Screw ISIS—We Need to Start cracking Down on Ninjas!

The Ninja Burglar is back from Albania and this time he brought his own matches.

By Jim Knipfel

About 15 years ago, a string of home burglaries across Staten Island was attributed to, well, a ninja. The so-called Ninja burglar earned his moniker after an old woman claimed to have come face-to-face with a man in full black ninja garb in her hallway one night. With an armload of jewelry and other valuables, the phantom thief leapt through a third-floor window, landed neatly and nimbly on the ground below, and dashed off unharmed. That’s what the old woman said, anyway. Shortly afterward, a middle-aged man in another Staten Island neighborhood claimed to have encountered this same ninja in his kitchen. Although the man says he stabbed the ninja in the chest three times before the shadowy fiend fled, police could find no blood, no evidence of any kind that any such thin happened.

Still, the stories were enough, and in proper boneheaded paranoid fashion, the mass hysteria spread, and before long every last burglary that took place on Staten Island had been perpetrated by the Ninja Burglar, even though no one else ever saw him. The rampant stupidity rolled on for a year and a half before in frustration the NYPD was forced to release a statement claiming they had, um, “apprehended the Ninja Burglar” and that he had been, um, “deported back to Albania.”

Yes, well, that’s all it took, and after that Staten Island burglaries became plain old boring low-rent burglaries again.

Now it seems the city is plagued with more ninja trouble. Since late October, the so-called “Firebug Ninja” has set fire to seven buildings in Forest Hills, Queens, most all of them homes under construction and all of them owned by members of the Bukharian Jewish community.

It’s unclear why the arson attacks have been attributed to a ninja, exactly, given no one’s actually seen him. Maybe it’s just that he seems to move quickly and quietly and effectively vanishes into the darkness seconds after setting a blaze. He also leaves no evidence behind, just like a ninja. He uses no accelerant, torching the buildings with materials on site. Cops thought they found a fingerprint at one scene, but it turned out to belong to a maintenance man. Another man caught in surveillance footage was brought in for questioning, but soon released. The arsonist (again, just like a ninja) left a coded message behind at one of the scenes. After it was cracked by a puzzle-loving member of the NYPD, the resulting clue sent cops on a wild goose chase after th  wrong suspect. As they were busying themselves with that, the ninja (yes, just like a ninja) returned to a house he’d set ablaze once before, but which had been contained by the FDNY before too much damage was caused. He was more successful second time around

Earlier this week, a retired FDNY arson specialist surmised the Forest Hills firebug is likely seriously pissed off by all the gentrification he sees going on around him, and feels a sense of power when he takes a stand to stop it. It’s also perfectly conceivable he has a beef with the Bukharian community. But that’s still all speculation. The one thing he knows for certain is that they’re dealing with a ninja, and probably one with superpowers.

Published December 17th, 2015


Jim Knipfel is the author of Slackjaw, The Blow-Off, These Children Who Come at You With Knives, and several other books.