Everyone has a story of someone in their past whom they expect to see on the nightly news. That steroid fused father who got thrown out of his kid’s soccer game. The moronic prankster who sent out an anonymous bomb threat just to cut class. That ex who could never quite give up. For me, it’s exponential. Every time I hear a tragedy on the news, whether it be a shooting or a kidnapping or some other horror, a small voice in the back of my head creeps up, from a whisper to a crescendo… What if? What if that guy finally did what he said he would? And I never told anyone. I can’t live with that. So now, I’m telling you.
There aren’t any ghouls, ghosts, or goblins in this story. No creatures hiding in your peripherals, or delusions of grandeur. This is the story of the truest horror I’ve experienced my entire life, one that I’ve kept to myself for far too long. This is the story of the psychopath who ruined my Sophomore year of college.
I went to a state school in the heart of New Jersey. My life wasn’t all that different from your average college experience, I suppose. After a year of living in on campus, my friends and I decided to finally break the shackles of dorm life and rent a house off campus.
The area, and the house itself, were sketchy at best. In the first month, we were forced to move out for a couple of days because of an electrical fire in the upstairs apartment. It was fairly common for someone to be mugged late at night, and if you went down a few blocks, shootings were not unheard of either.
I rented the house with five other guys, and a group of six girls lived next door. We had known them from Freshman year, and managed to rent two buildings right next door to one another. The first couple weeks were amazing… parties, drinking, debauchery. Sleep was for the day, and class was for the dumb.
One girl in particular, Alyssa, had always been like a little sister to me. She had dated my friend for a few months, and we had become good friends in the process. Alyssa was the type of girl that had to try every obscure activity once. What better way to enjoy the “college experience”, than to try everything? Starcraft club? Check. Classics club dress up night? Check. Getting stoned and passing out on the roof? Check. It was her idea to move somewhere nearby, and I was naturally all for it.
One day, after a few weeks of living off campus, she came to me with a flier for an on campus event. *Learn to Give the Perfect Massage*, I believe it was called. To be honest, I wasn’t one to sacrifice my time for these events. They usually involved forced social interactions, that almost always led to nothing but twenty kids desperately eyeing the clock. However, I hadn’t been out all that much, and I had been pigeonholing myself to my own group of friends for quite sometime. It was time to meet some new people, so I decided to give it a shot.
Alyssa and I got to the class fives minutes late, and the lecture had begun as we grabbed our seats. Most people in the class were typical guys, anxious for the excuse to obviously grope girls. A few were shy, awkward Freshmen who were just trying to meet new friends. One guy, however, stood out to me. He stood at the back of the room, away from all the mini groups and circles that had formed. He sat on the floor with his legs spread and pulled up to his chest, and he looked straight at the floor with a surly look painted on his stoic face.
For a reason that I can’t really explain, this guy struck me as… different. I don’t know why, to be honest. He wasn’t any taller than average. No shorter, no thinner, no fatter. His hair wasn’t too long, or too short. He wore a pair of blue jeans and a plain white shirt. But the way he avoided eye contact with anyone in the room, for the entirety of the lecture, still gives me chills to this day.
After a brief introduction and an hour or so of instruction and lecture, we were randomly paired to begin trying the exercises on one another. I was paired with a chatty girl with long black hair who seemed nice enough. Alyssa, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
Now, this part of the story I only know secondhand. I was on the other side of the room and, to be honest, far more interested in my partner than what was going on with Alyssa. When it was time to go, I walked over to Alyssa and her partner and said hello. She smiled nervously at me, pretending to be incredibly involved with putting things in her backpack, while her partner glared at me for about ten seconds. I opened my mouth to introduce myself, and he turned and walked away.
“What was that about?” I had asked her, thoroughly baffled.
“I have no idea,” she responded. “He didn’t say a word the entire time. I tried to talk to him, ask him about school… not a word. He just said his name was TJ. Can we just go?”
Thinking little of it, we grabbed and bags and headed home. Because it was a Friday night, Alyssa and her room mates came over to drink and hang out. To be candid, I don’t remember much of that night. So let’s move on to the next morning.
Alyssa woke up and had five emails. All from different addresses, but with a similar theme. She sent me them at one point, but I lost them, so I’ll have to paraphrase:
Hello, this is TJ from class. It was really nice to meet you.
Do you know of any parties tonight? I’d love to bring you to one, my number is (redacted).
Do you use this email often?
Please write back with your number.
I added you on Facebook. My name there is Joe Simpson.
First off, Alyssa never gave him her email. He probably found it on a school mailing list, or something along those lines. Regardless, Alyssa responded with a kind yet firm email. She lied and said her boyfriend (one of my room mates) was very protective, and didn’t want her giving her number out to guys. After that, he didn’t respond through email.
Second, his name wasn’t Joe Simpson.
I have no idea why he liked alternate names, but it wasn’t the first he tried to add her with. Henry Ford. John Jones. There were at least twenty in the first week.
Then it started to get creepier. He would create names that meant something to her. Jim Carry, her favorite actor, was one. When that didn’t work, he tried her favorite author, musician, athlete. We never knew how he learned so much about her.
The messages started to get more… descriptive, as well. He would say things like “Your boyfriend is a fucking scumbag. He’s cheating on you,” and “If I can make him leave you, will you see me?” Ignoring him only made it worse. The messages turned into phone calls after he, somehow, got her phone number.
He would call in the middle of the night. 1 AM, 2, 3. It didn’t matter. Sometimes he wouldn’t say a thing at all; he’d just sit in silence as Alyssa yelled into the phone, begging for him to leave her alone.
Once he got Alyssa’s phone number, he got her boyfriend’s. He would call and send text messages, telling him he was worthless. That she didn’t care about him. That he had hooked up with her.
When it got to the point that they were concerned for their safety, they contacted the school. Keep in mind, this was before the school shoots in the United States were a major problem. Back then, schools were not nearly as concerned about what they viewed as ‘an argument’ among college students. Since he had never physically threatened either Alyssa or her boyfriend, there was nothing they could do but bring him in for a talk.
That didn’t help.
Three days later, Alyssa got a text message from TJ. It was just a couple words, but it was enough.
It was her address.
Funny how two words on 4x4 screen can make you fear for your safety, and the safety of those around you. She didn’t respond. She packed up a bunch of her stuff, called her boyfriend, and asked if she could stay at our place for a little bit. She didn’t have any other guy friends in the area, and she didn’t have the money for a hotel. Naturally, we told her of course. What did one guy have against six overconfident 19 year olds?
I was out late that night. My room mates stayed at home, while I went out to a nearby bar and had a drink (or six) with some friends from class. I remember stumbling back down the empty college streets around two in the morning. It had just started to snow, and I was underdressed. A thin button down clung to my skin. I stripped it off as I rounded the corner to my house.
I was drunkenly trying to shake the snow off of it when I looked up, and saw TJ standing on my front porch. He turned to face me, and I’ll never forget the look of determination painted on his face.
In one hand, he held a collapsible baton. In the other, the key to our apartment.