The History of the Great Chicago Anthrax Scare Hash & Santa Hat Run
By It’s Too Soft / Fuji, Chicago’s Original Hazmat Hare
Episode I: The Beginning – Just Santa Hats & Colder Than Hell – Sunday December 22, 2002
In 2002 I started my hashing career in Chicago with the frigid death march better known as the “St Valentines Day Massacre” hash out of Clark’s in Chicago’s historic Lincoln Park neighborhood where I live. My second hash wasn’t until April sometime at a Waukesha Full Moon in Bayview as I was working in Wisconsin at the time so was there on weeknights, thus starting my “dual citizenship” as both a Chicago and Waukesha hasher which continues to this day.
One time at the Chicago Fall Mismanagement band camp I do recall asking why Chicago being from a much larger city only has one major event each year (PoP) while Waukesha had two (Red Dress & Pearl Harbor). There was some discussion about maybe doing a “Great Chicago Fire” event or something like that but generally enthusiasm was limited so the it went no further. However in hindsight I believe I had tempted the fickle finger of fate that day.
Fast forward to Sunday, December 22 2002, a brutally cold and windy day in Chicago. I picked the Hidden Shamrock on Halsted because the bar is close to home and the manager, Kathy was a friend of mine so we got great pitcher specials for the hash despite being in a very expensive bar and neighborhood. Having plenty of flour thanks to 25lb bags for $3.57 from Sam’s Club I hurried to throw down extra large marks so they wouldn’t blow away in the gale force winds that day.
A few hardy souls gathered for the First Annual Santa Hat Hash, I think ambient temperature was like 20 degrees and probably single digits if you took into account the wind chill, and about thirty minutes late (I went out the night before, big surprise) the pack was soon off but daylight was rapidly failing. The trail zig-zagged roughly North and East a bit before heading into the and by the Zoo and Conservatory, then back into the neighborhood. A check at Lincoln, Halsted and Webster went East to the beer stop but 2/3 of the pack just declared f*ck it and ran straight up Halsted back to The Rock (our local slang term for the starting and on-in bar, the Hidden Shamrock) so only a half dozen made it to the beer check which was on my friend Jennifer’s rooftop deck at Cleveland & Fullerton.
Back at the bar the pack’s mood improved as the beers flowed freely. Flounder from Waukesha came in early to watch the English soccer matches so was in rare form by the time and the highlight of the night was when Waukesha visitor HO Gauge (Just Susan at the time) was photographed exiting the Men’s room followed by Mudsucker (see pic above). I only took three pictures that night on my crappy HP digital camera as there was no Fujirazzi back then. Eventually everyone left in good holiday spirits with no idea that one of the greatest hash anthrax scare catastrophes was yet to come.
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Episode II: The Day We Will Never Forget – Tuesday, December 24, 2002
It was Tuesday, Christmas Eve two days after the Santa Hat run and I was at Chicago O’Hare airport waiting to board a flight back home to Philadelphia to spend Christmas with my family when IT HAPPENED.
A park worker in Lincoln Park by the Zoo came across my marks from the hash three days earlier and called the Chicago Police who promptly alerted the Chicago Fire Department who responded and tested the flour marks with their new hazardous material testing equipment and got a false positive reading for “anthrax-like substances” and promptly declared a Level 3 Hazmat Situation, closed down a five block area of Lincoln Park, sent all the workers at the Zoo and Conservatory home and scrambled pretty much every available first-responder on the North Side.
One of our hashers who worked for a local newspaper noticed that the incident occurred near where we had hashed the previous Sunday and contacted our GM at the time, Mudsucker who contacted me and Virtually Hung who went to the scene to talk with Fire officials. Eventually one of the Fire Lieutenants on the scene reached me on my cell and they sent a squad car out to the B Terminal of Chicago O’Hare Airport and escorted me to O’Hare Fire Station #3 where I got to speak live to the Fire Department officials on the scene and explain where I left my flour marks.
At the end of the day it all ended well. The police and fire personnel at O’Hare were extremely cool and professional when I explained the flour and the hash. The city ended up viewing the whole incident as a good “training exercise” and never came after the hash for the costs of the incident. Apparently their equipment was new and they hadn’t finished calibrating it yet, not to mention we were next to the Zoo with all kinds of naturally occurring trigger substances and we learned to make sure we had good contacts with local law enforcement and to this day the number one charity supported by the Chicago Hash is that of the Chicago Police Department.
The picture to the left is of me the day of the Great Chicago Anthrax Scare at O’Hare Fire Station #3 after I’d explained to the firefighters about the hash and the incident was over. They were very cool and even allowed me to get a picture of me next to one of the largest pumper fire engines I had ever seen (I suppose they need to be ready in case a 747 goes down!) to prove I was actually there! Note the date stamp in the lower left corner “02 12 24”. A date that will live in hash infamy.
Links to News Reports of Santa Hat Run Hash Marks Mistaken for Hazardous Substance in Lincoln Park
Chicago Tribune Articles:
12/24 Edition – “Suspicious powder deemed harmless”
12/25 Edition – “False alarm unnerves Lincoln Park”
Chicago Sun Times Articles:
12/24 Edition – “’Suspicious’ powder just trail marker”
12/25 Edition – “How I helped solve zoo mystery”
WBBM Newsradio 780 Chicago Coverage:
12/24 Edition – “SUSPICIOUS POWDER CLOSES PORTION OF LINCOLN PARK NEIGHBORHOOD”
12/25 Edition – “Chicago Police Find Flour Is Not Anthrax”
Episode III: 2nd Anthrax, Sunday December 21, 2003
This was the only Anthrax Run not to start from the Hidden Shamrock as it was A-A from My Bar (now closed) at Ashland and Addison in Roscoe Village. We got great pitcher specials there because it was the sister bar to The Union which is owned by our friend TJ. Neither the weather (hazy overcast and not really all that cold) nor the trail were especially memorable, a long east-west horseshoe which zig-zagged east to Wrigley Field along the Roscoe-Addison corridor and back West mostly along Waveland-Grace.
We probably had about two dozen hashers and everyone wore Santa hats on the trail and at the on-in and pretty much owned the bar and took over the backroom. Lots of the old school crowd were there and many beers were consumed and the pack left that night in good spirits.
Episode IV: Back To The ROCK & Hazmat Suit Fashion Show
3rd Anthrax, Sunday, December 19, 2004
After our foray into Roscoe Village, in 2004 Anthrax returned to its spiritual home, the Hidden Shamrock on Halsted. It was a pretty friggin cold day, about 16 degrees but clear and with just a touch of residual snow on the ground. What made it unique is Milk My Yak got a few dozen white disposable coveralls from work and brought them to the hash. By now people were starting to have fun with the concept and we had like three dozen turn out on a bitter day.
As per the “return to tradition” theme, the trail reprised the original catastrophe but with better weather, way more daylight and a much bigger pack as it wound a bit north at first then headed straight for the park, with a check at the infamous Diversey/Sheridan/Stockton/Lincoln Park West intersection and the went South through the Zoo and the Zoolights festival, then back West with a beer/hot chocolate stop at Fuji’s Party Central Classic (way too small of a space for that many people!!) and then back to The Rock for circle and many holiday beers.
Episode V: The Party Grows – 4th Anthrax, Sunday December 18, 2005
Well now people are really starting to get into this as a sunny and relatively mild (for Chicago December) day was bestowed upon us as this time nearly four dozen gathered at the Rock for what is fast becoming a and annual Chicago Holiday tradition. Once again Yak scored us some ersatz hazmat suits, the pack got to run in the park and through the Zoolights Festival, and ended up back at The Rock for the traditional holiday blizzard of down-downs.
Both Anthrax and Chinese New Year were fast gaining momentum towards becoming big CH3 theme hashes Memorial Day also starting to gather steam, the Chicago hash landscape was rapidly evolving away from everything else is regular hashes except for PoP we had seen the last few years, a change for the better! 4th Anthrax was quite the good party but we had no idea what was coming and that soon Anthrax would mutate into a completely different organism!!
Episode VI: 5th Anthrax Joins #1469 To Become Chicago’s 2nd “Major”
Saturday, December 16 2006
Fast forward to Summer 2006, Chicago MisManageMent had a big problem, 5th Anthrax and Chicago 1469 were looking like they were gonna be on consecutive weekends and no-one wanted to have two event hashes back to back. We were saved by the bell because if we counted PoP’s hangover hash then 1469 moved onto the same weekend as Anthrax and if we moved both from Sunday to Saturday we could have big event and visitors from other area hashes could join us and that is exactly what happened.
Pre-lube party at The Union where cheep beer and a flock of already heavily pre-lubed Big Humpers made the preparty a blowout of epic proportions and foreshadowing the carnage to come. This year we started from The Rock as per tradition but rented out the party room at Durkin’s as we expected way more than we thought we could jam into The Rock and boy we were right as we more than doubled the event to about 90 for the main event with our traditional trail through the Lincoln Park and the Zoo and a beer stop with a full keg at Batteries’ high rise party room on Clark Street and a second beer stop on the brand new Party Central SkyDeck.
Afterwards everyone poured back to Durkin’s party room where we had four hours of open bar waiting for the thirsty pack along with food catered from Chicago classic, Brown’s Chicken & Pasta. I won’t begin to describe all the down-downs but suffice to say this was Anthrax’s coming out party going from a big local deal to a regional major event as for some reason this thing drew more visitors than I can ever remember coming in for PoP and due to some planning issues with the latter had now a shot at becoming the highlight of the Chicago Hash calendar. After our party at Durkins a bunch of die-hards headed out to Ivy on Clark in Wrigleyville to dance the night away in truly silly form. We didn’t really plan a hangover hash but designated Second City’s Annual Christmas hash on Sunday as the hangover, a bit late for the visitors but some hungover CH3 hashers made it I hear.
Preparty @ The Union http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=kuxb1a3.c9pjqikj&x=0&y=4on2hz
5th Anthrax @ The Rock & Durkin’s http://www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=kuxb1a3.7gnzdpmr&x=0&y=-bnfvla
Episode VII: The Great Blizzard of 2007 6th Anthrax, Saturday December 15 2007
Well now the word was starting to get out and efforts to roadtrip to other Midwest hashes’ major events were really starting to get us on the radar screen as we blew the doors off with total attendance at around 114 which makes it the largest Chicago area hash I can recall but what really made it memorable was THE BLIZZARD.
But before I start with Anthrax we did another pre-lube where we did a five bar holiday pub crawl which suffice to say kicked off the weekend of festivities with authority starting at Wrightwood Tap.
Back to Anthrax, it wasn’t really that cold or windy and we had a slew of hares and multiple beer stops planned again but what we didn’t count on is it started to snow just as we circled up by the elementary school near The Rock, well the snow continued to fall and at the rate of nearly an inch an hour pretty much obliterated the hares’ trail in effect making it a live hare run with a pack of 100!!! One of our planned shot stops by the Lincoln Park Zoo was also visited by a wedding party trolley and the participants were highly amused by the hash. The pack then proceeded to invade Party Central where the keg hoist served its duty getting a keg to the SkyDeck and then back to the party room at Redmond’s where we had enough beer to kill a small elephant and food catered in from a Thai restaurant around the corner. Plenty of down downs for the hares and everyone and generally a great time was had by all.
But this time the story didn’t end there where after the fun we had with a visitor-friendly hangover hash earlier that July on Sunday we decided to do it again, this time ending back at The Rock where Anthrax used to run. A great time was had by all and our friends from Big Hump left in great spirits, so good that they continued the party on the Megabus and what ensued became the legendary “MEGABUS OF SHAME” incident! I can’t do that story justice except to say that several were tossed off the Megabus by local law enforcement in downstate Illinois and had to bum a ride back home from relatives! Check out Do My Butt’s Album for the great story.
Prelube Pub Crawl – www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=kuxb1a3.5oyli6cn&x=0&y=-r4f2a6
6th Anthrax @ The Rock & Redmond’s – www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=kuxb1a3.6ophle1z&x=0&y=-fhu1kn
Hangover Hash @ The Rock – www.kodakgallery.com/I.jsp?c=kuxb1a3.22lngck7&x=0&y=pr7qg7
Do My Butt’s Megabus of Shame – Story and link to pix at http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/big-hump/message/1698
Episode VIII: 7th Anthrax @ The Beaumont, Saturday December 20 2008
This story has yet to be written, hopefully with your help but in the spirit of bringing “Change You Can Believe In” we have a kickass new venue – which also happens to be one of our favorite Lincoln Park hash bars, but now instead of taking over the double-wide front bar we have rented out the big backroom which normally is only used as a late night nightclub. Look out cuz this place has one of those formidable 5am licenses and the hotties start streaming in around midnight.
We have some really great food lined up from a local favorite Robinson’s who is known for great BBQ ribs, chicken etc. Pre-lube will be another pub crawl and the hangover hash will once again be in Lincoln Park too and visitor friendly so look out for another Megabus of Shame. What will you be spending your Monday, December 23 denying occurred at 7th Anthrax? Register today and find out!!!
Party on on to 7th Anthrax!