Greetings Knight-Hood speaking. I have been a masked crusader since 1989. Contrary to comic books and movies, you do not need super-powers, or have to be a billionaire to do this kind of work. Being a “real life superhero” as the press calls us, is really just doing volunteer police work. I have never used the term "superhero" to describe myself because I am neither “super” nor a “hero”. Heroes are people who save lives or risk their lives to serve the public. Police officers, fire fighters, EMT's. Doctors, nurses and of course soldiers and sailors. I have always preferred the term “masked crusader” as that is a more apt description of what I try to do. Here now is my story...
I was born in the year 1955 in Louisville, Ky and from the cradle I was watching “The Adventures of Superman” and “The Lone Ranger” on TV, which led to an early love of comic book heroes. I recall my cousin and I playing superheroes as children and vowing to grow up to become them as many young boys fantasize about.
Time passed and when I was in the 3rd grade I had my mother make me a Daredevil costume for Halloween. What she didn't know was that I decided to start wearing it beneath my clothes when I went to school. My plan was to break up school yard fights in costume. Lol. There really is nothing too silly for a 3rd grader to think. What did happen though was that I had my first reality check. I realized that by the time you spot an emergency and rush to find somewhere to change clothes, the emergency is long over. Plus what do you do with your street clothes? Just leave them on the restroom floor? So I gave up on that idea.
By age 12 just reading and collecting comics was not enough for me I began to try and write and draw my own. I created a character I called Night-Rider. I took the name from an old Elvis Presley record my older brother played a lot. By this age I had discovered that the Lone Ranger did not start on TV but on radio and was first played on movie serials. I ran across a magazine with photos of other movie serial characters like the Green Hornet. I really liked his mask and the fact that his mask was his whole costume solved the quick change problem. It only took a split second to put it on or take it off to change identities, so I decided to make Night-Rider's mask his whole costume as well.
In my teens the writing bug had still not left me and I had discovered that my boyhood heroes like Disney's “Zorro” and “The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh” had begun as classic novels, so it occurred to me that perhaps I could turn Night-Rider into a novel. By this time I had added a “K” to his name making him “Knight-Rider”, so I could use the white knight chess piece as his symbol. Symbols are always an important calling card of all the fictional masked men like the “Z” Zorro would carve, or the bat on the bat signal. I decided to place the symbol over the mouth area of my characters mask as a tip of the hat to the original Green Hornet mask from the movie serials.
Time passed and I graduated High School in 1974 and in 1976 I married my High School sweetheart. The realities of every day survival replaced all my boyhood dreams and fantasies as happens to most dreamers like me. Six months into our marriage my young wife developed a chronic lung disease and shortly thereafter my mother developed colon cancer. I cared for them both at home.
My mother passed on in 1979. From 1980-1981 I attended and graduated from LPN school. In 1982 my father took ill so I cared for both him and my wife. In 1983 he passed away, so my wife and I decided to move to St. Petersburg, Florida hoping that the warmer climate might help her ravaged lungs. It did but only a little. In 1989 she passed away as well.
Things went from bad to worse. Two weeks after she died there was a freak electrical fire and my house burned to the ground. I ended up living in my van. I had lost everyone I had ever loved and everything I ever owned. My depression and sorrow were too deep to live with and I began having suicidal thoughts, but being raised Catholic I was taught suicide was murder, so I decided to try and keep on living, whether I wanted to or not.
In September of 1989 the movie “Batman” came out in the theaters and I went to see it 12 times, being a huge Batman fan growing up and this was his first live appearance since the campy 60's TV series, so I loved it, but the more I watched it the more an idea began to form in my mind. Killing yourself was a sin, but what if I was killed trying to save others? Wouldn't that be the best way a person could go? My boyhood dreams of becoming a real life masked crusader ended when I reached adulthood, because as every adult knows the life expectancy of someone who donned a mask and challenged gangsters would be very short indeed. Only now I had absolutely nothing left to lose! So I thought, “Why not?”
The only thing left was to try and figure out how to go about it? I went to a costume store and bought a Batman costume and tried it on. I saw a lot of problems right away. First there was that quick change problem I discovered years before. It took a minimum of 20 minutes to put on that costume. The second problem was the giggle factor. In real life any criminal seeing you charging at them in that outfit is going to fall down laughing. Thirdly, the whole costume is impractical for fighting in. Even if you replaced the gloves for ones you can pick things up in and boots for ones you can run in, you can't see out of the mask very well or even turn your head in it and the cape would not only get all tangled up in every punch you tried to throw it would give your opponent a great handle to grab, so I decided against going the costume route for the second time in my life.
It was then I recalled my teen novel about Knight-Rider and how his mask was the whole costume. I decided that I would become Knight-Rider instead, only now it was the 80's and the name had been taken by the popular TV series of the same name. I went through a lot of name changes. It seemed like every time I came up with one someone else came up with it and took it, but I don't want to get ahead of my story. Ultimately I ended up with Knight-Hood.
What sort of mask should I wear? Initially I decided on just a domino type mask ala the Lone Ranger that you can buy any Halloween and a black hooded jacket.
Since I was working weekends, 12 hour shifts at a nursing home, that left me Mon-Fri off work. I began patrolling the city from 11pm-7am looking for criminal activity. That was when I had my next reality check. You know how Batman or Spider-Man put on their costumes and walk out of their back doors and instantly discover a bank robbery in progress? Forget it. In reality even though robberies, rapes, muggings and murders occur in every city every night, there is simply no way to know where or when they will occur? I drove around for 3 months, 5 nights a week and simply could not find any crime in progress. I began to realize that the odds of anyone coming across a crime in progress are astronomical. Most police officers go through their entire careers and never once come across a major crime in progress. They are usually called in after it has occurred.
So where did that leave me? I was about to give up and chalk the whole idea up to madness when I happened to read about some homeless people in New York who were burned alive as part of a gang initiation. I realized that one thing I had seen in abundance was homeless people in St. Petersburg. They seemed to be everywhere you looked and high concentrations of them slept at both Williams Park and Mirror Lake Park only blocks from each other. I thought maybe I had found my niche. Maybe I could become the defender of the people that are ignored by society. I decided to stand guard over them while they slept, but that idea brought up a new problem.
How could I could stand guard over them wearing a mask and not frighten them? Then I recalled that my boyhood hero, the Lone Ranger had the very same problem. He could not go into town wearing the mask without being arrested immediately or shot as an outlaw, so what he would do is to go into town disguised as an old prospector, so I decided to walk around disguised as a homeless man. I pushed the mask up on my head under my hood so I could pull it down in a second if need be. It was the perfect disguise. As a homeless person no one even looked me directly in the eye. It was like I was invisible.
I began to patrol Williams Park and Mirror Lake Park 5 nights a week. I saw a lot of homeless people. I began to talk to them and get to know them. Many asked me for money and I felt for them, but I did not want to supply them with money to buy alcohol and/or drugs, so I began to make brown bag lunches and carry them with me. As they slept I placed a bag beside them on the ground or bench where they slept.
Later in 1989 my older brother got wind of my plight and came down to Florida to fetch me home. I declined. He was a gun nut and had quite a collection. He insisted on leaving me a .22 hand gun. I told him I was afraid I might kill someone with it, but I started carrying it on my patrols. Naturally I didn't tell him what I was out doing every night. I told no one.
In the comic “Batman-the Year One” by Frank Miller, Batman worked his way up from junkies, to pushers, to suppliers to finally the heads of organized crime. I planned to follow that pattern, but once I met the real life junkies, my heart went out to the poor wretches. There is no way I could bring myself to bring more terror and pain into their lives. I decided to try and help them instead, as much as I could.
Time passed and as I met homeless person after homeless person and listened to their stories I began to feel ashamed of myself for wanting to die when these people have been through 10 times the suffering I have endured and yet they are still fighting to live. Some of them even smiling and joking with me. Ironically my suicide mission now turned into my reason for wanting to live. Helping these people and others secretly gave me a sense of purpose that I had never had before.
In 1990 in June just before midnight I just left Williams Park and had made my way to Mirror Lake Park. I was about half way around the lake when I heard shouting and cursing in the distance. Hurrying toward the sounds I saw 3 punks shoving around an old homeless man who was cursing and swinging at them, while they laughed at him. I pulled down the mask and started running as fast as I could toward the scene. Still too far away I pulled out my revolver and fired it in the air 3 times. They heard that and saw me running toward them. They immediately ran away. I finally arrived where the old man was and was expecting a scene of gratitude, but I was wrong again. He was pretty drunk and thought I was one of them and started swinging at me and cursing. Luckily he was too drunk to hit the ground with his hat. I just walked away with him cursing me and daring me to come back. I pushed the mask back up and walked on. Realizing that the boys I scared off could call the police and report me and I did not even have a permit for the gun so I decided to toss it into Mirror Lake. I went out and bought a police style whistle that would do the same job and be legal. After all I wasn't planning on shooting anyone with it anyway.
I was dissatisfied with my masked crusader career. I enjoyed guarding the homeless and feeding them, but wished I could do more to actually fight crime. The only real criminals I ever saw were prostitutes walking the streets and I was occasionally approached by a drug dealer trying to sell me his poisons, so I thought maybe I should make them my focus.
Benjamin Franklin once said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The police are about law enforcement, so perhaps I could focus on crime prevention instead. I saw a lot of young people, teenagers just getting started in doing prostitution or drug dealing. I wondered if I could reach them, change their minds about what they were getting into?
I went to the library and looked up all the hard statistics about prostitution. How many contract HIV? I learned that the Tampa Bay area is number 3 in the country for cases of HIV. If a prostitute contracted it from a John she could conceivably pass it on to hundreds of Johns before she ever knew she had it. They in turn would take it home to their wives and girlfriends and pass it on to them and even worse, some of these unfortunately ladies would become pregnant and give birth to babies born with HIV. That is how that happens!
By doing my best to make prostitutes go straight I would be saving lives and that is what I got into this to do in the first place. I tried to talk to any street walker I encountered to pass on these facts, but few would talk to me. Most feared I was a cop or reporter, so I typed up a fact sheet on prostitution that contained all the info on how many contract HIV, how many are beaten up, robbed, raped and murdered each year? How few cases there are where someone was even arrested let alone convicted of harming a prostitute. Every dangerous psychotic from Jack the Ripper to today's Long Island Killer has considered prostitutes as fair game. I made copies of the fact sheet and folded it up and carried it with me. Now when I encountered a street walker I just handed them the folded up piece of paper and moved on. They always took it probably thinking it was my phone number.
I know the truth is a powerful weapon and my hope was that by reading the fact sheet it would plant a seed in their subconscious that would one day take root as the things I predicted on the fact sheet began to come to pass. If I could get one single young lady to stop doing this harmful practice it could not only save her life, but no telling how many others. I included drug rehab numbers on the sheet as most young prostitutes are in the profession to get money to supply their habits. In those days crack was the new drug threat on the streets.
Later I decided that it was more important to society to get them off of the streets immediately, so I began to call the police anonymously and report them instead. I still passed on the fact sheet to them first though, but my sympathies began to lie with their unintended victims, the newborns with HIV.
That brought me to taking a look at drug dealers. What could I do to stop drug dealing? As with prostitution I looked up all of the destructive facts of the drug culture. I typed them up as well, but had more luck talking to them one on one. I didn't bother with the old pros. No sense wasting my breath on the career criminals, but the young people, those just getting started. I saw young guys who didn't even shave yet out dealing drugs. Those are the ones I talked to. Most asked me if I was a cop or reporter and when I said no, they told me to mind my own business. I then threatened to call the police and report them of they refused to listen to me, so most relented and listened to my “lecture”. Did I reach anyone? I'll never know the answer to that as often it takes years for the truth to sprout in their minds, but I knew I had to try at least.
Then occasionally I would learn of the location of a crack house or meth house. What to do? Charge in like Batman and take them on? Ridiculous. In real life it only takes one bullet to kill you. Burn down the house? That would make me guilty of arson and besides often whole families lived there and certainly next door. Fires often spread. I didn't want to accidentally burn down the whole neighborhood. No, there was only one logical answer, call the police. The police are the ones with the guns, manpower and training to deal with such criminal activity, why not just alert them to the situation? Far less dramatic than crashing though a sky light to be sure, but far more effective and safer for everyone. The problem was the police always wanted to know your name. I did not want to give that out as I wanted my activities to remain secret, so I began using an alias. As a personal joke I used the name of little known or golden age superhero secret identities. I called in as Dan Garrett (The Blue Beetle) or John Reid (The Lone Ranger) or Lamont Cranston (The Shadow) or Richard Wentworth (The Spider). The list was nearly endless. Naturally the more famous heroes like Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne were out of the question.
Three years passed and I was totally hooked on my secret hobby. I truly never felt as alive as I
did when I was out on a nightly patrol, even when nothing occurred. Just being out there and knowing I was patrolling to keep others safe was exhilarating. Once I began doing this I could never again understand why people would prefer to stay home and watch others have fictional adventures on television when they could be out having their own real life adventure?
In September 1992 the unthinkable happened. I fell in love. I met someone at work who I immediately knew was the one I had waited for my whole life and it was mutual. We dated only 3 months when I moved in with her and we married a month later in March 1993. For the first time in years I was blissfully happy.
I did not tell her about my masked crusader secret career because I had decided to give it up, but we were only married 3 months when her mother called from Massachusetts and asked her to fly up to help her take care of her elderly aunts. She left and I stayed because I didn't want to quit my job. She wasn't gone a week until I found myself patrolling once again at night. I realized then that I was not ready to give it up, so when she returned I began to continue to patrol secretly.
I changed jobs in 1995 and went to work for a nursing agency who sent me out to work at various nursing homes and hospitals around the area, I worked mostly the 11-7am shift and my wife did not really keep close track of my schedule, so at least once a week I told her work called and I took the van out and was gone all night, but I was not doing nursing, I was patrolling the city.
Years later when the animated film “The Incredibles” came out there was a scene where Mr. Incredible and his superhero buddy Frozone, are supposed to be retired, but are secretly out patrolling behind their wives backs. This caused me to chuckle because that really happened to me in real life. Art imitates life I guess, although the producers I am sure had no idea that there was anyone out there really living that scene they created.
As I changed jobs I still found time to go on patrol. It varied as to how often, but it was whenever I could. I still never found the nerve to tell her about it. Nothing ever spectacular or dramatic ever occurred as Knight-Hood, so I never saw the point. It was kind of embarrassing to talk about and besides the only way to really keep something secret is to never tell a living soul. I often felt like one of those foreign spies who marry and have families but no one suspects they are a spy not even their wife.
The writing bug reared it's ugly head again and I started re-writing my original Knight-Hood
novel for fun. In 2008 I finished a version I was actually pleased with.
I kept pushing my planned retirement up. I thought I would stop at age 40, then 45, then 50 and then came 55 and I said to myself “Ok that's it. You're getting too old to be doing this.”
In 2005 I retired from nursing and my wife and I went to work in housekeeping at a local Mall and worked in the food court cleaning off tables. Then that year my car gave up the ghost and I could neither afford to fix it nor buy a new one, so we began taking the bus to work. Unfortunately in 2006 the boss decided to change our shifts to the evening shift and we did not get off work until 9:30pm, an hour after the last bus home left.
We tried taking cabs but it was just too expensive. I asked my wife to just resign and stay home and I would walk home every night, which took two hours, but I began using that time as my patrol time. Anytime I found myself out alone was my patrol time. Even if I was just going to the store and back or the post office I made sure I always carried my mask with me, because you never know when trouble will pop up.
In 2008 the company I worked for lost their bid on the contract at the Mall to another group and suddenly I found myself unemployed. I went out each day looking for work and used that as my patrol time.
In January of 2010 I found another job in housekeeping on day shift, but I had to be there on Sunday's at 6:30am and there were no buses, so I had to leave home at 4am on foot. So I ended up patrolling only once a week.
That was in 2010 and then the unthinkable happened once again. I was watching the nightly news on TV and they did a story about a young man in Seattle who called himself Phoenix Jones and was going around fighting crime in costume! I couldn't believe it! I always thought I was the only one in the world who tried to make comic book heroes a reality, but now here was this kindred spirit. Then it occurred to me that if he is doing it, is there anyone else out there doing it too? I googled “Real Life Superheroes” and was shocked to the core to discover that not only was I not the only one doing this, I wasn't even the first!
I discovered two websites, reallifesuperheroes.com which showed me photos and bios of many of the more famous real life superheroes and another site which was a forum that they all met on and talked. As it turned out this was a phenomenon that began in the late 90's and had spread all over the world. I lurked there for a time just reading the posts and not sure if I should join or not?
I noticed that one major difference between my method of doing this and the modern rlsh was our M.O. While I worked in complete secrecy to avoid both police harassment and safety from criminals as well, these young people were putting on elaborate costumes and walking the streets in plain sight, something I always thought impossible. I was certain that if I tried that in 89 I would be arrested and tossed into an asylum immediately, but here they were, proving me wrong, so their M.O. Is like a cop on the beat using the uniform to deter crime, while I have always operated like an undercover cop, using disguise to blend in and remain invisible.
I decided to join the forum. Once on the site I met and conversed with many RLSH's from around the world and I became a sort of adviser to some of the younger ones just getting started.
I joined hoping to meet like minded individuals, but I could not have been more mistaken. Interestingly even though every one of us had the same idea of making comic book heroes a reality we could not have been more different and I don't just mean myself and them but each and everyone of them seemed to have a different idea about what a hero is? How to go about being a RLSH? What weapons should be carried? Etc.
I stayed on the site for a few months, but began to feel more like a referee trying to stop all of the fighting and name calling. I suppose to even consider doing this sort of work one needs a certain amount of ego and thus disagreements and out and out fights were bound to happen. The fighting and arguing got so ugly I decided to wash my hands of it and quit going.
I began telling my wife about the real life superhero movement and she replied, “I'm surprised you never tried that yourself.” I replied, “Well actually...” and I finally told her about being Knight-Hood. Not sure how to take it at first, she began calling me Don Quixote for a time, but as time passed she became very supportive and even began helping me make the sandwiches I would pass out at Williams Park on my monthly homeless outreach.
In 2011, I decided to try things their way just once because it occurred to me that by operating in the open they have inspired a world wide movement and by my operating covertly I had not inspired anyone else to do this nor even considered that a possibility.
I contacted Superhero and Artisteroi from Team Justice located in Clearwater, Fl. Not 20 miles from St. Petersburg and told them I wanted to make a video to place on You Tube as many of the modern RLSH's seem to do, and they agreed to meet with me in downtown St. Pete at a place called
Baywalk movie theater. We met and I found them very pleasant and personable. My idea for the video was to try and launch a new holiday on October 30th the night before Halloween. I called it “Superhero Day” and was hoping to persuade the public to put on their costumes and go door to door and collect food for the homeless and donate it to their local food banks and homeless shelters. Superhero even appeared in it at the end with me. Artisteroi posted it on You Tube and set up a Facebook page about it for me. You can view the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42RIQZ8f ... e=youtu.be
Despite all my efforts to promote Superhero day, I could not get the idea to catch on. I tried contacting the Mayor of St. Petersburg, but his secretary wrote back and informed me that they liked the idea but could not endorse it publicly. I tried putting up posters about it, stuffing some under windshield wipers on cars, passing out posters to kids getting out of school, and posting my video on the FB page of every TV news station and radio station in the county. I only received 2 inquiries. First a reporter contacted me via my email and stated he would do an article about it for the St. Petersburg Times, but only if I would come to his office and reveal my real identity. I declined. Next I was contacted by a reporter from Channel 8 news who said to call her. I went to a pay phone and told her my story and my campaign to help the homeless, but I never heard from her again.
While on reallifesuperheroes.org I met a fellow writer named Blackmage who invited me to join his website called Visual Adjectives for beginning writers and artists. I joined as Knight-Hood because that was how he met me and I could not now join under my real name without giving away my secret identity.
While there I decided to post my old Knight-Rider novel about the fictional character I had created at age 12. I re-named him Knight-Hood as well and I posted it in segments. It was so well received that they offered to publish it. I had no idea that they even published books when I posted it but I eagerly agreed. “The Adventures of Knight-Hood” vol 1 by John Reid (I used the Lone Ranger's real name as my pen name) came out on Kindle in 2012 and in paperback in 2013. You can still find it for sale on amazon.com. One side advantage of using my image and name as a fictional character was that it was now copyrighted and no one else could use it.
In 2012 I changed my shift at work to 11-7:30am. On Sunday nights I still had to walk to work only now it was from 7pm-10pm. That became my patrol time and still is at present.
In 2013 I started a Facebook page as John Reid, which is the secret identity of the fictional Lone Ranger as I mentioned, and I began chronicling my activities as the real life Knight-Hood in a blog I called “Knight-Hood's Journal”. The main reason I began doing this was to hopefully inspire others to take up the cause themselves, and so here we are. If you are looking for a story that involves two-fisted action adventure, then read my fictional tale, but in real life, forget about it. Real life patrolling is similar to being a real life cop on the beat. 95% of the time nothing ever happens. You just walk around. This is why the TV series “Cops” has to have multiple crews all around the nation filming their patrols because it takes that many to gather enough scenes for a one hour show.
And so here it is now 2017 and I am still at it at age 62.
Say howdy to the group and tell a little about yourself. Get to know folks and make lasting friendships.
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Welcome to the Lab Kemo-Sabe. We are going to be a lively group once we are up and running. Lots to do and far too few willing to put in the work to get it done. At your age you are just getting started good I'm 67 be 68 end of next month. If you need help with icons or whatever else let me know.
This looks like a job for Superman !! Up! Up! and away!!!