Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Cloak Man of Clifton Heights

Since I turned up the first reference to the Cloak Man (from the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger) a few days ago, I've been looking around for more information on the entity. Some articles in the Chester Times shed a bit more light on it. The first one, which was published in that newspaper on September 25, 1916, has a first paragraph largely identical to the Philadelphia story I first turned up, but then goes on to reveal much more information than that piece did.
A mysterious stranger, man or woman, wearing a long black cloak and a black hood over the head, has caused much excitement in the borough the past few evenings and not a few women as well as some men have become thoroughly frightened by this mysterious creature, now called a "cloak man." The excitement ran high on Saturday night when the appearance of the cloak man who stopped several young couples on Walnut street, near Fairview avenue, caused the gathering of several young men in a few minutes. Headed by Chief of Police McGowan and Officer Kelly, they started in search for the stranger.

On Saturday night [November 23] shortly before 11 o'clock, Joseph Austin, of Berkley avenue, was accompanying a young woman to her home. While walking on Walnut street, near Fairview avenue, a tall person, wearing a long black cloak and a hood, stepped in front of Austin and the young woman. He pushed his long hands into the young man's face and muttered something inaudible. Austin's hair raised his hat, while the young lady was badly frightened by the sudden appearance of the cloaked person, who did not harm the couple, but turned swiftly and fled.

Austin, after accompanying the young woman to her home, returned to Baltimore avenue, where he informed Chief McGowan. The news spread quickly and in less than ten minutes several hundred men started a hunt for the cloak man, but he was not found. Several young men did locate a cloaked person in a small orchard on Walnut street and Fairview avenue but the mysterious one dashed out of the place and soon disappeared.

Just what the object of the cloak man is no one seems to know and it will require some police work to capture the stranger at the earliest possible moment. Many years ago a cloak man annoyed young girls in the borough and it required several weeks to capture him. Finally the late J.M. Lungen, then officer of the borough, caught the man, whose name was Stillwagon.
I'm engaged in an attempt to discover more about the previous cloak man mentioned, but have thus far been unsuccessful. At any rate, the tale continued in the papers the next day -- and it begins to display some of those pesky genderbending tendencies I've discussed before.
The cloak man is still alive and doing business in the borough. On Sunday night [November 24] he succeeded in eluding the police, despite the fact that Chief of Police McGowan disguised himself. When the police would be in one section of the borough looking for the cloak man, the mysterious fellow who, on Sunday night was dressed in woman's attire, with a long black cloak, would be in some other part of the town. In fact he was playing hide and seek with the police and others who were looking for him.

Some persons are of the impression that he is a man who is anxious to catch his erring wife. If this be the case, the offended husband is taking a wrong method of catching the other man, because there are many young men who have made up their mind to make the cloak man a victim for the undertaker, if attacked.

On Sunday night lovers did not promenade on the usually quiet or dark streets, but Baltimore and Springfield avenues were the boulevards of lovers' walks. The appearances of the cloak man has also driven every "kiddy" in the town off the street after dark and all they talk about is the cloak man.
Finally, on November 29, a final notice appeared. After this, the cloak man disappeared as mysteriously as he, she, or it, appeared.
Johnnie Get your Gun [what an amazingly random headline]

The "cloak man" is still strolling about the borough every evening and despite the best efforts of Chief McGowan and other persons who have been keeping a sharp look-out for the cloak man, he has not been captured. Ladies and children will not travel at night unless escorted by their husbands, fathers or beaus. The "cloak man" has been seen by men every night, but only at a distance, because it is now believed that the fellow is a little afraid of the men, hence it is that he keeps a good distance from the police.

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