LEWISTON — The tension is thick.
A large clown named Kracker has crawled into a bright yellow box. Bulbs are flashing, blue, green, red. A buzzer sounds. Smoke pours from the magical box. Confetti flies into the air and moments later, the clown emerges, half the size he was moments before.
It's called Kora Clowns Weight Loss Machine and it dazzles audiences wherever it goes. Only now, the machine is missing, the target of thieves who swiped it from the back of Kracker's truck.
The theft was a trick in itself — at 400 pounds, the bulky box could not have been an easy thing to carry away.
"The machine is very large and heavy," Lewiston police Lt. Michael McGonagle said, "and would need more than one person to move."
Detectives are on the case. Real police, not the Krazy Kops. And they are not clowning around. Leads have already been developed. Police and the Shriners who use the box to entertain crowds at the circus are hoping the thieves will bring it back.
"It's not a high value item," Shriner Michael Morin said. "But it means a lot to us and to the kids."
On Thursday afternoon, there was a report that the Weight Loss Machine fell off the back of a truck on Interstate 295 in Freeport. Police were checking into that report while chasing local leads.
"If anyone has information," McGonagle said, "or knows of someone who has lost a lot of weight in the past day, have them contact Detective Roland Godbout."
Cue rim shot.
It's hard not to joke about a device used by a bunch of clowns. But the Shriners are serious about getting it back.
The prop was taken from the back of a pickup parked on South Lisbon Road the night of April 12-13. Its absence leaves Shriners without one of their more popular gags with which to wow audiences.
"The guys are scrambling now to put something together for the Augusta circus shows on Friday and Saturday," said Jim Bennett, also known as Ginjo the clown. The box was constructed by — no, really — the Shriners Klown Unit. It's a simple box with attachments for the bulbs, smoke and confetti. It's Kracker who goes into the machine but a slimmer clown named Stumpy who comes out.
Which Rob Farrington, of the Klown Unit, feels is fairly important to note. Who knows if the thieves are crawling in and out of the box, waiting for the pounds to magically disappear?
"It's a pretty cool little skit," Farrington said. "But it doesn't really work."