It’s the Valentine Bandit, Charlie Brown

February 17, 2008

Last week the woman that I am renting this apartment from wrote me an email to tell me to make a special trip to the Old Port neighborhood on Valentine’s Day to look at all of the hearts. She wrote, “they will be everywhere, on doors and windows, and sides of buildings; it is one of my favorite special things about Portland.”

So before class on Friday I went for a walk and pretty much, I have to say, it would be impossible NOT to see the hearts. There were hundreds of them, on every shop window, every advertising board, and every door. Simple red printed hearts on xerox type paper. I think this is kind of neat – clearly the chamber of commerce sends out a picture, and all the shops print it out and tape up all the hearts. I also think it’s nice that every shop agrees to participate. But I don’t think it’s something that I would say qualifies as a very favorite thing about Portland. But still…I take a few pictures.


But then….BUT THEN….I read this article, and what do you know, now I get it.

The shopkeepers don’t put up the valentine hearts. They simply appear all over the city. No one knows who does it, and their appearance every year since 1976 is attributed to the work of the Valentine Bandit (also called the Valentine Phantom). However, there are so many, many, many of them that it has to be the work of an entire Valentine Bandit Collective. No one has ever seen him (them?), and no one has ever publicly claimed credit, but every year the city of Portland wakes up on February 14th covered in hearts. And every year people think it’s wonderful, and it’s one of their favorite things.

And now I do, too.




  1. Such a cool tradition. I love mysteries!

  2. There’s a similar tradition in a small town outside Philadelphia (PA): every Christmas Eve Santa Claus in person visits every child whose parents or grandparents have told the local paper they’d like him to come – you leave the outside lights on and the door unlocked and some time between 10 p.m. & 2 a.m. “Ho Ho Ho!” and in he comes – but who is he? Nobody knows for sure, but he’s been coming for at least three generations.

  3. What a neat tradition. 53 degrees here and gray skies. California ain’t living up to expectations!

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