Street harassment is no laughing matter. Unwanted touching is gross and intimidating. But we promise not to judge if you chuckle, just a little, at the following story.
For two years in the late 1800s, an anonymous rogue terrorized the young women of Pomona, California with hugs. He was known as "Jack the Squeezer," a heavy-handed reference to a far more malicious Jack that was embraced by the press. A Los Angeles Herald article from October 18, 1891 describes it best, or at least, the most self-seriously:
The squeezer is at work again. He had several victims last week and another on last Monday evening—the names being suppressed for good reasons. The last lady to be caught by the fellow was hastening down Third street, to call upon a neighbor, about 7 o'clock, and when near the corner of Ellen street a well-built man, coming from the shadow of trees in the rear, passed her rapidly, and then, before she had time for even a look, turned as quick as a flash, and grabbed her about the waist with his arms. He gave her several violent hugs, turning his face away at the same moment, and dashed suddenly across the road in the shadow of trees, and was gone. The young woman sank exhausted against the fence, and says that it was several minutes before she recovered her reason. When she did she went to a neighbor's, and her brother was called to help her home. There is no doubt that the squeezer is some fellow whose mind is turned upon the subject of terrifying or hugging women. The man's operations, extending over seven months' time, are as carefully planned and executed as those of the notorious Jack the Ripper of London. The man is certainly daft on the subject of squeezing, but all his acts show that he has much scheming, deep cunning, and is devilish in his attempts to cause as much and as sudden terror as possible. He is by no means a fool—a cool, planning and designing rascal. He selects the times when the public of Pomona is not thinking of his acts and he never perpetrates his peculiar operations twice in the same locality. He shows a preference for young women, and he takes them either alone or in couples. He is very fleet of foot, and what makes his work the more alarming is that he acts so violently and so quickly. Two young ladies fainted dead away on the sidewalk after he had squeezed them, and one lady, in a delicate condition, nearly lost her life in consequence of the awful shock to her nervous system. Another lady was in bed several days from nervous fright.
An article from the following year identifies "Jack" as C. E. Wolfe—a perfectly pun-able name—and this time he's on trial for his lewd behavior.