I had a stalker. Or maybe, still have. It’s been almost 5 years, and I like to tell myself that chapter of my life is over. But you can never be too cautious.
I was 20 years old and living with 3 of my best friends in a gorgeous old Victorian home right in the heart of Louisville, KY. It was a house in the trendy part of town, the Mecca of all bars, restaurants, and other cool shops. I was a full time college student living a very carefree life. Of course I was cautious, but I never felt like anything bad could ever happen to me.
It all started one Friday before our schools football game. My two best friends and I were heading out to tailgate and I noticed that my car was already unlocked. That was very bizarre because I had an OCD with locking my car. I made note of it, but nothing seemed blatantly amiss so we hopped in and headed off.
It didn’t take long though for us to notice the differences in the interior. Someone had stolen things from my car, but not the normal things. My expensive sunglasses remained untouched, however my personal burnt CD’s were removed. Instead there was a CD left for me in my CD player full of songs about longing for love. Song number #1 went: “I know you don’t know me, but I see you.” Song #2 went: “I watch you while you sleep.” And every other song on that CD was other creepy messages about love that can’t be attained. We stopped the car immediately and began to investigate some more.
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That’s when we found that my trash can FULL of snotty tissues had been taken. Who takes someone’s used tissues? They also left 1 single black glove on accident, I guess to make sure no prints were left behind. What we discovered last however terrified me to my core. I had a spare key to our back door hidden in my glove compartment inside the owner’s manual. Somehow this person found it and stole the manual, the key, my insurance information (with my parents address), and also my spare valet key to my car. Now I was alarmed.
I knew something was very wrong here. This did not seem like a normal car jacking, this seemed calculated and directed specifically towards me. I had chills knowing that this man could get into our house at my time. I contacted the landlord begging him to call a locksmith out ASAP, but being that it was a very old house no local locksmiths had the tools needed until the next day.
I had a bad feeling in my gut. I wanted to get out and stay the night at a hotel but my roommates all convinced me he wouldn’t be dumb enough to use the key the same day. Plus, they said he would likely strike if the home was empty, so by us staying there it would be a safer alternative. I hesitated, but eventually agreed. We called the police to file a report and ask for some security for the night, but since there were no signs of forced entry on my vehicle they didn’t seem concerned at all. It was obvious that if we wanted to stay safe it was up to us to rally our friends and do so.
That night we called over 2 other girlfriends for a sleepover. We felt as though there was power in numbers, and with 6 of us there we would be okay. We stayed up very late until almost 5am sitting with our bats and 911 on speed dial. When nothing happened by then we thought it would be okay to just hit the sheets. I was hardly asleep a few hours when I heard a scream come from downstairs.
I rushed down to see our back door wide open, and all the lights in our whole house on. Our friend Bethany said she was asleep and woke up to that feeling that someone was staring at her and heard movement in the house. Thinking it was one of us she rolled over and went back to bed. Little did she know that this man was in our house walking around to our rooms, surveying our home. That feeling of violation and fear is indescribable.
We called the police immediately to report the break in. But again, since the key was used it couldn’t be considered a “break in.” No prints were left, and no proof of his entry was around so they brushed us off.
I was furious and in tears but knew I had to at least get the locks changed that day no matter what it took. Contrary to our prior beliefs, he clearly WOULD have the guts to strike the same day, and I wasn’t taking any chances. Since no one else would help us, I knew I had to help myself to stay safe. I also took my car down to the dealership and had the whole thing re-keyed. I finally felt like I could put my mind a bit at ease.
That ease didn’t last long though. After this fiasco things just started to get even weirder. My personal mail was often missing from the mailbox. No one else’s was taken, just mine. Always. That just proved to me that this man was indeed coming around the house, and that thought sent chills up my spine. In fact, one day I was on the porch painting a wall decoration and went inside for just a moment to wash off the brush. By the time I went back outside the piece I was painting was gone. In that moment I realized this man had eyes on me at all times. And he wanted to get his hands on every personal thing I had.
I finally got in touch with a police officer who had some sympathy for my situation. He vowed to sit in the school parking lot across the street and watch the home as often as he could. He said he would be on the look out for suspicious cars and people and not to worry.
I was glad that someone was taking the situation seriously for once and prayed that this would all be over soon. I was afraid every time I stepped out of the house. I always needed an escort walking in (there was street parking only and sometimes not in front of the house). Living in fear was no way to live. I felt like this was not a random stalker, but certainly someone I knew in some capacity, as most stalkers are.
The peak of the terror came one evening when I took my dog on her nightly walk. It was 5PM but already dark since it was wintertime. Right as I walked out my side door I saw a man in orange creeping up the front steps of our house. My heart stopped and I prayed he wouldn’t see me. I couldn’t get a good glimpse so I called my roommates inside and told them to look out the peephole and try to get a visual. They looked out and saw an outline of him trying to pry the door open. Because it was dark they couldn’t see enough so they flipped the on the porch lights and he bolted. Unfortunately he had his hood up so none of us could get a good look, but he was in his 30’s (maybe early 40’s), and had brown hair. That’s all I knew.
Calling the police again felt like a lost cause. They didn’t want to help, they dismissed my worries, and said without knowing who this man was they could not do anything. They also said a restraining order hardly ever helps because most stalkers break them regularly. So with that, I simply had to made adjustments on my end to stay safe. I had to send my dog back home since it was unsafe to walk her anymore, and I had to totally reschedule my life so I was never home alone. If someone wasn’t at the house with me I had to leave too, often just driving in circles or sitting at Starbucks. I knew this couldn’t be my life forever, being a prisoner in my own surroundings, but there wasn’t anything else I could do.
I wish I could say there was a real resolution to this, but there wasn’t. My mail kept disappearing until around the time I met my boyfriend. Once I met him and he was coming around and staying at the house almost 24/7 the weird behaviors slowly tricked off. I no longer had strange notes left for me, my mail stopped being taken, and I could finally shake that feeling that I was being watched. I’m not sure what happened. And truthfully I didn’t care, I was just thankful that I could get my life back.
The fear that comes with having a stalker never fully leaves you though. I moved from the house a few months later into a gated community on the other side of town. I locked down all my social media that could give info on my whereabouts, and I learned how to conduct myself online.
I never posted about where I was going or if I was leaving on vacation until after I already got back. Apps like FourSquare were out of the question, and my Facebook was made completely private and unsearchable. I also got myself and my family removed from the White pages and attempted to get personal info wiped from all around the Internet. Unfortunately we live in a world where nothing is ever truly gone. If someone wants to find you, they will. A simple search of someone’s username will pull up old info on him or her. And since I used to do modeling, my photos are out there floating around somewhere in the World Wide Web as well. Of course, as soon as this stalking situation happened I quit modeling completely. It wasn’t worth it to me, and the risk that it put me in.
I still live cautiously, and I am aware that some stalkers lay low for years and then strike again.
I will never truly be “safe” but all I can do is try to leave my personal life off the Internet, and be careful whom I choose to trust. I have also taken steps to know that I can defend myself if needed.
It makes me angry that this man could take so much power from me, and make helpless. He dictated when I could go where and what hobbies I could or couldn’t have. It’s sick and twisted, and I hope those of you reading it never have to through what I did. I’m thankful every day that this case of stalking didn’t progress any further than it did, and I can thank my friends and family for that. They armed me with info and stood by my side when I couldn’t get help elsewhere. I hope that one day there will be more serious consequences for stalking and that the police take it more seriously. Until then, always ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings.