Weird Pittsburgh: An app that identifies local stank, a rooster on the loose in the Hill, and a clown hunt in State College | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Weird Pittsburgh: An app that identifies local stank, a rooster on the loose in the Hill, and a clown hunt in State College 

No clown was arrested or even confronted by police

Screencap from

Screencap from

As previously reported in this column, the national phenomenon of clown scares has come to Pennsylvania. In most instances, someone in clown garb reportedly appears briefly in public, causing alarm before vanishing. Recently, an off-duty New Castle police officer said two men dressed as clowns ran toward his car as he was driving, causing him to swerve, reports the New Castle News. Witness Amanda Grew told WPXI she saw “someone dressed in a jumpsuit and a clown face” chase a group of girls in Russellton. A cadre of police cars arrived and Grew armed herself with a knife. WPXI also reports that Beaver Falls residents spotted a passenger in a clown mask banging on a car window and an Ellwood City man out for a walk said he heard a “jingling noise” and turned around to face a clown. The costumed jester reportedly followed him until a car arrived to pick up the clown. Shippensburg University police said in a news release that they investigated two clown sightings in a week. News of a clown on campus spread across Penn State. The Daily Collegian reports that students gathered for a “clown hunt,” cumulating in a crowd in front of the Old Main building chanting, “Fuck that clown!” (a phrase freshman Michael Willis wrote on his bare chest). No clown was arrested or even confronted by police in any of these cases. Clown costumes have been linked to serious crimes, including a fatal stabbing over a neighborhood dispute in Reading committed by a man wearing a clown mask from the Purge movies. However, The Washington Post reports that most reports have been pranks, attempts at viral self-promotion or baseless rumors that create “a time-consuming chore for police, who are not amused.”

Walking down a sidewalk in Pittsburgh and wondering whether there is an industrial garbage incinerator nearby or it’s just your sensitive nose? Turns out there’s an app for that! Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab has released Smell PGH for iOS and Android. The app allows Pittsburghers to report unsettling scents, rate them on a scale from 1 to 5 in terms of intensity, describe “the smell or source of the odor” (the app suggests “industrial,” “woodsmoke” and “rotting eggs,” but users can write their own comparison), and note any physical “symptoms linked to the odor.” By tracking GPS coordinates of reports, Smell PGH creates an olfactory map of the city, with emblems placed in areas where gnarly odors have been detected. Project director Beatrice Dias told the online magazine The Glassblock that the app highlights Pittsburgh’s issues with air quality and the effect of polluters on their vicinities. Also, Dias says, “It can kind of validate what you’re sensing and make you feel less isolated.”

Apparently, the most divisive issue in the Hill District right now is Henry Gaston’s rooster. The bird, with fiery red feathers, has escaped Gaston’s backyard and roams across the Pittsburgh neighborhood. “I love him,” said Dallas Duffy, who was identified on WTAE’s newscast with the words “Likes the Rooster” beneath her name. “I feed him all the time, and the little kids from the day care feed him. They love him.” However, residents’ affection for and feeding of the bird has had natural consequences. “He’s on my property,” said Othella Frazier (“Does Not Love the Rooster”). “He comes up and does his business on my property.” Complaints over waste and noise led animal-control officers to cite Gaston and order him to get rid of the rooster in 30 days, but neither he nor they have been able to catch the bird.

A report from the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s office found that, over the course of a year, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services paid $693,000 in benefits to people who were dead. The report concluded that 2,300 deceased holders of Electronic Benefits Transfer cards received the funds from July 2013 to June 2014. The Associated Press reports that, after the DHS became aware of the disbursements to the dead, the agency changed its policy so that caseworkers take “immediate” action once notified of a passing (which apparently used to be something that could wait).

A resident of Halifax Township, Dauphin County, caught a strange woman standing on her back porch “naked from the waist down holding a hunting rifle,” according to a police report. Once spotted, 33-year-old Tina Watson allegedly “made inappropriate gestures,” reports Police took the pants-less woman, who was reported to be “highly intoxicated,” to Harrisburg Hospital before charging her with burglary and indecent exposure.



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