(source) - The streets outside a Chicago-area hotel were filled with people in costume early Sunday after a furry convention was evacuated due to a chlorine gas incident that police believe may have been intentional. Several thousand people were ordered out of the Hyatt Regency Hotel around 1 a.m. after guests reported a chlorine odor on the 9th floor, according to local media. Many of the guests were staying at the hotel while attending the 2014 Midwest Furfest convention, an annual gathering for people who enjoy art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals, according to the group's website. Many attendees enjoy dressing as those characters, and were in costume when the evacuation order was given.
Although 19 people were taken to local hospitals after being sickened, 18 were soon released. A hazmat team at the scene said they found a “substance, consistent in odor and appearance to powdered chlorine" in the stairwell, according to a statement cited by Fox6. “It was like when you walk into a pool. It was pungent,” evacuee Chris Delaney told the Chicago Tribune.
“It was shocking,” Morgan Smejkal, who was dressed as a red panda, told the paper.
The way the chlorine was found leads police to believe the incident was intentional. "In the course of investigating the scene, the Rosemont Police Department determined that this was a criminal act and began investigating it as such," Furfest organizers said in a statement released online. Video from the scene showed people milling outside the hotel. "We've been having a grand old time and we do not know what's going on at this time," Anthrocon organizer Samuel Conway, a.k.a. "Uncle Kage," told AP. "We've been asked to leave the hotel for unknown reasons but we have a lot of costumers out here with big fluffy costumes that'll keep people warm so at this point we're not at all worried." For those not warmed by their costumes, the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and other nearby facilities opened to offer the guests refuge. "There was a dog-grooming trade show going on and in walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes," Pieter Van Hiel told AP.
The furry convention continued on Sunday without further incident. In a statement, Furfest said:
"As we wake up today we want to continue to provide the best possible convention that we can, despite the trying circumstances. The convention will be running on a full normal programming schedule today. We ask you to continue to be patient, and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident."
The organization said it would not offer refunds, and the hotel would not be comping rooms, as a result of the incident.
There's so much to digest here, so let's break it down by key phrases, which I put in bold, in the article:
1. "people who enjoy art, literature, and performance based around anthropomorphic animals"
- So that's how Furries describe themselves, eh? That's like swingers saying they're married people who enjoy the sharing and exchanging of ideas, culture, and life. No, dude. You're not part of this intellectual group of "anthropomorphics" (whatever the shit that is), you just like fucking people in weird costumes. Which is cool! Personally, I think it's a little creepy but I mean to each his own. Just don't spit on my back and tell me it's raining. Tell me you wanna bang furry creatures and I'll nod my head and look the other way, but tell me you're enjoying the finer things of anthropomorphia and I'll think you're a phony.
2. Although 19 people were taken to local hospitals after being sickened, 18 were soon released
- Uh so what happened to the other guy? Am I the only one thinking about the poor soul who just wanted to get his fur on but now is stuck in the hospital battling back death at the hands of chlorine poisoning? Need to know this guy's status asap.
3. “It was shocking,” Morgan Smejkal, who was dressed as a red panda, told the paper
- Probably my favorite sentence of the year.
4. The way the chlorine was found leads police to believe the incident was intentional
- The mystery element of this story is mind-blowing. Who would want to sabatoge FurFest? A disgruntled ex-furry? A scorned significant other who just learned of his/her spouse's furry secret? Some weirdly offended citizen who finds the furry lifestyle to be unacceptable? I mean, do furries have any known enemies? I just hope the Chicago PD takes this matter as seriously as it deserves to be taken, because I need answers.
5. Anthrocon organizer Samuel Conway, a.k.a. "Uncle Kage," told AP. "We've been asked to leave the hotel for unknown reasons but we have a lot of costumers out here with big fluffy costumes that'll keep people warm so at this point we're not at all worried."
- This is why "Uncle Kage" is the leader of Anthrocon. Calm, cool, collected. Fully embracing the furry life in the face of turmoil and woe. Can't get more half glass full than this guy. "I mean, yeah it's cold, but guess what? I've been sweating my dick off inside wearing this giant bear costume, so I'm not too worried about staying warm outside, thanks for asking."
6. "There was a dog-grooming trade show going on and in walk all these people dressed like dogs and foxes," Pieter Van Hiel told AP
- Who the fuck is Pieter Van Hiel? There's nothing about this guy to tell me why his quote, while funny, is relevant. I mean, in terms of his chronological placement in the story I guess we assume he's part of the dog-grooming show, and if that's the case well then shut the hell up, Pieter. You have no place to be placing judgement on any other group if you're a voluntary participant in a dog-grooming contest. If Best in Show is a fair example, then you people are psychos, so why don't you just go find your dog's special chew toy and leave the costumed sex fiends alone. At least they're getting laid this weekend.
7. and remember that the volunteers who make Midwest FurFest happen intend to give 110% to make sure that the fun, friendship, and good times of Midwest FurFest 2014 overshadow last night’s unfortunate incident
- I don't care what organization you're a part of, this is the can-do spirit you want from the people who make it work. Yeah, shit got weird last night, but we've got the will and the way to ensure that your furry fun doesn't stop here. This is FurFest, and it's gonna take a lot more than a rogue poisoner to put a cork in our fun... just put it up our furry buttholes instead*.
So there you go. That's the breakdown, and I'm afraid we're left with just as many questions as we started with. But we did get one important answer: furries are a real, relatively big thing. I mean I didn't even know they existed until that Entourage episode, and even then I thought it was a thing the show made up cus it was funny. But not only are they real, they have big conventions that are important enough to get poisoned. Furry culture doing big things.
* The cork, not the poison.