People talk all the time about whether science fiction accurately predicted the technology and science of the 21st century—but what about crime? It turns out, science fiction is great at predicting (or inspiring) some truly odd crimes. Here are five real-life crimes that happened first in science fiction!
1) Clown criminals
When pressured by the WB to create a sequel to Batman: The Animated Series with the prompt that it be “more like Buffy,” Bruce Timm and company answered the call with Batman Beyond. The show concerned a retired Bruce Wayne, who mentors a new teenager to become his successor in a future version of Gotham city.
With Batman’s major roster of antagonists either long dead or retired, the new villains in Gotham became less punchable, coming in the form of greedy corporations and their money-grubbing shareholders. To fill the void, the series imagined a society where its young men and women would rebel by dressing up as clowns to terrorize and bully the populace, all in homage to their late hero, The Joker, who was at least honest about it.
Flash-sideways to the 2016 of our own universe, or Earth Prime, and we’re currently in the midst of the largest worldwide wave of “phantom clown” sightings (a phrase coined by the Fortean anthropologist, Loren Coleman), to have ever occurred in modern times.
- Last January, in Merseyside, UK, police met with fourteen separate incidents of clown-related crime, from armed robbery to bogus charity collections—in each instance, the perpetrators were dressed in greasepaint and circus attire.
- In July of 2015, a man in “clownface” was photographed scaling the seven-foot-tall gate of Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery.
- In August, an axe-wielding clown assaulted a neighbor before turning himself in to the police.
- In October, a van full of clowns frightened the children of Kent, UK.
- In the same month, a 30-year-old man dressed as a clown was arrested after he carried a toy gun onto the Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, claiming he had a bomb—an act of vengeance toward the admissions board that wouldn’t let him re-enroll into the school.
- November saw several reports of a teenager dressed as a clown skulking the Carroll University campus in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
- In December, a man dressed as Santa Claus stabbed two people on Christmas Eve in Lakewood, Colorado.
- Last month in Toronto, two axe-wielding teenagers dressed as clowns were arrested for eight separate robberies in the area, while two Subway sandwich restaurants were robbed by Clowns in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Not to mention the FBI classifying “Juggalos,” fans of the Insane Clown Posse rap group, as “a loosely organized hybrid gang.”
That a Fox Kids cartoon so ably prognosticated clowns as the new Teddy Boys or Hell’s Angels is remarkable—but the clairvoyance of Batman Beyond is not only limited to a Joker-obsessed youth culture. This show also predicted the collarless shirt.
2) Surfing gangs
Last summer, Vice ran an expose on the Lunada Bay Boys, a gang of white, rich surfers who have protected their precious surf spot for decades through force, intimidation and beatings. In 1995, the Bay Boys even broke the pelvis of a schoolteacher who tried to encroach on their surfin’ turf.
While I recommend reading the original article at Vice’s website for the full story, I’m here to mention that this has all happened before: in the 1987 Troma movie, Surf Nazis Must Die.
In the film, an earthquake leaves the beaches of California in a state of turmoil, prompting a number of rival surf gangs to battle for the ownership of its choicest surfing spots. A group a surfing Neo-Nazis reigns supreme.
When a man named Leroy is beaten to death for jogging on their dunes, his mother, “Mama” Washington breaks out of her retirement home, armed with a machine gun and hand grenades, to wipe them out.
3) Little league robbery
There’s a memorable scene, in Robocop 2 in which a little league coach uses his team to rob a battery of convenience stores. Until he’s stopped by Robocop, that is.
While this absurdist visual is meant to underline the level of corruption and apathy that has gripped Detroit since its bankruptcy (another development accurately predicted by an 80’s action movie), a similar crime was actually committed in 2010 by Little League coach, George Spady, Jr., and members of his team.
Spady pushed one of his players into an air duct, allowing the boy to unlock the door of a closed department store from within. Once inside, the boys looted the store of light fixtures, bolts, and other household supplies that Spady felt he needed. After the initial looting, one boy was sent back in for a bigger haul.
Spady was arrested after one of his teammates recounted the incident to his stepfather, who the called the police. He served 15 days in jail—a much lighter sentence than if he’d run into Robocop.
4) Killer robots
In July 2015, a 22-year-old man was lifted and crushed by an automated arm on the production line of the Volkswagen plant in Germany. The unidentified victim is considered the first person to die at the hands of a robot.
While science fiction is full of stories about robots killing humans, the automated arm bit, puts it closest to the 1977 Donald Cammell film, Demon Seed.
In the film, an artificial intelligence program named Proteus IV impregnates Julie Christie, creating the first human-robot hybrid. He manages this with the assistance of a robot named Joshua—a manipulator arm on a motorized wheelchair. When one of Christie’s colleagues, played by the great character actor Gerrit Graham, tries to investigate, he’s attacked by Joshua, and thrown into a deadly machine made of interlocking geometric shapes.
5) Scooby-Doo costume murder
In 2011, a junkyard owner named Clyde Gardner from Malone, NY, came up with an inspired idea to murder his girlfriend: He would dress up like a bear, and make it appear as if she’d been mauled by a grizzly. This obviously did not work, but Gardner was sent to prison for five to fifteen years on an attempted murder charge.
This bear suit is basically directly lifted from Scooby-Doo (“The Hairy Scare of the Devil Bear” from the first season of Scooby-Doo & Scrappy Doo.)
But it’s also similar to the 1983 slasher film, Girls Nite Out—featuring a killer who dresses up as the school’s ursine mascot.
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