Like it did for so many other things in life, the Internet made stalking way easier for creeps and weirdos the world over. It's become such an epidemic that even the elderly are getting in on the act in Japan. In recent years, that demographic has seen the highest increase in stalking incidents among that batshit insane country's population.
Don't take this to mean that, again, like so many other things in life, stalking has become something the United States is no longer the best at (the same as with education, healthcare, winning wars, going to space, baseball, track, golf, science-fiction shows about life in a not-too-distant dystopian future, etc). Quite the contrary; we're still great at that shit. To prove it, we talk about some of the more noteworthy stalking incidents from recent history on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Dani Fernandez, Ed Galvez, and Jeff May. It's also what I'm talking in this column here today. Follow me!
5"The Watcher" Claims Ownership of New Jersey Mansion
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When a couple recently laid down $1.3 million for a 7,500-square-foot mansion, they assumed they'd found their dream home. Which is weird, because it's located in New Jersey, which you might recognize as the polar opposite of a dream scenario. Still, they were psyched, and who am I to judge? The coolest thing about the place where I live is that there's no one else here with me, so if I get a little blood on the floor and decide to leave it there like some kind of conversation piece from the Investigation Discovery gift shop, no one says shit.
See it? Just to the left of the basket full of murder tools.
Speaking of blood, let's get back to that couple. Three days after closing on their new home, they received a letter from a man (just an assumption I'm making and never wavering from) who referred to himself only as "The Watcher." And boy did he have news! According to his correspondence, the couple's new digs had been "the subject of his family for decades." No, I don't know exactly what that means either, which makes it so much more terrifying. But it gets worse.
After adding the house had been "watched" by his grandfather in the 1920s and his father in the 1960s, he advised that he'd been put in charge of overseeing its "second coming."
It wasn't the only letter, either. There were several, each one creepier than the one that came before. At various points, the mysterious scribe mentioned the previous owners by name, claimed they'd promised to bring him "young blood" ...
The hockey movie starring Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze?
... and mentioned details about the interior of the house. He asked who would be occupying "the rooms facing the street," on the grounds that it would help him "plan better." Motherfuckershitgoddamn!
Unsurprisingly, the couple was spooked to the point that they never even bothered moving in. They filed a lawsuit against those previous, blood-promising owners -- who, as it turns out, had received a "Watcher" letter of their own before the sale closed, a horrifying amenity they failed to disclose to prospective buyers.
Of course, you can't file a lawsuit like that and then turn around and not disclose the fact that your house has an obsessed fan to people who express an interest in making a purchase. Needless to say, that makes unloading the house through traditional means a bit of a long shot. Unless "The Watcher" is really just an elaborate scam on the part of someone looking to buy the house at a reduced price. Maybe someone who got outbid at some point during the process that led to the initial sale?
I really feel like I just provided the break this case so desperately needs, but I'm not going to get cocky about it.
4Kevin Gary Has His Day In Court (Repeatedly)
Kevin Gary is kind of like the Scientology of stalkers (there's a Scientology for everything -- I'll explain later), in that if you question his actions in a way that makes him look bad in the eyes of the public, he will use the legal system to make your life a living hell.
First, though, he'll make your life a living hell all on his own. That's what he set out to do after a woman named Harvette Williams gave him her business card at a party. Well, his initial intent was to ask her out when he called her the very next day, but when she had the gall to shoot him down, things got weird. It started with Gary driving past Williams' place of employment on an almost daily basis. She noted that he was in a different car each time, like some kind of budget-minded Jay Leno using his fleet of $15,000-$17,000 mid-sized sedans to pull off the shittiest Jaywalking skit of all time.
He also called her dozens of times a day, as every stalker training manual since the dawn of the telephone era has instructed. So far, this is all standard operating procedure.
"Excuse me, this book said I was supposed to follow you here."
Gary started to set himself apart from the average lovesick psychopath when he approached a maintenance man at Williams' apartment complex with an offer that was just too good to refuse: $500 in exchange for a key to her place.
Actually, that offer should be so easy to refuse. The odds that you won't be spending that money securing a dollar store defense lawyer to guide you through the process of being tried and convicted as an accessory to murder are just astronomical, and that's just the beginning of the myriad reasons you shouldn't do it. Not wanting to carry around the guilt of knowing you're a person made mostly of trash should be another.
It's fortunate that this severe deviation from typical apartment maintenance policy didn't end in murder. It's less fortunate that it did end with Williams realizing that not only had Gary been in her apartment, but that he licked the bathroom mirror while he was there. Or someone did, at least, and that it was him probably wasn't too many spots ahead on the conclusion mat, if that's the one a person wanted to jump to.
Is nostalgia for Office Space references a thing yet?
Gary was eventually arrested and charged with stalking. He went to prison for his crime, and in a perfect world, that would be the end of the story. It's not even close.
Upon being released, Gary promptly filed a $100 million lawsuit against Harvette Williams and a production company that featured her story on a true crime series, claiming both had slandered his good name with their baseless stalking allegations. Never mind that this was a crime he'd already pleaded guilty to, because he had a perfectly sound explanation for that:
"If you ever watch the movie Roots, R-O-O-T-S, by Alex Haley, the same way Kunta Kinte proclaimed his innocence, it's the same way I proclaim my innocence. They forced Kunta Kinte to say 'Toby.' They forced me to say 'Toby' to take a plea."
Just like in the book.
It should go without saying that those are the words of a man who acts as his own lawyer in court. That adds yet another layer of silly and frivolous to his lawsuit, and thanks in large part to your misguided faith in the American court system, you're likely assuming his case was immediately dismissed into oblivion. Technically, yes, it was, but that's precisely the kind of outcome appeals are made for, and Gary has appealed this nonsense all the way up to the Michigan supreme court.
That's not somewhere you get to fast, and this case is no exception. He's dragged this fiasco out for more than ten years, far surpassing the number of years he actually spent harassing Williams through more traditional means. He's kind of like the stalker version of a cop who gets injured in the line of duty in such a way that he's forced to resign himself to a lifetime of soulless desk work.
There's one of those for everything too.