Baking flour that sparked alarm at Woodleigh MRT turns out to be trail marking for running social club

Photo: Singapore Police Force newsroom

The culprit allegedly behind the public alarm at Woodleigh MRT station yesterday has been nabbed by the cops — and apparently all the fuss was due to a running social club that simply wanted to mark a trail for its race route.

A 69-year-old man was arrested for the offence of Public Nuisance after he left a suspicious white substance (which turned out to be baking flour) at the MRT station concourse. Two other men, aged 53 and 70 — who were with the man when he sprinkled the flour — are also assisting the police with investigations.

Woodleigh MRT station was shut down for about three hours yesterday afternoon after a cleaner found the dubious white substance scattered across the premises.

Hazmat specialists were even sent in to deal with the case — only to discover the powder that caused a security alarm turned out to be… simple baking flour.

Flour at woodleigh MRT
Photo: Singapore Police Force newsroom

Initially, it was unclear if it was a cruel, resource-wasting prank or a simple spillage from grocery shopping — but the truth is even more odd. The scattered flour around the station was meant to be markings for joggers from a running social club called the Hash House Harriers, according to The Straits Times.

What is Hashing?

Hash house harriers
Photo: torroid / Flickr

Back in December 1938 in the Federated Malay States (now known as Malaysia), a group of bored British colonial officers and expats started meeting up in the evenings to run together as a group — it was a run that would usually end in the partaking of beer and cigarettes. They called themselves the Hash House Harriers after their abode, the Selangor Club Annex, also known as the ‘Hash House’. Participants usually refer to themselves as hashers, or hares and hounds.

How it works: the advanced runners will first mark out a trail, typically using sawdust, flour, chalk, or toilet paper. But trails can sometimes lead to dead ends, short cuts and forks — the fun lies in finding the markings and working through the challenges as a group. The inclusion of gratuitous alcohol during the run helps, too.

The concept of hashing has since evolved into a proper international club with its own traditions, terms and even clothing — with the focus on running and drinking varying among chapters.

The 69-year-old hasher was believed to have left small piles of baking flour at Woodleigh MRT station — that means “you are on path”, according to the hashing trail marking rulebook. Presumably, hashers were supposed to reach the MRT station — but the usage of flour might have been a grave error on the hasher’s end.

This isn’t the first time hashers have gotten into trouble for their markings. Back in 2007, two siblings sprinkled flour at a parking lot in Connecticut to mark a trail, causing a bioterrorism scare that forced hundreds to evacuate an IKEA store.

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