CacheCrazy.Com: That Cache Was Da Bomb!

Friday, June 29, 2012

That Cache Was Da Bomb!

"Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier!"
 -Greg Focker

We've all heard about it at one point or another.  Perhaps you've seen it on the evening news.  Maybe it's even happened in your home town.  I even made light of it a few weeks on this very blog.  Unfortunately, it's become commonplace with geocaching, and every once in a while, it rears its ugly head.  I'm referring to the Geocaching Bomb Scare.  Someone goes out to find a cache, and gets caught a "perfect storm" of sorts- he or she shows up with the wrong muggle sitting in the parking lot, notice his or her every move, who then notifies the store personnel.  The store manager, undobutely looking to do the right thing, for his own good conscious, or peraps chomping at the bit for a promotion, calls the local fuzz.  Here comes la policia, guns-a-blazing, and before you know it, you have this:

Geocaching Game Blamed for Wal-Mart Evacuation in Mid-Missouri
By William Browning | Yahoo! Contributor Network – Fri, Jun 22, 2012

A Wal-Mart store in Marshall, Mo., was evacuated Wednesday because of a suspicious tube-like object made with electrical tape and a metal tab on one end. A bomb squad was called in fromWhiteman Air Force Base.
* The Marshall Democrat-News reports the object was not a bomb. Instead, the small package was part of a geocaching game.
* A store employee noticed the bright orange object hidden near a guardrail by the automotive department around 5 p.m. Wednesday. After looking at three male individuals acting suspiciously onvideo surveillance cameras, the store manager decided to evacuate the store.
* Two bomb squad units from Whiteman arrived around 8 p.m. After about an hour, the team determined it was harmless.
* Bomb-sniffing dogs searched the inside of the store for any possible explosives. X-rays were taken of the device by a robot before the crew determined the device was not a bomb.
* The harmless object was part of a geocaching game. However, the problem is that federal charges may be warranted. Marshall Police Chief Mike Donnell told the Democrat-News "it's a federal offense to create any device that appears to be a bomb."
* KOMU reports there was a scroll noting where the tube had been located in the past.
* The Associated Press states authorities will review the surveillance video before deciding upon releasing any more information on the three males acting suspicious. The store was evacuated for more than four hours.
* The device looked so much like a bomb the Air Force crew decided to keep it for future use as a training device.
* Geocaching is a game by which small objects are hidden. Directions are then given for GPS trackers to find the object such as a small box, a tube or other nondescript thing. Often these geocache finds are marked with stickers or tape.
* Participants navigate a set of GPS coordinates to find containers. Game players often detail their experiences using blogs and social networking sites.
* Often there are objects in geocache containers. If participants find an object, game etiquette states a similar object of equal value must be left inside.
* Geocaching has been around for more than 12 years when GPS satellites became much more accurate. To test the new upgrades, enthusiasts starting hiding objects in the woods to see if they could be found using GPS tracking data.
* The Marshall Democrat-News reported a day after the incident that local authorities are working with geocaching enthusiasts to insure something like this doesn't happen again.
* A bomb scare occurred in 2010 at a popular geocache site near Marshall. At the time, players were asked to mark their containers with stickers to identify them.
* Marshall is a city of slightly more than 13,000 people in between Columbia and Kansas City in central Missouri.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

First off, I understand we live in a post-2011 society.  We so often hear "If you see something, say something".  Heck, I can't even blame the store, much less the authorities, for taking proper measures to ensure the safety of the general public.  From what I've read about this incident, the cache not only looked like a bomb (from a distance), it looked like something someone saw in a previous incident.

The cache in question was GC1MJ5M-North Pole.  (You can see a photo of the cache container here).  If you've ever searched for a cache in the parking lot of a retail store (you know you've done it, even if you don't want to admit it, but it's ok, we're still you're friends), you can probably understand what these three cachers were thinking.  Yes, a Walmart parking lot is going to be a high muggle area. I don't know about the one in Marshall, Missouri, but my local Walmart ALWAYS seems to be packed.  They knew they couldn't avoid being spotted, so they attempted to create the best subterfuge they knew-go in the store like they were there to shop.  Unfortunately for them, they did themselves more harm than good.

Might as well strap a ticking clock on it.

To me, the cache looked like a container which, at one time was fine, but appeared to be in need of some TLC.  My guess is local cachers attempted to help out the cache owner by doing some patchwork on the container.  A little tape here.  A makeshift lid there.  To the average geocacher, this screamed "Needs Maintenace".  To the average muggle, though, this screamed "OMG BOMBZ!!!"

Thank you, Bill Clinton!

Folks, the real crime here is the image in which the contributor in this Yahoo article, William Browning, portrays geocaching, both locally in Marshall, Missouri, and in general.  Browning cites a report by Emily Allen at, in which she writes the geocache contained a "scroll nothing all the places the object had been".  Ms. Allen noted the Marshall Police Department felt the geocache met the criteria of an I.E.D., which prompted the bomb squad to be called in.  This is completely fair, yet Mr. Browning fails to mention this reasoning in his article.  He also says geocaching has been around for more than 12 years, when GPS satellites became more accurate.  This only paints a picture for half the story, but that's another arguement for another time.  I don't know the inner workings of the Yahoo Contributor Network.  It appears to be volunteers, or barely paid independent contractors, plucking snippets from local headlines, putting them in no particular order, then slapping the "Yahoo!" logo on an article.  While I can understand no article of its nature would say "A bomb squad blew up a geocache today.  Geocaching is awesome!  Here's how to play!", a little research would go along way.  If William Browning took the time to do some research, as this volunteer author did, he would have realized permission had been granted, at one time, to place the geocache.  Unforunately, knowledge of the permsission was lost at some point.  The permission was given by a store manager, who at the time of the "bomb detnation" was no longer eomployed by the company.  He also would have learned the three individuals in question went in the store, left (to search for the cache/bomb), then returned to the store.  The fact they re-entered the store went along way toward creating suspecion, not the acticity at the guardrail alone.

Look!  This cache hasn't been anywhere yet!

What is your input on this situation?  Do you feel the store overreacted by calling in the police?  Did the cache owner "get what was coming to him" for placing yet another guardrail cache?  Does anyone want to invite William Browning to their next geocaching event?



Well, first of all if making an object that resembles a bomb is a federal offence, I'm screwed! It was nice knowing you guys.....

There is obvious reasonable suspicion however, with today's technology, the bomb squads may want to add a GPS'r to their arsenal. By now, with many reported "geocache bombs" under our belts, a quick search on might yield some results. I mean DUHHHHHHHHH!

The sad byproduct with this type of media exposure is that folks who don't know what a geocache is, get an immediate negative impression. I think it's something that will lessen with time.

Dave DeBaeremaeker said...

Couple things: That looks nothing like a bomb. If it does *anything* looks like a bomb.

Law enforcement needs to understand that not everything is a bomb. In fact the odds of ANYTHING being a bomb are so low its pathetic. This isn't Afganistan, it is the US. This strikes me as a Gomer Pyle type trying desperately to make a 'citizens arrest'.

People in general need to calm down. Statistics show that the chances of getting killed in the US by a terrorist attack are less than getting killed by furniture (yes thats right, if anything should be charged with being a public danger it should be the Walmart furniture department).

There is so much failure all around I don't know where to begin.

Ann said...

It is almost a year since Wetherby yorkshire uk was closed down as someone had place a cache outside a shop and had been noticed doing so by a member of the public the police were called thinking it was a bomb, container destroyed, end of that cache for sure! I would be mortified if i had hidden it! Yikes

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