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Have you ever been stalked?

Did you hear about that doctor in California who tried to break into her boyfriend’s house by going down his chimney? She got wedged in there, about two feet from the bottom, and died of asphyxiation. She wasn’t found until a few days later when she started to smell.

I can’t stop thinking about it. What a horrible way to die. What a bizarre thing to do. Maybe not if you’re a drunk, hot-headed 18 year old kid, but it does seem a little odd for a 49 year old female doctor.

Many years ago, I used to know this guy, Little Peter. (He hated that nickname, but he couldn’t shake it because he was little and his name was Peter.) He was in his early 20s, and he was obsessed with winning back his ex-girlfriend, who had dumped him.

She moved to Toronto to get away from him. He moved to Toronto. She moved back to Ottawa. He moved back to Ottawa. She rented an apartment. He got the job as superintendent of her apartment building. She moved to another apartment building. He climbed up to her balcony, many floors up, with wild roses clenched between his teeth. She moved to an apartment with no balconies. He climbed the brickwork to her 2nd-floor apartment, clinging to the bricks with his fingertips. He peered in the window and saw her with another man. His heart dropped out of his chest and he fell to the ground. Fortunately for him, the good Lord takes care of drunks, and he was uninjured enough to get a can of paint and write in giant letters on Bronson Avenue, in front of her apartment, “I LOVE YOU DIANE.” (I saw it the next day, after many cars had driven through the wet paint, and it looked like he’d been stuttering.)

I can’t remember the specific incident which led to Little Peter’s arrest. After his release from jail a couple of days later, he showed up at my place with this really angry raw wound on his neck. He had tried to hang himself in jail.

“Peter,” I said, “Maybe you should leave her alone.”

“Maybe yes, maybe no,” he replied curtly, “Maybe rain, maybe snow.”

I could tell from his clipped words and the tight expression on his face that the mere suggestion of leaving her alone angered him.

Leaving her alone didn’t seem to be an option for him anymore. Initially he’d thought he could win her back by showing her how much he loved her. But in the process he had crossed the line and become a full-fledged stalker. It was his full-time job; he was obsessed. And he was forcing her into the role of full-time stalkee. He was forcing her to be obsessed with him. She had to be vigilant 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No matter where she hid, he kept finding her. She must have felt like she was living in a horror movie.

Eventually – after about two or three years – Little Peter did let go and stopped stalking her.

(But 10 years later, when I saw her pushing a baby carriage in the west end, she said “Please don’t tell Peter that you saw me.” She was still afraid.)

They don’t all move on. I read about some guy right here in Ottawa who just got convicted of harassing a woman for seven years (to the tune of hundreds of phone calls a day) because he was obsessed with her calves. And then there’s that guy who has been banned from the entire city of Regina because he has been stalking a woman there for 35 years.

I’ve experienced harassment from an ex-boyfriend. It consisted mostly of incessant phone calls and angry emails and suicide threats. But it only lasted a few weeks. I can’t even imagine how awful it would be to live like that for years.

How about you? Have you ever stalked or been stalked?

13 comments to Have you ever been stalked?

  • Like you, Zoom, in 3D life I’ve been harassed briefly but never really stalked. Well, I don’t think.

    I have been cyberstalked in a minor sort of way, though, by three people, two of whom may be the same person. It became bothersome to me just because it went on for so long — it didn’t seem serious at first, and yet what kind of person remains focused on someone s/he doesn’t know and who doesn’t respond over years?

    In my case, both [?] people started off as online friends and ended up really hostile to me, for reasons I can guess at but don’t fully understand (because who wants to risk doing the research?). Both knew where I used to live, and eventually that started to get to me. I became paranoid for a time — memories of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and all that stuff, and I hadn’t even had the affair (although I think sexual fantasy was at work in both cases).

    I finally decided just to stop being scared (knock on wood), and the worst of it has gone away. I think. It’s odd feeling like a target. There’s so little you can do.

  • Bethany

    I have an ongoing stalking problem with an individual in another state — although the last confirmed attempt he made to get through to me was a few years ago, so maybe it’s not ongoing anymore, or maybe I’ve just hidden myself well enough.

    When I was 15 years old and entirely too naïve about the world, I made a friend on a virtual pet website. I tried to “fix” his suicidal depression over a girl who’d spurned his advances, and long story short, he transferred his obsession to me. Despite his determination, I wasn’t interested in him. I cut off all contact when I realized he wasn’t capable of taking “no” for an answer, but it didn’t help that he had my full name, home address, email address, AIM screen name and phone number.

    He never made any threats, but you never know. He tried every avenue he could possibly think of to get in touch, including googling my name and sending messages to anyone who had any connection to me. So I disappeared from the internet as best I could, never putting my full name on anything, locking down privacy settings, and even enrolling in a program at my university that assigned me a Jane Doe identity so nobody could access my records. Regardless, he harassed my friends on AIM and was still sending emails to people who mentioned me online even 8 years later.

    People can be crazy sometimes. At least he hasn’t ever showed up at my parents’ house (to my knowledge) or followed me around, but it’s still unnerving knowing someone out there is so desperate to find me.

  • XUP

    There was a guy once at university who, from when we first started dating, thought it was cute to show up unexpectedly at my house, at my work, at the gym, outside my classes, at my friend’s home when I was visiting there. “I couldn’t wait to see you” he’d say. I got pissed off and told him to stop doing that. But he couldn’t. So I broke up with him. Luckily I lived in a secure building,(with no chimney) so he couldn’t get in. But he kept showing up anyway. He went to my work and when my boss told him I wasn’t there, he cried and told him the whole sad story of how he’d been dumped. Then when he was banned from ever setting foot in that place again, he started showing up at my roommate’s work begging her for information on me. It was a daycare so they called the police. They had him in and they called me and they told him to leave me alone. He quit school. Quit his work. I’d see him out on the road by my building or by my work. Then he disappeared. I found out from his roommate some time later that his parents had come to drag him back home. I think there may have been something wrong with him.

  • When I was nineteen, after breaking up with Lucie, I did the phone thing… call, wait for a pickup, hangup. I think I did it for three months, once or twice a week. Then she picked up and said “Gabriel?” and I said “…” and she said “stop calling.” and hung up. That was it. She had been my first serious sexual relationship.

    I also sent her a mixed tape.

    I’ve been stalked online by two people, that I know of. Both through my Other blog, so neither knew my real name. One of them was an anti-psychiatry, anti-pharmacology activist (re: most likely a Scientologist) who sent me long emails, most of them expressing her love for me.

    She would quote things I had written on the blog, believing I had written them to her specifically. She finally stopped after close to a year because I quoted a Canadian study which said people who have manic depression live longer taking anti-depressants than those who don’t.

    She told me I was responsible for people dying. I haven’t heard from her since… I think four months ago.

  • Sheila

    I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve come really close to being a stalker. I was in a relationship with a man that I worshiped but also suspected of dishonesty. I knew about that disconnect but I was in denial. But, anyway, I had to see him so I’d drive the by the possible places he might be and maybe run into him. He was never displeased to see me- in fact, he always seemed like he was hoping to see me. It was as if he was half expecting me and that irritated me a little because I don’t like to be taken for granted. It was as if he was saying, “I won’t bother to look for her because she’ll look for me”. I’d get disgusted with myself and try to break off the relationship and he would talk to me and I’d fall under his spell again. So many times what we call love is really an addiction to a person or the feelings we get with/about that person. Well, finally I’m finished with that obsession but the story of the chimney death resonated with me because with a little less self restraint that could have been me. Only I’m too claustrophobic (and fat) to attempt going down a chimney.

  • Skdadl, I think your last line captures the essence of it – “It’s odd feeling like a target – there’s so little you can do.”

    Bethany, wow. Eight years. Did you ever involve the police?

    XUP, understatement of the year: “I think there might have been something wrong with him.”

    Gabriel, did you write that about the Canadian study in a deliberate attempt to get her not to worship you anymore, or was that just a fortunate by-product of it?

    Sheila, I admire you for this very honest comment. I think you’re absolutely right that sometimes what we call love is really an addiction. And it’s important to realize that sometimes even the stalker is aware that what he/she is doing is unhealthy and wrong, but feels unable to stop even though it’s ruining their life and eroding their self-respect. (I love your last line too.)

  • Sheila

    I was thinking about what I had said and I was a bit embarrassed at myself for being so open among strangers. My parents would DIE of shame if knew I admitted to such things.

  • Weird how the mind works… at least mine anyway. She actually stopped emailing me over a year ago, back in July of 20009, after I published something called ‘Suicide Is Not The Only Way Manic Depression Kills Us’.

    I was writing about how the poverty and health issues surrounding mental illness are just as likely to kill us as the mental health issues themselves, even years after we’ve recovered from those issues.

    The quote that ended the emails was from a research paper called ‘Depression And Anxiety Can Double Chances Of Heart Ailments’…

    “Anxiety and major depression are both markers of increased cardiac risk, it is imperative that these patients receive the best treatment for both their cardiac and psychiatric conditions”.

    …I never hid my deep love, respect and addiction to all things psychiatric from her. So, when I wrote the piece where I quoted that study, I was surprised when I got her last email.

    It really did feel like she was trying to win me over to the Dark Side rather than to run away with her.

  • 20009 = 2009. I don’t time travel.

  • Wow! Is that a real story? I’ve heard of guys stalking but a girl stalking a guy that got her stuck in a chimney? All I can say is WOW!

  • grace

    I was stalked for about two years by someone I dated very, very briefly. It was particularily unnerving to be tracked down after a move to another city. A phone call to my office from the subway station I used every afternoon had me moving again . . . Also unnerving was the fact that the stalker was part of Gzowski’s Morningside production team. Every holiday or end of season was marked with a friendly hello to all of Canada from the friendly little gang at CBC. And each time I heard that oh-too-familiar voice a chill would run down my spine. I think there may have been something wrong with him.

  • A

    I am grateful for never having truly been stalked. I have an acquaintance I sometimes call my stalker, but he’s just a well-meaning guy whom I have nothing in common with and has Asperger’s, who doesn’t understand body language or hints. Our families are friends, so I don’t want to alienate his family, but spending time with him is very difficult, and when he decides to get in touch with me, I’ll usually get dozens of calls in a very short period of time.

    The closest I’ve ever had to being a stalker, was walking into an apt. building to see if the guy I had a huge crush on lived there, as I thought. He did. That was the end of that, though often when I’m going past his building I do keep my eyes peeled for him (it’s half a block from my house, so when driving home I can’t help but pass it, I’d never go out of my way to go past it just to see him though)

  • Bethany

    Zoom, I never did contact the police. I considered it, but I doubt they would have been of much assistance — since he’d never shown up in person and never made any sort of threats, the most I could have gotten from them is a restraining order lite, which would have said “stay at least 200 yards away from these places: [my home address], [my work address], [my school address].” I wasn’t convinced that the benefits of volunteering additional information would outweigh the drawbacks.