Update: 6:13 pm
On Wednesday, May 28, the Boston Police Department stated that they have identified only one incident in the last two years where a foot was touched and that they know of no police reports that refer to any actions that can be described as tickling.
A man has been breaking into the homes of students who live near Boston College and watching them sleep or tickling their feet, police and several alleged victims have confirmed.
Police report at least 10 sightings of the so-called Tickler, who some in the neighborhood had long believed to be a myth. At least three students report having encountered him on the same night, April 7.
“This is no myth,” said Sergeant Michael O’Hara, community service officer for the Boston Police district that covers Allston and Brighton. “It’s happening.”
The Tickler has been reported over the last two years in an area from Lake Street to South Street in Brighton popular with BC students who live off campus, O’Hara said.
Victims have described him as a 5-foot-8-inch black male of unknown age in dark clothing and a hoodie, he said. Some reported that the man watched them through their windows as he committed a sex act.
Teddy Raddell, a BC junior, said he was jolted from a sound sleep at 5 a.m. on a Sunday in October by the sound of someone running down the stairs of the house he shares with several fellow Boston College students.
“I thought my roommate had fallen down the steps,” Raddell said, “but then he started yelling. I got up and he said that he had woken up to someone touching his feet.”
Like other students, he said no valuables were stolen.
“The guy didn’t take anything and there were laptops and wallets out in the main room,” said Raddell, who lives on Radnor Road.
BC junior Daniel Marenzi said he woke up late, also on a Sunday in October, to his feet being tickled.
“I thought my friend was just trying to annoy me, but I soon realized it wasn’t anyone I knew,” Marenzi says. “I freaked out and sat up but he was already on the way out.”
He said he and his housemates now lock all their doors.
O’Hara said many students living off campus leave their doors unlocked, however.
“Absolutely students should be concerned,” he said. “You don’t know what this guy is going to do or if he has a weapon. You need to lock your doors. It’s not as safe as you think.”
It was 3:45 a.m. on April 7 when Jake Barrows was awakened, he said.
“Someone was standing at the end of the bed, and by the time I realized there was someone really there, he was booking it right out my door,” said Barrows, a BC junior who lives on Foster Street. “When I was finally out of bed and following, he was out the back door.”
He said he hasn’t slept in his room since that night.
Just over an hour later, Billy Buckley awoke to the sight of someone opening his bedroom door, he said. He called his roommate’s name, and got no response.
The figure slowly crept away, sprinted down the steps, and slammed the front door, said Buckley, who lives on Foster Street.
“The Tickler had made a visit,” he said, certain now that the stories he had heard are true.
Jonny Goldowsky said he also had a run-in with the Tickler. Goldowsky, who lives in the same house as Barrows, said that, a month before his roommate’s encounter, he heard shuffling at the door to his room and saw a man there in a Gator-style ski mask.
All of these students, and others in the neighborhood, said they would like to see more of a police presence.
“I’d really like it and probably feel safer if BPD had a patrol car off campus every night,” Goldowsky said.
Barrows said there are more police in the neighborhood on nights when students have parties than at other times.
“I don’t think there is much that can be done, but hopefully the Boston police can throw a few more police around at weird times instead of just a million cops on Friday and Saturday nights, then one on Sunday night,” he said.
O’Hara said that this won’t solve the problem.
“People calling in saying they want more patrol cars won’t do anything. They need to report crimes when they happen,” he said. “It’s a low crime area. We patrol areas based on the crime statistics.”
There is no hard evidence in the cases, O’Hara said, and no photos or video of the alleged Tickler. “If we had something to go on,” he said, “we would.”