On Tuesday July 8 2008, Bat-fans gathered once again in Chicago for the latest mystery meet up. As the rain began to fall, umbrellas popped up and cover was sought, but none showed any inclination to leave. Various at shirts filled the courtyard between 100 and 150 S. Wacker Dr. The location, just half a block north of Sears Tower, was based on co-ordinates found at viral website citizensforbatman.org. Passers-by not in the know paid little attention to the forming crowd, numbering over fifty more than an hour before the designated start time.
The gathering fans had a lot of theories as to what would happen this time around. Some, like Seth Bright, expected “Citizens for Batman” to be a covertly run Joker organization. Others thought they’d see something happen in the Chicago River. Still others, who turned out to be right, thought something would be showing up on one of the surrounding buildings.
Not everyone in attendance called Chicago home. Greg Harte, who came donned in a homemade “Citizens for Batman” shirt featuring the encircled gauntlet, attended from St. Joe, Michigan. Over two hours and two modes of transportation brought he and a friend to the event. Another fan from Nashville, TN was in town anyway, and jumped at the chance to attend when he found out it would be happening during his last night in Chicago.
Along with the hardcore fans like Cristin Zaragoza who found out about the gathering from SuperHeroHype.com, BatmanOnFilm.com, and directly from the viral site, there were several fans that simply heard through friends, deciding to attend with them. A couple even saw the forming horde of people and decided to simply join in.
At about 8:30p.m. CST, three men arrived with large Gotham Times distribution bags hanging around their necks. The crowd, easily two hundred in number at this point, swarmed to the “newsmen” to receive “Citizens for Batman” t-shirts and the newest edition of the Gotham Times. Between 8:30 and 9:00, the distributors left and came back several times as the crowd grew to approximately four or five hundred people. They continued to hand out t-shirts and newspapers and began to hand out stickers and keychains as well. The stickers and keychains looked familiar to fans who have long participated in this alternate reality game, as several received them in the mail a few days prior to the “show of force,” as it was called on the website.
With the growing number of fans came a growing variety of them. From the smallest and youngest of children to elderly and everything in-between, the gathering was certainly diverse. A perhaps surprisingly few of the fans were dressed in costume for the occasion, with the only standouts being Steve Freithen, Jack Sheehan, Sarah Maddux, and Ryan Freithen who came as Two-Face, Batman, Poison Ivy, and The Joker, respectively. Two fans that better represented the diversity of the crowd were Sabrina and Chris Thomas of Chicago suburb Downers Grove, IL. Chris got to appear in the upcoming Dark Knight as an extra and a stand-in while it filmed in Chicago last year. His daughter, Sabrina, age 12, was the one who really wanted to attend, however. She even “skipped a swim meet” to be a part of the same thing her father had participated in.
After several bursts of excitement each time the “newsmen” came out to hand out free swag, 9 o’clock finally approached. At 9:00 on the dot, the insanity began. A select few showed up with “Gotham Pizza” from Domino’s Pizza’s new promotion, and the frenzy that ensued seemed akin to rabid wolves who had been starved for days. As the delivery men ran to get more from their secret stash on Lower Wacker Dr. (note: in Chicago, there are two Wacker Drives; one runs directly underneath the other as a sort of underground expressway), the throngs of fans did the unexpected: they followed. Suddenly there were hundreds of people in shirts only peripherally noticeable as Batman-related swarming the streets of Chicago. They ran down the ramps to Lower Wacker, covering the street and stopping traffic. After several minutes of madness, the Chicago Police began to arrive on scene, prompting organizers to lead the masses out of the tunnel and back up to the Upper street for the main event. At this point, fans thought anything could happen, and were wired from the excitement. Police stopped traffic to facilitate a march south on Wacker, where it dead-ends just passed the Sears Tower. Finally the real deal, being broadcast online for the world to see…
The modern Batman emblem was projected on the Sears Tower. No fanfare, no announcements, no other performance or anything of the like. Fans were largely disappointed. Unfortunately, the Bat-signal was not very well aimed in Chicago, and wound up projected on the windows of three well-lit floors, instead of the three dark ones directly beneath them. There appeared to be some kind of fluttering light and movement around the main emblem, but no one could quite make out what, if anything, was intended by this effect.
The new issue of Gotham Times, which can be found now at thegothamtimes.com, did have some new websites for fans playing the ARG to check out.