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Could there be a real life superhero living near you?

Emerald publishes research about real-life superheroes who may be protecting a community near you.

Bingley, United Kingdom, 24 May 2016  – While growing up, many children dream that one day they will be a superhero like the ones they admire such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman – for some people, this dream becomes a reality. 

A recent paper published by Emerald Group Publishing titled ‘”Masked crusader”: a case study of “crime-fighting” activities by a “real-life superhero” - from the Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice - explores real life superheroes (RLSH).  RLSH is a phenomenon whereby everyday individuals adopt superhero personas and use them to engage with their local communities; often in crime-fighting scenarios, but also as ‘silent’ volunteers and peacemakers.  

The study shows that it is important to the RLSH community that they are not seen as vigilantes and their actions are not solely concerned with crime fighting and catching offenders. 

As the research also suggests, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many RLSHs there are worldwide, but as of 2015, a dedicated RLSH forum had 1,022 registered members from the USA, Canada, UK, throughout Europe and Australia.

This qualitative case study contains extracts from an interview conducted with a member of the RLSH community, who recognized that homeless people often go un-noticed and are under-protected, so he decided to take action himself: “I decided to guard them while they slept, but could not do so in a mask without frightening them, so I borrowed a technique from my boyhood hero, The Lone Ranger.  

“What he would do is disguise himself as an old prospector when he had to go into town and only donned a mask when there was trouble.  So I began to disguise myself as a homeless person.  I wear the mask rolled up like a hat and it is the perfect disguise.”

The anonymous interviewee then goes on to say “I have walked invisibly at night in the streets of [unknown] for 22 years now and have never been seen or heard by the police, press or criminals.  I am like a volunteer undercover policeman.”  

This paper also looks at the idea of bystander effect and how people who are present during a challenging situation are less likely to intervene should there be a crowd of people.

This piece of research is free to access until 31 May 2016 and can be downloaded here: 

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Nicolle Vare
PR Executive
Emerald Publishing Limited
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