By the day after the story was published online on Tuesday, my piece on the druggings and rapes occurring on Put-In-Bay this summer became one of Cleveland Scene’s most-read feature stories ever. Read it here:
It’s noon on Thursday and Put-In-Bay is being invaded with bachelor and bachelorette parties and folks looking to spin away from regular life with a little help from the bottle. It’s about to be Christmas in July — the island’s busiest weekend — and the hordes are starting to arrive for a few days of good drinking.
Minutes later, three late-20-something women from Pittsburgh are standing at the same spot on the bustling street, also first timers here. They’re lost — sunglasses and sandals on, bags around their shoulders, suitcases and booze in hand — unsuccessfully trying to locate the hotel they booked months ago so they can kick off the weekend.
“We heard about Put-In-Bay from other people who like to drink a lot,” jokes Kristen, explaining they have no idea what Christmas in July really entails, but it’s why they’re here for the next three days. The ends of a beer bong are popping out of her duffle bag, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
One of them is dragging the handle of a noticeably heavy blue four-wheeled cooler down the sidewalk: “Lots of beer,” Leeanne explains, “but we did put water in there for hangovers.” The other interrupts: “And Fireball and vodka and….”
They eventually find their way down a not-so-obvious path toward the hotel through an alleyway next to Mr. Ed’s, the bar attached to hotel, and Mist, a fenced-in pool bar where Top-40 remixes are already blasting loudly. “This is exactly what we wanted!” one exclaims. They heard about some rumors of druggings on the ferry ride over, and despite thinking it’s kind of “scary,” their enthusiasm isn’t dampered.
Shortly after checking in to their rooms, the group is quickly back down to the bustling Mist, bathing suits on and water bottles filled with booze in hand. The bouncer stops them and inspects their bottles — it’s a bar, after all — so the girls quickly chug the contents and toss the empty bottles in the trash before finding their way to the lounge chairs between the pool and the bar. Their first hours at Put-in-Bay have started right.
But, this summer, it might not end right.
Since May, there are have been at least a dozen documented incidents of people suspected of being dosed with date-rape drugs at Put-In-Bay bars, with no arrests. In that time, there have been at least three reported rapes of drugged or heavily intoxicated women and only once — when police came upon a 27-year-old Mentor man in the act, with several eye witnesses who spotted him tackling her to the ground — has somebody been arrested so far. On Saturdays this summer, EMS has had to regularly transport girls from the popular pool bar Mist to the hospital after someone slipped date-rape drugs into their drinks.
Put-In-Bay has a problem and the three women from Pittsburgh have planned their weekend right in the epicenter of it all.