The local news first reported some strange happenings in Tunbridge Wells on the 2nd fo May 2003, within a few days the news had shot all around the world. A mysterious caped crusader had been performing heroic deeds around town, it appeared that Tunbridge Wells was home to a real life comic book superhero. In my referral logs for this website I started seeing queries for "Tunbridge Wells Superhero", "Tunbridge Wells Batman", "caped crusader" etc. Then another link turned up, which lead me to a message board. From then on I watched the events as they unfolded from a different perspective.
The complete story is told in this Thread on the Divine Comedy Bulletin Board. Start at the beginning & read through to the end, the hoax is first introduced on page 2. The more succinct version is as follows:
Posted: Thu Apr 24, 2003 6:23 pm Post subject:
Doubt if this one will work - but today we sent three letters to the Courier about a mysterious superhero who keeps descending from trees in and around Tunbridge Wells, dressed as a monkey and wearing a cape and mask.
We've given him no superpowers, so he just does menial tasks like picking up litter and helping old ladies across the road. And one, where he walks someone home from the pub. The letters are all along the theme of, "I'd just like to say thank you to the gentleman in the monkey suit, cape and mask who found my watch" etc etc.
We've planned the whole story and tigerbeard Matt is even going to make a costume so we can send in some photos. The idea, eventually, is to create a whole team of superheros and an evil arch nemisis. I'll plop it up here next Friday - if they print it...
The Ball Keeps Rolling...
After just three letters to a local paper, of which only one had a verifiable address (which happened to be a local business) the media had a field day. The linkage below points to various scans of printed articles & to pages on some of the top international news websites.
Article from the Tunbridge Wells Courier, 2-May-2003
Photograph of newspaper advertisement board in town
Article in the Sun, 3-May-2003
Article in The Times, 3-May-2003
Dodgy picture of someone in a Batman outfit from the Sun
Update: Boo & Hiss to Reuters, CNN & www.stuff.co.nz who all removed their stories from their websites.
Posted: Tue May 06, 2003 11:44 pm Post subject:
It's just been on Meridian news again - I've been reliably informed that it was severely edited from the showing earlier this evening - but, ahhhh - it was nice to watch - so much so, it needed transcribing:
Newscaster: And finally (YAY!) He's a hero with no name, who's been jumping to the aid of those in need on the streets of a Kent town...Paul Fitzgerald explains...
Paul Fitzgerald's report
The mean streets of the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells...the people are vulnerable...the people need a hero.
And it seems they may just have one. Reports of a crusader wearing a dark cape, a mask and boots coming to the aid of people in need are becoming more frequent.
In this dramatic reconstruction, using hi-tech equipment and with all the parts being played by me, the hero helped a businessman being pursued by a mob of angry youths...
The victim wrote to the Courier newspaper and there followed a string of letters from other grateful people he'd apparantly helped.
(during this sequence the cameras panned over tigerbeard Matt's and my letters - teehee)
In another incident, the caped crusader noticed a woman had dropped her purse and with absolutely no thought for his personal safety, reunited it with the owner.
And he saved a damsel in distress in a wine bar from a group of lustful men [eh?]
...but his whereabouts...are a mystery...
Another newspaper advertisement stand
Article in the Daily Express
Article from the Courier
Another article from the Courier
Yet another article from the Courier
One more article from the Courier
Some fake letters sent in to the Courier
Another newstand advertisement board
& my favourite article of the whole hoax has to be this one from the Telegraph.
Monkeyman makes it onto Have I Got News For You
Here's the Have I Got News For You transcript:
Charlotte Church Ian and Jimmy, what's this all about? "Holy Spa towns! It's the Kent Crusader"
Ian Hislop I think it's the big story of the week - umm - it's a man dressing up as Batman in Tunbridge Wells!
Charlotte Church And we've actually got a picture of him which we should see.
Q the dodgy picture from the Sun
Ian Hislop Fantastic! And he's using the crossing.
Paul Merton He's probably quite good friends with the Green Cross Code man.
Ian Hislop This is a very heartwarming story, particularly for anyone who's been to Tunbridge Wells.
Charlotte Church You live near Tunbridge Wells don't you?
Ian Hislop I do!
Charlotte Church I know.
Ian Hislop No, I think it's terrific. Next time in Tunbridge Wells, if I'm, I don't know, surrounded by rowdy youths or the Joker is attacking me and trying to take my wallet, on comes this man.
No apparantly in the local paper a whole load of people wrote in saying this brilliant man - I was having trouble being pestered by three young people and along came the Caped Crusader and said, "Go! Leave this person alone!" and they all said, "Blimey! It's Batman" and they ran off.
Paul Merton Superman runs a kebab shop in Lewisham. His x-ray vision just heats up the meat as it turns around.
Charlotte Church Yes, this is the news that Batman is alive and well and fighting crime in Tunbridge Wells. One woman who was rescued by Batman said she was about to call the police but there was some idiot in the phonebox putting his underpants on over his trousers.
After so much speculation the hoaxers behind the legend of 'O' provided the world with some tangible evidence of the existence of the town's protector.
O in action pic 1
Posted: Mon May 12, 2003 4:31 pm Post subject:
To : "The Sun"; "The Times"; "The Daily Telegraph"; "The Daily Mail"; "The Daily Express"; "The Courier"; "The Daily Mirror"; "BBC News"; "ITN"; "CNN"; "The Guardian"; "The Daily Star"; "Hello Magazine"
From : "Wozyck Wozyck"
Subject : Tunbridge Wells Caped Crusader. I have the photos!
Gookaba from Poland.
I am the tourist in the pretty Tunbridg Weells and am nearly falling off my knees today when I see the Monkey Man sweeping through the pretty streets of the Tunbridge Weels.
I taking of the photographs outside of the great hall and, here we go, look at the Monkey Man.
He look strong and oh so brave to me. People say to me I am lying when I say I see the Monkey Man. They say it not true. But I take photos and so now I say to them all, "unnnnnggghhhh!" No need to paying me. I rich already, do you see?
O in action pic 2
O in action pic 3
O in action pic 4
The Final Curtain
The hoax was revealed on Friday 16-May-2003 thanks to B3TA News International & the story came to a close. The media still has much scraping of egg from face to do. Check out Page 11 of the message board where one reporter actually agrees to leave an offering of 3 bananas in the hope of an exclusive interview with our superhero!
The Telegraph were one of the few papers with enough of a sense of humour to admit they had been had!