By KEN MAGUIRE, Associated Press Writer
More than 10 blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other
spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned
out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. Most if
not all of the devices depict a character giving the finger.
Boston police said Wednesday night that one person had been arrested,
and authorities scheduled a news conference to provide details.
Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down
and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices
"It's a hoax -- and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick, who said
he'll speak to the state's attorney general "about what recourse we may
Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of
Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV
show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," a surreal series about a talking
milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball.
"The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,"
Turner said in a statement, issued a few hours after reports of the
first devices came in.
It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10
cities: Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle;
Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia.
"We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger," the
company said. As soon as the company realized the problem, it said,
law enforcement officials were told of their locations in all 10
The marketing firm that put them up has been ordered to remove them
immediately, said Phil Kent, Turner chairman.
"We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing
campaign was mistaken for a public danger," Kent said. "We appreciate
the gravity of this situation and, like any responsible company would,
are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts
surrounding it as quickly as possible."
Interference Inc. had no immediate comment. A woman who answered the
phone at the New York-based firm's offices Wednesday afternoon said
the firm's CEO was out of town and would not be able to comment until
There were no reports from police Wednesday of residents in the other
nine cities spotting similar devices.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he'll seek to punish those
responsible, and indicated that the penalty could be two to five years
in prison per count.
After Turner made its announcement, Menino said he was "prepared to
take any and all legal action" against the company and its affiliates
"for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today's
Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke praised Boston
authorities for sharing their knowledge quickly with Washington
officials and the public.
"Hoaxes are a tremendous burden on local law enforcement and
counter-terrorism resources and there's absolutely no place for them
in a post-9/11 world," Knocke said.
Authorities said some of the objects looked like circuit boards or had
wires hanging from them.
The first device was found at a subway and bus station underneath
Interstate 93, forcing the shutdown of the station and the highway.
Later, police said four calls, all around 1 p.m., reported devices at
the Boston University Bridge and the Longfellow Bridge, both of which
span the Charles River, at a Boston street corner and at the Tufts-New
England Medical Center.
The package near the Boston University bridge was found attached to a
structure beneath the span, authorities said.
Subway service across the Longfellow Bridge between Boston and
Cambridge was briefly suspended, and Storrow Drive was closed as
well. A similar device was found Wednesday evening just north of
Fenway Park, police spokesman Eddy Chrispin said.
Wanda Higgins, a 47-year-old Weymouth resident and a nurse at
Massachusetts General Hospital, heard about the threat as she watched
television news coverage while preparing to leave work at 4 p.m.
"I saw the bomb squad guys carrying a paper bag with their bare hands,"
Higgins said. "I knew it couldn't be too serious."
Messages seeking additional comment from the Atlanta-based Cartoon
Network were left with several publicists.
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" is a cartoon with a cultish following that
airs as part of the Adult Swim late-night block of programs for adults
on the Cartoon Network. A feature length film based on the show is
slated for release March 23.
The cartoon also includes two trouble-making, 1980s-graphic-like
characters called "mooninites," named Ignignokt and Err who were
pictured on the suspicious devices. They are known for making the
obscene hand gesture depicted on the devices.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
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