Unfortunately, there have been well over 200 school shootings since the attack on Columbine High School, which killed twelve students and one teacher in April 1999.
Nonetheless, this event continues to live on in the public imagination — especially in one town in Connecticut.
In recent days, reports reveal that two sophomores at Litchfield High School in Litchfield were arrested after allegedly making threats on Halloween while wearing trench coats and dark glasses in apparent emulation of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who took their own lives after committing their horrific final acts.
Last year, another teen in the Litchfield area was arrested for making Columbine-related threats, too.
This isn't the first example of a Halloween tie-in to mass killings in Colorado.
Back in October 2012, as we reported at the time, an ultra-realistic mask of theater shooter James Holmes was put up for sale on eBay for $500 mere months after Holmes murdered twelve people and injured seventy others at the Aurora Century 16 theater.
Pop culture also keeps the memories of such killers alive. The current season of American Horror Story features an episode in which serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy, Richard Ramirez and Jeffrey Dahmer get together for a dinner party beyond the grave — and back in 2012, AHS highlighted a school shooting that seemed directly inspired by Columbine.
Still, that doesn't explain the apparent fascination with Columbine in Litchfield, where, last year, eighteen-year-old Natalie Carpenter was arrested after allegedly making threats against two Connecticut high schools in apparent emulation of Harris and Klebold.
Here's an excerpt from our April 2014 coverage of the Carpenter case:
According to her arrest warrant, Carpenter, eighteen, was staying at Hope House, a home for people suffering from mental illness; her mom told police she'd been diagnosed as suicidal and depressed, with evidence of a personality disorder and previous incidents during which she cut herself.
At Hope House, residents told staffers Carpenter had been talking about attacking schools, after which police were alerted. They subsequently learned Carpenter had gone gun shopping in the previous couple of days, although the only weapon she was able to purchase was a knife. Moreover, they discovered journals that are said to have included references to Danbury and Bunnell high schools, plus what were practically mash notes to the Columbine gunmen.
At one point, she's quoted as asking, "I mean like their [sic] my heroes but how were they able to get the guns at such a young age?" She also talked about how the experience of being bullied allowed her to better understand how the Columbine pair "ended up this way" and led an assault on their school that left a dozen people dead and many more injured.
Just over a year later, apparent Columbine obsession resurfaced at Litchfield High School
Here's an excerpt from a letter Littchfield Public Schools superintendent Lynn K. McMullin sent to parents on November 3:
I want to share some information with you about a situation that developed over the weekend involving two students at the high school. Two sophomore students chose to wear very inappropriate and alarming disguises on Halloween. As a result, the high school principal contacted Connected State Police, Troop L, immediately upon learning this. The State Police response was extremely supportive. Details from the incident prompted them to investigate fully, including confiscation of cell phones and questioning of witnesses.
According to NBC Connecticut, the teens dressed in black trench coats and sunglasses, as did Harris and Klebold, plus baseball caps, and made, in a phrase drawn from a Connecticut State Police press release, "threats of bodily harm to other students at Litchfield High School" on Halloween.
On November 4, after troopers conducted a series of interviews, the teens in question were taken into custody and charged with inciting injury to persons or property and breach of peace.
The Columbine connection quickly drew attention of the media, which descended on Litchfield in ways that frustrate superintendent McMullin.
In a letter shared on the school system's website at this writing, McMullin maintains that "a New York Times reporter and a photographer unlawfully and unannounced came onto private school property and randomly began speaking to our students. The moment we became aware of their presence, we asked both to leave school property immediately. We are upset by this behavior by the press during what is a very unfortunate time for our school community.
"The reporters relocated themselves in the center of town," the letter continues. "Then, sometime in the past few hours the Times changed the description of the boys’ Saturday night attire from 'wearing trench coats, sunglasses, and baseball caps' to '...carrying baseball bats.' This detail is untrue."
Of course, misinformation is a legacy of the Columbine killings, too.
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Here's a video about the Carpenter episode in 2014.