Suspected chlorine gas attack forces "furry" convention to evacuate

Investigators believe that someone placed chlorine powder in a stairwell deliberately at a hotel hosting a convention full of fans dressed as cartoon animals.  19 were admitted to the hospital.

Nam Huh/AP
Convention-goers evacuate after chlorine gas disrupted a "furry" convention in suburban Chicago.

Chlorine gas sickened several people and forced the evacuation of thousands of guests from a suburban Chicago hotel early Sunday, including many dressed in cartoonish animal costumes for an annual furries convention who were ushered across the street to a convention center that was hosting a dog show.

Nineteen people who became nauseous or dizzy were treated at local hospitals, and at least 18 were released shortly thereafter.

The source of the gas was apparently chlorine powder left in a 9th-floor stairwell at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, according to the Rosemont Public Safety Department. Investigators believe the gas was created intentionally and are treating it as a criminal matter.

The hotel is hosting the 2014 Midwest FurFest convention, also called "Anthrocon," where attendees celebrate animals that are anthropomorphic — meaning they've been given human characteristics — through art, literature and performance. Many of the attendees, who refer to themselves as "furries," wore cartoonish animal outfits.

They said they come for fun, but also for the spiritual and artistic aspects of the convention, during which they celebrate animal characters from movies, TV shows, comic books, video games and characters they create themselves. Anthrocon conventions typically draw thousands of participants from around the world, many dressed in costumes that they say can cost as much as $3,000.

Guests were allowed to return a few hours later after the hotel had been decontaminated, and by mid-morning the furries were pouring back into the hotel for more activities, chat with each other and make their way to a outdoor courtyard where they took part in a group exercise session, with foxes, dragons and other characters getting an aerobic workout.

"We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110 percent to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times ... overshadow last night's unfortunate incident," organizers said in a statement posted on the group's website. Organizers declined to discuss the matter in person.

Pieter Van Hiel, a 40-year-old technical writer from Hamilton, Canada, said the conventions are about having fun with people who enjoy the same hobby.

"This is intense weekend of socialization. It's kind of weird, but it's not weird here," said Van Hiel, who said he writes role-playing games for animals. He laughed as he described being herded out of the hotel and across the street to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center: "There was a dog-grooming trade show going on and in walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes."

The conventions includes displays and vendors, an artists' show, cartoon and character-related presentations, dances and live performances, and draw artists, puppeteers, costume makers, writers and just plain fans.

"Everyone is from a different background," said Michael Lynch, a 25-year-old computer technician from Madison, Wisconsin. "Nobody judges anybody. It's nice to come to a place like that."

Dressed head-to-toe in a fox outfit, 35-year-old forklift operator Frederic Cesbron, of France, wanted to make one thing clear: "Nobody uses real fur."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Suspected chlorine gas attack forces
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2014/1207/Suspected-chlorine-gas-attack-forces-furry-convention-to-evacuate
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe