Friday, September 15, 2006

CALL FOR INFO: 1980s Kidnapper's Van

Back in the early 80s, I can remember stories circulating among my elementary school classmates about a blue van that was rumored to be in the area. The van was reputed to be driven by someone(s) who were making various attempts to abduct local children by luring them into the van. The unease regarding this van was very palpable.

I've been trying to sort of triangulate on the info regarding this so that I can research it in the papers, etc, because I swear I read a small "Blotter" column entry about it myself at the time. I've have gotten as far as talking to a number of family and friends who lived in Portland at the time, and they to had very vivid memories of the rumors, and agree that it was definitely in the early 1980s, probably not much later than 1983.

While the occurrences were (at least in memory) local, it may have been related in some sociological way to a wider and weirder phenomenon that occurred in 1981, which was brought to my attention by Loren Coleman's book, Mysterious America. The phenomenon in question was that of phantom clowns (yes, you heard me right) in vans, again trying to lure children.

The Gist of It: If you have recollections of similar experiences from the early 1980s, we here at the Strange Maine blog would very much like to hear them, whether or not you remember the exact dates, etc. Feel free to comment below, or e-mail me privately at michelle.souliere[at]gmail.com...

Thanks!

UPDATE:
09/25/06
In addition to the comments logged below, I've also heard via e-mail from a couple of other people. First, someone from Portland e-mailed that "I attended Longfellow Elementary school in Portland in the early and mid eighties. YES, we were warned about a man in a white van. He would reportedly pull up next to children walking home and try to coax them to go for a ride. Yikes! Needless to say, I wore my Zips everyday so I could race home before the white van got me. I remember my teacher's reaction being something like, 'Well, run away if you see him.' So different from today's hyper-safety-concious world."

In addition, from elsewhere in Maine I have been e-mailed the following: "In Bath we also had the blue van scare. We were told that the people in the van would offer you candy and when you got close enough, they would abduct you. We were told to walk in groups and never talk to strangers. This all took place in the 82 to 83 time frame. Thinking back though we never had a parent come to the school to walk us home!!"

10 comments:

Chris said...

I don't recall hearing or reading about this, though of course I grew up in the boondocks of Maine.

Your mention of "phantom clowns" did bring to mind one memory from my childhood: the capture and 1980 trial of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. I can still remember seeing those pictures of Gacy in his creepy clown suit. Maybe those images on the nightly news helped feed the "phantom clown" paranoia a year or two later.

Meaghan said...

Michelle -

I attended Longfellow Elementary school in Portland in the early and mid eighties. YES, we were warned about a man in a white van. He would reportedly pull up next to children walking home and try to coax them to go for a ride. Yikes! Needless to say, I wore my Zips everyday so I could race home before the white van got me. I remember my teacher's reaction being something like, "Well, run away if you see him." So different from today's hyper-safety-concious world.

Jason said...

This might be an urban legend...because in Newport, I recall the same story at about the 1993-1996 time frame. A man in a blue van was supposidly driving around kidnapping kids. Or maybe it was just recycled from the more accurrate Portland reports by a friend of a friend...

Rose said...

Hah. I was born in 83, and distinctley remember in 1st or 2nd grade .. so 89-90-91 ish a story about a clown in a blue van. I distinctly remember being told to walk home in groups, and to stay within the school yard during lunches / recess. I also remember teachers being out on the playgroun in bigger numbers at the time to watch out for the kids. And I can swear UP AND DOWN I saw the blue van circling school.

But hell. The things 6/7 year olds can make up. Very creepy though. I hate clowns. [Sorry this was in Chicago Jamieseon Elementary School

Dunl said...

The Chicago Reader of October 27 has a brief piece on a similar legend in Chicago: "Who Saw Homey the Clown? How rumors of a man in a van struck terror into the hearts of schoolchildren all over Chicago." (There's also a quick reference to these stories under "Folklore" in the Encyclopedia of Chicago online.)

Tina said...

So, I stumbled upon this site looking for information on a child hood friend that was found in the Sabattus River, or it was his skate bord that was found there. It has been over 20 years and I am having trouble remembering what really happened, but I do know the story was he was taken from his own driveway in day light.Of course in the early 80's I was only about 12 when it happened. At the time parents teachers and friends were all talking of staying away from vans. My mother was petrified every time she saw a van come down our dead end road she would call us in.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 79 in New York and we were warned as children in elementary school to beware of the blue van kidnapper.

Anonymous said...

I am late to this post. BUT I was just mentioning the "blue van" that we were always looking out for (and running from). -Jay ME

Michelle Souliere said...

Thanks Anonymous in Jay, ME! I'll add that to the list. :) --Michelle

Anonymous said...

The blue van kidnapper was talked about in the Pittsburgh area in the 80s, like 85 and 86. It was said to have a mountain scene painted on side.