News flash: Real Ultimate Power has been unleashed on Staten Island. Yes, the Forgotten Borough has been terrorized by a stealthy burglar dressed like a ninja.
I first heard about this last week. A Yale colleague told me that her parents were awakened by police helicopters with spotlights searching for a ninja who had just robbed the house next door. As a columnist, I will confess: Things like this don’t happen nearly as often as I would like.
I had to learn more. A ninja? In Staten Island?
Quite so. It seems the ninja first appeared over summer, hitting several ritzy homes in Todt Hill — the upscale neighborhood that supplied Don Corleone’s estate in “The Godfather.” In over a dozen subsequent burglaries, he — I assume it is a he — has knocked over progressively less tony houses, and was most recently spotted stealing an electric guitar from Dongan Hills. Police sketches of the masked suspect are understandably droll.
Apparently this ninja is agile, brazen and determined. He is reputed to scale walls, enter through skylights or upper-floor windows, and tiptoe about gathering loot. One particularly well-stocked house was so appealing, he burglarized it twice. He carries nunchucks and is not afraid to use them — a DJ was quite badly bruised when he walked in on the Silent Assassin ganking his DVD player. He is also immune to pain. When said DJ plunged a steak knife into Shinobi’s shoulder, the steely-eyed burglar paid no heed. This suggests he is either supernaturally focused, or high as a Georgia pine. (I hope for the former, but fear the latter.)
It is no doubt terrifying to surprise a burglar in your home, and I can only imagine the nightmares I might have after seeing a black-clad stealth warrior skulking around with my home-theater equipment. That said, there is something undeniably comical about this would-be ninja suiting up and prowling about only to be stabbed by a suburban MC with a kitchen knife.
Permit me a brief aside. I once heard of a man who spent years training in ninjutsu, the ninja arts. Inspired by Batman, Chuck Norris or whatever, this fellow earnestly hoped to master the “way of the shadow” and take his skills to the streets. As (urban) legend holds, when he had mastered the ancient techniques of deadly combat, he dressed in a full ninja outfit, complete with katana, and took a walk through the worst part of Chicago. During this inaugural stroll, a drunken vagrant sprang from an alley and smashed him in the face with a bottle, sending the ninja to critical care and aborting his nascent vigilante career without a single punch thrown. The moral, I think, is subtlety. Even a trained fighter shouldn’t call attention to the fact; it only invites trouble.
With this in mind, the Staten Island Ninja has only himself to blame for his knife wound. Would the DJ have stabbed any other robber, or was he driven wild by the sight of a real, actual ninja in his kitchen? Are the nunchucks really sufficient defense, or should he bring throwing stars and smoke bombs next time? And why target Staten Island, anyway? All valid questions the ninja is no doubt pondering in his lair, presumably whilst swapping gauze on his shoulder and hanging upside-down from the rafters.
But the bridge and tunnel night-crawler leaves some questions for us, too. One wonders, for instance, why he started in the fancy neighborhood up the hill, then worked his way slowly to lower ground. Perhaps pawn shops were suspicious of a ninja peddling Harry Winston diamonds — or perhaps there is simply more demand for electric guitars, religious figurines and family-size bottles of sunless tanner. The black market is fickle.
It is also unclear how he gets away. With no sign of a Batmobile, cargo van or magic carpet idling nearby, it is not apparent how he ever escapes with electric guitars and other bulky loot. Absent any proof to the contrary, I prefer to imagine the ninja leaping between rooftops under cover of night, stopping to wail hard on his purloined guitar whilst silhouetted against the moon. That would be cool; and by cool, I mean totally sweet.
The ninja as an idea is a cultural icon, cemented by films, video games, and more recently, the Internet. That this imagined history is now being invoked in New York boroughs to pillage suburban chattels is at once fascinating and strangely depressing. One almost hopes a true ninja would travel to Staten Island to stamp out the pretender and restore our faith in the myth. Wishful thinking, of course. True ninjas don’t ride the ferry.
In any case, at a school with an overactive police blotter, it is refreshing to remember that some criminals are more funny than threatening. So as very real crime continues to plague Yale students and New Haven in general, let’s tip our hats to the Staten Island Ninja — for stealing guitars, getting stabbed and generally putting the smirk back into crime.
Michael Seringhaus is a first-year student at the Law School. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.