For many years, a man has been living a comic book style double life in St. Petersburg, Florida. At night, armed with a gun filled with rubber bullets, a mask adorned with a chess piece symbol, and a stock of supplies, Knight-Hood patrols the streets of St. Petersberg. He looks for crime to curb and report, and for homeless people that he can help out. He documents his activities through journal style entries on his Facebook page. I wrote about Knight-Hood briefly in my book Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement, but I wanted to learn more about this mystery man. What follows is a rare interview with a man that calls himself a “masked crusader.”
PM: Could you tell us the Knight-Hood origin story? How did you get started in all this?
KH: In 1989 my wife of 12 years passed away and 2 weeks later my house burned down. I ended up living in my van. With nothing left to lose, I decided to live out my boyhood dream of becoming a real life masked crusader. For 24 years now I have been operating covertly on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, primarily guarding and feeding the homeless, but also counseling young prostitutes and drug dealers in an attempt to get them to go straight.
Any crimes I witness I call the police and always use an alias. Usually, the secret identities of little known superheroes like Richard Wentworth (the Spider) or Lamont Cranston (the Shadow.) I patrol in disguise as a homeless man because they are invisible in our society. I wear my mask rolled up on my head like a hat and only don it in an extreme emergency, which has been blessedly rare. Operating in secret this way I have avoided the attention of the police.
PM: You are also somewhat of a historian and expert on Golden Age comics. Who are some of your favorite fiction heroes?
KH: My main fictional influences were the early pulp fiction heroes like The Green Hornet, The Shadow and The Spider. My mask is patterned after the original Green Hornet with my symbol over the mouth area, but my M.O. is patterned after the Lone Ranger who would go into town disguised as an old prospector and only don the mask when he was ready for action.
PM: You say that in St. Pete there is a “war on the homeless.” Can you explain that?
KH: The homeless population has tripled in Pinellas County in the past 10 years. The city council’s solution is to pass law after law designed to run the homeless out of town, rather than deal with the problem. Anti- panhandling laws, anti-sitting on the curb laws, anti-sleeping in public places laws, and, most reprehensible — anti-feeding the homeless laws. People have actually been arrested for feeding homeless people! As Zorro once said, “When the law is unjust, justice must become an outlaw.” Therefore, I feed them anyway.
PM: Can you share what you would consider a Knight-Hood success story?
KH: In 1990 while on patrol at Mirror Lake Park I heard shouting up ahead and saw three young punks shoving around an old homeless man. I donned the mask and fired my pistol into the air and they ran off.
PM: Any advice for RLSH “newbies?”
KH: Yes. Due to films like Kick-Ass a lot of new kids have shown up on the scene thinking this kind of work is about putting on a costume and getting into fights. Being a RLSH is actually being a volunteer police officer. It is about protecting and serving, not fighting. That is only a last resort and only if there is no time to call the police. The police should always be your first line of defense. They have all the training and manpower. Also, no amount of martial arts training can protect you from a gun. That’s only in the comics, not real life. I carry a .38 with rubber bullets. I see a lot of young people putting on more armor than Iron Man. Since you can’t armor your head, I feel it only slows you down. Your greatest defense is your brain. If you use your head you should never find yourself in a situation that you must fight your way out of.
On the street, stupid equals dead.
• Follow the fictional adventures of Knight-Hood in the novel The Adventures of Knight-Hood: Vol.1, written by Knight-Hood himself under the alias John Reid. It’s a thriller that stars a pulp fiction version of himself. He uses proceeds from book sales to fund his missions.
• Watch a YouTube video of Knight-Hood (guest starring Oldsuper Hero) promoting “Superhero Day,” an idea for a holiday before Halloween in which instead of giving and receiving candy, people dress up as superheroes and collect and hand out food to the poor and homeless.