Ninjas. Just the word can send a shiver down one’s back.

Originating in feudal Japan and reaching their peak during the Sengoku era that spanned the 16th and 17th centuries, outside of Indonesia – which has suffered from periodic panics over the past few decades – ninjas today are generally presumed to be confined to movies, video games, comic books and the pages of history.

That’s what they want you to think. But the truth is…they are among us and they are growing more dangerous. We must be ever-vigilant about the ninja threat.

Please note that I speak here not of the common criminals to whom the press sometimes mistakenly applies the title “ninja,” such as Staten Island’s “ninja burglars” or Maine’s “Black Ninja.” These pretenders inevitably are caught by the authorities, thus belying that they are not true masters of ninjitsu.

I speak, instead, of the hidden menace. They go almost entirely undetected, but sometimes are sufficiently careless to make their presence apparent, if one knows where to look.

And the place to look, overwhelmingly, is single-sentence descriptions in the police blotters of largely small-town newspapers.

ITEM! From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, dated June 14, 2007:

8:16 p.m. A man at First Presbyterian Church, 901 N.E. J St., reported four Ninja warriors fighting on the playground.

There is no follow-up and no further context is offered. A report is made, published and then long-forgotten, as the ninja no doubt work their connections in the police-media industrial complex to suppress any further evidence-gathering. This is true even when the sighting is highly unusual, such as when ninja are found waging war against their eternal enemy – pirates. Witness:

ITEM! On Aug. 26, 2007, the Austin American-Statesman printed this report from the University of Texas’ security department:

UT police officers responded to the West Mall on a report of a male subject running and yelling at pedestrians along the West Mall. During the investigation, the officers were informed that there was a subject wearing a black mask and dressed as a ninja. The officers further learned that the ninja was chasing a pirate. As the investigation continued, the officers discovered that both subjects had ‘jumped ship’ and had left the area.

We cannot simply abide this ninja invasion. They are training in our suburbs. See:

ITEM! From the Ladera Ranch, Calif. sheriff’s blotter, published in the Feb. 22, 2008, edition of The Orange County Register:

A call on Feb. 8 reported that six suspects, dressed all in black, were jumping into the backyards of houses on Narrow Canyon and Thoreau Street and hiding in the bushes at 11:24 p.m.

They have infiltrated our schools!

ITEM! From the Sunnyvale, Calif. Department of Public Safety’s incident log, as published in the March 16, 2009, edition of the San Jose Mercury News:

Feb. 25, 2:45 p.m. Someone found a ninja star in a classroom storage room.

Indeed, they are threatening our children.

ITEM! As the Asbury Park Press reported on June 25, 2008, a ninja sighting in Barnegat, N.J. forced the lockdown of several local schools

Shortly after 9 a.m., police received a call from a librarian at the local Ocean County Library branch on Burr Street reporting that a man dressed as a ninja, carrying a large sword, was running through the woods, Lt. Patrick Shaffery said. Police than initiated a lock-down of the five schools as a precaution, police said.

More recently in Belleville, N.J., the Belleville Times reported Aug. 27, 2015, on a robbery in broad daylight on that city’s Heckel Street, and its details show that…ITEM!:

The victim stated that he had been sitting on his porch when he was approached by a black male, who was wearing all black, with a black backpack and a black ninja-style mask. The suspect allegedly pointed a gun at the victim and stated, ‘what do you got and where is it?’ The victim then handed over his iPhone and a lighter, before the suspect fled north on Heckel Street. The investigation remains open.

Ninjas love smartphones. They download ninja game apps and use them for further training. But showing how the ninja’s evil extends even to more passive-aggressive bullying, ITEM! From the Ellensburg, Wash. Daily Record, dated May 2, 2007:

A person dressed in a ninja costume with a mask was miming people on Chestnut Street.

That’s below the belt, ninja. There’s never an excuse for mime. But worse still, unchecked ninjitsu escalates inevitably to violence, as….

ITEM!  Ellensburg would be visited again by even worse ninja atrocities a few years later, as the Daily Record reported on March 2, 2010:

A man in a ninja face mask reportedly came into a residence and hit someone in the head on Cascade Court.

ITEM! Washington state is a hotbed of ninja reports. The Daily News of Longview, Wash. reported in its July 25, 2013, edition that:

A woman in the 200 block of N. First Avenue in Kelso told police she was concerned about a young man who appeared to be jumping around and standing on the railroad tracks. The 19-year-old male told police that he was ‘practicing ninja warrior moves.’

ITEM! Indeed, reports of ninja brazenly practicing their moves in public are common across the land. See this one, from the May 21, 2014, edition of Montana’s Great Falls Tribune:

Havre, May 15: A caller reported that a shirtless man was doing ninja moves in the middle of a street and also chased after the caller’s vehicle with a crowbar.

ITEM! The ninja have moved beyond their traditional weapons to more modern means of attack. As the Charleston, S.C.  Post and Courier reported on Dec. 23, 2010:

A robber reportedly held up a man with a fake gun Dec. 10 and got away with his wallet and cash. The masked suspect also was dressed in a ninja outfit, according to a Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office report.

ITEM! But some would-be victims are learning to fight back. As the Tribune-Review of Greensburg, Pa. reported on April 25, 2011:

A Fayette County man attacked by a ‘ninja’ with a sword quickly ended the encounter by pulling a gun.

‘The only word that comes to mind is, ‘seriously?” Santino Guzzo, 29, of South Union said today. ‘I know this isn’t a laughing matter, but how many people get attacked by a ninja? Really, a ninja?’

More than you might expect, Santino. Over the years, The New York Post has documented just how serious the escalating ninja threat has become in the nation’s largest city.

ITEM! From Oct. 17, 2004:

A very thorough pistol-packing thief dressed like a ninja is being sought for robbing an Upper West Side Japanese restaurant, police said yesterday.

ITEM! From March 27, 2005:

Cops are looking for a mugger dressed like a ninja who robbed a woman in her 60s in a Forest Hills subway station yesterday morning.

(I’d also point to this item from July 27, 2006, but it’s too sad to include a jokey “item” header).

There was briefly a moment where one man appeared ready to tell authorities all about the conspiracy. Witness this Post ITEM! from Nov. 7, 2007:

Paul Maldonado, 39, allegedly clogged the drains in his Adams Avenue apartment near Mason Avenue at 10:50 p.m. Thursday because his landlady, who lives below him, phoned 911 to complain about a noisy party he was throwing.

When police arrived to ask him to keep it down, Maldonado began shrieking, ‘This is ridiculous! I’m going to get the ninja, I know who the ninja is,’ authorities said.

And Mr. Maldonado was never heard from again.

The press has been almost entirely complicit in sweeping this conspiracy under the rug, but there are exceptions. In September 2010, after Columbus, Miss. became the latest scene of ninja nonsense, columnist Roger Truesdale of The Commercial Dispatch sought to rouse his fellow citizens to create a “ninja watch.”

Try peering over the fence to inventory the new neighbor’s clotheslines. All that walking on water and carrying on should cause even the best conditioned ninja to perspire, not to mention getting a little dirt on their suits. I’d venture that most silk ninja suits aren’t made for the clothes dryer. If you see a pair of black leotards hanging on the line next to a black mask, call 911. A word of caution before making the call: Quickly flip through the pages of your Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog to make sure it’s not some (how should I put this?) sporting apparel used for more recreational activities.

Godspeed to you, Mr. Truesdale. We at R Street also are doing our part.

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