shooter Robert A. Hawkins, as it was by the Columbine shooters.

"Similar traces of gothic musical tendencies of a more Germanic variety...these things always have the smell of Arayan Nation all over them," comments blogger Todd Campbell.

"[Security video] shows Hawkins as he walks into Von Maur, wearing a stocking cap and an unzipped, blackhooded sweat shirt over a black Jack Daniels T-shirt. A design on the sweat shirt appears to be the logo that is shared by skateboarder and MTV personality Bam Margera and the Finnish alternative rock band H.I.M. The band played Sokol Auditorium the day before Halloween." (Source: Omaha World Herald, "Von Maur's cameras show Hawkins toting AK-47," by Lynn Safranek, December 7, 2007).

The group H.I.M. did perform at the Sokol Auditorium in Omaha, on Tuesday, October 30, 2007, at 8:00 PM. (Source: Ticketmaster records.)

H.I.M. is a rock band from Finland formed in 1991 by vocalist Ville Valo, guitarist Mikko Lindström, and bassist Mikko Paananen. They have released six full length albums to date. As of 2007, they are the first and only Finnish rock band to go Gold in the United States.

According to the Omaha World Herald, the Hawkins's sweatshirt had on it the H.I.M. heartagram, which is their trademarked symbol, best described as a combination of a heart and an inverted pentacle (love & hate), created by Ville Valo the day after his twentieth birthday.

"According to Ville Valo, lead vocalist for Finnish rockers H.I.M., 'It's very hard to sing about sunshine and ice cream and birds in fast cars.' So he doesn't even try. Instead, song titles like 'Cyanide Sun', 'Dead Lovers' Lane', and 'Song or Suicide' populate his band's latest CD, Venus Doom. The 30-year-old Valo discovered his affinity for the darker side of rock as a kid, when he heard a few bars of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) the Reaper' while watching John Carpenter's Halloween....[In 1999, HIM] scored a breakthrough hit in Germany with the single 'Join Me in Death'. Like 'Reaper' before it, that song drew flak from folks who believed it glamorized suicide. (Source: Music Features by Steve Newton, November 8, 2007.)

Looking a bit more deeply at the date of December 5th, especially via the Germanic culture of Austria, it happens to be Krampus>.

The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine region the Krampus is represented by an incubus in company of Santa Claus. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly in the evening of December 5, and roam the streets frightening children (and adults) with rusty chains and bells. In some rural areas also slight birching especially of young females by the Krampus is part of tradition.

The present day Krampus costume consists of red wooden masks or Larve, black sheep's skin and horns. Considerable effort goes into the manufacture of the hand-crafted masks, as many younger adults in rural communities engage competitively in the Krampus events.

(Thanks to Todd Campbell, Through the Looking Glass, for the private tip on the date links.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reporter Anne Pressly, in Stone's W., Killed

An Arkansas television anchor who filmed a bit role for the movie W. has died, after being found in her home early Monday, October 20, 2008, suffering from life-threatening injuries caused by a brutal beating.

Anne Pressly, 26, the morning anchor for KATV-TV in Little Rock, was found by her mother at about 4:30 a.m. lying in her bed and bleeding from "severe injuries," police said.

"We do believe she was beaten," Sgt. Cassandra Davis of the Little Rock Police Department told She said the injuries were to the upper body and included stab wounds.

Earlier in the week, Pressly was listed in critical condition at a local hospital, Davis said. She reportedly was improving by mid-week, before she died on Saturday.

Pressly may have been attacked during a robbery, as her purse is missing. But Davis said that police haven't found any forced entry to her home on Club Road in Little Rock. (Emphasis added - LC.)

"It's not a neighborhood known for any violent crime," Davis said.

Police do not have suspects in the case, but said they were questioning neighbors, friends and co-workers, Davis said.

Pressly was seen in "good condition" at 10:30 p.m. and her mother, who normally gives Pressly a wake-up call, found her daughter, Davis said.

"She didn't get an answer so she went to the address on Club Road, and she found her daughter inside the residence lying in the bed suffering from some severe injuries," Davis told

Pressly's dogs, which were also missing, have been found.

Early Monday afternoon, a man who answered a phone listed for Pressly's mother, Patricia Cannady, said the family had no comment.

According to her resume on the Internet Movie Database, the ABC anchor played a news commentator in Oliver Stone's new movie, W. She also played a sorority girl on the soap opera "As The World Turns."

Pressly won her role in W., which was filmed in Shreveport, La., when she went to the city for a story on the movie and Shreveport's film industry. She appears briefly as a conservative commentator who speaks favorably of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech.

KATV's Web site notes that Pressly's most notable interview was with Vice President Dick Cheney. Pressly was returning from a story in Humphrey and traveling through Stuttgart, where the highway was blocked in front of hunting supply store Mack's Prairie Wings.

It turned out that Cheney, an avid hunter, was inside. Pressly asked for an interview, which she conducted in the ammunition aisle.

Anne Pressly, 26, died Saturday at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, hospital spokeswoman Margaret Preston said.

In a statement released by the hospital, Pressly's parents Guy and Patti Cannady asked for privacy as they grieved their daughter's death.

"It was our hope, as was yours, that Anne would overcome the injuries inflicted upon her in the brutal attack at her home," the statement read. "We were with her in her last moments, and although our hearts are broken, we are at the same time comforted by our faith knowing that Anne is now with our heavenly father."

Pressly was beaten around the head, face and neck. She had been unable to communicate with her family or police while being kept sedated in the intensive care unit.

She was discovered Monday morning a half-hour before she was to appear on ABC affiliate KATV's "Daybreak" program. Her mother went to her home after she didn't answer her regular wake-up call.

Little Rock police have yet to identify a suspect.

Pressly was a native of Greenville, S.C., and moved with her family to Little Rock while she was in high school.

Pressly is a 2004 graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Men In Black Reported As Shooters On Campus

Officials at Western Kentucky University at Bowling Green, Kentucky, reported four black-clad armed men on campus.

WLKY-TV in Louisville reported that the university issued the following text alert at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 22, 2008: "An armed man has been reported on WKU South Campus. Please stay clear of this area."

WBKO in Bowling Green reported that police are searching for four people dressed in black with guns.

Officials sent out the following text: "Shots fired near Pearce Ford tower. Seek shelter immediately."

James Williams said that he got the following text message from his daughter at 1:37 p.m.: "Stay away from south campus because armed men are running around campus. All students have been moved to the main campus."

University spokesman Bob Skipper said the incident was occurring inside the school's South Campus. Skipper said the building has been evacuated and police are searching the area.

Someone reported seeing people with weapons in a building on a satellite campus and police later received reports that shots had been fired on the main campus, a mile away.

Police searched a South Campus building but did not find any people with guns or witnesses who could confirm those reports.

Shortly before 1 p.m., the university sent a text message warning students to seek shelter after reports of shots fired in or near Pearce Ford Tower residence hall, on the school's main campus, though those reports were also unconfirmed.

Officials said there was some type of fight in or near the residence hall, though it did not involve weapons, reported WCBS-TV.

"We did have a fight and initial reports were that a weapon was involved but that has not been confirmed," said Bob Skipper, director of media relations for the school about an hour north of Nashville, Tenn. "We actually had reports of three different fights, one on our south campus about a mile from our main campus."

He said he did not know whether the fights were connected. Spokeswoman Robbin Taylor said four people were being questioned by police but no charges had been filed.

University lawyer Deborah Wilkins said there were no immediate reports of injuries.

The campus emergency warning system was activated and students and employees were told to remain indoors. An "all clear" was issued around 4 p.m. Classes were canceled for the rest of Wednesday.

The university's South Campus is home to Bowling Green Community College. The university, which has about 16,500 undergraduates, is on a hill in Bowling Green. Its students and sports teams are known as Hilltoppers.

(Clearly, this may be a localized example of behavior contagion or something more. Thanks for the heads up to Curt Rowlett.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Phantom Clowns Are Back!


They have returned.

In Mysterious America, I detailed the national wave of shadowy 1981 sightings of clowns in vans, trying to kidnap children, from Boston to Kansas City.

The encounters began in May of 1981, in Boston, Brookline, and other Massachusetts communities. By the end of the month, the local newspapers in Kansas City were publishing warnings about "Killer Clowns" said to be after children at bus stops there.

During an era before emails and the Internet, I was able to discover, via my network of correspondents, that a rash of local news articles were appearing across the USA, describing similar abduction scenarios. Although the national newspapers and wire services were totally unaware of the widespread nature of such accounts, the stories were remarkably alike. I called them the "Phantom Clowns."

Repeats of almost identical Phantom Clown encounters have been recorded since 1981. The latest one is now developing in Illinois.

The reports coming from Chicago have even been tied to a Wicker Park, which has a symbolic name linked to New York City's Son of Sam killings of 1976-1977. In letters to the media, the serial killer signed himself as "The Wicked King Wicker" and allegedly shoot a Wicker Street German shepherd.

In the October 2008 incidents, a man wearing clown make-up and a wig is using balloons in an attempt to lure children into his vehicle on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Police issued an alert about a week after a man with a similar description was spotted on the West Side.

The near abductions were reported in the 8300 block of South Mackinaw and the 10000 block of South Normal, according to a community alert by Calumet Area detectives.

The man, who wears clown make-up and a wig, approached children with balloons attempting to lure them into his vehicle, but the children ran and called 911, the alert said.

The man, who wears a clown mask or white face paint with teardrops on the cheek, has approached children walking to and from school, police said. Witnesses told police he was seen driving a white or brown van with the windows broken out.

The attempted kidnapping/child abduction occurred on October 7, 2008, at 5:55 p.m. and October 10, 2008, at 8:55 a.m.

Police on Sunday morning, October 12th, said the sightings have not been concentrated to one specific area and there have been multiple sightings of clowns across the city, according to a Harrison Area Special Victims Unit detective.

One suspect was seen on foot in the Garfield Park neighborhood and near Beidler Elementary School, 3151 W. Walnut St., and Polaris Charter Academy, 620 N. Sawyer Avenue.

Dressed in a multi-colored clown suit with a mask or white face paint, a red nose and a teardrop on his cheek, the man escaped in a van after the failed attempts.

Police elaborated that there have been multiple sightings of clowns across the city, including one sighting in Wicker Park, but there has been no hard evidence leading to a suspect. No arrests have been made.

(Thanks to Christopher Balzano and Richard D. Hendricks for their news tips on the developing Chicago story.)

To undermine any incorrect misunderstandings regarding the rumored origins of the Phantom Clown stories, they cannot be referenced as being "caused" by Stephen King, as is sometimes written.

Stephen King's It (below) terrorized children (as a novel in 1986 and a TV movie in 1990), after I published my notes on the discovery of the "Phantom Clown" wave of 1981 (first in magazine articles and later in my 1983 first edition of Mysterious America).


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Stock Market Suicides?

Are bankers going to start jumping out of windows? What is the actual relationship between suicides and economic downturns?

When researching my book, I looked into this topic, and did write in The Copycat Effect (Simon and Schuster, 2003) one short passage in summary.

Historical studies conducted by sociologist Steven Stack and others have discovered a noticeable dip in suicides and related violent events when there is society-wide anguish, for example, in times of massive immediate grieving in periods of wars and economic depressions.

As opposed to the common thought that during the holidays the suicide rate is high, it is usually down in western cultures from late November through early January. Likewise, it appears to be more urban myth than historical fact that the suicide rate is higher during financial recessions and economic depressions. Some of the best research studies on this subject have been conducted by sociologist Steven Stack, Department of Criminal Justice, Wayne State University, who found that during the periods, for example, after assassinations and during the Great Depression, the suicide rate was lower.

It is a truism that it takes energy to kill oneself, and societally, this translates into actual chronic psychological (not fiscal) depression resulting in less self-inflicted deaths, through a stabilization of suicides or a real decrease.

Now we find ourselves in 2008, with the US Stock Market dipping below 10,000. The news stories have begun to pop up. A UK financial advisor leaps in front of a subway train a couple weeks ago. This last weekend's Porter Ranch, California, mass murder-suicide of six is being blamed by the media on the money worries by the financial advisor who was the murderer.

The 1929 historical tale of guys jumping out of buildings in the opening hours of the Great Depression is part of the ongoing urban legend associated with dark financial days. But an actual look at the data shows something else, entirely.

A subtle background theme is that the people on the street in 1929 wanted the bankers to jump. Is there a similar feeling today?

Will Rogers observed, "When Wall Street took that tail spin, you had to stand in line to get a window to jump out of, and speculators were selling space for bodies in the East River."

But it just wasn't true.

The scholarly economist John Kenneth Galbraith addressed the topic in his book The Great Crash, 1929, (published in 1955). Studying U.S. death statistics, Galbraith found that while the U.S. suicide rate increased steadily between 1925 and 1932, during October and November of 1929, the number of suicides was low.

But it is like anything else, if you look hard enough, you will find suicides that seem to be related to the Great Crash and the Great Depression.

On Friday, November 8, 1929, J. J. Riordan, president of the County Trust Company, took a gun from a teller's cage at his bank, went to his home in downtown Manhattan, and used it to kill himself. The news was suppressed until after the bank closed at noon Saturday, to avoid causing a run on the bank.

A vice president of the Earl Radio Corporation jumped to his death from the window of a Manhattan hotel. His suicide note read, "We are broke. Last April I was worth $100,000. Today I am $24,000 in the red." But that deadly event happened in early October, weeks before the Great Crash.

Jesse Livermore, perhaps the most famous of the Wall Street speculators, shot himself - but not until 1940.

Several well-publicized suicides did fulfill the urban mythical stereotype. Winston Churchill, visiting New York City, was awakened the day after Black Tuesday (October 29, 1929) by the noise of a crowd outside the Savoy-Plaza Hotel. "Under my very window a gentleman cast himself down fifteen storeys and was dashed to pieces, causing a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade," he wrote.

In 1929: The Year of the Great Crash (1989), historian William K. Klingaman noted that asphyxiation by gas was the most common method of suicide, although there was considerable variety. I found this true throughout the early 1900s. Klingaman wrote:

The wife of a Long Island broker shot herself in the heart; a utilities executive in Rochester, New York, shut himself in his bathroom and opened a wall jet of illuminating gas; a St. Louis broker swallowed poison; a Philadelphia financier shot himself in his athletic club; a divorcee in Allentown, Pennsylvania, closed the doors and windows of her home and turned on a gas oven. In Milwaukee, one gentleman who took his own life left a note that read, 'My body should go to science, my soul to Andrew W. Mellon, and sympathy to my creditors.'

Will there be an increase in actual suicides "caused" by or in the wake of the Great Crash of 2008? It is highly doubtful.

Nevertheless, look for a dramatic spike in reporting on every stockbroker and bankrupt CEO who dies by suicide.

What we may see, however, are some bizarre suicides and violent crimes continuing through October (i.e. copycats of the strange bus stabbings and the Norwegian school shooting incident), plus a very dangerous March-April in 2009, in the schools and colleges. The mainstream vs Wall Street impact may be rather real and dramatic in terms of the copycat ripple effect that bounces from the fall to spring.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Zoo Killing Spree

The younger brother of a youth who was involved in a violent attack at the same location in 2003, has gone on a killing spree in a well-known Australian zoo.

An “expressionless” seven-year-old boy broke into the zoo, bludgeoned to death giant lizards and fed them – and other live animals - to a crocodile named Terry in Outback Australia this week.

Zookeepers were horrified when they arrived at work on October 1, 2008, Wednesday morning to see Terry, an 11-foot long saltwater crocodile, feasting on his fellow showcase reptilians at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre in the Northern Territory.

At first they thought the animals, including the zoo’s favourite, metre-long, 20-year-old goanna, had escaped from their outdoor pens and accidentally become breakfast for Terry - the local zoo’s prize attraction.

But further investigation uncovered CCTV footage of the local boy’s horrific 35-minute killing spree which began when he scaled the fence of the zoo, located in the centre of Alice Springs, a popular tourist destination town in central Australia, just before 8am on Wednesday morning.

The blank-faced boy, who had evaded security cameras because of his slight size, then began his deadly rampage, smashing rocks on the heads of the reptiles and throwing them and other live animals into the crocodile enclosure, according to the zoo’s director Rex Neindorf.

The boy killed 13 animals in total, including a large turtle, bearded dragons, goannas and lizards including Thorny Devils and Western Blue tongues, which are hard to find in captivity.

“It’s absolutely devastating for us, we’re just horrified,” Mr Neindorf told Times Online today.

“The goanna was 20 years old, she was an absolute doll.”

The boy was so brazen he even climbed over an outer fence to get a closer look at the action.

“He was lucky because if he got in there with the goanna, she would have torn him to pieces,” Mr Neindorf said.

Police were called and questioned the boy, who comes from a family well known in the local area, but because of his age they are unable to do anything. According to Northern Territory law, children under 10 are not liable for criminal offences.

“I thought for the sheer consequences of what he did that there would have to be some severe punishment, but he’s only seven, they can’t do anything to kids under 10,” Mr Neindorf said.

“We’re going to see what we can do, maybe try and sue the family in the civil court, we’ll look down that avenue.”

According to Mr Neindorf, the “nasty” boy’s brother was part of a group who attacked Terry the crocodile about five years ago.

He said they often get kids trying to throw rocks at the animal enclosures from a nearby hill, but this incident is the worst that has happened in the history of the zoo.

“He will just get worse and worse and worse, by the time he’s 10 he will be a hardened criminal,” Mr Neindorf said of the boy.

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is in central Australia, almost 300 miles from Uluru (Ayres Rock), and has 200 animals on display, including Perentie Goanna, Frill Neck Lizards, Thorny Devils, pythons, taipans and death adders, and, of course, Terry, the 440-pound salt-water crocodile.