BOSTON - At least nine electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what a cable network said was a marketing campaign for a late-night cartoon.
Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.
“It’s a hoax — and it’s not funny,” said Gov. Deval Patrick before the objects were determined to be part of an ad campaign.
Turner Broadcasting, parent company of Cartoon Network, said the devices, which consisted of magnetic, blinking lights, were part of a promotion for the TV show “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”
“The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,” Turner said in a statement. It said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia.
“We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger,” the company said.
Police said only that they were investigating where the device came from. The Department of Homeland Security said there are no credible reports of other devices being found elsewhere in the country.
The exact nature of the objects was not disclosed. But authorities said some looked like circuit boards or had wires hanging from them.
Subway station, highway shut down
The first device was found at a subway and bus station underneath Interstate 93, forcing the shutdown of the station and the highway.
Later, police said four calls, all around 1 p.m., reported devices at the Boston University Bridge and the Longfellow Bridge, both of which span the Charles River, at a Boston street corner and at the Tufts-New England Medical Center.
Two characters in the cartoon named Ignignokt and Err are "mooninites" — trouble-making characters that look like 1980s-era computer graphics. They are represented on the devices making a hand gesture they often use.
The package near the Boston University bridge was found attached to a structure beneath the span, authorities said.
Subway service across the Longfellow Bridge between Boston and Cambridge was briefly suspended, and Storrow Drive was closed as well.
At least some of the devices resemble one of the villains on “Aqua Teen,” part of Cartoon Network’s late-night Adult Swim lineup.
The show follows the misadventures of a carton of french fries, a milkshake and a wad of hamburger meat who live together in a run-down suburban house. A feature-length film version of the show is scheduled to come out in March.
Messages seeking comment were left with several publicists for the Atlanta-based Cartoon Network.
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