WARNING: The following audio contains content that could be psychologically triggering.
This episode is "The 5 Stalkers" - a psycho-analysis of the well-known 5 unique stalker types, and some crazy Stalkers that fit perfectly into each of these types.
In the late 1970s, Sacramento Police were in search of an "East Area Rapist" who stalked and raped more than 50 women, killed 10 and was still on the loose. Each victim received a voicemail on their phone from this man with heavy breathing and odd statements. One asking "Is Ray there?," a 20-second voicemail asking for a person who doesn't exist and another voice-mail was quite clear.
Today we're gonna talk about the different kinds of stalkers, but before we do that, I just want to say that a lot of us are capable of low-level stalking. Maybe after a fresh break-up, you've driven by an ex's house, or gone through a spouse's cell phone or mail when they were away.
"Facebook stalking" is a common example of something everyone does because of the extreme anonymity online. Maybe it's someone that you're crushing on that you barely know, maybe you just want to check if they're in a relationship first. These are things we all do, right?
On the flip side, have you ever thought about how many times YOU'VE been stalked? Maybe that person you barely know at work, or that ex who didn't even try to hide it is driving by YOUR house, or checking your Facebook right now.. Where do we draw the line? How harmful is this behavior- where does it become dangerous? Well, while you might engage in low-level stalking, feel a little jealous and move on with your day, a true stalker wouldn't be able to let you go.
The Psychology of a Stalker
Contrary to what you might think, stalkers are usually introverts. They often don't have any close personal relationships of their own. People with attachment disorders often describe a feeling of emptiness and look to others to fill it for them, which is exactly what stalkers do. But, stalkers might be narcissistic in nature in that they are consumed in their own obsession with you. It may seem as though the stalker's victim is being idolized, but when you think about it, this is actually very selfish in nature, because they will go to dangerous lengths, regardless of how it affects you or anybody else.
Also, like a narcissist, stalkers often have fragile self-esteem. In their attempt to gain your affections they will employ a variety of tactics: writing you letters, sending you emails, begging for your attention, calling you over and over again, hanging around where you live, where you work, buying you endless gifts, candy, cards, flowers, going through your trash, maybe they follow you by car, maybe they hack your email, maybe they get into your bank account and find out where you shop, where you eat. As long as they are stalking you they can convince themselves that you haven't refused them... that there's still hope you can be theirs. Their stalking behavior fuels itself!
The mind of a stalker is a complex network of various personality, mood and psychotic disorders, like narcissism, but also delusional thinking, paranoia, erratic moods, feelings of intense emptiness and abandonment. In general, stalkers tend to have above average intelligence. Their high IQs mixed with obsessive thoughts of you creates a twisted ambition. Like the Terminator, the only thing on his mind is Sarah Connor. Being so single minded, they can acheive their goal of being close to you by tapping your phone line, getting a job at a place you frequent, or even getting a job at place where they could access your information, like your bank or your electric company or your housing development. Stalkers are sociopathic in nature in that they don't adhere to society's rules. Most stalkers cannot see that they are doing anything wrong, that their actions are frightening or invasive. This delusion, when unrequited for too long, can become violent, and in many cases has.
In the early 1990s, psychiatrist and stalking expert, Paul Mullen, interviewed 145 convicted stalkers at an asylum in Australia. His findings led him to conceptualize five unique stalker types, which are considered the gold standard in classifying stalker behavior today.
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Mullen says "an individual who has experienced the unwanted end of a close relationship. When this stalker’s attempts to reconcile fail, they frequently seek revenge. The therapeutic focus is usually centered on the stalker ‘falling out of love.’ The individual is counseled on how to move on from a bitter preoccupation with you to accepting that you don't actually love them and more importantly, that they don't actually love you.
In the late 1960s, Tatiana Tarasoff was at a New Years Eve Party in California where she shared a fleeting kiss with Prosenjit Poddar, an exchange student from India. When he tried to pursue her further, she politely declined, and Prosenjit could not handle her rejection. Over the next year, he developed obsessive thoughts for Tatiana and even began recording their conversations. While visiting his therapist, Posenjit revealed intentions to kill Tatiana because he felt so rejected. Though his therapist diagnosed him with schizophrenia and harmful intentions, later that night the police determined that he was not a danger to himself or anyone else. But less than a month later, Tatiana returned from Brazil on a break from school. On October 27, 1969, Prosenjit Poddar went to Tatiana Tarasoff's house, shot her once, and stabbed her 14 times. Tatiana's parents sued the therapist for not informing Tarasoff of Poddar's intention to kill her. This led to the infamous Sureme Court Case Tarasoff vs. Regent, and now, mental health professionals have the duty to warn individuals that are threatened by patients. This is something I have to deal with often in my own career. If I have a psychotic patient with homicidal ideations, and if they have a target, I have a duty to warn the target, and even document the attempts I made as well as admit the patient for psychiatric treatment.
The Intimacy Seeker
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Mullen sayer: "identifies a person, often a complete stranger, as their true love and begins to behave as if they are in a relationship with that person. Many intimacy seeking stalkers carry the delusion that their love is reciprocated."
Canadian physician, John Palumbo, was notorious for his stalking of the Country-Star, Shania Twain. Palumbo underwent recurrent psychiatric care in the 1990's. In the early 2000's, he began writing her letters that started casual, "How about we get together a.s.a.p. so we can get to know each other in person?" but as his obsessive thoughts increased, it seemed his grip on reality vegan to slip. The letters became more and more intense, "I love you more than quotes can describe. I love you more than anything in the universe. I need you more than anyone else in the world." And she described these letters, saying "I'm not responding, but he's writing as if I am." He addressed each of these letters to Eileen, insisting on using her real name, and even showed up at her grandmother's funeral uninvited and an awards ceremony in 2011. During his trial, Palumbo spontaneously blurted out" Eilleen, you can trust me, I'm going to plead guilty," during Twain's confession, then mumbled, "I've been offended too much your honor." Perhaps he thought by pleading guilty, he would be proving his love for her, thus reinforcing his delusion that they are in a relationship. It would later be revealed by his ex-wife that Palumbo created a shrine for Shania Twain and had a collection of videotapes and CDs of all of her appearances. The Intimacy Seeker Stalker-Type tends to socially isolate because they feel incompetent in social settings. Clinical treatment of the intimacy seeker involves bolstering their sense of competency in social situations as well as focusing on their underlying mental disorder.
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Mullen says, "like the intimacy seeker, The incompetent [Stalker-Type] hopes their behavior would lead to a close relationship, satisfying their need for contact and intimacy. However, this type of stalker acknowledges that their victim is not reciprocating their affection while they still continue their pursuit." Mullen views these stalkers as intellectually limited and socially awkward. Given their inability to comprehend and carry out socially normal and accepted courting rituals, the incompetent stalker uses methods that are often counterproductive and frightening.”
Use Jay Gatsby example
After attempting to assassinate President Reagan in the 1980's, the name John Hinckley Jr. has been immortalized as the most well-known incompetent-type stalker, perhaps in history. In his delusional mind, Hinckley has developed an obsession for 17 year old Jodie Foster, and believed in his mind that if he killed the President, it would make her love him. Just before he leaves for his rendezvous with history, Hinckley wrote the following:
There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now. As you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.
I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and know how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I’ve come to realize that I’m the topic of more than a little conversation, however full of ridicule it may be. At least you know that I’ll always love you.
Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.
I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love. I love you forever.
— John Hinckley TC mark
True to the definition of an Incompetent stalker, Hinkley fully understood that, not only was Jodie Foster not in love with him, but ridiculed him. This kind of stalker doesn't mind the self depreciation, but rather uses it as a kind of sacrificial fuel for their stalker behavior, the more they suffer for you, the more they prove their love for you.
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Mullen says the Resentful stalker experiences feelings of injustice and desires revenge against their victim rather than a relationship. Their behavior reflects their perception that they have been humiliated and treated unfairly, viewing themselves as the victim.
In the late 1990's, Los Angeles Security Guard, Gary Dellapenta began to develop an obsession for a younger woman from his church, Randi Barber. Though he repeatedly tried to be with her, she consistently turned him down. Eventually, it became too much for her and she went to the authorities of their church. The church banned him from the congregation, and Dellapenta isolated himself in his home, turning to his computer to exact his revenge. His harrassment and "cyber-stalking" of Randi Barber hits a new extreme in the summer of 1998, when Dellapenta begins posing as Barber in sex-related chat rooms. He puts her address on a series of personal ads asking for men to come to her home and help her act out a rape fantasy. When men would express interest in the ad, Dellapenta would provide instructions via email of exactly how to break into Barber's home. Think about this..His revenge could be to kill her, to slash her tires, or even try to get her fired from her job. But what he chose to do was have her gang-raped, aggressively and dramatically. Perhaps that's his way of controlling her sexually, getting her to have sex with him in his own way. He probably felt a sexual rejection by her, which would be consistent with the resentful stalker type.
We all have experienced jealousy or maybe even have felt vengeful. Be honest with yourself, what's the worst thing you've ever done? Or what's the worst thing that's ever been done to you? How close have you come to letting your resentment cause irreversible damage.
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Mullen says the predator stalker, like the resentful stalker "also has no desire for a relationship with their victims, but what they crave is a sense of power and control. Mullen explains that they find pleasure in gathering information about their victim and fantasizing about assaulting them physically, and most frequently sexually. Predatory stalkers should almost always be managed within a sex-offender program, with the main focus being on the management of the paraphilia that is the driving force behind the stalking behavior."
The Original Nighstalker is one of the most infamous stalkers in American history, as he was able to stay anonymous and continue committing heinous crimes for over a decade. In Sacramento, in the late 1970s, Richard Ramirez was an intelligent and charismatic man in his daily life. Nobody had any idea that he had raped more than 50 people in the late 70's and early 80's, he would ultimately be committed for more than 14 murders, all in middle-upper class neighborhoods. His anonymity and murder frenzy gained him widespread attention and earned him elusive names like the East Area Rapist, The Original Nightsalker, The Diamond Knot Killer and The Golden State Killer. The victims would notoriously receive a voicemail on their phone from the Original Nightstalker right before they died.
He would wake you up, wearing a ski mask, in the middle of the night after having broken into your home, and your body is half bludgeoned, like all his victims before you. He is also known to have called his rape victims months afterward and just breathe heavily into the phone.
In my opinion..This is the most lethal stalker, because it's about killing you, rather than being in a relationship with you. The inherent difference in this stalker-type from all the others is it's level of savage, unprovoked violence. It's a terrifying thought to think that you could be walking down the street and you could just look at somebody the wrong way and they could just get it in their head that you're their new prey. To me, this is more of an extension of a pattern of behavior seen in serial killing. What's the difference between a serial killer and a predator stalker? They're very similar, anti-social in nature, with psychopathic behavior, meaning no feelings, no conscience, delusions and ideologies about themselves and other people. Sometimes, it's religious and they might believe they're doing gods work and you're a sinner, so by killing you they're saving you. Delusions are only limited by the human imagination.
Because of the grave nature of this kind of relationship, we feel a responsibility to pass on what we know. So, here's some suggestions- some therapeutic interventions for what you do if you think you've got a stalker. Or if you, yourself are feeling these ways. How to pull back before you hurt someone, yourself, or end up in jail.
When Identifying a Stalker,
Look for These Traits:
- Low Self Esteem or Narcissistic behavior
- Above average intelligence (though they don't always have this)
- Socially awkward, Lack of embarrassment
- Won't take no for an answer
- Sociopathic and delusional thinking
For any therapeutic interventions to be effective, the underlying mental disorder needs to be addressed. For example, a person with a psychotic delusion that they're pregnant with your baby, that delusion needs to be managed. This is usually done through intensive medication management in a mental hospital— If it can be managed at all, as some people will not be susceptible to the effects of medications. Not to mention, most stalkers tend to refuse treatment, as they consistently rationalize and excuse their own behaviors.
If they are a true sociopath, you won't be able to teach them social skills, because they lack basic empathy. What you can do, is talk to them about the effect on their own lives. I've talked to sociopaths and tried to play on their empathy. What happens is, they play back, and you are engaged in an endless chess game with them. They'll use your sense of empathy against you. To them, empathy is a weakness to be used against you. Once, a sociopath tried to be my friend, he tried to buddy-up with me, get personal, make me like him a little more. The more I like him, the more control he has over me.
If you think you have a stalker, tell everyone you know, your family and friends. If you were to disappear or something were to happen, you can protect yourself by having everybody in your life informed, give them a detailed description and everything you know about them. Your family and friends are more likely to notice when you go missing a little sooner, or even help the police to find your body faster!
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