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Aug
17
2010

WARNING: may incite SWAT teams

We love hearing our customers' stories--especially when it's a triumphant (and usually evil) tale involving an Annoy-a-tron. Schadenfreude never gets old.

But the email below from Christina in Atlanta is a little different, and perhaps calls for a warning label on something we wouldn't expect to be a problem.


Christina and her dangerous boyfriend with his Samurai Sword Handle Umbrella.

Dear ThinkGeek,

Three months ago, I bought a product from the ThinkGeek website as a present to my boyfriend--the Samurai Sword Handle Umbrella.

Fast forward to a week ago. Last Friday, my boyfriend wore the umbrella on his back when he came to my dorm room. As we were cleaning my room, we noticed some cop cars outside of the building, but since it was Atlanta, I didn't think too much of it.

About an hour later, my boyfriend received a call from one of his friends and he left my dorm without the umbrella. Five minutes later, he called and said the police told him that they were evacuating the building. He suggested to me that it might be advisable to leave, too, so I left my room and I saw at least three police officers as I passed through the lobby.

Outside of the building I saw about two dozen people near the entrance, and I was about to ask about the situation when I was waved inside by one of the police officers.

The police officer asked, "Did you escort anyone into the building?" As some of these officers had military issued riffles, I was pretty nervous. I replied, "Yes, one person. My boyfriend." The officer asked me if he left the building, to which I replied he did. The officers didn't believe me, and the one officer that I was talking to stated, "We have officers covering all of the entrances, exits, and staircases, and no one has left the building." Nevertheless, having seen him go down a staircase, I maintained my position that he did leave the building.

The officer then asked me to describe him, so I proceeded to describe his hair color, height, eye color, and build. The officer interrupted, "Did this person have a weapon?" Through my nervousness I perceived what the situation was about.

I replied, "He had an umbrella that looked like a weapon. It looks like a samurai sword."

The officers looked at each other. One of them said, "An umbrella?" to which I replied affirmatively. I then helpfully volunteered, "I can call him to come right back over."

The conversation went like this:

Boyfriend: "Hello, what's up?"
Me: "Please come over right away. The police need you here."
Boyfriend: "They do? Okay, I'll come over. What's going on?"
Me: "Please bring your umbrella with you."
Boyfriend: "My umbrella? This is about my umbrella?!"
Me: "Your umbrella. Yes, your umbrella."
Boyfriend: "Okay, I'll come over in a minute. But the umbrella isn't with me. It's in your room."
Me: "Just come over as soon as possible."

After I hung up, the officer told me to sit down, and I was even more nervous when the officer with the big gun was told to watch me.

When my boyfriend arrived, the officer questioned him about the umbrella. He was then told to sit in the chair across from me, and another officer with a big gun was told to stand over my boyfriend.

Two police officers escorted my hall director up the stairs to retrieve the "artifact in question."

After a couple more minutes they came back down. The officer was carrying the umbrella. He then unsheathed the "artifact in question" and popped it open. Another officer said, "We're done here." All of the officers then streamed out of the building. In all, there were about a dozen officers, and four with rifles.

Though we are now prohibited from carrying it on our campus, I would like ThinkGeek to know that we enjoy the umbrella. However, a SWAT team summoning wasn't on the product information page.


Thanks for the email, Christina, and we hope you guys don't get soaked the next time it rains cats and ninjas on campus!


UPDATE 8/18 4:00pm:

After posting Christina's email on August 17, we heard that there was an actual samurai sword attack at Georgia Tech in February 2010 some 7 or 8 months before Christina had a SWAT team descend upon her dorm.

And now, a day after this blog post, a few comment threads on our blog and around the internet have taken the story in several directions. Some find it just funny, or deplore the Atlanta police's reaction. Others say no one has any business carrying around an item that looks like a weapon, novelty umbrella or not.

While we recognize that Christina's incident was probably colored by the earlier February attack--explaining the presence of the SWAT team--we understand the spirit in which she (and we) wield the Samurai Sword Umbrella: it's something like covert, socially-appropriate LARPing, and with a clever nod to the pop culture notion of samurai. (We also carry a Broadsword Umbrella should you prefer a knightly, D&D look.)

It goes without saying that we don't condone samurai sword attacks, or unnecessarily causing a ruckus on your college campus, but we do hope that the Samurai Sword Umbrella Incident doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with an umbrella.

And we'd like to warn all the replicants out there to be ready for a Voight-Kampff test should you be caught with our Blade Runner Umbrella.

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Comments

meaningless icon! Was the campus in question Georgia Tech?
BlueIntegral said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! BlueIntegral: Not sure which school in Georgia Christina attends, but her umbrella incident is completely unrelated to this crazy story: http://www.wsbtv.com/news/22465319/detail.html
CarrieGouldin said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! A little touchy, aren't they? Sheesh!
mrsscienceteacher said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! *facepalm*
Wickedoll said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! I bought one and had it shipped to my office in NYC. As I was wearing it out, the security guards, who know me well as I talk with them often, got a little nervous and asked about the weapon. Not really thinking, I carelessly shrug and tell them it is an umbrella. After they enjoy playing with my umbrella in the empty lobby, one of them helpfully suggests I don't wear it outside the building and instead carry it so it looks like the umbrella it is. I love the umbrella, but I am very careful now wielding it on the streets of NYC.
niaskywalk said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Was the campus in question Georgia Tech?
BlueIntegral said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Similar things have happened at my school, the University of Texas at San Antonio. I work for the police department there, and we had reports of an "individual with a possible samurai sword". When I heard about it later, I just went "it was just an umbrella, wasn't it?". They've been banned from our school now because some people (the reporting party, in this case) take things way too seriously...I'd advise not wearing this product on any school property, and might want to reconsider even carrying it there. (which sucks, because I want one so badly)
Xynphos said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! There was an incident like this down at a college in Las Cruces, NM but the young man actually had a Real samurai sword and it didn't end well. :( I think that since then a major warning may have been sent out to all colleges to be warned of swords :P The funny part is that officers in college ROTC programs can wear their swords, I personally think they're just hating on anyone who might possibly even remotely be Ninja
chibimimili said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Its a huge issue. There are reasons why toys that look like guns are painted safety orange. I truly love this umbrella but it does raise a number of security issues when in public.
zzzwofo said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! I wear my umbrella/sword over my shoulder all the time on my campus (Florida State). I have never had more than a inquisitive inquiry made about it. I don't believe I have ever run into a police officer while carrying it though.
mustangcorey said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Blind paranoia shouldn't be excused as "safety" or "security". Some idiot getting nervous is no excuse to ban an umbrella...
Merennulli said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! The police were much more forgiving when I forgot that I had my my titanium spork with me when I was going through security at the county courthouse a few months ago. Though they did have to discuss it before letting me through, all they did was ask me to keep it in my pocket while I was on the premises. :D
talemyn said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! That's funny. We use swords all the time running around with cinematography class and security never says anything about it.
Kimberlina said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! I attended Florida State (just graduated, WOOHOO!) and I think their police force is a joke, which is probably why you've never had a problem! But ironically, I've never seen the umbrella on campus!
FishRockette said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Some people have a right to be jumpy about things. Other people are just meddling scaredy cats who want to report anything that looks remotely like a weapon.
technoindigo said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Made my day! At least they didn't confiscate it.
CoyoteOmega said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! What a shame! That umbrella is a great idea! Maybe you should develop a lightsaber umbrella. The SWAT team would be less likely to respond to a report of a renegade Jedi on campus...
seabeegirl68 said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! There was an incident like this down at a college in Las Cruces, NM but the young man actually had a Real samurai sword and it didn't end well. :( I think that since then a major warning may have been sent out to all colleges to be warned of swords :P The funny part is that officers in college ROTC programs can wear their swords, I personally think they're just hating on anyone who might possibly even remotely be Ninja
chibimimili said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Pro tip# don't wear it on your back in a manner specifically designed to make it look like a weapon.
Impyp said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! I have the broad sword and my friend has the samurai one, and we were fighting in the rain and 2 campus security guards started rooting and we had a huge crowd!
Tsar Abel said this 1441 days ago.
meaningless icon! Maybe you guys should sell the umbrella with a cloth cover like martial arts practitioners put their swords/bokken in to carry them around. Its just a cloth tube with a tie on the top. It breaks the profile of the object because its floppy fabric and looks innocuous. Also may stop drips :)
mhackling said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! Well...I know of at least two incidents where some crazy person took a sword in a local business and killed someone and hurt at least a handful of people. I'm sure there is something on youtube about it...think about it...if you did have a sharp sword and walked in a supermarket and attacked...it's a lot quieter than gun shots!!!!
freddo22 said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! I'm sorry, but this is just another case of people taking things too far. It's my personal theory that the reason crime rates are so high now is because the average citizen isn't armed to the teeth. Most criminals are cowards. Who wants to do break in or rob or try to hurt someone in a place where they might be out-gunned? Fear breeds respect. Also, this just shows that common sense is a rare commodity in the world.
Boo'ika said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! Perhaps, the umbrella should come in a rainbow of colors. Yellow umbrella swords should not scare people :)
KentuckyVille said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! Whether it was GT or GSU, the fact that six months ago someone was seriously injured on the Georgia Tech campus by a samurai sword wielded by Kshitij Shrotri might have had something to do with this response. IMHO, given the context, it was pretty dumb to be carrying an umbrella disguised as a weapon around campus.
deeddawg said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! If they get this uptight over an umbrella what are they going to do to that group of LARPers over in the grass by the dorm?
pecosdave said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! It makes for an interesting story to tell the grandkids one day. In the meantime, at least they didn't confiscate it. :) Also, I agree with the lightsaber umbrella suggestion. :)
shortstackdotnet said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! I remember once when I was at UCLA and someone carried a samuari sword and no one got hurt. Personal Anecdotes can prove anything, huh? Too bad; America has really become land of the scared ever since 2001 and the hyper-publicizing of the (extremely rare) campus MDKs. IIRC, no one got so panicky over fluff after UT's sniper attacks in '66.
QuietCricket said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! Never had a Problem with a real sword.... brought in two real Katanas at Holloween, since I was dressed as a Samuri though, people probabaly thought they were fake, when my Boss saw them, he asked me if they were real... I just grinned, and pulled one out just a little.... he just asked me to not go into a Diabetic Fit and start slashing people.... and that was all...
Geek Overlord said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! A kid was actually hurt with a samurai sword at my university. That is, one kid had bought one and showed it off to other kids at his dorm, and this one guy was so excited he grabbed the sword by the blade. He was bleeding like a stuck pig, but luckily one of the nursing students living in the dorm had a decent first aid kit and bandaged him up properly so no emergency room visit was needed and the police never got involved. I think the kid with the sword got a talking-to about unsheathing the sword in the dorm, and it was suggested he take it home and leave it there.
SuperMarina said this 1440 days ago.
meaningless icon! If I had bought this for my girlfriend, there would've been two incidents within days at the UGA housing.
twilliams1755 said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! I've actually carried a European bastard sword across my back at my college several days when I was doing some touch up work on it for a friend. The sword in question was fully functional except for having all the edges and the tip removed, as it was meant for stagework and choreography. It was tied in such a manner that it couldn't be drawn, not that I could draw it from my back anyway. Only three or so people ever asked about it, all other students, and all accepted my answers. None of my teachers mentioned it, nor did the campus police station which I walked past several times every day bring it up. Granted, I am the president of the Fencing club, and often carry a foil and saber or two with me, but still, I have to say I'm very proud of my campus for not being completely paranoid.
Komaru said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! Honestly, I believe in our right to own and carry weapons. There's certainly places you shouldn't be doing so openly, but if someone is acting inappropriately with it a more measured response is appropriate. A single squad car with two officers would have been a sufficient response. Excessive police response can be just as dangerous because of the tension it creates.
DigitalTrickster said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! I hope they feel like as big of idiots as they are. I have to look into buying this umbrella for my husband.
mrsmarkdave said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! While I agree that maybe he should have thought twice about carrying the umbrella on his back in a semi-swordsman style, the reaction was still a bit over-the-top, prior incident or not. Glad to hear no one got hurt/arrested/fined/confiscated over it too, cuz i'd hate to buy something like that only to have the police take it for something silly like that. I also had a similar "oops I forgot I had that" moment a few years ago. I was flying north with my family, and was using an old beat-up backpack I'd had for years as my carry-on. As we were passing through security, I got selected for a random (or so I thought) manual sweep and bag-check. They run the wand over me with no incident, but as they go through my bag they ask me about something I'd totally forgotten was in there. A couple years ago I was working at a shooting range, and as a sort of "souvenir" we all took an unfired .22 shell (with powder removed), and I had left it in the bag. Naturally they had a few choice questions and instructions to me about the importance of not carrying live rounds onto an airplane, but thankfully they just took it and let me be. Twas a fun experience :)
InsaneAg04 said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! Myself and a classmate got a set of these swords last fall. We must have worn them to school for about five months of the rainy season and the only attention we got was from the cute Japanese students. Our teachers thought it was a hoot, but would not allow any dulling inside the building. I'm glad we are still laid back enough in Canada to take a joke.
4r4nd0mninj4 said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! While I agree with most people here that's it's sad and an overreaction, I think it's one of the good kinds. What would you do ? If you thought, Honestly Thought you saw someone with a weapon, would you call the cops, or just brush it off ? I'd rather be wrong a hundred times, than not say anything once and have someone bad happen..
Ryoken said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! I think one should be a bit careful when carrying around something that looks like a weapon, but thats just because there are a lot of very stupid people out there who freak out about every little thing! Also, I think the lightsaber unbrella is an awesome idea!!!!!
Wolfknight said this 1432 days ago.
meaningless icon! I work in Japan and carried both the katana and tanto umbrella at different times onto the Air Force base. Only a few base exchange clerks asked about them, no security personnel ever asked me about them.
Rocket333 said this 1431 days ago.
meaningless icon! This is why I'm glad to attend a University in a "blue" state that has its own gun safe on campus. Plenty of forward thinking but not enough that they're militant about jack booted mall ninjas.
darkknight9 said this 1431 days ago.
meaningless icon! Another case of giving up "freedoms" for the illusion of security. /sigh
Trean said this 1426 days ago.
meaningless icon! That could be a threat deal for Samurai Sword to actual to be a umbrella, and accident pop it indoor... BAD LUCK! Although Great idea to Samurai sword umbrella ninja with thunderstorm and stay dry!
FutureJJGreen said this 1417 days ago.

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