Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: A chainsaw-wielding 'madman' turns out to be a partygoer who'd gone to the wrong house.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, October 2002]
Origins: Ever since 1992, when 16-year-old Japanese exchange student Yoshihiro Hattori was mistakenly killed in Louisiana after he knocked on the wrong door in search of a Halloween party (and the resident, mistaking him for an intruder, shot him to death), tales about party-goers dressed as characters from horror films being mistaken for real killers have seemed a little less funny.
Nonetheless, such stories continue to pop up in the news every once in a while. The example quoted above — about a chainsaw-wielding man dressed in ski goggles and salopettes who accidentally turned up on the wrong doorstep and had the police called on him by the frightened resident — was reported by the British press in late October 2002 (but contained too little in the way of checkable details to make it easily verifiable).
(Salopettes, by the way, are high-waisted weatherproof pants upheld by built-in suspenders. Skiers, motorcyclists, snowmobilers, and others engaged in chilly outdoor sports, routinely don them for protection and warmth. To have a look at some different styles of them, click here.)
In April 2008, the British press again reported an incident involving a masked, chainsaw-wielding party-goer whose presence startled area residents into sending the police after him:
A man walking the streets of a town with a running chainsaw and a mask sparked a major armed police operation.The costumed reveler, 20-year-old Kevin Oakes, later criticized the police response to his appearance as being over the top, while police maintained that their handling of the situation was appropriate for the circumstances:
Concerned residents dialled 999 after spotting the man walking along Churchill Road, Bicester, Oxfordshire.
Armed police arrived but found that the man, whose chainsaw had no blade, was going to a fancy dress party as horror film character Jason.
He was warned that he had to turn the saw off but allowed to continue to the party.
A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "He was warned about his actions and told he faced arrest or a fixed penalty notice if he did not turn the saw off.
"It looks like he was in fancy dress but it was not a funny incident for worried residents."
A man who sparked an armed police alert as he made his way to a fancy dress party dressed as a serial killer has criticised the "heavy-handed" response.Barbara "hold up play" Mikkelson
But concerned people who saw him in Bicester, Oxfordshire, prompted police to send armed police and a helicopter.
He said: "It was a bit over the top and a waste of taxpayers' money."
He added: "I saw the helicopter and I thought they were having a good laugh. Then suddenly all the armed police turned up and started shouting at me to drop the weapon.
"They were heavy-handed and getting all wound up. They were just quite rude. There were children laughing at them which didn't help.
"I didn't even have the engine running on the chainsaw and the mask was on my head, not covering my face."
He wore ripped jeans and white shirt in fake blood and had a scary mask and chainsaw as props to look like the film character Jason.
A spokesman for Thames Valley police said that after concerned calls from residents in Churchill Road, Bicester, their response was "proportionate".
"The helicopter is used in such circumstances because suspicious people can be traced more quickly and we can quickly assess how dangerous a situation is before putting officers on the ground at risk," said the spokesman.
"Once our officers made contact with the man they quickly became aware that he did not pose any threat.
"But he was told about the reaction he had provoked in local people and we insisted he cover up his costume and turn off the chainsaw."
Last updated: 30 April 2008
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