Stalkers: when devotion turns to obsession
In the previous post, I told you about death threats not the occupational hazard you might expect for media people in Newfoundland and Labrador. But it doesnt stop there, for Tracy Kelly (not her real name). There is also the unspoken threat of the stalker; a stranger who pursues you for no fathomable reason.
Is he an overzealous fan? A sexual predator? A potential killer? These are the vexing questions that make stalkers so worrisome.
And Tracy has had ample opportunity to ponder these questions.
On the moderate end of the scale are people who seem to know more about her than perhaps they should. These contacts may be benign, but their effects can be disquieting.
My birthday rolls around and there are letters in my home mailbox, which is not really my mailbox because we pick up mail at the super-mailbox, Tracy said. These are hand delivered to my house letters, cards, gifts. On the one hand, that seems nice. Other times I have to wonder: how do they know where I live? And where would they get the courage to go up to a strangers home because I am a stranger and drop something off? Its just a little weird that they know where I live.
In addition to the death threats exposed previously, Tracy says she has received bizarre threats of physical violence.
Ive had some people who somehow found out my home number and have called me, threatening me. Ive had women who somewhere along the way get it in their heads that their husbands and I are having affairs, which has never, ever, ever happened. Ive had women call to say they know I go to such-and-such a place, and the next time they see me there, theyre going to beat me up, and how dare I break up their home. I dont know if their husbands are making up things, or if theyre just paranoid
Then there are the people who deteriorate into stalker territory; who creep from dedicated fan into dangerous obsession.
Some start as friendly notes, Tracy said. One gentleman dropped me off a card. A little while later he saw me at a corner store and said he was a big fan. I said thank you very much, and then he started sending stuff to my work. Presents odd presents.
One time I was in a parking garage at the Delta and he popped up right by my car and said hi! I said Hello youve got business here? and he said No, I just knew you were here. Well, how would he know I was there unless he followed me? He said he just wanted to talk. So I called the person I was visiting on my cell phone, so he could hear what was happening, and said, Im just here visiting my friend, and he came down and sort of rescued me. I got in my car (with my friend), drove around the block and dropped him off. That guy may never have hurt me. I just didnt want to take a chance.
Tracy said she has been followed several times, but managed to convince herself it was coincidence; that she was just being paranoid.
But one time I was working on the weekend and there were only a few cars in the parking lot. Someone said, Watch it Tracy, we dont know who owns that car, and theres a man sitting in it. Later, when I left, the car pulled out the same time I did, so I thought, well, Im not going to go straight home because hell know where I live. So I went the other way and kept driving around. And he followed me everywhere. I had my cell phone with me, so I called my co-workers and said Look Im on ____ street, Im going to pull into the Shoppers Drug Mart parking lot. Can you meet me there?
One of the guys said Ill be right there. So I drove a bit, pulled into the parking lot, and parked my car. The guy parked too, but a few rows of cars away from me. My co-worker called and said Okay, Im here. But why dont you see if he is following you just get out and start walking toward the store, and Ill be walking nearby too.
I did, and the guy got out of his car and started walking quickly behind me, and I pretended I wasnt aware of him. My co-worker stopped him and said Hey, what are you doing? he said, Im just going into Shoppers. My co-worker said, Well, you were in the parking lot, and youve been following Tracy around the city, and now youre here behind her. And then he said, Well, Im just a fan and wanted to say hello to her. So then he got in his car and left and I didnt see him after. I mean, if he wanted to say hello, he could have done so when I left work.
One stalker did his work closer to home outside of her home, to be precise. At the time, Tracy lived with her partner in a house with a lot of front windows facing the street. The curtains were usually kept drawn, though it wasnt much of an issue because the houses were on large lots, a good distance apart.
One day, one of the neighbours came over and said, for the last two or three weeks, there is a guy who shows up and just parks his car As soon as my partner would leave, he would pull up. He would just sit on the street and stare in at our house.
Sure enough, the next time her partner was away, her dog became agitated, alerting her to commotion outside the house. I wondered what was going on, so I put the dog on a leash and walked out. When I did, there were police there, and about 10 neighbours. They said he was there, they called police, and actually approached the vehicle and knocked on his window and said, What are you doing? When they looked into his car, they saw binoculars and a gun scope. Now they didnt see a gun, so they assume it was being used as a telescope. They asked what he was doing and he said his sister lived on this street and he couldnt remember where she lived They said, no, these are all single-family homes. So that was wrong. Then he said she was renting a place. They said, No she isnt. We know everyone on this street. Then he said, Actually Im looking for a car for sale. They were just trying to delay him until the police came. When he saw the police coming, he hightailed it, so one car went after him.
The police followed the man home, to the other side of town, where they knocked on his door and confronted him. He came out and confessed that he had a crush on me, had found out where I lived and wanted to get a look at me, so he had been sitting there for the last few weeks with binoculars and gun scope, hoping to get a glimpse of me as I walked by. The police said, Well you cant do that! He was embarrassed and terrified. And he never did it after. It was still a bit scary though.
There have been many instances in the U.S. of celebrities being stalked and assaulted on rare occasions, killed by obsessed fans. I asked Tracy if she worries that a spurned fan might become violent.
That does go through my mind, yes. I think everyone believes that sort of thing will never happen for a public figure in Newfoundland and hopefully it never will But things happen to unknown people all the time in this way they are stalked, and threatened and injured. So I dont expect to be immune from it.
Coming next, in part 4, Tracy talks candidly about rumours and gossip the unkindest cut of all.