Ten days before Halloween, a letter was left on my front porch, sealed in a plastic bag. A neighbor found it and, having received a similar letter two days prior, called the police. We were told not to touch the letter and to await the responding officer. While we waited, my neighbor gave me an overview of the contents of his letter and his reason for concern: a mentally ill man, believing himself to be a warrior of God, was living in the woods and had written a dozen pages of rantings and ravings, Bible scriptures, and implications that he had been watching for weeks.
It was creepy, but I didn’t believe it was dangerous. Those living with significant mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence. The officer arrived, read the letter, and told us that its author was discussing rape, kidnapping, and murder. It was signed with his full name, along with the moniker “The Wolfman of Hell.”
After the officer left, I emailed a friend who is especially adept at research, gave her an overview of the situation, and asked if she could do a quick search and report back any significant findings. Twenty minutes later she responded. The Wolfman had posted a number of homophobic rants online, taken credit for an unsolved murder on the Appalachian Trail, and cited scriptures, all from Isaiah. One scripture referenced shaving the hair and beards of sinners, liars, and false leaders. As a long-haired, bearded man, I started to get nervous.
My friend, always practical and level-headed, went on to say that she was concerned because my name, picture, and bio are available in print and online. My work with the paper and Hagerstown Hopes has made me a somewhat public figure and, using public data, she reasoned that it wasn’t especially difficult to find me. That’s when I realized that my dog had been behaving strangely for a few weeks, waking up barking and growling in the middle of the night, and now it all made sense. Suddenly this was real, not just an imagined threat or seasonal spooky story.
The Wolfman has since moved on. He was spotted in Pennsylvania over a week ago and I’m hoping he doesn’t come back. I’m still somewhat shaken by the experience, though. My rational mind dismisses the whole thing as a misunderstanding – the Wolfman thought he was saving souls, not realizing his actions were creepy. But, because I wasn’t able to read the letter myself, part of me wonders if this was in some way personal.
Over the years I’ve invested a lot of time and energy making myself feel safe. The past few years have been easier, thanks to social progress and inclusion. Still, every time I appear in public as a representative/educator of the LGBTQ community, I always look for the nearest emergency exits and anything that could be of use if things take a dangerous turn. I always tell myself that I’m just playing it safe, but the letter from the Wolfman reminded me that there is still a part of me that is afraid I will one day be faced with unavoidable danger.
There will always be things to be afraid of in life. The Wolfman’s letter reminded me of this, and it also reminded me that things only have the power we give them. The truth is, the Wolfman is the exception. Through my work I have met far more open-minded and accepting people than those who wish me and my community harm. It’s important to keep this perspective because, if you give in to fear, you also stop living your life on your own terms, which reverses all personal and social progress. It’s easy to fear the bite when we hear the bark. But remember, the Wolfman isn’t the only one with teeth.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.