Thursday, 4:30 PM
Suspicious packages part of Turner Broadcasting marketing campaign
By Mac Daniel, John Ellement, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff
Turner Broadcasting acknowledged late this afternoon that the suspicious objects that ignited fears of bombs across Boston today were magnetic lights that were part of an outdoor marketing campaign for an adult cartoon.
Turner was promoting Adult Swim's animated television show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" in Boston and nine other cities, according to a statement e-mailed by Shirley Powell, a company spokeswoman.
"Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards," the e-mail statement said. "We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger."
Governor Deval Patrick said in a statement that he was "deeply dismayed" by the "stunt."
"I understand that Turner Broadcasting has purported to apologize for this," Patrick said. "I intend nonetheless to consult with the Attorney General and other advisors about what recourse we may have."
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino also blasted the company.
"I am prepared to take any and all legal action against Turner Broadcasting and its affiliates for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today's incidents," Menino said in a statement. "Boston will look to coordinate our efforts going forward with Cambridge, Somerville and any other affected agencies."
"Aqua Teen Hunger Force" airs late at night and involves animated characters that are depicted as fast food products, including a ball of ground meat, French fries, and a milk shake.
The objects that had been placed on bridges and other infrastructure across the city are patterns of lighted dots in the shape of boxy characters on the cartoon show. The flashing lights are on black rectangles a little larger than laptops.
The boxy characters are named Err and Ignignokt and appear to be raising their middle fingers and giving obscene gestures. Err is described on the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" website as "rebellious and angry."
Crews are in the process of removing the devices from overpasses and other locations throughout the city. Turner Broadcasting's statement said the objects had been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.
Today's chaos began at 8:05 a.m. when an MBTA passenger noticed what was described as an object with wires and tubes stuck on a steel support girder underneath Interstate 93 about 12 to 15 feet above the bus depot at Sullivan Square Station in Charlestown.
Transit police Lieutenant Salvatore Venturelli said this morning that the object had some components consistent with an improvised explosive device such as an electronic circuit board, but he made it clear it was not a bomb.
At about 1 p.m., Boston police received reports of similar devices throughout the metropolitan area at locations that included the Longfellow and BU bridges and New England Medical Center.
Shortly after 4 p.m., as city and state officials held a press conference to try to quell fears, Turner Broadcasting issued a statement taking responsibility for the stunt.
Eight of the electronic devices were mistaken for bombs today in Boston and two other sparked fears in Somerville and Cambridge, according to Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis.
Angela Shaw of Boston.com contributed to this report.