More Than Just a Facebook Stalker
Michael Stone is professor of clinical psychiatry at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. From 2006 to 2008, Stone hosted the series Most Evil on the Discovery Channel, for which he developed a "Gradations of Evil Scale" to rank homicides from 1 to 22 based on their level of evil. He has written 10 books, including The Anatomy of Evil.
Question: What causes someone to be a stalker?
Michael Stone: Stalkers are an interesting group. They’re not all cut from the same cloth. They’re not as homogeneous a group as men who commit serial sexual homicide. You know, there are women stalkers, there are men stalkers. There are stalkers who are very lonely and very eager to affect some kind of attachment, oftentimes to a person that’s more famous or powerful than they are. And so they will find out where the person lives and go around and follow them and look around their house and things. And sometimes they may even commit a crime, you know, breaking and entering, or trying to hurt that person.
There are other stalkers who will try to get back at a lover who has rejected them. The case of Farley, Richard Farley out in California for example, who was... he fell in love with, if love is the right word, with a coworker in his firm that he worked for. And when she rejected him, she rejected him after he said, “If you don’t love me, I’ll kill you.” Well, that’s not the way to a woman’s heart, so he then would find out where she lived, he would put little messages on her car, it was pretty scary. And finally he, being a gun-nut, he brought a bunch of guns to the workplace and he killed seven people. He tried to kill her also, but the bullet hit her shoulder and she survived. So that was a combination of mass murder and stalking because he stalked her for a long time before he erupted in the murder.
But there are other men particularly who are certifiably insane, or crazy. Like, for example, the one that stalked the actress Olivia Newton John. He was a paranoid schizophrenic who had ultimately killed members of his family, but he would go out to California and try... in order to form some sort of a relationship with this exalted and, for him, totally unreachable figure of this beautiful woman. The same, by the way as happened with Richard Bartow in California who stalked Rebecca Shaffer, the actress went to her door after the Department of Motor Vehicles gave him the address and so on, and he shot her to death. Why? Because he thought that she loved him because she sent him a photograph of herself, you know, the way you send a request to an actress, “Please send me a picture,” and she sends probably a thousand pictures to her fans. In his crazy mind, because he was schizophrenic, he thought that she really loved him. And then when he saw her in a movie where she seemed to be acting the part of a woman who loved other guys and was undressing and kissing and so on, he thought she’s betrayed me and he then went and killed her. So that was a stalker that actually killed the object of his affection.
There are other ones that stalk tennis stars and follow them wherever they are and things of that sort. But they're often people who are hungry for attachment, but then who know no bounds... there’s no brake system preventing them from bothering and pestering or even sometimes harming the object of their interest.
Recorded on July 27, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
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