Join La Vie Cosplay as we take you through our first true crime episode! We will discuss the gunman of Phoenix Comic Con and the chlorine scare of Midwest Furfest 2014.
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Midwest Fur Fest:
Elle LaVie 0:16
Ashlyn LaVie 0:18
Don't do it.
Elle LaVie 0:20
Shower of notes, because today I actually have to have actual notes.
Ashlyn LaVie 0:27
Elle LaVie 0:28
Ashlyn LaVie 0:30
Well, that sounds like work.
Elle LaVie 0:32
It was because this episode actually did require work.
Ashlyn LaVie 0:39
What are those?
Elle LaVie 0:40
This episode did not come from our vast existing bank of knowledge.
Ashlyn LaVie 0:46
Elle LaVie 0:47
Yes. Our bank of knowledge and bullshittery that we usually provide to you, dear listeners.
Ashlyn LaVie 0:55
I mean, you'll still get some of it.
Elle LaVie 0:57
There's a little bit of it left.
Ashlyn LaVie 0:59
Just not as- A little bit left? Are you saying we're running out?
Elle LaVie 1:02
We are. We have a quota. It's almost full. So we're gonna run out of bullshittery soon. We'll have to like, back up the truck a bit.
I don't know.
Ashlyn LaVie 1:13
Do some TPS reports.
Elle LaVie 1:14
Yes. So we had to do extensive notes today because we are bringing you something brand new. We are bringing you an episode on con crimes dun-dun.
Ashlyn LaVie 1:31
I just want to be like Belt from The Croodsand be like dun-dun-duuuuuuun.
Elle LaVie 1:38
Pretty much. I guess we should probably introduce ourselves before we do this episode, I guess. I mean, it's two seasons. If you haven't figured out what podcast you're listening to at this point...
Ashlyn LaVie 1:52
Please don't leave.
Elle LaVie 1:53
Don't leave. Don't leave. We'll introduce ourselves.
Ashlyn LaVie 1:56
Elle LaVie 1:57
I'm pretty sure I'm Elle.
Ashlyn LaVie 1:59
You're not quite sure today?
Elle LaVie 2:01
I don't know today.
Ashlyn LaVie 2:02
Elle LaVie 2:03
Ashlyn LaVie 2:03
We are La Vie Cosplay.
Elle LaVie 2:04
Yeah, we should be La Vie Cosplay. And I'm pretty sure this is Sh*t Cosplayers Say. Even though today-
Ashlyn LaVie 2:10
Do you need to check the title?
Elle LaVie 2:11
we are pretending we are a true crime podcast.
Ashlyn LaVie 2:16
Elle LaVie 2:16
Ashlyn LaVie 2:17
Are we really?
Elle LaVie 2:18
Ashlyn LaVie 2:20
For one day only.
Elle LaVie 2:22
we are gonna pretend to be a true crime podcast.
Ashlyn LaVie 2:26
Oh, one day only engagement.
Elle LaVie 2:29
Dun-dun. I just keep thinking of Law and Order every time we talked about
designing this episode. So we are both a fan of true crime podcasts. And we were trying to think up some episode ideas that weren't necessarily related to going and being at conventions. Because obviously, as of right now, that's not really a thing. And we were like, what would be fun for our listeners, while we kind of wait out this pandemic? Since we are fans of true crime, we thought it might be fun to try our hands at it. We'll see how this goes.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:07
Elle LaVie 3:08
If you like this episode, you should definitely let us know. So we can do more in the future.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:13
Yes, 'cause we took notes on more true crime, so that we could do this again.
Elle LaVie 3:20
There is a surprising amount of true crime in relationship to conventions.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:26
Is it really surprising?
Elle LaVie 3:27
No, I guess it really shouldn't be surprising, but like, not only are they surprising, they're typically really weird.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:34
Elle LaVie 3:35
Which I guess also shouldn't be surprising.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:39
Elle LaVie 3:39
Since we're talking about fandom conventions,
Ashlyn LaVie 3:43
Huh. So strange.
Elle LaVie 3:46
So we did scour the internet for some of our favorites. And so we have two of them for you today. And so Ash is going to hers first and I don't know what Ash's is. So I'm very curious to find out.
Ashlyn LaVie 3:59
Mua ha ha ha
Elle LaVie 3:59
Mua ha ha ha because she changed her mind last minute. So I don't know what hers is. Well 'cause sometimes you research and then you don't find all the info you want and you have to switch it- switch your case. It happens.
Ashlyn LaVie 4:10
I did. Well, 'cause I had a couple faves. And I thought that given the timeframe, there was one that I was probably going to have to make a bunch of phone calls on in order to get all the information that I wanted to provide. And then the other one, I didn't have enough time to do as much background research on the particular victim or victims in question, where I felt like I would be doing them justice by telling their stories. So I figured this one's good.
Elle LaVie 4:41
All right. Well, let's let's get it rolling.
Ashlyn LaVie 4:44
Let's crack into crack into it.
Elle LaVie 4:46
Let's crack into it, yes. Oh, wait, I don't have any wine to pop though.
Ashlyn LaVie 4:53
Setting the stage for you. Phoenix Comic Con debuted in June of 2002, and has been an annual event in the Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale, Arizona area. Since then it's been rebranded a couple of times later into Phoenix Comic Fest and Phoenix Fan Fusion, which I believe is the name that is currently run under. Phoenix Comic Con in 2017. took place may 25, through May 28, at the Phoenix Convention Center, and Hyatt Regency Hotel, because, of course, it's a con so there has to be a Hyatt involved.
Elle LaVie 5:27
Always at the Hyatt.
Ashlyn LaVie 5:28
Oh there's so many Hyatts. There were more than 80,000 attendees that showed up that weekend, and they had more than 160 special guests, including actors, authors, comic artists, other geek icons, including actor and mixed martial artist Jason David Frank.
Elle LaVie 5:49
I know right?
I love him.
Ashlyn LaVie 5:52
Who is most noted as playing Tommy Oliver, in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. And I love him.
Elle LaVie 6:00
I do love him.
Ashlyn LaVie 6:02
I know right?
Elle LaVie 6:03
Ashlyn LaVie 6:04
Swoon. Oh, yeah. So for those of you who are sad and not in the know, Tommy Oliver is the OG Green Ranger, who bad boy turned good into the White Ranger who later becomes the leader of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
Elle LaVie 6:26
Green Ranger was the hottest Ranger.
Ashlyn LaVie 6:29
Heartthrob for all of us back in the day.
Elle LaVie 6:31
Ashlyn LaVie 6:32
So because if you were not in love with Brad, you were probably in love with green.
Elle LaVie 6:36
Ashlyn LaVie 6:38
Let's be honest. So we're just going to sideline that for now. Because while this story does involve Jason David Frank, it is not about Jason David Frank, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it
Elle LaVie 6:51
I feel like like if this is a true crime story it's probably fortunate that he's, it's not about him.
That's going to be my guess.
Ashlyn LaVie 6:59
You don't want it to be about you. So it's Thursday, and we have a con and just like other con goers: 29 year old Matthew Sterling chatted with his friends online before adorning his cosplay and traveling to the Phoenix Convention Center. He was dressed in black tactical pants, a red bandana, black face pain for his rendition of Marvel's The Punisher. Now, Elle, you used to work in a comic shop. Do you want to tell our listeners a little bit about the Punisher?
Elle LaVie 7:30
I can try. The Punisher is not one I'm super familiar with but basically punish those that basically deserved to be punished. He's like, not with the law and kind of against like organized law enforcement and and pretty much everything that he used to be a part of he is now against and is trying to punish those that will not get punished by the normal laws basically, from what I remember about Punisher
Ashlyn LaVie 8:02
So he is a vigilante. Unlike Batman, he's totally willing to, you know, kill a B
Elle LaVie 8:08
Oh, well, yeah, he'll kill anybody.
Ashlyn LaVie 8:12
And essentially, like my understanding of because I have not read anything, Punisher or seen anything Punisher related in a very long time. From what I recall, is he wages like his own little one man showdown versus especially organized crime because his wife and kids were killed by the mob. You know, as you do you take out revenge and then you're like, wow, that was pretty good. Let's keep going. Mr. Sterling put on his cosplay and he was walking around the event. He took photos of some other attendees in the area, which happened to include some police officers who were patrolling the event, posted them on social media. Unfortunately, Sterling's cosplay repertoire also included actual body armor, pepper spray, throwing stars, a shotgun bandolier with ammunition, a combat knife, two loaded 45 caliber handguns, a loaded 454 caliber handgun, and a loaded 12 gauge shotgun.
Elle LaVie 9:17
How did he get into the con?
Ashlyn LaVie 9:19
He walked in.
Elle LaVie 9:20
This was prior to all the security we see at cons now, right?
Ashlyn LaVie 9:25
This was like three years, almost four years ago.
Elle LaVie 9:28
Oh, so no, not really.
Ashlyn LaVie 9:30
Well, but I do vaguely remember around this time when a lot of security got kind of amped up and they actually cut down on a lot of the realistic looking props. And I'm gonna say this had a lot to do with it. He walked in, there's videos, the news outlets, put them on the internet. You can watch him walk into the convention center. kind of walk around a little bit, talk to a couple staffers who point him at like the prop checking table and then just walk away. and You know, just there he is walking around with all of his stuff. So he's got this big bag strapped to his back, which I'm assuming has the shotgun in it that looks like the appropriate size for a 12 gauge. Ultimately, the police were tipped off when singer composer Reiko Takahashi, from California tipped off her local PD after he told her his plans over Facebook Messenger, because apparently that's what you do. They had initially met at one of her concerts a couple of years prior and you know, like some people do with their fans, they chit chatted back and forth on the internet, text message social media. But ultimately, she ended up cutting off contact when he started sending messages that were somewhat threatening and delusional.
Elle LaVie 10:49
Ashlyn LaVie 10:49
So she, yeah, I know, right? Weird. So she ended up sharing around 40 screenshots with authorities of various messages that were sent on that particular day, stating he had weapons and was planning to shoot officers. Sterling was wrestled to the ground. And an arrest was made within 11 minutes of the Phoenix Police Department being contacted by her local authorities in Hawthorne, California.
Elle LaVie 10:53
So they actually responded quickly and in a timely manner?
To legit threats made over social media?
Ashlyn LaVie 11:26
Elle LaVie 11:27
I don't know if I've ever heard of that happening before.
Ashlyn LaVie 11:30
Elle LaVie 11:31
Like I'm being slightly facetious, but not at the same time.
Ashlyn LaVie 11:35
I know. Right? Yeah. 11, 11 minutes from when they got the phone call from the sergeant in California until they had located him at the event. And had him in custody.
Elle LaVie 11:50
'Cause that's a pretty big convention, correct?
Ashlyn LaVie 11:52
Well, yeah, they had 80,000 attendees that year. So it's a very large convention.
Elle LaVie 11:56
So for them to be able to like, get that notice and find him within 11 minutes is pretty impressive.
Ashlyn LaVie 12:03
They did have a large presence on grounds already.
Elle LaVie 12:06
Ashlyn LaVie 12:06
Because it was a large event in a big city. You're gonna have cops patrolling the area anyway, it's no different than like when we go to Chicago area, and there's cops walking around all over the place, just in case. And apparently they thought that it was credible enough, and so they took it seriously and located him quickly, and were able to apprehend him. No attendees were harmed, which is great. And it was discovered after his arrest that he had set a notification on his phone for that day to quote unquote, "Kill JDF".
Elle LaVie 12:44
Ashlyn LaVie 12:45
Which would have been a travesty.
Elle LaVie 12:47
That would have been a travesty of epic proportions.
Ashlyn LaVie 12:50
So he had set up a reminder for himself on his phone to kill Jason David Frank, and had told this woman over Facebook Messenger that he was going to kill cops, and had been walking around the event taking pictures of them and posting them on social media. After he just walked into the convention center with four loaded guns and a bunch of other stuff. Yeah, he had his own little one man arsenal. When they arrested him, they obviously took him in and interviewed him. He told Phoenix PD detectives that he considered himself to be a real life version of the Punisher. His lawyer later argued that his delusions went back and forth between the Punisher and the Batman, which is a little conflicting,
Elle LaVie 13:38
Ashlyn LaVie 13:38
Considering fact that Bruce doesn't murder.
Elle LaVie 13:41
No, their philosophies are kind of night and day. Also isn't one Marvel and one DC?
Ashlyn LaVie 13:47
Elle LaVie 13:50
That also makes a difference.
Ashlyn LaVie 13:52
I know this is going to come as a huge shock to you, especially as we've talked about a since we are responsible for lots of convention rules with our groups from conventions past,
Elle LaVie 14:03
Ashlyn LaVie 14:04
cosplay and prop rules were revised super last minute to outlaw all props, including those made from foam and cardboard. Initially, the ban was just for weapon replicas. vendors were still allowed to sell them, but buyers were required to keep them packaged until they left the convention center. Also, not surprisingly, they brought in more police and had an additional police presence throughout the weekend, and added security screenings, which is probably what most of us are used to these days, going through widescale security screenings in larger events. And as they do a lot of the cosplayers and the geeks and the weebs bitched about it, because how dare you keep me from having my props that I worked so hard on, I wanna be able to have my fake gun, or my super kick ass sword that I bought. In the dealer's room, and I'm gonna go like have sword fights in my backyard and then hope I don't hurt myself. Like-
Elle LaVie 15:07
Well, as a cosplayer, I kind of get it considering if I'm remembering correctly in the aftermath of some of this some conventions really took this to the extreme and confiscated all these props and threw them out. I want to say that was a convention in New York, where that happened, where they confiscated all props, and then the props never got returned to their owners they got disposed of. And that was a huge cluster, basically,
Ashlyn LaVie 15:37
As a craftsman that would super piss me off. Yeah, I get it. So ultimately, Sterling was charged with attempted first degree murder, four counts of attempted aggravated assault, aggravated assaults of an officer, resisting arrest, misconduct with body armor, and carrying a weapon into a prohibited place. He had a one day bench trial that occurred on December 12 of 2019, which essentially, for those of you who don't know a whole lot about our law enforcement system means that he waived his right to a jury and chose to have it heard just by a judge. So on January 24 2020, Judge Jennifer Ryan-Touhill, sentenced Sterling to 25 years in the Arizona State Hospital after being found guilty except insane. He will continue to undergo periodic evaluations by the Arizona Psychiatric Security Review Board. And if he is later determined to be mentally competent, he will serve the remainder of his sentence in state prison. And being the saint that he is less than two months later, JDF released a statement saying "I've already forgiven him, Do I want him to serve jail time and get the mental help he needs? Absolutely."
Bless you, Green Ranger.
This dude had a reminder on his phone to murder you and you're like, "I forgive you."
Elle LaVie 17:00
That's because he's the Green Ranger.
Ashlyn LaVie 17:01
You need to get the help that you need.
Elle LaVie 17:03
I'm actually kind of impressed that they committed him to a facility rather than just throwing him in prison.
Ashlyn LaVie 17:08
Well, maybe that's just an Arizona thing.
Elle LaVie 17:11
Ashlyn LaVie 17:12
Where they 're, where they're good at that as opposed to other places where they other states where they completely got rid of all the state mental hospitals.
Elle LaVie 17:19
Ashlyn LaVie 17:21
Oh, do you have something stuck? Right there? Huh. Weird.
Elle LaVie 17:23
Yeah. You know, the states where the county prison is the largest mental health facility in the state? Yeah. You know.
Ashlyn LaVie 17:34
Elle LaVie 17:35
Yeah, that doesn't upset the mental health professional in me at all. No. So I'm guessing he's still at that facility. Because we probably did not find him to be competent, given his behaviors.
Ashlyn LaVie 17:48
Happy ending. Nobody died. And he and he's getting the help he needs
Elle LaVie 17:54
And this is why you now wait in a really long line at C2E2 to go through the metal detector.
Ashlyn LaVie 17:59
Yes. Because somebody who thought that they really did need to go murder somebody decided to take a small armory with them into a con. This is why we can't have nice things.
Elle LaVie 18:11
Because our format in our country is reactive. So of course we weren't doing anything until somebody did something that made us react. That's how it works.
Ashlyn LaVie 18:22
After this, we saw a lot of cons that banned metal weapons because of course he had like a legit combat knife and throwing stars apparently, the chemicals-
Elle LaVie 18:34
Throwing stars. Like really?
Ashlyn LaVie 18:36
Yes, like a ninja. Oh, come on. Let's be honest. Like if you had like a super weeb friend that was totally into like the fixed swords and shit, you know that they would have throwing stars.
Elle LaVie 18:47
That's true. They would have throwing stars. I just I can't see the Punisher using throwing stars. Like maybe it's the and we're like version of the Punisher. And we're like-
Ashlyn LaVie 18:56
but then I feel like he should have had a katana and not a shotgun.
Elle LaVie 18:59
Maybe we're maybe we're genre merging, I don't know.
Ashlyn LaVie 19:03
Or maybe the throwing stars are for the Batman.
Elle LaVie 19:05
Ashlyn LaVie 19:05
Because he has his little like bat
Elle LaVie 19:07
Ashlyn LaVie 19:09
They didn't specify if they were bat shaped or not.
Elle LaVie 19:10
I got you, maybe they were bat shaped, I don't know,
Ashlyn LaVie 19:13
Banned a lot of metal weaponry. And I even saw metal armor banned after this. At one point. This is also probably where a lot of the rules that we've seen in regards to no lifelike looking weapons. Like if you have a weapon or prop that is clearly clearly like character, then it's cool. But if it actually looks like a real handgun, or a real shotgun, or anything like that, they're like, no. But that's also why prop check is important. Because your prop people can actually like look at all this stuff and know what they're looking for. Hopefully,
Elle LaVie 19:53
I don't know if they actually take the steps usually to have like people who actually know about props sit at prop checking table at most conventions, I think it's usually just some random staff members.
Ashlyn LaVie 20:04
I feel like most of the bigger cons, though, would at least have somebody on there like de escalation response team or their security team that if the volunteer had a question about a prop, that they could call them over to look at it, at a lot of the bigger conventions that we frequent. Some of the security personnel are actual, like, security or law enforcement elsewhere, even if they're just like, volunteer weekend cops.
Elle LaVie 20:31
Right, and they would be able to spot a real versus a fake. That makes sense. Well, that was a ride.
Ashlyn LaVie 20:36
I know. Right? We're very, very happy that Jason David Frank did not die that day.
Elle LaVie 20:39
Absolutely. My case is actually an unsolved mystery. Dun-Dun.
Ashlyn LaVie 20:46
Elle LaVie 20:47
I am going to be doing the mysterious case of Midwest Fur Fest 2014 at the-
Ashlyn LaVie 21:01
'cause it's always a Hyatt, especially in Rosemont.
Elle LaVie 21:05
Always in Rosemont is it the Hyatt. And part of the reason I picked this was because this we've literally frequent this hotel multiple times in the past, like 20 years.
Ashlyn LaVie 21:17
Yeah, sometimes multiple times in one year.
Elle LaVie 21:19
We've been to so many conventions at this hotel. So I actually vividly remember this happening. So I thought it would be interesting to look into a little bit more about it because there was a lot of conflicting and overlapping information. So what is Midwest Fur Fest? It's an annual for a convention that takes place in Rosemont, Illinois at the Hyatt, which is a suburb just outside of Chicago, which for our international listeners, is one of our major cities in our country and also one of our major airports. So it's a very popular city to do large conventions.
Ashlyn LaVie 21:56
And Rosemont is legit right around the corner from the International Airport that is there,
Elle LaVie 22:02
which is why the Hyatt is a common occurrence for convention. It's also connected to the Donald Stephens Convention Center, which is one of the biggest convention centers in the area outside of McCormick Place. Yeah. Which is where C2E2 is. Found this kind of interesting that Midwest Fur Fest actually developed out of a sci fi convention. And it turned into its own convention because the like, mini convention that developed within the sci fi convention got so big that it needed its own event.
Ashlyn LaVie 22:34
I'm pretty sure that's how Anime St. Louis happened too
Elle LaVie 22:36
I think well, and that's how Anime NYC happened too Is it like
Ashlyn LaVie 22:41
Elle LaVie 22:41
started within New York Comic Con and then like, became its own thing and then went back into New York Comic Con. And now I think it's back out to its own thing again, because it got too big to be like, engulfed by the larger event. Midwest Fur Fest has actually been around since 1999, which I had no clue that it's that old.
Ashlyn LaVie 22:59
Elle LaVie 22:59
Yes, it is old like us and typically they have about 10,000 attendees, Midwest Fur Fest actually raises money for charity. So most of what they bring in actually goes to charity for animals and wildlife. This convention raises like $500,000 a year for charity.
Ashlyn LaVie 23:20
Elle LaVie 23:21
I know. And they also have this really impressive art auction that tends to raise over $10,000 a year. This convention is known for being very charitable, and being very inclusive and welcoming. Good feel good time from those that I know that have gone have always enjoyed it. But you might be asking what is a furry? so if you have not met a furry we are going to tell you what they are. furry fandom is kind of this subculture that's interested in anthropomorphic animal characters that have human personalities and characteristics.
A lot of times there's a role playing element where the suiter will develop this fursona. And they will play that character while they're in their suit. So while they're in their suit, they are that character. And not all characters talk. Some make sound some don't make any sound. So sometimes they show their emotions and communicate using like full body movements with their suits.
Ashlyn LaVie 24:20
Elle LaVie 24:20
Yes, they emote, with their suits. And the suits come in different levels, from partials to full suits and in a variety of animals and combinations of animals. both real and fantasy. So there's this big spectrum of what a fursona could be. And colors too. So it's not always realistic either. Like there's like rainbow Fox dragons out there, and all sorts of stuff. Now, unfortunately, the furries have this unfortunate, like attached with the concept that this is all about like sexual gratification and nothing else. Kind of like cosplay does by a lot of people who don't understand what cosplay is. And they think that like the only reason you're just dressing up in costume has something to do with like a sexual fetish, which is not true for most furries. Most instances, they are looking for this warm, inviting community of Creative People and a place to belong. So it's really similar to cosplay. And you will see a lot of furries at conventions. Because there are so many similarities between cosplayers and furries. And the communities function in a similar way. I would say that the furry community is probably a little kinder than the cosplay community, at least in my experience, but you're looking for the same thing. You're looking for a creative space to belong as you and not as what society or anyone else expects you to be, but as yourself. So in 2014, there was an event as there is every year for Midwest Fur Fest held at the Rosemont Hyatt. And it was they were having a good time, as they usually do. But on December 7, which was Sunday, so this is like early, early morning, Sunday, we're talking like around like midnight or so on Sunday, the fire alarm goes off now, we've all been to cons with the fire alarm gets pulled.
Ashlyn LaVie 26:22
Especially, at the Hyatt in Rosemont.
Elle LaVie 26:23
Especially at the Hyatt like this is a common occurrence. Most people just assume someone was being an ass and pulling the fire alarm for no reason.
Ashlyn LaVie 26:31
Because that's normal.
Elle LaVie 26:32
Because that's normal. Like we typically hear that, like that's just how it is. Now people started paying attention when they started seeing all these bright lights and law enforcement lights and technicians running around in like crazy, like chemical protective spacesuit looking things.
Ashlyn LaVie 26:56
Elle LaVie 26:56
Hazmat, yes. And then even the FBI showed up from the counter terrorism and weapons of mass destruction unit
Ashlyn LaVie 27:06
Elle LaVie 27:07
to the Hyatt. Why you say Did they show up at the Hyatt?
Ashlyn LaVie 27:12
Why did they show up at the Hyatt?
Elle LaVie 27:14
because chlorine had been detected within the air at the Hyatt like a sort of like a chlorine gas. But we'll kind of talk about what it actually was, was detected at such high levels that it was extremely dangerous for everyone in the building.
Ashlyn LaVie 27:34
Wow. And that's a big building.
Elle LaVie 27:35
It's a very big building. So it's kind of like how did this item get there? Where was it? How did it get through this massive building? Because the Hyatt is like 20-30 storeys tall. I mean, it's, I think it goes up to 20. No, it it goes almost to 30 because the 22nd floor is the second level. It's a big hotel, put it that way.
Ashlyn LaVie 27:35
It's a big hotel.
Elle LaVie 27:35
It's a very big hotel. The chlorine was tracked to the ninth floor of the Hyatt in the stairwell and it was showing at a level of 1.4 parts per million, which is toxic to humans if exposed for more than an hour. So it can be very serious if you've had exposure for more than an hour. convention goers are staying in these rooms spread through about 10 floors that were available at the Hyatt this weekend when they reached this stairwell specifically. So this stairwell was around the ninth floor. In the Hyatt you kind of go into these stairwells and they look like they're creepy. I mean, the Hyatt stairwells are creepy. They're like very desolate, they remind you a little warehouse-ee, like they're those like concrete stairs that go from floor to floor. Very quiet. Very few people go through there because they're all going through the hallways right in the stairwell on the ninth floor. Remember what I said 1.4 parts per million was toxic if you had exposure for an hour. In this stairwell, they found levels at 60 parts per million.
Ashlyn LaVie 29:12
Elle LaVie 29:13
Which is almost instantly deadly. What they found in the stairwell was a canister of chlorine that had been thrown into the stairwell and then it dissipated through the ventilation in the hotel is where they're figuring. Now this isn't weaponized chlorine like you would think of so it's really not gas. Exactly. It's the powdered stuff that you find at the pool store. Like that type of a concentrated chlorine it can still dissipate into the air. But it most people thought it was like the you know chemical weapon version of chlorine gas and that's not what this was. So when they say chlorine gas they really mean chlorine powder that was released during this time. So what would happen to you, if you were exposed to all this chlorine? Well, you could get blurred vision, skin irritation, difficulty breathing, burning sensation in your throat and eyes nausea, and some long term complications like fluid on the lungs, COPD and damaged tissues, not fun. So kind of what was happening was, you know, people are walking around the hotel, and they're starting to notice, like, I don't feel so great. My eyes are really itchy like what's in the air, my skin is itchy. Like, I don't feel like I'm breathing very well what is happening. But you know, you're never gonna think like some weird chemical got released into the air in the hotel and we're in danger until people started to get dizzy. And they started to feel really sick. And then they were noticing it was multiple, multiple people that something was wrong.
Ashlyn LaVie 30:53
Well, if this got into the ventilation system. And this is early hours in the morning, like how many people were like asleep.
Elle LaVie 31:01
I think that's also part of how it was able to get out was because people were asleep. So nobody spotted the canister. Nobody like was in the stairwell smelling the chlorine. Because they were all in bed. It's midnight on Sunday. I'm asleep. Hell I was probably asleep like three hours ago. Let's be honest, that was part of the big danger with this is Yeah, most of the people were sleeping. They weren't aware that anything was even going on because they were asleep. of course because we have social media at this time. People are jumping to the social media with their conspiracy theories about what's happening. And some of the things that are really interesting though, is and I'll post the link for this. There's a Reddit that's actually real time posts from when this was happening. So like you can actually read through the Reddit post and get in person accounts of what was actually happening at this event, when all these things were going on. It's it's really fascinating to look at, because you've got people popping in different information and being like, well, I'm here and this what's going on. And that's what's going on. Now the big place that this was hopping was Twitter, because Twitter typically is the social media that you jump to when you want to get information out quickly and efficiently. Twitter was the buzz at this time, some of the concepts that people came up with was it was chlorine gas leaking from the pool. That doesn't make sense. And I think someone thought, well maybe like the chlorine that you put in the pool was stored somewhere and it got damaged. And so it leaked out. But that chlorine it that's highly unlikely that that's you're going to damage that much chlorine accidentally and then if somebody had they would have gone and said something that was a big one was they thought it was coming from the air in the pool area. The air conditioner springing a leak. Well, that's not chlorine. So no.
Ashlyn LaVie 32:58
And they and they have a huge HVAC system, like-.
Elle LaVie 33:01
Right? Like that's just not even something it with that big of a system that that's a thing. Like that's not a thing. A kids science experiment exploded. There's this. There's a kid doing a random science experiment at a hotel and they had so much chlorine in their experiment that it caused, like a major health crisis
Ashlyn LaVie 33:19
Elle LaVie 33:20
Were they having a kid science fair during Midwest Fur Fest in the middle of the night? I don't think so. You can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that they were. Well, someone was obviously cleaning with chlorine and just use too much.
Ashlyn LaVie 33:36
Elle LaVie 33:36
Obviously, they just they apparently figured if they just like spread the powder all over the stairwell that that would just automatically clean it. That was totally what was going on.
Ashlyn LaVie 33:45
Oh, you mean that's not how that works?
Elle LaVie 33:46
A lot of people think and this is possible that this was a prank that went horribly wrong. Now we've seen what people do to conventions. This is entirely possible that someone was like, haha, you know, it'd be funny if I released some of this. And then people started getting dizzy and feeling weird. Uh huh. That'd be hilarious. Not realizing how extremely dangerous that could be.
Ashlyn LaVie 34:11
It's not hilarious.
Elle LaVie 34:13
The problem is that's actually like somewhat plausible people are dumb.
Ashlyn LaVie 34:20
People are assholes.
Elle LaVie 34:21
Yes, they are dumb and they're assholes. Particularly at conventions. People do really dumb things in the name of a good time.
Ashlyn LaVie 34:28
Like how many times have been the like rave? Water and punch bowls and been spiked? I mean, constantly.
Elle LaVie 34:35
Oh, why you can't bring bags into raves anymore. Maybe that's happened a lot. People smash holes and walls because they think it's hysterical.
Ashlyn LaVie 34:44
They break sinks off of the bathroom wall
Elle LaVie 34:46
because they think it's hilarious
Ashlyn LaVie 34:48
they set off fire alarms or the sprinkler systems or
Elle LaVie 34:51
so it is entirely plausible that this was a prank gone wrong. The other flip that people take it is this was an act of essentially terrorism. Now, you're like, why would someone do that at a furry convention?
Ashlyn LaVie 35:06
Why do people do a lot of things?
Elle LaVie 35:07
Well, yes, but like, you may not know that furry conventions actually get like a lot of picketing people who are against them because they think they're like evil and the devil and unnatural. There are legit people who would think that furries are such a horrible thing for society that they would try to destroy them all. This is not the only furry convention that has had an instance like this happen. And this kind of goes back to society's misconception that being a furry is only about sexual gratification. And then the other issue that they have is they think that furries believe they are the animals and then they feel that is unnatural. That's not really how the fursona works. It's a 'sona it's part of you, but they don't believe necessarily that they are a fox dragon all the time, in every aspect of life. It's like a part of you not so much all of you. But some people feel that this is related then to beastiality. And so then that's against their religion, and then they feel like they need to tell all the furries about it very loudly with big signs. We've seen this at cons for cosplay, too. I mean,
Ashlyn LaVie 36:25
well, and I think another thing that I've seen is because a lot of the furries are very friendly, and a lot of kids really like the mascot style costumes, then they take it a step further and think it has to do with pedophilia when it doesn't.
Elle LaVie 36:40
Ashlyn LaVie 36:41
my understanding. I don't have a fursona, but I know people that do And my understanding of like you said it, it's a part of you. But it's like you're not delusional, like you're not delusional, where you think that you are this particular creature or character. But it's It sounds very similar to me. Like when I do full LARP weekend.
Elle LaVie 37:01
Ashlyn LaVie 37:02
And I have a specific person that I portray for the weekend with their own mannerisms and habits and dialect and just way that they see the world that I roleplay as it is a part of me and I developed it and like nobody else could do it like I do. But at the same time. I go to work on Monday.
Elle LaVie 37:25
Ashlyn LaVie 37:25
and it's fine.
Elle LaVie 37:26
It's a part of you. And when you're in that moment in that place, you are that character. But then when you are not in that moment in that place, you are back to your everyday self.
Ashlyn LaVie 37:35
I'm just Ash
Elle LaVie 37:36
and cosplay is very similar. I mean, we have our at con personas and are not at con personas. And you know when I'm Deku I'm Deku especially if we're on stage. Most furries aren't any different. I can't speak for everybody, but I can say the large majority. That's how it works for them. So I'd really like you all to know that the furry fandom is really about social inclusion and psychological well being it is healthy. Being a furry is a healthy form of expression and self care. I actually found an entire Psychology Today article on this, which I will also post because I found it fascinating. But it actually goes into why this type of role play and exploration and creativity is actually really good for not only building a social network, but also your self care as an adult, because we forget how to play and how to enjoy that creative explorative sides of us. And doing that is actually really good for your mental health. So being a furry is good for your mental health. Be nice to the furries they're just trying to have fun and make friends. Well and speaking of making friends so of course in true furry fandom fashion, heart warming instances occurred when everybody was stuck outside, waiting for the hotel to be safe. There were multiple videos of what was happening outside the Hyatt. And so I kind of got to watch some and I pulled a few of my favorite moments to share with you all there was talk about how someone went to the McDonald's. So there is a McDonald's like a mile away from the Hyatt and got a ton of food and just started handing it out to people. The hotels around the area actually offered rooms for free to guests that were displaced who couldn't go back to their room because some floors they just you couldn't go back that night because it was stronger in certain places than others. Some people brought out whole carafes of hot cocoa including like the hotel and were just handing out hot cocoa to everybody.
Ashlyn LaVie 39:47
Because it is December in Chicago,
Elle LaVie 39:48
there are furries sharing parts of each other's costumes to keep each other warm. They're having a dance party over here on one side. You've got people over here playing like a game on the other side. Like they just took this in stride,
Ashlyn LaVie 40:03
Elle LaVie 40:03
Cuddle piles everywhere.
Ashlyn LaVie 40:05
Elle LaVie 40:05
For warmth, like,
Ashlyn LaVie 40:07
and cuddles. I mean,
Elle LaVie 40:08
no one's sitting out there griping and complaining because they're stuck out in the cold. They're just taking it as it was and letting the authorities do what they needed to do. I don't know a lot of groups that could do that, who could just take the situation in stride that wouldn't be standing out there yelling and screaming and complaining?
Ashlyn LaVie 40:27
Yeah, it definitely sounds like they made the best of it.
Elle LaVie 40:29
They certainly did. So they still got their party on Sunday, even though they got displaced out of their hotel. So in total, this evacuation lasted about five hours, and only 19 people had to go to the hospital. That's pretty good. Out of the amount of people that are at this convention, the authorities decided pretty quickly that this was probably a deliberate act. And they have taken the assumption that someone was actually targeting the furries and it wasn't so much like a prank gone wrong. So that's their thought process behind it is they think this was pretty deliberate. Because they don't think that there's any way this could have happened by accident. Obviously, someone had to plan out in advance to have the supplies to be able to pull this off, which could still be a prank, but either way, deliberate, the stairwell seems very intentional, because there's less traffic. And it would allow for the fumes to spread through the hallways, because it's going to go up and down through the stairwell because it's open
Ashlyn LaVie 40:41
open vertically through the stairwell,
Elle LaVie 41:26
and then it could go through the ventilation system as well, by being putting that open area. So even if it didn't make it through the ventilation system, it could still seep like under the doors and, and through the different floors by just being in that stairwell. And obviously, chlorine powder doesn't just get accidentally released in a stairwell, that's not a thing,
Ashlyn LaVie 41:59
from the pool
Elle LaVie 41:59
from the pool, magically from the pool. Like that just doesn't happen. Like whether it was a prank or someone was deliberately maliciously targeting furries, it was done on purpose. So whether the person knew that if I release this much of this chlorine powder, it's gonna cause an issue, or someone was dumb, and had no idea what kind of issue this would cause.
Ashlyn LaVie 42:21
And they're like, haha, I'm gonna be a dick,
Elle LaVie 42:23
it still remains the same that it was obviously planned and deliberate and not an accident. But unfortunately, this was never resolved. So they still don't know who did this. No clue. Not even a lead. There's no clues towards anybody. They got nada,
Ashlyn LaVie 42:38
which is actually fairly impressive in an age of social media, where people are stupid and tell each other that they're going to do things like this or that they did do things like this.
Elle LaVie 42:49
Yeah, and they didn't find any evidence, no identifying prints, or any other evidence left behind. So which I guess it's in the stairwell, but the stairwell is not frequented a lot. I don't know. But yeah, as far as I could find, they've, they've never found the person that did this
Ashlyn LaVie 43:07
well, and if it was a prank, there's a really good chance that maybe they were wearing a fur suit, in which case, they would have had a mask on and gloves
Elle LaVie 43:14
Ashlyn LaVie 43:15
There's not going to be prints from them opening the door with their gloves on. I mean,
Elle LaVie 43:19
right. Well, and still it's a stairwell. So people are multiple people are going in and out. Even if it's not a commonly used stairwell, because it is towards the upper floors. It's still a common space like so yeah, of course, since then, there's been other attacks on furry conventions. You know, I think about this one, when we go to the Hyatt all the time, it's very weird to have a true crime event happen at a place that you've been many, many, many times. And I know people that go to this convention, because I'm pretty sure that an acquaintance of mine was there that year, too. It's just weird. It's things you don't think about kind of with yours, too, like random shit that can happen when you get that many people together. You know, you don't you just don't know what can go down, which is why we have so many safety precautions in place now.
Ashlyn LaVie 43:33
Yeah, I mean, like, how many people showed up to the con on Friday, like with mine, and we're like, What do you mean, I can't bring my prop in? And you just don't know what happened or what prompted it? And yeah, it sucks that it's last minute, but be understanding because there's a reason for yet,
Elle LaVie 44:28
Yeah as we've said before, if the con has a rule, there's a reason they have the rule. Something has happened before.
Ashlyn LaVie 44:35
Well, and ultimately, I know it sucks, but just respect that. Because everyone's safety is more important than you being able to show off your prop.
Elle LaVie 44:44
Ashlyn LaVie 44:45
Because if they let you do it, they have to let everybody do it. You have to be firm, fair and consistent across the board. You can disagree with a rule, but you still need to follow it.
Elle LaVie 44:53
That's right. That's why we read the rules. Well, that was our first true crime episode.
Ashlyn LaVie 45:00
Be sure to let us know if you like it because we've got some more stories in our back pocket that we would love to tell you. If you're interested.
Elle LaVie 45:06
We're trying to bring you a little bit more variety this season. So let us know what you like and what you don't. Or if there's anything you want us to know, in general, you can always email us at [email protected] Or you can DM us on social media @laviecosplay or @podcastscs. And again, I will post both of our references into the show notes. When we post the audio so you will be able to go and look where we got our information from. If you have any additional information on either of these cases, please let us know. Because we would be more than happy to do a follow up if somebody's got some interesting tidbits that we did not find.
Ashlyn LaVie 45:48
Oh yeah, we would love to do an update.
Elle LaVie 45:50
Absolutely. Well, I think that's all we have for this episode.
Ashlyn LaVie 45:55
Elle LaVie 45:56
Ashlyn LaVie 45:57
We are La Vie Cosplay
Elle LaVie 46:23
And this is true crime that cosplayers please say dun-dun.
Ashlyn LaVie 46:43
Transcribed by https://otter.ai