Editor’s note: Today, Saturday, March 30, is Batman’s 80th birthday! In honor of the Caped Crusader’s birthday, the Ohio Valley Batman is encouraging participants at the #selfiestation at Macy’s at the Ohio Valley Mall, which is supporting A Special Wish Foundation-Ohio Valley Chapter, to wear Batman gear and share your pics to the event. The picture with the most likes gets to be the Ohio Valley Batman Facebook page profile picture for the month of April!Perhaps you’ve seen him going Over the Edge raising funds for the YWCA of Wheeling. Or maybe you’ve spotted him on foot, monitoring the Center Wheeling neighborhood for suspicious activity or crossing the historic Suspension Bridge.
Wherever he goes, Ohio Valley Batman is quickly becoming a local legend. Weelunk spoke with Ohio Valley Batman’s alter ego, Pat Daugherty, to get the scoop on the local Batman sightings.
“People get really excited to see Batman!” Pat relayed. ‘Kids’ of all ages approach him when he’s in costume, many wanting to pose with him for selfies. A couple of people have even invited him to make special guest appearances at their weddings. However, Batman’s appearances are mostly limited to children’s events and activities. His growing popularity has the potential to consume all his spare time and become a second full-time job in itself. By day, Pat is a husband, father of two, and works as an analyst in the New Business & Conflicts department at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. But after work hours, he might be spotted anywhere in the tri-state area.
IT ALL STARTED ONCE UPON A HALLOWEEN …
Pat’s fascination with cosplay started as a child growing up in Moundsville. He said he always had a special fondness for Halloween and the costumes involved in that holiday. After college, Pat took a job at Fox Run Center for Children & Adolescents, and it was there that the first manifestations of Batman occurred. Pat eventually moved on to another job, and years passed. Out of the blue, a former Fox Run coworker contacted him to fill in at the Barnesville Rails-to-Trails 5K Race when Spike, the Wheeling Nailers’ mascot, had a last-minute schedule conflict.
“Do you still have that old Batman costume?” his friend inquired.
Most of his old get-up was indeed still intact, but it was missing a cape. So Pat quickly cobbled together a couple of dark sheets to make a new one, hopped in the Batmobile, and was off to save the day!
THE DARK KNIGHT TAKES FLIGHT
After two or three appearances over the years at the Rails-to-Trails race, word of Batman’s mission spread. Another friend, a state trooper, leads a non-profit group called Books to Badges and asked Pat to appear as Batman at a Books to Badges event at UPMC Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. Following that gig, Batman’s popularity skyrocketed, and Ohio Valley Batman became an official local superhero.
Initially, Pat tried to keep his true identity under wraps. However, he says OVB’s real name quickly became one of the area’s “worst-kept secrets.” “It’s very hard to maintain total secrecy,” he laughs, “particularly when people start tagging you on social media by your real name.”
Pat knows he could be reaping a bit of financial gain if he charged for his costumed appearances. But the rewards he gets from putting a smile on a child’s face give him more satisfaction than those that would fatten his wallet. “I like to help others,” Pat says. “Once I no longer held a job where I was helping others every day, I wanted to do something else to fill that void.” Therefore, he currently has no plans to charge for his services.
BATMAN RETURNS! … HIS PROFITS TO THE COMMUNITY, THAT IS
Pat enjoys the community involvement that is an inherent part of his appearances. For that reason, he shows up regularly to various fundraisers and other community functions. In recent months, he has appeared with the Fun-Raiser Mobile Playground, Youth Services System Inc., Debbie’s Dash fun run for kids and the August Levy Learning Center. The Caped Crusader’s calendar for this year includes school visits as well as events for A Special Wish Foundation and Project HOPE. In addition, Pat periodically sells Ohio Valley Batman T-shirts, donating the proceeds from each sale to these and other charities. The profits from shirt sales are also used to purchase OVB stickers that are given to the kids who come to see him.
THE POWER OF FASHION
Pat says that he’s moved from the older black-on-gray costume to the newer style blue-on-gray one, thanks to a new cowl that was a gift from his supportive wife, Julie. The blue cowl is more kid-friendly, as children seem to be more hesitant to approach him when he’s wearing the edgier black accessories. Some kids are still a bit afraid of him, though, despite his less-ominous fashion choice and his charming personality. “Unfortunately, at least one kid is guaranteed to cry at every appearance,” Pat says with a grin.
Where does Batman get his apparel? From a variety of sources, it turns out. The basic costume pieces were purchased through an online social media cosplay group to which Pat belongs. His current cape was sewn by his friend MaryAnn and has a 9-foot wingspan. He currently owns two complete costumes — a fresh newer model and an older, broken-in back-up.
The eye mask that Pat dons as Batman is latex and fits very tightly over his head. Wearing it can be a bit claustrophobic and requires that the inside of it be wetted down with water so it can be pulled over Pat’s head. The entire ensemble is quite warm and sometimes a little cumbersome. It is also difficult for Pat to hear when wearing his mask. He once had a minor “Bat-astrophe” when he served as the starter for the Debbie’s Dash fun run. “I was to stand at the front of the pack with my cape outstretched, then quickly lower my arms at the announcer’s signal to start the race. However, I didn’t hear the announcement because of the mask. When I realized my error, I tried to hurry out of the kids’ way, stepped on my own cape, and tripped and fell,” says Pat. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and was able to escort the group to the finish line as planned.
BATMAN’S ADVENTURES CONTINUE
Although having an alter-ego and living a dual life can be demanding, Pat plans to continue as long as he is still enjoying himself and bringing joy to others. Fans can follow him on Facebook to see where he goes when he leaves the Batcave or to share their own random OVB sightings.
• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.