Trick or treat? Trick.
Over the years, scores of people have committed crimes on or around Halloween, when weird things are just bound to happen. And many of the misdeeds are worse than last year’s notorious Halloween crime: The woman stealing people’s Halloween decorations in South Philly.
Crimes committed in the Philadelphia area related to Halloween range from an organized mob hit to a murder by a woman dressed as a bunny to the night that some 70 fires were set in Camden. Here are 12 Halloween crimes to remember:
1. The costumed robber and his four accomplices
What happened: Anybody seen a tall, slender man wearing a “ghoul mask” and a trench coat on Halloween? Back on the holiday in 1986, masked ghoul man made off with a killing — as in, $147,000 after he robbed Commonwealth Federal Savings and Loan on Frankford Avenue. Eventually, five people were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy in the case, including the costumed dude and the teller who was “robbed.”
2. Murder by bunny
What happened: Police said Priscilla Cobbs, 23, of West Oak Lane, was dressed as a bunny when she ran down her brother-in-law with her car because he didn’t want to attend a Halloween party that she wanted to go to. Apparently, the victim Kevin Barnard was arguing with Cobbs’ sister over the party and refused to give her money (?) to attend. Cobbs copped to the murder.
3. Prank hanging gone wrong
What happened: According to archives from The Philadelphia Daily News, one man’s Halloween prank went very, very wrong. In 1988, Milton “Michael” Tyree, 41, died when he tried to freak people out by staging a fake hanging in a bar on Halloween. The noose slipped and he wound up choking to death in front of everyone in the bar. According to a witness, “he always had a stupid look on his face like he was kidding around.”
4. The attempted assassination of Nicky Scarfo Jr.
What happened: It was on Halloween night in 1989 when the mob turned trick-or-treating festivities truly scary. A man walked into the Dante and Luigi’s restaurant in South Philly, spraying bullets and hitting Nicky Scarfo Jr., son of the Philly mob boss who was in prison at the time. Despite being hit by bullets coming from a semiautomatic weapon, Scarfo Jr. survived the assassination attempt. Some speculated the hit was ordered by a New York crime family. Scarfo Jr., AKA Little Nicky, was sentenced earlier this year to 30 years in prison on racketeering charges.
5. 70 fires set in Camden on Mischief Night
What happened: This was the year that Mischief Night, Halloween eve, became destruction night. Teenagers across Camden set more than 70 fires across the city while also vandalizing cars and homes. The wild evening that left Camden in a state of emergency set up years worth of cracking down by city officials to be sure nothing like the Mischief Night of 1991 ever happened again.
6. Robbers posing as trick-or-treaters
What happened: In Bustleton on Halloween in 1999, robbers posing as trick-or-treaters wore “black capes, curly white wigs and gray face paint” when they approached the home of Maria Brenfleck, according to The Inquirer. Instead of asking for chocolate, the robbers forced themselves into the home in search of a box filled with more than $150,000 in cash. Brenfleck and her caretaker were both injured in the robbery.
7. Candy stolen at knifepoint
What happened: Give me all your candy… or else. That’s what happened on Halloween in 2000 in Westhampton, N.J. when two teenagers wearing ninja masks approached four younger boys, brandished an actual knife and demanded they hand over their Halloween loot. It doesn’t appear anyone was ever arrested for candy robbery.
8. A Halloween heist with 14-year-old twins
What happened: Tellers at a bank in Barnegat, N.J. saw two teenage girls walk in wearing costumes near Halloween, they thought it was some sort of creepy prank. Instead, the teenagers brandished a toy gun, were handed more than $3,000 and got in their getaway car to speed off… which was driven by their mother. The twin girls, age 14 at the time, were apparently a “real Thelma and Louise team.” All three were charged in connection with the robbery.
9. Vigilante school girls catch flasher
What happened: According to Daily News archives, the girls at St. Maria Goretti High School in South Philly don’t mess around. On Halloween in 2003, the school was dealing with a man who had been continuously exposing himself to students at the school. When a pack of girls tracked down the guy on Halloween after seeing a sketch, they chased him and “pummeled” him. The man was arrested for his crimes; the school was apparently not very happy about the students’ “vigilante” efforts and wished they would have just called the police.
10. A skull washes up on the shore
What happened: It was Halloween week in 2006 when something truly horrifying happened. Along the shore in Wildwood, a human skull washed onto the beach during what was described as a strange tide pattern. Its entire set of upper teeth were still in tact, and police said at the time that it could help aid in an investigation if criminal play was at stake.
11. Armored car heist
What happened: Happy Halloween? A duo decked out in masks from the movie “Scream” made off with more than $300,000 when they executed a Halloween heist of an armored vehicle two years ago. The heist happened in the morning at the Wells Fargo branch at the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Rhawn Street in Mayfair. Investigators believe the pair completed another armored car heist six months later, and police with the help of the FBI closed in on suspects shortly thereafter.
12. Halloween masks that helped the FBI
What happened: Last year, a man who makes Halloween masks in Canada helped police and the FBI catch a guy who was wanted for a number of robberies and murders in Philly. According to CBC in Canada, Ian Marier in Quebec makes some of the most realistic-looking masks in the world, and was shown photos by another customer of a man wearing his masks and committing crimes in Philly. The particular mask worn had some $1,500 in customization, and Marier was able to identify Dion Jordan, who was arrested shortly after.