Police are hunting a man who breaks into the homes of students and watches them sleep or tickles their feet.
There have been at least 10 confirmed sightings of a creepy intruder dubbed the Boston Tickler, whom many in the neighborhood had long believed to be an urban myth. At least three students reported having a run-in with him on the same night last month.
“This is no myth,” Boston Police Sergeant Michael O’Hara said.
The Tickler has been spotted in Boston’s Brighton area, which is popular with students living off campus, Sgt. O’Hara said.
Victims have described him as a 5′ 7″ black male of indeterminate age wearing dark clothing and a hoodie, he said.
Even more worrying, several witnesses said the man watched them through their windows as he committed a sex act.
Boston College junior Teddy Raddell told police he was jolted from sleep at 5am one Sunday in October by the sound of someone running down the stairs of the house he shares with several fellow students.
“I thought my roommate had fallen down the steps,” Mr. Raddell told Boston.com. “But then he started yelling. I got up and he said that he had woken up to someone touching his feet.”
As in all the cases, nothing was stolen.
“The guy didn’t take anything and there were laptops and wallets out in the main room,” Mr. Raddell said.
Another Boston College junior, Daniel Marenzi, said he woke up late — also on a Sunday in October — to his feet being tickled.
“I thought my friend was just trying to annoy me, but I soon realized it wasn’t anyone I knew,” Mr. Marenzi said. “I freaked out and sat up but he was already on the way out.”
He said he and his housemates now lock all their doors.
Sgt. O’Hara said: “Absolutely students should be concerned. You don’t know what this guy is going to do or if he has a weapon. You need to lock your doors. It’s not as safe as you think.”
Police investigations were stepped up after three students reported encounters with The Tickler on the same night — April 7 this year.
One of them, Jake Barrows, was awakened at 3.45am.
“Someone was standing at the end of the bed, and by the time I realized there was someone really there, he was booking it right out my door,” Mr. Barrows, a Boston College junior, told Boston.com.
“When I was finally out of bed and following, he was out the back door.”
He said he hasn’t slept in his room since that night.
Just over an hour later, Billy Buckley awoke to the sight of someone opening his bedroom door, he said. He called his roommate’s name, and got no response.
The figure slowly crept away, sprinted down the steps, and slammed the front door.
“The Tickler had made a visit,” he said, certain now that the stories he had heard are true.
Jonny Goldowsky said he also had a run-in with The Tickler. Mr. Goldowsky, who lives in the same house as Mr. Barrows, said that a month prior to his roommate’s encounter, he heard shuffling at the door to his room and saw a man there in a Gator-style ski mask.
All of these students, and others in the neighborhood, said they would like to see more of a police presence.
“I’d really like it, and probably feel safer, if the Boston Police Department had a patrol car off campus every night,” Mr. Goldowsky said.