Skip to comments.'Down the chimney he fell …'(A cautionary tale)
Posted on 12/26/2003 7:08:52 AM PST by Valin
Talk about Bad Santas.
A Minneapolis man's imitation of old St. Nick on Christmas Eve brought cheer only to police and fire rescuers, who had to stifle chuckles while rescuing him from the narrow chimney of a bookstore in the city's Phillips neighborhood.
Joseph Hubbert also earned himself a lump of coal: burglary charges.
The stranger-than-fiction events began when Don Blyly arrived Thursday morning at his Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction/Uncle Edgar's Mystery bookstore at 2864 Chicago Ave. S.
Around 9:15 a.m., Blyly heard a strange sound. It seemed to come from the ceiling, near the chimney.
Mind you, this was Christmas morning.
But the sound wasn't a jolly fat man in a red suit it turned out to be a half-naked 34-year-old ex-con, squished for hours in the cold, narrow passage, calling out for help.
"The guy's voice was coming from the suspended ceiling, yelling out 'Help! If anyone can hear me, call the police, I'm stuck in the chimney in the bookstore,' " Blyly said.
Blyly reported the would-be intruder to an emergency operator who "could barely contain her laughter," and police and fire rescue squads arrived to solve a mystery worthy of Blyly's bookstore.
A police officer and Blyly climbed a ladder to the roof and found bricks knocked away from two chimneys. They peered down into the second damaged chimney space, about 12 inches square, and saw a man.
"The cop yelled down, 'What are you doing down there?' " Blyly recalled. "And the guy said, 'I dropped my keys and I'm looking for them.'"
Don't you hate when that happens?
Extracting Hubbert wasn't easy. After tearing paneling and bricks away from the chimney on the store's main floor, rescuers found he had fallen all the way from the roof to the cellar, where the flue leads to an old furnace connection.
Hubbert, whose 2001 driver's license listed him as 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, was thoroughly stuck.
In the cellar, rescuers chopped away the bricks to get Hubbert out feet-first. Crews had a stretcher waiting for the scraped-up subject.
"They put him on the stretcher, and the cop said, 'Oh, by the way, you're under arrest,' " Blyly said.
Hubbert was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, police said, and from there was to be moved to the county jail. Hospital officials would not confirm Hubbert's presence. The jail had no record of him as of late Thursday afternoon.
Police said Hubbert lives only about a mile from the bookstore. They also said he has a record of burglary and theft convictions, which public records confirmed.
Hubbert who rescuers believe began his nine-hour predicament around 1 a.m. is lucky that Blyly came in to work on posters for his after-Christmas sale, said Minneapolis police Lt. Mike Sauro.
"If no one had heard him and he'd been there until (Friday) morning, he'd probably be dead," Sauro said.
Strange as it sounds, Hubbert's is only the latest in a long tradition of ill-advised chimney climbs, some of which end with a death from suffocation, exposure to carbon dioxide or the cold.
In 1996, an embarrassed burglar was lifted out of a Wisconsin chimney after getting stuck. In 1993, a burglar had the nerve to tussle with firefighters who pulled him out of a chimney in Oceanside, Calif.
Four years ago, workers demolishing a building in Philadelphia spotted a pair of sneakers dangling from the flue. They turned out to be attached to a dead body, which police theorized had been an unfortunate burglar.
He MIGHT want to consider a career change, as master criminal just seem to be his strong suit.
Note: italics mine
OK, so he's not a Skiffy faan. I wonder why he was breaking in there? Perhaps he's a mystery reader: such a stupid trick would only work in a dime potboiler.
There's also TWO used bookstores, almost literally (no pun intended) right next to each other (separated only by a guitar shop) right where I live.
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