When a Stranger Calls . . .

A voice in the night. Out of the dark. He calls when you’re alone. Perhaps he says nothing. He hangs up. It doesn’t mean much at first. But then the voice calls again. Again. Again. Each time the feeling grows worse. The anxiety heightens. You are compelled to look over your shoulder. Your mind races. You are sure the caller must know you are alone. That means he has been stalking you. That means he is watching right now. Your thoughts race. Panic. Every sound. You listen for every sound, but you can’t hear anything. Your heart is throbbing in your ears. That damn thing! Control your breathing. Listen. You aren’t sure if you hear anything. Nothing can relieve this anxiety unless the phone rings again. Then you know he is at a phone and not in the house . . . or ready to break in the door.

Such is the way it was in the 1970s when EAR made his calls.

A silent but repetitive phone caller is psychologically stalking. The caller has let you know he knows you are there. He knows you are home. It is the basis of terror. You don’t see it. Terror does not confront you. Terror only hints. You do the rest to yourself.

It is a thing of the past, of course. The days of obscene phone callers are over. No need to worry about the derelict minds of the 1970s. Cell phones can be traced. Call back tells you his id. A sick mind has been robbed of one way in which it can express itself in an orchestration of terror.

The younger generation has a hard time understanding the psychological impact of a stranger’s call, and call, and call again. You could only call one at home back then. There were only landlines. A stranger’s call meant someone who knew you were at home. Today, you can carry a phone with you wherever, so that a call to you is not as personal as it used to be. The voice has not violated your home. It cannot present itself as near. Out in the dark. Beyond the lights of your window. But the minds are still out there. In the night. In the dark.Roberts1

EAR/ONS was the supreme night predator. He wasn’t about rape. He wasn’t about robbery. He was about terror. He was self-protecting at all times. He planned every move. He planned every move to a home, and every move away from it. So too did he plan every move inside. He tortured with silence. He frightened with sound. But most of all he frightened by location. He didn’t waylay along jogging trails. He struck in the home. That’s quite a task. But his desire to instill fear was too great for him to merely waylay on a street or in a park. He fed on terror. He had to strike in the home.

We cannot hear EAR’s voice anymore. Some think this may be it. But we need never fear that we shall hear it again. Progress in caller ID, tracking, and GPS, has made an EAR impossible today. Neighborhood watches are commonplace. Trail cameras, home cameras. We decry how we have digitalized our life, but we have also stifled such predators as EAR.

I do think that the culture of the 1960s and 70s was partly an influence on why we had so many psychopaths who loved terror. There was much apocalypticism back then. The Zodiac tried a terror campaign, the Mansion Family, The Symbionese Liberation Army, the Zebra Killers. We seem immune today, for better or worse. This, plus a very different outlook today, has made such terror campaigns seem anemic.

Sherlock Holmes was allowed to lament that the criminal mind has lost all of its ingenuity. Compared to what serial offenders used to do perhaps we could say the same, complain that today’s criminal is just a gutter rat or tavern dreg, offering nothing psychologically stimulating in their modus operandi, nothing to excite the gray cells in a checkerboard match of wits to catch the fiend. But that is not true. The criminal mind has not lost its ingenuity. It has been robbed of it by progress. DNA. GPS. Caller ID. Cameras. Neighborhood Watch.

And, lastly, do not underestimate our society’s interest in Cold Case. So many are being solved. So many clues continue to turn up. Those criminals from times past know they are still hunted. They killed before progress gave us what we have today, but progress can still examine the evidence they left behind. Those who commit grievous crimes today know they will forever remain the hunted. That is discouraging for them.



One thought on “When a Stranger Calls . . .

  1. I know it might sound as controversial and/or half-baked as the legalized abortion-crime rate theory, but more and more there seems to be a strong correlation between early-in-life environmental lead exposure and the crime rate (particularly violent crimes). Given that the current POI appears to come from a family with an automotive/mechanical background, could it have been possible that, in addition to all the leaded gasoline anyway, a young EAR/ONS could have particularly high lead in his blood and, with many other factors besides, been led (no pun intended) down a very violent, impulsive road?


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