Cheating Wonders: The Mysterious Cloaked Figure of Gastonia - Atlas Obscura
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Cheating Wonders: The Mysterious Cloaked Figure of Gastonia

Cloaky in his or her natural habitat. (Photo: Gaston Gazette)

Residents of Gastonia, North Carolina have spotted a mysterious person lurking at the edge of a local woods outside of an apartment complex, wearing a full-length, hooded black cloak and making strange shapes with his or her hands.

The figure—who, in pictures, resembles an Emperor Palpatine that recently crash-landed on Earth and is confused by its trees—has been linked to other recent, strange events near the building, and has been accused of “dropping raw meat near a playground in the apartment complex.”

Authorities don’t know much about this potentially carnivorous dark wizard, or what he or she is up to. The property manager of the apartment told The Gaston Gazette that he’s not sure whether those pale hands have signed any of his leases, and the police have pretty much just shrugged, saying they can’t even confirm the photo was actually taken in Hudson Woods. “Robby talked to the lady [who] took the pictures today and she said the police laughed at her,” alleged one local Facebook user.

It’s possible the cloaked figure is a misplaced LARPer. (Photo: Evan-Amos/WikiCommons CC0 1.0)

After putting the story on its front page, The Gazette was accused of legitimizing gossip rather than pursuing true leads. (This, despite their interview with a local Pagan, who, after confirming that Cloaky’s wardrobe and activities fit with possible Pagan practices, pointed out that a serious Pagan would probably not do this stuff in broad daylight behind an apartment complex. “It looks like someone is deliberately trying to create havoc,” she theorized.) 

Members of various online communities have gone further. Much of Twitter is committed to photoshopping memes onto the figure’s face. One out-of-town Redditor, who received the photos from a friend-of-a-friend, believes it’s a ghost, and wants to do some image forensics. Gastonians themselves are all over the map—some think it’s a hoax, some are legitimately afraid, and others are pretty sure one should just tap the person on the shoulder next time and ask.

Speculation is a given when you’re dealing with a hand-dancing, (allegedly) meat-dropping cloakster. If capes mean something dramatic is about to go down, their hooded cousins tend to suggest that weird stuff is happening offstage. Whatever this particular character is up to, he joins a pantheon of archetypes that like to pop out in the summer and shake things up (see: last year’s California City clown). 

As one Gastonian put it, “Must be hot in that outfit, is all I’m sayin.” 

For Cheat Week, we’re tracking down Cheating Wonders—pranks that went so far, they might as well be real. Have a tip for us? Tell us about it! Send your formative frauds to cara@atlasobscura.com.