manchurian candidates onboard

If you only learn one thing on the internet tonight, let it be this.

Do not sleep on public transportation.
Ever.

OK, I know this is going to sound weird, but when I read both of these descriptions of recent incidents in which people were savagely attacked by strangers while sleeping on mass transit, I get the feeling that they might be somehow connected. When I first heard about the passenger “snapping” on a Canadian bus and stabbing the sleeping man seated behind him, I didn’t think much of it. It was terrible, sure. But I just wrote it off to insanity. Then, today, I heard that a subway rider in Philadelphia attacked a sleeping passenger, and I thought it was a strange coincidence. Then, just now, I searched and found video of the Philadelphia attack. (See the second link.) And it’s got my conspiratorial wheels spinning.

The security camera footage shows a man and a young boy getting onto a subway car. There’s absolutely nothing unusual about them. The man points the boy toward an empty seat, and continues standing by the door. He puts his bag down between his feet. And then, after a moment, he bends down, removes a claw hammer from the bag, and springs onto a sleeping man to his left, repeatedly bringing the hammer down upon the man’s head.

I know it’s not the case, but the scriptwriter in me can’t help but imagine that the two tragic events are somehow connected. In both cases, not only did men attempt to kill people sleeping near them, but they did so, according to witnesses, in a kind of disassociated, hypnotic state. Maybe I’ve just seen The Manchurian Candidate and Telefon too many times, and read too many articles about Jack Ruby and the car horn, but when I hear about events like these taking place so close to one another, I can’t help but try to fit it all into a narrative that makes sense.

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7 Comments

  1. Paw
    Posted September 10, 2008 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Maybe the auto industry is behind it as they’re losing market share to mass transit. Did either of these men by any chance intern at Ford?

  2. Robert
    Posted September 10, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    “the victim, whose name was not released, boarded the subway at City Hall”

    This quote from the second article is interesting. It’s unusual for the police to withhold the identity of a victim of such an attack, unless they have suspicions that the incident wasn’t random. I’d be interested in learning what the victim does for a living. I’d say there’s a good chance he works in city government.

    I worked in Wayne County government at the main building in downtown Detroit in the early 90s. I was only there for a year, but I still have some fun stories I would never share over the Internet.

  3. Brent
    Posted September 10, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Great, now I’ll be looking over my shoulder the entire Amtrak ride to Chicago on Friday. So much for sneaking a nap on the train this weekend, or ever again. Sigh.

  4. Ted
    Posted September 10, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Can someone please explain the Jack Ruby car horn reference? Otherwise I’m going to have to resort to Google.

  5. Posted September 11, 2008 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    Many years ago, I was on a bus traveling on Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills, CA and a woman took a handgun out of her purse, loaded it (while people around her watched), and then shot a French tourist to death.

    The driver stopped the bus and opened all the doors. We all ran for our lives.

    I didn’t see the shooting. But, it was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever experienced.

    A SWAT team eventually stormed the bus and shot the woman to death. The French man had bled to death.

    It turned out that she was a woman with a long history of mental health issues. In fact, I had personally thrown her off the bus just a few days before the shooting when she attacked a young woman. She was shouting “You eat Linda Westermeyer’s cunt!” Then, she got up and began slapping the woman.

    I have never been able to ride a bus since.

  6. Robert
    Posted September 11, 2008 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Fritz, who’s Linda Westermeyer?

    I took a Greyhound bus once in my life. It was only a three hour trip from D.C. to Richmond. Nothing out of the ordinary occurred, yet I too have never been able to ride a bus since. I’ll crawl first.

  7. Posted September 13, 2008 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    “Fritz, who’s Linda Westermeyer?”

    Oh, I forgot that part.

    The woman who killed the French tourist was Linda Westermeyer! She was saying her own name.

    She was the daughter of Holocaust survivors and she lived alone in the house she grew up in in West Hollywood. The gun belonged to her late father.

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