Tree Robs Bank; Birnam Wood Suspected

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According to police in Manchester, New Hampshire, a man robbed a bank Saturday morning after first disguising himself as a tree.

Tree_robs_bank_2Let me address some questions you probably have right off the bat. Yes, I have multiple sources for this story; yes, I have checked to make sure it isn’t April 1st; and yes, I have a picture.

The robbery took place about 9 a.m. at a Citizens Bank branch in downtown Manchester. Police said that a man, who they described as a 5-foot 8-inch white man with a thin build and dark hair, and wearing a blue T-shirt, blue jeans, and thick glasses, and also having “tree branches duct-taped on his person,” entered the bank shortly after it opened.  He demanded money, but did not display any weapons. That is, as the security camera footage shows, the man’s branches, or more accurately, his leafy twigs, clearly were not large enough for potential use as a weapon and seemed instead to be intended to conceal his identity. Detective Sgt. Ernie Goodno noted that the subject had used tree branches “as if he was trying to camouflage himself in the woods.”

Well, let’s not jump to conclusions, Detective. He may have been trying to camouflage himself as a tall office plant; leafy shrub; or possibly as an actor in a local production of “Macbeth,” playing one of the soldiers who shows up in Act V as part of “Birnam Wood” on the move, in my personal opinion Shakespeare’s dumbest plot device:

[Act IV, scene 1.]

Third Apparition.  Be lion-mettled, proud; and take no care
Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are:
Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.

Macbeth.  Seriously?  That will never be.
Who can impress the forest, bid the tree
Unfix his earth-bound root?  Nobody, right?
As this could not foreshadow some
Lame plot device, high-placed Macbeth
Shall live the lease of nature, pay his breath
To time and mortal custom.

[Act V, scene 4.  The army of Malcolm.]

Siward. What wood is this before us?

Menteith.  By some strange coincidence,
The wood of Birnam.
  Rolls eyes.

Malcolm.  Let every soldier hew him down a bough
And bear’t before him: thereby shall we shadow
The numbers of our host and make discovery
Err in report of us.

Soldiers. Hey, good idea.
Now none of us will die.

Exit one soldier, with boughs and duct tape.

[Act V, scene 5.  Dunsinane Castle.]

Messenger.  Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do it.

Macbeth.  Well, say, sir.

Messenger.  As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I look’d toward Birnam, and anon, methought,
The wood began to move.

Macbeth.  Oh, come on!

Messenger.  Let me endure your wrath, if’t be not so:
‘Tis writ upon the script this guy came up with;
I say, a moving grove.

Macbeth.  If thou speak’st false,
Upon the next tree shalt thou hang alive,
Till famine cling thee: if thy speech be sooth,
I care not if thou dost for me as much.
I pull in resolution, and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend
That lies like truth: ‘Fear not, till Birnam wood
Do come to Dunsinane:’  and now a wood
Comes toward Dunsinane.
It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

Exeunt omnes.

I mean, a leader whose idea of clever strategy is to tell everybody to carry a tree branch so the other side can’t count you very easily should probably be in charge of a Renaissance Fair someplace, not an army. Hey, Shakespeare—was that the best “prophecy” you could come up with?

But, oddly enough, the tree-branch bank-robbing strategy has worked, at least for now. In this version, Mr. Wood was able to escape with an undisclosed amount of cash, and as of Saturday evening he had not been captured. The Union-Leader reported that police had deployed a K-9 unit to the scene, which is particularly bad news for a criminal disguised as a tree.

Update: The strategy ultimately did not work, the Associated Press reported, because someone was able to recognize the man after viewing the security footage, foilage notwithstanding. “He really went out on a limb,” the AP quoted Sgt. Goodno as saying.