Much Ado About Medieval Combat Foam at ISU
By Vanessa Miller, Reporter
AMES, Iowa - The medieval combat club at Iowa State University that convenes twice a week to wield foam-padded swords and other weapons from the dark ages doesn’t usually get a lot of attention on campus.
But that changed Wednesday when ISU police spent several hours investigating a “suspicious package” that officers eventually identified as an item used during the club’s practice Tuesday night.
“It’s just foam wrapped in a sock,” said Kevin Healy, ISU junior and president of the Tir Asleen Medieval Combat Society. “It’s called a fetch,”
The group uses the cylinder during a game that starts when one person throws up the “fetch” and other players try to get it back to him, Healy said. The item had been in a bag full of loaner weapons for players who don’t have their own, and Healy said it must have fallen out during Tuesday’s practice, which is held in front of the ISU Parks Library.
“We end the night when it’s dark out,” Healy said, explaining why it could have been overlooked. “We packed up at 10 p.m.”
The group also has seen a big influx of newcomers, necessitating the use of more loaner weapons.
“We are boasting about 30 to 40 people practices,” he said. “That’s why something could get left out.”
ISU police around 10 a.m. Wednesday posted an update via Facebook warning students, staff and faculty about a suspicious package found near the Hub Grill & Café and the Parks Library. A short time later, officers evacuated the Hub and blocked of a library entrance and asked passersby to steer clear of the area while they investigated.
“The State Fire Marshall's Office is here to assist us,” according to an ISU police Facebook post. “Most of the area between Beardshear Hall, The Hub, Parks Library, and Durham will be closed off until further notice.”
Officers eventually posted a picture of the item on Facebook, and Healy said he was following the officer updates in class on Tuesday when he saw it.
“When I realized it belonged to us, I immediately and quite dramatically left the class and told them what it was and what had happened,” Healy said. “I apologized for the whole ordeal.”
The club’s secretary shared on the police Facebook page information about the “harmless” item and how it’s used. And the group’s Facebook profile was flooded throughout the day with comments about the investigation.
“What did you guys do last night,” one person wrote. “Our practice field is taped off and there are cops everywhere.”
About 3 p.m., police confirmed that the suspicious item was “non-explosive” Styrofoam.
“Upon initial x-ray, the material inside the sock gave the illusion that it could be a very thin piece of metal or plastic,” according to a Facebook post. “It was taken by the State Fire Marshal's Office for further inspection. Upon further inspection, it was determined that the material inside the sock was a piece of hollow Styrofoam.”
ISU police said they took action to keep the community safe, and Healy said he’s glad they did.
“Looking back at it, it is goofy,” he said. “But it’s best to go through this, because you never know.”
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