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Thriller Thursday: Celebrity Stalkers

***I have NO idea what’s going on with the header image. None of them seem to be working. Sorry for the ugliness today!

Obsessive October is flying by, and today we’re talking about the superstars of the stalking world: celebrity stalkers. Being in the public makes celebrities ripe for obsessed fans, and the power of the Internet makes it that much easier for the savvy stalker.

The list of celebrities who have been stalked over the years is long: Madonna, Mila Kunis, Janet Jackson, Alec Baldwin, Halle Berry, Uma Thurman, Shawn Johnson, Britney Spears–the list goes on. There are a few, however, that stand out as the creepiest of all.

John Hinckley Jr.

Hinckley Jr. pulled double stalking duty, going after both Jodie Foster and Ronald Reagan. In 1980, when Jodie Foster enrolled at Yale University, John Hinckley followed. He left love notes and poems, including a poem that detailed his plans to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.

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. […] the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I cannot wait any longer to impress you. –John Hinckley, JR.

On the same day he left Jodie the cryptic note, Hinckley went to Washington, D.C. and shot President Reagan, who survived. His press secretary, James Brady, was paralyzed by the bullet that struck him.

Hinckley was charged with 13 accounts of attempted murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity–a rare feat despite what popular television shows depict. He was diagnosed with narcissistic and schizoid personality disorders, dysthymia and borderline passive-aggressive features. He remains hospitalized.

Anthony Gary Silvestri

Anthony Gary Silvestri spent months stalking television reporter Kathryn Dettman in Waco, Texas. In January 1998, he broke into Dettman’s home and attacked her with a knife, stabbing her more than a dozen times.

Dettman had been living her last days in the small Texas town and was preparing to move to a much larger station in Dallas.

“It was an extremely violent attack. She had 15-16 stab wounds.” –Temple Police Sgt. Keith Reed.

Dettman’s friends admitted she knew the 21-year-old had been stalking her. She’d said he was sweet and flattering, and he’d been spotted outside her apartment more than once. Kathryn didn’t consider him a threat.

“Most station managers don’t even give the news anchors all their mail or their email,” says Dietz. “Very few stations have adequate screening of who gets on the premises or do the things for their talent that can help protect them.”
–Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz

Anthony Silvestri received 40 years in prison.

Robert John Bardo

Robert John Bardo cut his stalking teeth on child peace activist Samantha Smith. When she died in a plane crash in 1985, Bardo found Rebecca Schaeffer.

In the late 80s, Rebecca Schaeffer was on her way to making it big in Hollywood, staring in My Sister Sam and several movies. With virtually no stalking laws in place at the time, Bardo got Shaeffer’s home address from a detective agency, who’d obtained the information from the California DMV. He tracked her down at home and confronted her for the sex scene in Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills, accusing her of losing her innocence. He told her he was a big fan, and she asked him to leave. Shortly after, he returned and shot her. Rebecca died on the scene.

As a result of the shady way Bardo found Rebecca’s address and her ultimate murder, the US government passed the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act which prohibits state Departments of Motor Vehicles from releasing the home addresses of state residents.

Robert John Bardo is surviving a life sentence at the Ironwood State Prison in California.

Mark David Chapman

We can’t talk about celebrity stalkers without mentioning Mark David Chapman. I was three years old when John Lennon was murdered. My parents weren’t big Beatles or Lennon fans, but they were still shocked by his death.

On December 8th, 1980, Mark David Chapman traveled to New York City intending to kill John Lennon. After receiving an autograph earlier in the day from the musician and shaking his son Julian’s hand, Chapman shot John Lennon in the back as he was walking into his apartment.

In high school, I couldn’t read A Catcher In The Rye without remembering the story of Chapman remaining on the scene reading passages from the book.

Chapman was sentenced to life and has been denied parole seven times. In August, he told the parole board that as a Christian, he was embarrassed for killing John Lennon.

“So this is obviously very embarrassing for me now, having committed murder.” –Mark David Chapman

He claims he considered going after Johnny Carson or actor George C. Scott, but ultimately chose Lennon because he was “very famous.”

“He was very kind to me. He was a very cordial and very decent man.” –Mark David Chapman

Still, Chapman claims he was so compelled to kill that nothing would have stopped him.

What do you think?

Being a celebrity means a certain lack of privacy–fans discussing your every move over the Internet, paparazzi cameras in your face when you’re out for a burger–but it shouldn’t be a dangerous job. Why do you think so many celebrities are stalked? Is it the fantasy of the perfect mate a stalker creates? Do you think the stalking laws are strict enough?


21 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: Celebrity Stalkers”

  1. Soooo creepy. Stalking is, to me, by far one of the most dangerous crimes because it can be so difficult to prove and prohibit. Quite frankly, someone has to do something FIRST before being charged/prosecuting. I can’t imagine being stalked knowing that for it to stop, you first need things to escalate. Ugh!

    I think celebrities do have a right to privacy. Yes, they are in the public eye and when they are “on” they are “on” but outside of that, they should be left alone to enjoy their life and family like anyone else…but people become obsessed, especially stalkers. Sad that these people who work so hard to entertain and inform us end up the targets.

    • You’re right. It can be really difficult to prove. They’ve strengthened the laws in the last decade, but certain things still have to happen in order for the police to get involved. If you’ve got a really smart stalker, they can do it for a long time without getting caught.

      I agree – celebrities still have a right to privacy. Doesn’t matter that they’re in the public eye.


  2. I’m not going to lie, after reading this I stood up and locked my front door… Fun and a little creepy, I liked the facts.

  3. I agree with Natalie. When not “on” celebrities should be allowed to live their lives in private, but I know that’s not ever going to happen. Too many people think they have a “right” to know everything about someone famous. Stalkers are just plain terrifying. You never know when they’ll escalate and do something harmful to you or someone you love.

    • I agree. The papparazzi add to this attitude, too. Not much a celeb can do when there is money to be made by taking pics of them. I agree, stalkers are terrifying and the Internet has made it worse.


  4. I’m rarely one to endorse stricter laws on anything, but honestly I’ve no idea what stalker laws are like. It’s upsetting at times being in a situation where the police can’t do anything until AFTER something happens, but I don’t think being uncomfortable is an excuse to limit others rights.

    On the subject of celebrities all I can say is I don’t get it. There are actors I like, and authors I like, but I don’t understand the fanworship thing that most people think is health, let alone stalking someone and shooting the president to gain their attention. I had the opportunity to meet an author at a convention a few years ago that I greatly admire. It was neat, and I eventually asked for an autograph after spacing it when I bought the book at his booth, but the only reason I asked for the autograph later on was I knew it would increase the value of the physical book years down the road. I’ve had teachers have pretty profound effects on my life, and didn’t ask them to sign my transcripts…

    • The stalker laws very state by state. And you’re right, it is a fine line. Trouble is, there have been plenty of cases where a guy was creeping around but didn’t technically do anything “wrong.” And when he did, it was too late.

      Oh I agree on celebrities. It’s amazing how people can get so invested in their lives. I think the Internet and ability to interact with other fans has made it even worse.


  5. I remember where I was when John Lennon was shot. Now to hear his killer is embarassed is an outrage. He took a talented man’s life. He should be happy he’s incarcerated. You never know if some fan of Lennon might take Instant Karma seriously.

    • Isn’t it? After all these years, I don’t think he feels true regret. For him, it’s just unfortunate Lennon was so famous.


  6. John Lennon’s death was such a pointless waste. I do think the laws should be made stricter, Stacy. It isn’t that difficult to tell someone to stop following someone else, and the police shouldn’t have their hands tied. We’ve seen enough of this creepy behavior (as this post clearly points out) to know it when we see it.

    • Yes, it was, as was Schaeffer’s. I do think the laws need to be worked on, and the real issue is in the fine print. If a stalker hasn’t technically done anything illegal, the police can’t do a damned thing. And most don’t have the manpower to keep an eye out.


  7. I am always one to look over my shoulder, not because I could be stalked, but because some whack job might be looking for a victim and they tend to follow victims to their homes. CREEPS!

  8. Ruby Barnes

    This is a very scary topic. A lot of non-celebrities get cyber-stalked these days if someone takes exception to their online viewpoints or art. It’s easier than ever to find out information about individuals. All you need to do is type their street into Google and you have a map or photos of where they live. It can also happen to any of us non-celebrities who make ourselves known online in chat forums etc. All I would say is avoid online confrontation and be ready to blacklist and block people from your social media as soon as any sign of trouble presents itself.
    Wandered off a bit there. Celebrity stalking. I can understand it. My ex-wife was convinced she should have been with Barry Manilow. She later started to hang around teenage boy bands that appeared on TV and finally moved her fascination to a UK pop star named Gary Barlow (UK X Factor judge). She remains convinced he will one day discover her love and they’ll end their days together. She perceives personal slights in his TV behaviour and her bizarre feelings alternate between love and hate depending upon criteria that no one except she understands. We don’t think she’s dangerous but when does a fan become a dangerous stalker?
    I’ve no doubt there are quite a lot of people around like her, fixated on a persona developed for the purpose of entertainment. If I was a celebrity I would invest in keeping tabs on who was watching me. Or would that be reverse stalking?

    • Cyberstalking is terrifying to. It’s so easy for people to get our information these days, and some of it needs to be out there. It’s hard to protect ourselves.

      Wow on your ex-wife. That had to be hard for you to deal with. I don’t think you can reason with that type of person. It’s a form of mental illness and she needs professional help.

      Thanks for sharing!

  9. I don’t get the intense attention paid to various celebrities. blows my mind. who cares what tom cruise ate for breakfast or Brad and Angelina is doing? not my interest at all. stalking is terrifying. and the laws suck. thanks for another interesting, informative post.

    • I really think – for a lot of people – it’s about escapism and living vicariously through others. I think people fixate on a celebrities outer persona and then create who they want them to be on the inside. Thanks:)

  10. I remember the Schaeffer death. So sad. I can’t imagine the fear that comes with knowing you’re being stalked like that. Are there celebrity authors who’ve been stalked? I don’t know.

    I’m a big proponent of leaving celebrities alone unless they’re at an event where they are appearing in their professional role. Otherwise, these are just people who need time to unwind and be with their families and have a little privacy.

    But there’s a huge difference between being an annoying fan and being a murderous stalker. Creepy, Stacy!

    • I do, too. Very sad, and I don’t think she knew she was being stalked. I don’t think she ever had a chance.

      I agree. I could never approach a celeb outside of an event where they expect to be bothered. It’s just rude – they really are just people.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Pingback: Friday FaBOOolousness – Celebrating October and Halloween 2012 | Tiffany A White's Ooo Factor

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