"I don't believe in coincidence." ~ Batman, Justice League, "Starcrossed," 2004.
(If you are looking for updates on post-July 20th copycats, please see: Aurora Copycat Effect: The Complete List.)
"You're a detective now. You can't believe in coincidences any longer." ~ Commissioner James "Jim" Worthington Gordon to new Detective John Blake, The Dark Knight Rises, 2012.
One of the first victims of the Aurora shootings identified was Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sportscaster, who happened to almost have been shot during Toronto's Eaton Mall shooting. She also used the name "Jessica Redfield," a name she created because of her red hair, as she said people remembered that name more easily, since "Ghawi" is difficult to pronounce.
The following essays were first posted in January and March, 2009. They have been moved to the top, in the wake of the Aurora events of July 20, 2012. This is due to the "media reportage" that the shooting suspect James Holmes said "I am the Joker" when he was arrested. Whether that is a fact remains to be proven. The notion it is now a cultural "factoid" cannot be avoided.
There is little denying now that the 2009 Dendermonde Joker is a Heath Ledger/Joker copycat from the 2008 film The Dark Knight. (The "Dendermonde case" is code for the 2009 event involving the daycare nursery killer, Kim de Gelder, the Dendermonde Joker. I've web logged several recent entries about the subject, for example, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
The first drawing and a later colored one, via eyewitness descriptions, of 2009's Dendermonde Joker.
The 20-year-old accused daycare baby killer Kim de Gelder is a big fan of movies, but sat on suicide watch after his capture. The Dark Knight re-opened around the world on Friday, January 23, 2009, on giant IMAX screens everywhere.
De Gelder has been variously described by former workmates as a "film freak" and "movie addict."
Joker copycats did show up before de Gelder, but the couple of incidents picked up by the media in 2008 were actually minor in nature.
Talk of a Dark Knight curse has certainly been in the air from the beginning. The Dark Knight is dedicated to both the 28-year-old Heath Ledger, who died of an accidental overdose on January 22, 2008, and Conway Wickliffe, 41, a stunt supervisor who died in a freak accident in London while setting up a car crash. Other weird deaths have been associated with the film.
On September 1, 2008, in Johannesburg, Morné Harmse, an 18-year-old pupil in his high school in South Africa allegedly killed a fellow student with a sword and then hacked up three others. Harmse wore a clown mask and carried other masks supposedly inspired by the group Slipknot. The key to our examination here is that the killer also spoke in a voice to mimic the Joker in The Dark Knight.
Thus, the level of violence of the Dendermonde Joker is acknowledged as way above all previous examples for individuals more closely mirroring The Dark Knight's Joker.
The two specific costumed Joker arrests before the Belgium stabbing attacks mostly went unnoticed because they were so mild by comparison.
In July 2008, Boing Boing told of a Joker copycat who had been arrested.
Detective Mike Mohney stated at the time that 20-year-old Spencer Taylor (above) of Three Rivers, Michigan, had been booked for investigation of larceny and malicious destruction of property. Mohney says officers who were dispatched on that early Sunday morning of July 27, 2008, to the theater to find employees restraining a man wearing a purple suit, a green wig and face paint in the style of Batman's nemesis in The Dark Knight.
On August 14, 2008, the local media in Michigan followed up by declaring that Taylor had been sentenced.
Taylor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of malicious destruction of property. Police from Three Rivers, Centreville, Michigan, said that Taylor wore a purple suit, green wig and face paint like the Joker when he was arrested for attempting to steal the big Batman movie poster.
Spencer Taylor was sentenced to one day in jail, 16 hours of community service and fined $685. Other charges were dropped when Spencer Taylor agreed to do a plea deal.
The Joker copycat incident in Arizona around Halloween was a bit more dangerous.
A 16-year-old Palo Verde High School student was rushed to the hospital Friday, October 31, 2008 (Halloween) for serious but not life-threatening injuries after what authorities described as an accidental stabbing by a classmate.
The injuries occurred during lunch while the student, a junior, horsed around with a freshman friend, said Ross Sheard, high school chief academic officer for the Tucson Unified School District. The 15-year-old jumped on the older student's back, causing two puncture-type wounds to the older boy, Sheard said.
Classmates said that the student who accidentally stabbed his friend was dressed up like the Joker from the Batman movie The Dark Knight, and that dressing that way was not uncommon for him. He often goes by the nickname "Joker."
"He dresses up like him a lot. He does his makeup like him a lot, and that's what he goes by," said sophomore Sara Everett, 15.
"It was not a fight," he said. "It wasn't kids being knock-down, going after each other. It was horseplay that got out of control."
Afterward, the students apparently made their way to the office and asked for help, he said. About an hour and a half later, officials tracked down the knife that was used in the incident, Sheard said.
The 15-year-old had a total of three knives in his pocket — two kitchen knives and a hobby knife — and is facing charges of carrying the concealed knives, but not aggravated assault, said Sgt. Mark Robinson, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.
Sheard said it was too early to say what might happen to the 15-year-old student, but the district has a zero-tolerance policy against weapons on campus.
Police questioned the uninjured student at Palo Verde, 1302 S. Avenida Vega, near East 22nd Street and South Kolb Road.
"We're not sure how serious the injury is," Sheard said. "There was bleeding. That was the part that had everybody very concerned."
Robinson said later that the student was undergoing surgery at a local hospital.
Many students were in costume on Halloween, he said, which caused some added confusion on campus.
Back in 2009, I asked: "Have there been other copycat incidents since The Dark Knight appeared?"
The correct question should have been about "when"?
"I, like God, do not play with dice and do not believe in coincidence."
"There are no coincidences...only the illusion of coincidence." ~ V, V for Vendetta, 2005.