David Adame  /  AP
A SpongeBob SquarePants figure sits on the roof of a Burger King in Miami on Wednesday. They have been stolen from other Burger King restaurants. “They will show up in fraternity houses for sure,” one student of pop culture said.
updated 12/1/2004 8:58:48 PM ET 2004-12-02T01:58:48

Dozens of 9-foot-tall SpongeBob SquarePants balloons have been stolen from the roofs of Burger Kings from Florida to Utah since the release of the famous cartoon character’s hit movie, authorities said.

The balloons started appearing at fast-food restaurants in a promotional tie-in with his movie Nov. 11. A Burger King near Palatka, south of Jacksonville, is among the latest to report the theft of the $500 balloon.

“We don’t have any theories. SpongeBob SquarePants is kind of a fad. It could be a childhood prank or an adult trying to get a fad item for Christmas,” Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Rose said Wednesday. “If any leads come across, we will follow up in hopes of making an arrest.”

As part of the promotion, hundreds of inflatable SpongeBobs weighing 50 pounds were ordered for restaurants nationwide. The animated movie and TV star is featured on Burger King children’s meals, watches and toys.

The bigger-than-life sized versions of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” star also have turned up on eBay.

Jim Twitchell, a professor of advertising and English at the University of Florida, suspects young men are behind most thefts of the famous Krabby Patty flipper.

“They will show up in fraternity houses for sure,” he said.

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