For more than three decades, Dan’s Papers readers have eagerly thumbed through each week’s issue to read the wild and often unbelievable tales from our famous Police Blotter.
This fan-favorite section has seen quite an evolution, starting as a list of car accidents, thefts and neighborhood complaints in The Montauk Pioneer, to a more curated collection of only the weird, stranger than fiction stories in Dan’s Papers. In time, we began adding a bit of commentary or jokes with the true stories, and that eventually gave way to a bit of fiction peppered in with the real reports.
Today, as most of our dedicated readers know, the Blotter has become a place for farce and satire, regularly taking shots at hot-button issues, hypocritical behavior and unfair practices, as we see them, in the Hamptons and North Fork. Some of these posts, especially with the advent of the internet and DansPapers.com, became viral sensations, both locally and internationally.
All of them feature the Hamptons Police Department, which, of course, does not exist, but we’ve become accustomed to comments from readers who believe the tall tales, or calls from people and organizations looking to confirm their veracity.
“From the Police Blotter” originated in the April 14, 1988 edition of The Montauk Pioneer, which was the publication’s first issue as, what Dan called at the time, “a full-blown newspaper designed to cover every aspect of the town.” In those early days, as Dan worked to be the paper of record for Montauk, the blotter covered more typical crimes and incidents, including numerous fender benders and a handful of thefts. It was hardly sensational stuff.
Eventually, Dan’s Papers added a Police Blotter to its pages, but we may have had some internal arguments about this decision. In the February 16, 1990 issue, contributor Jerry Cimisi wrote an editorial about police blotters in the local press, asking, “Is It Fair to Publish Such a Thing in a Weekly Paper?” Clearly, Dan and his team decided that, yes, it’s just fine.
What we believe to be the very first Police Blotter in Dan’s Papers, which had no byline, appeared two months later as “POLICE BLOTTER: Another Interesting Week at Headquarters” in the April 20, 1990 issue. Among more serious entries—such as the story of two men leaving a child in the car as they attempted to burglarize a Southampton home—the section took aim at the amusing or quirky stories.
April 20, 1990
On April 6, [name redacted], a 20-year-old Southampton College student, was charged with criminal trespass and criminal mischief after allegedly breaking into a Southampton woman’s home and making a sandwich. [Redacted] apparently thought he was at the home of his girlfriend. According to the woman, he was neither violent nor threatening.
The following week, in the April 27, 1990 issue, our Police Blotter was first listed alongside regular weekly features, such as Elaine K.G. Benson’s art column, Classifieds, “Movies” listings, Letters and the like. It still used the “Another Interesting Week at Headquarters” title and had a strikingly similar story to the previous week.
April 27, 1990
A burglar broke into a Mattituck home, opened a can of beer and had some food before leaving. The homeowner reported that nothing else was missing.
Probably the craziest story from those early entries, the May 4, 1990 blotter recounted an incident at Wolfie’s Full Moon Café in Springs, where the owner received a notice he’d violated East Hampton Fire Code because a waffle iron—which had no plug and was part of Elaine Grove’s “Little Drummer Boy” sculpture on display in the dining room—ignored the Town’s ban on “open flame cooking devices” in restaurant dining rooms. The fire inspector was quoted saying, “I don’t see how anyone can take a waffle and turn it into a sculpture.”
On May 11 of that year, the weekly roundup of crimes became “The Best of the Police Blotter,” later becoming simply “Police Blotter,” and continued to offer a list of the paper’s favorite crimes and police reports in each issue. Here are some standouts through the years.
May 25, 1990
A twelve-foot length of intestine was found caught under the front of a Long Island Rail Road train on Saturday, May 12. Detectives and a state environmental officer called to the scene believed that it probably belonged to a large animal. The intestine was sent to the County Medical Examiner for positive identification.
March 6, 1992
The blood of a dead mouse was smeared inside a maintenance locker at the Mattituck airport last week. The Mattituck man who owns said locker told police that his padlock was cut, the mouse blood smeared and a threatening note left. Police already have a suspect, but no arrests have been made as of this writing.
October 15, 1993
Consideration for his passenger’s bodily functions got a Great Neck man arrested on October 1. [Redacted] reportedly pulled over to allow the aforementioned passenger to vomit when police came by to see what was going on. The vomiting was legal, but the aforementioned driver had allegedly been drinking. He was charged with DWI.
August 15, 2008
A hybrid bicycle was stolen in Sag Harbor. The bicycle is a hybrid of pedaling power and electric motor power. Police are ruling out gas stations as a possible location where they might find the suspect.
October 21, 2011
A gray Vespa was stolen from a garage in East Hampton. The keys of the Vespa were in the ignition. The Vespa was worth $8,000. Police are looking for a man wearing sunglasses, a scarf, smoking a cigarette, and saying “Ciao” all the time.
August 31, 2012 – McGumbus and Bengal Tiger Are Reddit Famous
Blotter staple Old Man McGumbus, who is infamous for his shenanigans on Shelter Island, found fame—becoming the top story on Reddit, one of the world’s most popular websites—after Dan’s Papers published this Police Blotter item about him. The old man’s reputation was cemented from then on, and he has since appeared in dozens of absurd stories—even getting an in-depth profile, “The Mystery of the Hamptons’ Vanishing Libertarian,” in The New Republic on December 28, 2015.
Old Man McGumbus, 106 years old and former World War II hand-to-hand combat instructor, was in the middle of his morning Tai-Chi routine on the beach when he noticed a live Bengal tiger there. The Old Man approached the tiger and attempted to tame it by speaking softly and quietly. “Easy girl, easy,” he repeated while holding up a stick. The tiger had escaped from a home on Shelter Island and is owned as a house pet. The Old Man then used his belt to harness the tiger. By the end of the entire incident, the Old Man and his tiger were seen sleeping next to each other on the side of the road.
McGumbus wasn’t the only Police Blotter item to cause a stir. Find these headlines online and read the associated stories at DansPapers.com.
6/08/15 – Hamptons Police Submarine Makes First Arrest
6/19/15 – Hamptons Police Spend $1.3M on Unmarked Luxury Cars
7/14/15 – Man Claims Responsibility for Fish Kills: First with Guns, Then with Knives, Then with Bare Hands
7/26/15 – Man Lost in Privet Hedge
5/26/17 – Man Launched by Leaf Blower Returns Home, Haunted but Alive
6/11/17 – New Wealth Detectors Are Keeping Poverty Out of the Hamptons This Season
1/09/19 – Hamptons Police Seek Thief Who Stole $42 Million from Parked Car
2/17/19 – Hamptons Police May Stop Accepting Cash to Not Release Mugshots