When you’re a huge star you will often find the world is watching you; but some fans will be watching a little too closely. Indeed, a few admirers have been known to take their fandom to a dangerous and sinister level. Thus, the number one necessity for any big name is reliable and constant security; that’s a lesson that’s been learnt after many high-profile cases of so-called ‘super fans’ taking their obsessions too far.
What motivated those fans? Some became irrational with desire, often spurred on by underlying serious psychological issues. Erotomania plays a part in some of these disturbing real-life events; when a person becomes deluded with the idea that the person they are stalking is actually in love with them.
These days, we can locate a celebrity’s whereabouts quite easily with the use of Twitter, Instagram and dates of personal appearances online. Most stars like to get close to their fans: signing autographs, singing to the front row at concerts or arranging meet and greets after shows. But all A-listers know they have to be wary, because the fan-celebrity relationship can quickly sour and, in some of the following situations, with fatal consequences…
10. Athena M Rolando
In February 1999 an aspiring actress, Athena M. Rolando, from Billings, Montana broke into the home of Brad Pitt. She was found dressed in his clothes. Rolando was discovered by police at the scene of the crime, carrying a book on witchcraft, a letter to Pitt, a small doll and needles; she claimed she had been in the house for ten hours before she was caught.
Rolando was wearing a blue hat, green sweatshirt, black tracksuit trousers and shoes belonging to the Fight Club actor. Luckily the actor, who was dating Jennifer Aniston at the time, was away from his home address when the incident took place. Rolando pleaded ‘no contest’ to the charges brought against her for trespassing and agreed to undergo psychological counselling.
9. Edward Jones
This is one event that reads like a chapter from a historical novel. In the late 1800s, during the time Queen Victoria lived at Buckingham Palace, a young man named Edward Jones was caught in the palace on three separate occasions. Historians believe that Jones was the first celebrity stalker in history. He apparently gained access after the guards were distracted late at night by alcohol and sex workers.
A senior lecturer at Cardiff University, Dr Jan Bondeson, researched the 14-year-old’s obsession with the monarch by using newspaper reports from the time. According to his findings, Jones really went wild once he was inside the palace; he stole undergarments that belonging to the Queen, raided the food from the kitchen and even enjoyed sitting on the throne. He was sentenced to three months in prison but on release he kept pursuing the Queen.
Dr Bondeson explains in his report how they finally got rid of him:
“They kidnapped him and put him on a ship to Brazil but he came back, so he was kidnapped again and incarcerated on a prison ship which was never allowed near the shore in case he escaped. He was kept on board for six years”.
8. Robert O’Ryan
Olympic gold medalist and Dancing With The Stars champion Shawn Johnson almost came face to face with extreme stalker Robert O’Ryan in 2009. O’Ryan drove to the TV studio where Johnson was filming in Florida and jumped over the wall.
He was restrained until his arrest by security at the studios, but was found in possession of two loaded guns, a wooden bat, duct tape, and a handwritten letter by to Johnson reading: “No matter what happens I will always love you”.
The court during his trial heard that just five days before his arrest, O’Ryan had been pulled over in a traffic stop and the dash-cam had recorded him announcing he was on his way to California to meet Johnson. He told police, “I’m meeting her there and I’m going to try to get her to marry me. I know it sounds a little bit crazy, but my intuition tells me that we’re gonna have a beautiful relationship together”. He was issued two tickets but then let go. He was found guilty by insanity and sent to a mental institution.
7. Dawnette Knight
Michael Douglas had to live through his very own fatal attraction when a crazed-stalker, Dawnette Knight, began to pursue his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones. Knight had repeatedly contacted Zeta-Jones claiming that she had an affair with Douglas but was given money to keep it quiet. Knight also sent very disturbing messages including one letter that read: “We are going to slice her up like meat on a bone and feed her to the dogs”.
Despite attempting to commit suicide with an overdose whilst held in custody; Knight was deemed by the court fit to stand trial in 2004. She was sentenced to three years in jail. The Welsh actress, who had said she was close to breakdown over the constant stalking, had her own personal letter to Knight read out aloud in court. She wrote:
“You have profoundly affected me in how I conduct my life. Your actions will be with me the rest of my life – how I will be constantly observing, looking over my shoulder. You will never be famous, you will never be infamous, you are just a criminal”.
6. Robert John Bardo
Robert John Bardo is currently serving life without parole in a US prison. He was sentenced in 1991. Two years earlier, he had stalked and murdered the American actress Rebecca Schaeffer of the CBS show My Sister Sam (1986 – 1988). He was well known to the police, as he had previously had many charges brought against him for domestic violence.
Bardo frequently wrote to Schaeffer, interested in getting on the set of My Sister Sam; he found out her address by hiring a private detective agency. He eventually went to her home in California to confront her over his “disappointment” about several sex scenes she starred in for the 1989 movie Scenes from the Class Struggle. When he visited her address, he had an autograph signed by the star, and then he took a gun out of a paper bag, aimed it at her chest and shot her.
Schaeffer was announced dead on arrival at hospital and Bardo was arrested the same day as police had found him aimlessly walking into oncoming traffic. He was incarcerated in a maximum-security prison. In 2007, it was reported that Bardo was stabbed eleven times by an inmate using a handmade weapon, but he survived.
5. Dana Martin and Mark Staake
Justin Bieber has had his fair share of haters but none went to the extremes of inmates Dana Martin and Mark Staake. Martin was jailed in 2000 for the sexual assault and murder of a 15-year-old girl. After his imprisonment he developed a strange obsession with Bieber which included getting a tattoo on his leg with the star’s lyrics: “Never Say Never.” He recruited his inmate, Staake, to help plot the castration and murder of the Canadian singer.
After Staake’s release he planned with his nephew, Tanner Ruane, to travel to New York and target Bieber and his bodyguard during a performance at Madison Square Garden. However, the plot didn’t go ahead when Martin then turned against the pair and warned the police of the plans. The two were arrested.
Ruane was found in possession of garden shears (which were supposedly the tool of choice to castrate Bieber) but he was let go, while Staake was charged for outstanding warrants.
4. Father David Ajemian
Father David Ajemian, a priest from Bay State, wanted to confront Conan O’Brien so badly that he followed the talk-show host all around the world; from California to Italy. O’Brien alerted the police to his stalker after he received a postcard with the same mark of the Italian town he had just stayed in. When he was arrested, Ajemian explained he was stalking O’Brien as he had a message for him that “only he would understand”.
The priest, who claimed that he had once lived in the same building as the host, had left a series of bizarre and disturbing messages on the NBC message board demanding that he should be invited to the recording of Conan’s show. He wrote one message on Valentine’s Day that read: “My brother is terrified that I may ‘do something’ at the taping.” He was charged with stalking in the fourth degree and two counts of aggravated harassment.
3. Margaret Ray
Margaret Ray stalked both talk-show host David Letterman and retired astronaut Story Musgrave; she suffered from schizophrenia and erotomania. Ray spent her life roaming between homes at no fixed address, and lost custody of her first four children from her first marriage to their father. She then went on to have a fifth child, Alex. She first came to public attention in 1988 when she stole Letterman’s Porsche from his driveway and tried to travel through the Lincoln Tunnel without paying the toll; her son, Alex, was three-years-old at the time and was a passenger in the car with her.
After her arrest, Ray told the police that she was Letterman’s wife and that Alex was their biological son. She was released but then arrested eight times over the next several years for trespassing on Letterman’s Connecticut property again. She was once found sleeping on his tennis courts. When asked why he never pressed charges against Ray, Letterman said he didn’t feel comfortable with taking such action as he was aware she had psychological issues.
In 1997 her attention moved to Story Musgrave and she entered his property in Florida claiming that they were writing a book together. She said: “I love Dr. Musgrave. I would die for him. He is a man of integrity and intelligence.” She then served time in prison for trespassing. Ray died in 1998 aged 46; she committed suicide by kneeling in front of an oncoming train. Both Letterman and Musgrave expressed their sympathies to her family during that time.
2. John Hinkley Jr.
In 1981, John Hinckley Jr made an assassination attempt on U.S. President Ronald Reagan because he had an obsessional fixation with Jodie Foster and wanted to impress her. Since Foster’s role in Taxi Driver (1976) – where she starred opposite Robert De Niro plotting to assassinate a presidential candidate – he developed an infatuation with the idea. When she attended Yale University he then moved to the same town to be close to her, and began to write letters to the actress and repeatedly call her phone.
Hinckley then started to idolise Lee Harvey Oswald, who was responsible for the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and he wrote Foster a letter explaining how he was going to repeat history; but this time with the newly elected President Reagan. He wrote:
“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”.
On March 30 1981, Hinckley did as he had threatened and shot the President six times with a revolver. Although the bullets were not fatal, they left him badly injured. Hinckley was then restrained immediately by secret service agents at the scene of the crime.
When he appeared in court he was found not guilty by reason of insanity which led to public outcry – the Insanity Defense Reform Act was reformed in 1984 after this trial. In 2005, a federal judge ruled that he would be allowed supervised visits to his parents’ home in Virginia.
1. Mark David Chapman
John Lennon died in December 1980 when he was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman on the front steps of his own apartment in New York; just a few hours earlier he had signed an autograph for Chapman on the street (pictured above). Lennon was returning home with his wife, Yoko Ono, when the fatal incident happened. Although he was rushed to the closest hospital he was pronounced dead on arrival. His death was one that shook the entire world.
Chapman was arrested by police as he was still at the scene of the crime. He was reading a copy of J.D Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye; he said his actions were ‘God’s will’ and that he had been planning the murder for three months. Apparently he had become angered and obsessed with Lennon after he had made the famous claim that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” fourteen years prior to his death.
Although Chapman’s lawyers tried to encourage him to take the insanity plea, he refused. The court charged him guilty of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment; he currently resides at the Wende Correctional Facility in New York. Although he has applied for parole eight times, it has never been granted.
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