Lancaster Cemetery among spots ‘Pokemon Go’ takes players as app’s popularity soars

Published on LancasterOnline and in print (front page, dominant) July 11, 2016.

Ken Mueller, a 54-year-old marketing consultant, said he never thought he would get into the Pokémon series

His three kids never got into the series, so he had no reason to play.

“I was aware of it as a cultural phenomenon, but prior to this past week I had no experience (with Pokémon),” Mueller said.

Then “Pokemon Go” happened.

The hugely popular game uses GPS positions on smartphones to lead players in their search for Pokémon characters.

Released July 6, the game has been downloaded millions of times on iPhone and Android devices in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

According to information technology company SimilarWeb, “Pokemon Go” is poised to accumulate more daily active Android users than Twitter.

“I love the idea that this is a mobile app that encourages you to go out there and do stuff,” Mueller said.

The Lancaster city-native, who takes his dog on a two-mile walk every morning, said the game appealed to him because of his active lifestyle.

He said he and his 21-year-old son went to Lancaster Cemetery over the weekend to find Pokémon and other game-related items.

“I saw more people outside than I normally do,” Mueller said. “The funny thing is, we weren’t the only ones there.”

Emily Koup, 23, recently moved to Lancaster, and one of the first things she did in the city was meet her friends, Scott Babcock and Cole Angelo, at Lancaster Cemetery.

Like Mueller and his son, they weren’t there to mourn, but to catch Pokemon.

While at the cemetery, they connected with a group of people they never met and spoke in the common tongue of Pokémon.

Koup said that “Pokemon Go” was a way for her to discover Lancaster and get to know her town. Despite the fact that she had just moved to Lancaster, the people she spoke with at the cemetery treated her like an old friend.

Babcock, 26, fondly remembers playing the older games on his Game Boy, he said.

Despite the overall positive reception “Pokemon Go” is receiving, there are many events that are leading doctors and police officers to make public statements about safety when playing.

Sometimes Pokemon are in locations that could be potentially dangerous to players.

Lancaster Cemetery has seen an increase in people on their smartphones walking through their land, Lisa Thorne, a spokeswoman for the cemetery, said on a Facebook post.

In the post, Thorne mentioned the strangeness of the phenomena.

“While the Lancaster Cemetery is regularly mowed and every effort is taken for grounds upkeep, it is so not a flat field. There are natural dips and gullies — rabbit and gopher holes — not to mention unexpected headstones below ‘grass-level’, etc.,” Thorne said. “(It’s) very easy to trip over the terrain if you’re chasing a Pokémon and not paying attention.”

Several broken bones and sprained body parts have been reported, primarily due to the player’s inattention to their environment.

Thorne encouraged players to be aware of their surroundings and to travel with an “aware adult,” especially when going to the cemetery.

Nationally, the craze has caught the attention of law enforcement.

In Riverton, Wyoming, a 19-year-old woman discovered the body of a dead man after her search for items and Pokémon led her to the river.

In O’Fallon, Missouri, police have reported that four teens used the smartphone app to rob unsuspecting victims, by setting up a “beacon” that summons players to another player’s area.

In one instance, a homeowner’s home in Holyoke, Massachusetts, has become part of the game.

Boon Sheridan’s home, which used to be a former church, is being used as a Pokemon gym. As a result, many people are flocking to his house and blocking his driveway.

Sheridan said that this could potentially decrease his home value and drive away his neighbors.

“Do I even have rights when it comes to a virtual location imposed on me?” Sheridan asked in a tweet. “Businesses have expectations, but this is my home.”

Sheridan insisted that he can’t be the only person this is happening to; many Pokestops are likely on private property, he said.

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