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Wolf on Murder Night
By Steve Gordon
Acid Rain Day, Bad Ozone Day, Loco Gang Day
On March 26th, Buffalo Police pushed the local gang violence alert level up to Code Red, citing “credible information” that a dangerous initiation ritual was to begin that night.
The Central American Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, though not cited by name by Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson during an emergency press conference, was thought to be behind the gang ritual. According to Gipson, the initiation process for new gang members involves staging rear-end collisions with motorists, followed by an assault of some kind. Probably with bullets.
Now, you may be getting ahead of yourself if the first thoughts that came to your mind were:
Because if you don’t finish reading this article, you will have bad luck for the next seven years. But if you do finish it, the person you have a crush on will tell you they love you within 48 hours.
The Monkey Man of Delhi
A strange phenomenon swept across the Delhi, India propinquity-scape in 2001. On May 13th of that year, police started to receive a flood of reports about a mysterious “Monkey Man” who was randomly attacking people.
Accounts of the Monkey Man varied wildly, but most seemed to focus on a few features. A four-foot tall ape-like creature with a metal helmet, metal claws, and glowing red eyes would materialize, scratching and biting its victims before disappearing into the night.
If you ask me, a cultist of some kind in the Arabian Desert probably just read an alignment spell in Alhazred’s Necronomicon, creating a rupture in our perception of time and space and allowing this messenger of the Elder Ones to slip into the collective unconscious of Delhi residents. But that’s just if you ask me.
If you ask someone who isn’t Lovecraft-damaged, like sociologist Brendan McCarthy, the situation is indicative of a social self-fulfilling prophecy: “When you define a threat, it becomes part of the social environment.”
A few people were even killed by the Monkey Man. But here’s the thing: of the few reported deaths, all of them were the result of individuals throwing themselves off of rooftops or falling down stairs in a panic. Some people were nearly beaten to death—but only by angry mobs who thought they were the Monkey Man. Fortunately, the horror came to a close when one news source reported the Monkey Man being last seen boarding a plane to Moscow.
Wolf AIDS is a tongue-in-cheek deflection of the atrocious “Niggers Fucked the Ape” urban legend—a narrative attributing the genesis of the AIDS virus, very racist-ly, to a bit of cross-species pollination. In the Wolf AIDS legend, it is household pets that contract AIDS from wolves in the wild, then bring them home and spread them to their owners. Hey, now. It could be through sharing intravenous drugs, you sick pervert. AIDS Wolf, meanwhile, is the name of a Canadian noise-punk band that recently embarked on an American tour. Their first stop was in Buffalo on Murder Night.
I had been at work all evening. Rumors started to slip into the office at around 7pm. “Hey, there’s this gang thing tonight,” warned a coworker. “I guess some Puerto Rican [sic] gang is shooting people in cars.” By 9pm, my boss had to arrange a special meeting, informing everyone to “just be cautious” on their way home.
At eleven, I bounded out the door. Having been on the fence before, I was now definitely going to check out the AIDS Wolf show at Soundlab. Hopped on the highway and sped downtown. I knew the gang legend was bunk, but I figured I’d throw my life on the line to find out.
I exited the I-190 at Louisiana and proceeded to cruise down Swan St. This is the area of Buffalo that most resembles the environs of Project Mayhem. You see a crumbling façade every other block or so that might appear inviting to Tyler Durden. A good place to stage an accident and then murderize someone.
But with a cop at almost every corner that night, I went on my way, sadly under-murdered, towards the venue downtown. I made it into the gallery’s basement just as the band started playing—half-priced, having missed the opener. The band rolled hard, blending walls of dissonance with blast beats and muzzled screaming. It was like Captain Beefheart’s soul had been bottled and poured into a cobra pit…full of angry tigers!
The audience seemed to be frozen in terror as a provocative female vocalist paraded through the crowd, antagonizing folks with a shattered Fourth Wall. As she stood next to me, head-banging and shrieking into the microphone held in her jaws, I thought, fleetingly, “So, like, do I have AIDS now?”
The myth penetrates reality
Like the Monkey Man legend, The MS-13 initiation ritual was more of a public panic fiasco than an actual threat. A series of internet chain-letters and text messages that hyped the story spread throughout most of the country in the days leading up to the Buffalo Police press conference. The messages told stories of “friends’ brothers’ uncles” who were “cops” or “correctional officers” that “overheard” gang members discussing the car-bump free-for-all. Recipients were urged to warn their family and friends, and stay indoors.
Buffalo was the only city to turn around and issue a city-wide warning, based on this “credible information.” Some middle-aged technophobe in the police department, wading into the murky unknown of cyberspace for the first time, must have read the subject line, “IMPORTANT! SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!” and clicked the link.
In self-defense of the faux pas, Commissioner Gipson cited a drive-by shooting that occurred earlier in the month as evidence of the ritual. But actually, all reported cases of rear-end-collision-followed-by-gangland-shooting have been attributed to copycats who were familiar with the urban legend itself.
And as for the MS-13 presence, Buffalo does have both a thriving gang scene, and a marginalized Hispanic community. I personally took a winding route through the city’s largely Hispanic, completely impoverished West Side on my way home from the concert, gauging the place with my murder litmus test. I was not murdered. In fact, the police didn’t really have any record of Mara Salvatrucha in town before Gipson blew up the spot with an aforementioned text message. According to the Buffalo News, the Commissioner admitted, “This is the first time we’ve heard of this gang making inroads into the area.”
McCarthy argues: “When urban legends work their way into a group’s collective unconscious, their manifest and latent functionality can be equally devastating, as the copy cat incidents in Buffalo and the Monkey Man suicides illustrate well. The creation of myth penetrates reality.”
We don’t have dragons lurking in caves just outside the village anymore. We don’t have witches casting hexes on the crop yield. We killed them all. Even Osama’s fallen far from newsworthiness lately. But the constant threat of unseen horrors is still a social necessity, inserting a bit of excitement in between the gears of the predictable daily grind.
So here I am, listening to a record by the self-described “Feel-Bad Band for Desolate Times,” AIDS Wolf, waiting for the Monkey Man to bum-rush my front door. Bring it on, Monkey Man!
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