Friday, March 16, 2012 Slovak Batman Is Kinda Depressing

Reports of a Slovak Joker and Riddler have not been confirmed.  From Reuters via Yahoo:
"Batman" brings order to southern Slovak town

Reuters – Mon, Mar 12, 2012

DUNAJSKA STREDA, Slovakia (Reuters) - His utility belt might not be as well-equipped as the TV version and he hasn't had to fight Penguin's henchmen yet, but Zoltan Kohari has nailed the superhero look and grit needed to fight evil in the southern Slovak town of Dunajska Streda.

Dressed in his home-made, all-leather Batman costume with the bat symbol proudly displayed on his chest and pointy ears on his cowl, Kohari, 26, cleans the streets, helps old people out and calls the police when he sees something suspicious.

"I have decided to do good for the people. I take care of order and help clean up the environment so we can keep living on this planet," Kohari told Reuters.

There are some slight differences in the storylines of the real-life Kohari and fictional millionaire Bruce Wayne, the man behind the mask in Batman comic books, TV shows and films.

For one, Kohari is a real-life person, whose path to the side of truth, justice and a tidy neighborhood once strayed to the wrong side of the law.

The trained house painter spent eight months in jail last year and attempted suicide after he was released, before realizing he had a mission to make life in his community better.

Lacking a full-time job, he moved into a dilapidated concrete apartment block on the edge of town where he turned an empty apartment - with no electricity or running water -- into his very own Batcave from where he launches his street patrols.

Kohari's Batman impersonation follows the emergence of a trend in the United States, where ordinary citizens began donning superhero costumes and performing public services in the wake of Hollywood films such as "Kick Ass" and Woody Harrelson's "Defendor", which tell the tale of "real-life" superheroes.

Kohari says he never resorts to physical violence and some people in his town think he is a bit batty, but his neighbors said he is an honest and good man.

"He's had a tough life but he is very dependable and we like him. He helps us out, keeps an eye on public order, and he is a hero for my son and his schoolmates," said Jana Kocisova, a mother of two who lives in a neighboring apartment block.

So what's next for the Slovak superhero?

After tidying up and helping the elderly, Batman's next mission will be making sure bouncers at the local disco do not rough up visitors.
Despite the costume, this guy's not so much Batman as he is D-Man, a homeless superhero who turns up occasionally in Marvel comics.  Comparisons to movies like Defendor and Griff the Invisible seem apt as, like D-Man, the man seems to be haunted by demons from his past.  The redemption angle is also straight out of Hollywood, so maybe the poor guy will catch a break and somebody will pay him for the film rights.  He does have a great civilian name - "Zoltan" beats the crap outta "Bruce".

When I first saw his picture, I laughed at his poorly constructed mask.  Then I read that he was homeless and felt bad.
It is a pretty lame mask, though.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 They Stole His Heart

From CNN:
900-year-old saint's heart vanishes from cathedral

By Richard Allen Greene and Peter Taggart, CNN

Police in Ireland are studying security camera footage from a cathedral in Dublin after the preserved heart of the city's patron saint was stolen over the weekend, they said Monday.

The 900-year-old heart of St. Laurence O'Toole was taken from the iron cage where it is normally kept in Christ Church Cathedral, police and the Cathedral said.

The bars were wrenched open, allowing access to the heart-shaped wooden box that held the relic bolted to a wall in Saint Lauds Chapel, Irish police said.

Security cameras cover the cathedral's welcome desk, but not the interior of the chapel or the cathedral, police said.

The heart disappeared between Friday evening and Saturday noon, police said.

Adding to the mystery, there was no sign of a break-in, police told CNN.

Nothing was taken from the chapel other than the heart, although Irish media said gold candlesticks and other valuables were there.

Cathedral staff called the disappearance of the relic "truly awful and strange" and said they were "shocked and saddened."

St. Laurence O'Toole, an archbishop of Dublin in the 12th century, was born in 1128, lived until 1180, and was made a saint in 1225, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Christ Church is a Protestant Church of Ireland cathedral.

Catholics often preserve body parts from saints, believing they should be venerated. When Pope John Paul II was declared "blessed" - a step below sainthood - last year, a vial of his blood was displayed as a relic.
From the photos, it looks like the heart was taken from a beefed-up birdcage. 

Obviously, the thieves were after one thing only, which leads one to wonder what they want with it.  The lack of evidence for a break-in suggests an inside job, which makes me think that ransom is unlikely.  Was it an overzealous devotee?  Is there an underground market for relics like this?  Or do the thieves hope to work some kind of ritual using the relic?  A 900-year-old saint's heart has to have some serious mojo, after all.

Beware Springheel Jack!

Jack is back! Not only is he turning up in India, he's making appearences closer to home as well. From the Guardian:
Terrified Banstead family confronted by 'dark figure' on bypass

12:00pm Thursday 23rd February 2012
in Epsom By Lauren May

A taxi ride home on Valentine's night turned into a nightmare when a family were confronted by a terrifying apparition that looked and moved like the legendary Spring Heeled Jack.

Scott Martin and his family were travelling home by taxi from Stoneleigh on Tuesday, February 14, at about 10.30pm when they saw a mysterious ‘dark figure with no features’ dart across the road in front of them before leaping 15ft over a roadside bank as they approached Nescot College on the Ewell bypass.

Spooked by their seemingly supernatural experience the couple’s four-year-old son, Sonny, was too scared to sleep on his own that night, while the petrified taxi driver admitted he didn’t want to drive back alone.

Mr Martin, 40, the manager of a building company who lives in Blue Cedars in Banstead, said: "We were driving down the Ewell bypass and saw a man on the other side of the road. We didn't pay much attention until he started crossing over to our side of the road, the next thing he jumped over the centre fencing in the road and ran across our two lanes. On the side of our road is a bank easily 15ft in height and this figure crossed our road, climbed this bank and was gone from sight all in about two seconds. All four of us were baffled and voiced our sighting straight away with the same detail. A dark figure with no real features, but fast in movement with an ease of hurdling obstacles I've never seen. My last image was of him going through the bushes at the top of the bank. I'm not usually one to be freaked by these sightings but the cab driver was petrified. He didn't want to drive back alone. I am honestly baffled by this sighting and we are intrigued by it because it was so real but so strange."

His wife Sacha, 37, who is an accountant added: "It was more that someone was trying to cross the road of a dual carriageway that was weird. My little boy was really freaked out."

The family has since likened the figure to the legendary Spring Heeled Jack - a mysterious dark figure reported to be responsible for a string of attacks in the 1800s and known for his ability to leap great heights first sighted in Wandsworth in 1837.

Mary Stevens was walking home along Lavender Hill when a tall figure leapt out grabbing her and firmly kissing her before releasing her with a loud laugh, leaping high into the air and disappearing.

Sightings continued across Victorian London, others describing Jack’s red flaming eyes and claws, so much so that in 1938 the Lord Mayor of London declared him a public nuisance leading one vigilante group to attempt to capture him, albeit unsuccessfully.

However there had been no reported sightings in Epsom and Ewell, the last sighting recorded in Birmingham in 1986.

Mr Martin added: "It was something we all saw and it wasn’t imagination. I’m quite a sensible man but I have never seen anything move that quickly across the road and not been startled by the fact that we were driving toward him. It's the first time we have ever seen anything like this. If it was a burglar it is the fastest I had ever seen anyone run. That's the only other explanation. But it was just too quick."

Both Surrey Police and Nescot College confirmed they had received no reports of unusual incidents or sightings in the area that night.

Monday, March 5, 2012 Beware the Vampires of Mumbai!

And the cannibals, and the Monkey Man, and the evil clowns, and...

From Mid-Day.Com:
Vampires and cannibals prey on fear in the Mumbai

Varun Singh

Over the past week, the fertile imagination of Mumbai's collective consciousness has been in the feverish grip of some dreaded creatures. Vampires, cannibals and monkey men all appear to have chosen the city as the site for their spring rendezvous. While Mumbai cowers under the covers, cops are having a hard time laying their fears to rest.

In Bhandup-Mulund, rumours swirl that a tribal group is on the prowl to snatch kids. Imaginations run wild in Ghatkopar-Sakinaka-Marol-Andheri, where residents claim to have seen 'vampire-like-creatures.' Another fantastical rumour doing the rounds in Andheri-Malad concerns a 'monkey man', who 'kills people.' And residents of Chembur-Trombay are convinced that hungry cannibals lie in ambush nearby.

Mumbai police have been inundated with reports of sightings of these creatures, but have found no evidence to substantiate them. As mass hysteria sweeps the city, terror-stricken residents are caving into fear and altering their daily lives.

Take Vrinda Thakur (name changed). She didn't send her 12-year-old son to school on Thursday, petrified by the news that a group of tribal child-snatchers who have entered the Chembur belt and were kidnapping kids.

"Last night, many people in my area were on the streets. They told me that there are cannibals lurking in the streets, looking for kids to kidnap. I got scared, and decided not to send my son to school," she said.

Residents too prefer to stay indoors after twilight. "We have heard many rumours. There is a group of criminals who enter the colonies, only to kill and loot people. I also hear that the police has taken in many people for questioning," said Dr Vijay Sangole, resident of Pestom Sagar.

L Mandalia, a resident from Andheri (East) said, "A friend told me that he knows of a man who had an encounter with a vampire-like creature in Andheri, and since then has called in sick." Cops, however attributed these to rumours. They have tightened patrolling measures, just in case. Qaisar Khalid, additional commissioner of police, Central Zone, confirmed that such rumours were making the rounds.

"The rumour originated in Mulund-Bhandup, and then spread like wildfire. We are adopting the ignore-and-kill-strategy ” whenever we receive a complaint, we go there, explain to the residents that there is no substance to their claims as no one has seen anything. This way, we hope to kill the rumours," he said.

From the Indian Express:
'Monkey man’ rumour: Cops arrest 72 in crackdown

Megha Sood
Sat Mar 03 2012

The Mumbai Police have finally cracked the whip on rumours about ‘monkey men’ and the ‘chaddi baniyan gang’ floated in city’s suburbs, by arresting 72 people for allegedly spreading the rumours.

Although the East Region police have made the arrests, mostly of local residents, the West and North Region police stations are yet to register a single case - in spite of a death in Kandivali in a stampede-like-situation sparked of by an alleged sighting of a ‘money man’.

According to Quiser Khalid, additional commissioner of police (East Region), 27 offences have been registered against people for spreading rumours and creating fear and panic.

“We traced the pranksters and arrested them,” said Khalid. “After the arrests, the rumours have died down considerably,” he added.

Sanjay Shintre, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone 7) claimed that these rumours originated during the recently held Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, and have died down since.

Shintre said during the BMC election, due to heavy bandobast, the police did not allow political party members to sit idle on roads and streets. “In order to be on streets and restrict other party members from entering their locality, party members began spreading such rumours. They told the residents and the police that they were on the streets for patrolling and securing the locality,” Shintre said.

The police received many complaints about people spotting men from the ‘chaddi baniyan’ gang or the ‘monkey man’. “We visited the spots where a person claimed to have spotted the monkey man, many entirely denied the claim. We have arrested such people,” Shintre said.

When contacted about the rumours also allegedly floating in areas from Goregaon to Borivali, Additional Commissioner of Police (North Region) Ramrao Pawar said the police had not got any complaint as yet.

The monkey man and chaddi baniyan gangs are old Indian favorites, urban legends that sparked mass hysteria and caused mobs to attack innocent passers-by suspected of being the strange invaders.

The monkey man was first sighted in New Delhi in 2001. It was described as a very large monkey or a very short man covered in fur; some reports claimed it wore a metal helmet and had metal-tipped claws that it would use to scratch its victims.

Chaddi baniyan translates roughly to "undershirt and briefs". The mythical "chaddi baniyan gangs" are supposedly groups of robbers who sneak into peoples' homes dressed only in their underwear. Rumors of the gang date back several years, and some reports claim that the gang possess supernatural powers. Similarities to Indonesia's orang minyak are clear.

But according to the following column, Mumbai's monster mash involved more than just local favorites:

Of terrace-hopping creatures & child-eating ogres

Manoj R Nair
Wednesday, February 29, 2012

While the northerly breeze over Mumbai has been giving its denizens, albeit fitfully, some fair weather days, it seems the air is thick with rumours.

As this paper reported on Tuesday, policemen in some parts of the city have been kept busy by people who think the best way to spend a pleasant February afternoon is by indulging in the hobby called “rumour mongering.”

Some of the rumours are assuredly bizarre. In the eastern suburbs, there has been talk about ‘oil men’ who cover their lithe bodies with some slimy stuff so that they can easily slip away from pursuers.

Another part of the city has been so tormented by tales of child-lifting gangs with painted faces that mothers are worried about sending children unescorted to schools and playgrounds. Some stories, like that of bands of Africans picking up children, are offensively racist, at least for people who pretend they are sensitive about such things.

Policemen, who are not bothered about such niceties like racial and cultural sensitisation, told reporters that residents in some areas were worried about ‘negroes’ trying to kidnap children.

Other fantastical characters in the telltales wear shoes fitted with metal springs that enable them to jump from terraces of one building to another. Some shoemaker should patent this footwear; the invention should be the most revolutionary improvement in our footwear ever since we discarded our grass-and-twine sandals and wooden clogs for leather shoes. Mumbai police chief Arup Patnaik was obviously informed about the existence of these shoes by his men because he told our reporter that his men went around inquiring with shoe dealers whether such ‘custom-made’ shoes were being sold there.

One cast in this freak theatre wears boots that take away several feet from his height. A ghastly story doing the rounds is that of a man who devours children alive.

According to our reporters, this story whirled about in the northern plains of the country before it was blown into Mumbai by the northerlies. I think I know where the inspiration for the last story came from. A fortnight ago, policemen in the city came across an amateurish copy of Spanish master Francisco Goya’s nightmarish painting ‘Saturn devouring his son’. While the policemen’s story that they stumbled into a 19th century masterpiece in a ramshackle warehouse in Oshiwara was incredible, they nevertheless managed to convince some reporters that the master work could have been stolen and smuggled into Mumbai where art collectors were negotiating to buy it for Rs20 crores!

The story of a possible art heist with its epicentre in Mumbai was printed in local newspapers. The report must have been picked up by some four-page newsletter in the north and then woven into a fantasmagorical story of the kind that some news channels specialise in. From there, the regurgitated story found its way into Mumbai’s slums and housing colonies. But, unlike the humorous vein that this article feigns to assume, the rumours are no laughing matter. Driven to delirium by stories of child-eating ogres and spring-footed creatures, some people have been beating up unfortunate passers-by.
If this report is accurate, Mumbai has hosted sightings of the orang minyak, child-snatching clowns, and the one and only Springheel Jack!  Add in the vampires, demons, and other homegrown horrors, and it's a critical mass of urban legends.

Is this just hyperbole by a columnist looking to pad out a story, or are the common folk of India really claiming to see Western bogies?  It's fascinating to consider how the internet and omnipresent media might be transplanting folktales to take root in cultures thousands of miles from where they originated.