In 1984, Rockwell scored a major hit with the song “Somebody’s Watching Me.” In both the song and its music video, Rockwell, who was the son of Motown Records founder and CEO Berry Gordy, articulated a very basic fear—the fear of being watched. While the song’s protagonist is clearly dealing with a heavy case of paranoia, most of us share Rockwell’s sharp discomfort with voyeurism. Voyeurs are those people who get a thrill from witnessing something private. Sometimes, voyeurs can satisfy themselves with talking or writing about that which is deemed hush-hush, but on most occasions, voyeurs prefer to watch.
Psychologists have long established the link between sexual deviancy and voyeurism. Indeed, most definitions of the word “voyeurism” or “voyeur” will highlight the fact that practitioners receive a sexual thrill from their activities. A more disturbing association links voyeurism with sexual assault and even murder. According to Ann Rule in her popular true crime book The Stranger Beside Me, Ted Bundy liked to peer through the windows of potential victims for hours at a time. Other serial killers and serial rapists have shared the same compulsion and the same desire to be transgressive.
The following ten voyeurs might not be serial killers, but they’re clearly unhinged to a certain degree. Each one is guilty of a long list of crimes, ranging from indecency to creating long-lasting nightmares in the minds of their victims.
10 The Watcher
In the cushy suburbs of Westfield, New Jersey, sits a lovely home that contains six bedrooms and four bathrooms. By all appearances, the house seems perfect for young upper-middle class families looking for a nice halfway point between rural living and the frantic pace of nearby New York City. In 2014, when Derek and Maria Broaddus bought the home for $1.35 million, they probably thought that they were buying a nice, new, and quiet life. Unfortunately, the home included an unwanted intruder—The Watcher.
A mere three days after moving into the home, the Broaddus family, which includes Derek and Maria’s three children, received a chilling letter. The author called himself “The Watcher” and proclaimed that his grandfather had watched the home in the 1920s and that his father had watched the home during the 1960s. It was now his time to assume the mantle of The Watcher. More worrying was a second letter that contained two cryptic threats: “Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will,” and “I am pleased to know your names now and the name of the young blood you have brought to me.”
Once the story hit the major papers of New Jersey and New York, other former inhabitants of the house in Westfield weighed in on what they believed was truly going on. According to Bill Shaffer, whose family lived in the home during the 1950s and 1960s, Westfield locals are convinced that The Watcher is a local weirdo who enjoys harassing people without reason. Worse still, the community believes that if pressed too hard, The Watcher will retaliate with some form of violence.
Today, the Broaddus family is trying to sell their home at a reduced price, but few buyers seem interested. In the meantime, The Watcher continues to send them creepy messages asking about the family’s sleeping arrangements and other intimate details. An FBI profiler hired by the Broadduses has deduced that The Watcher is most likely a mentally unstable geriatric. The Broaddus family has also decided to pursue legal action against the home’s former owners, whom the Broadduses accuse of concealing facts about The Watcher prior to selling the house.
9 The Yukon Pooper
A truly disgusting prowler made life a little stinky for one Yukon, Oklahoma, family in March 2016. The presence of the unknown individual was first suspected by the Walker family after they discovered their dog covered in feces. The poop did not belong to the dog. After reviewing their security cameras, the couple realized that the poop belonged to a mysterious prowler who decided to defecate on their property. Prior to this act, the cameras caught the man peeping through the family’s windows and trying their back door.
While the story may sound funny to some, the Walkers were certainly not amused. While the prowler toured the outside of the family’s home, their two children were soundly asleep in their beds, oblivious to the possible danger lurking outside. Later reports made it clear that the Walker family were not the roving pooper’s first victims. Other citizens of Yukon had reported seeing a strange man lingering around their homes at night as well. In fact, during the week that the Walker video was made public, other families in the same neighborhood experienced similar occurrences. One unfortunate citizen even had their car broken into.
So far, the unknown suspect has only defecated in the Walker family’s yard, but he could repeat the act in the future. As of this writing, police are treating the case as an attempted burglary.
8 The Video Voyeur
A voyeur by the name of Jeffrey Polizzi was accused of asking some rather sketchy questions. In fact, when Nassau County, Florida, deputies requested citizens to come forward if they had ever interacted with or been approached by Polizzi, 74 women responded. One of them, Candice Spivey, detailed her experience on Facebook. In the post, which includes a video of Spivey challenging Polizzi, Spivey recounts how Polizzi approached her in a Yulee Target and began to ask her about bathing suits. More specifically, Polizzi claimed that Spivey would look great in certain bikinis. While Spivey successfully managed to chase Polizzi off, his other victims, including some minors, were probably not as lucky.
As the police began to develop their case against Polizzi, they told the public that he had prior arrests for voyeurism, including an incident in 2009 where Polizzi was caught taking photos of women in the dressing rooms of a Jacksonville surf store. According to Spivey, Polizzi had previously approached her in a Publix grocery store and badgered her with questions about the specific contours of her panties. Polizzi was subsequently banned from the grocery store. Following the incident at Target, Polizzi was also arrested and charged with reckless driving.
Although few people have defended Polizzi’s actions, some have questioned whether or not Spivey overreacted in chasing Polizzi from the store. Two writers from CNN even reiterated the fact that, “Asking questions is not illegal,” even if those questions can be deemed vulgar or otherwise indecent.
7 The Shrink Who Needed A Shrink
The crimes of Dr. Stanley Dobrowolski were so bad that Ontario’s Western University felt obliged to apologize. Since Dr. Dobrowolski had worked at the school for two decades prior to earning convictions for sexual assault, the school offered its heartfelt apology for playing a part in the “trauma and hurt” caused by Dobrowolski’s actions.
Apparently, between 1985 and 1994, during a time when Dobrowolski worked for the school’s Student Health Services, several female students had accused him of inappropriate behavior. Although the school’s statement was noticeably vague about the particulars of Dr. Dobrowolski’s “repugnant” actions, it’s likely that the psychiatrist practiced certain forms of voyeurism while working for the school. Specifically, Dobrowolski, while working in his own private practice, surreptitiously filmed nine female patients, most likely during physical exam sessions.
Even before his trial in 2014, Dr. Dobrowolski had a reputation for engaging in unprofessional conduct. In 2004, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found Dobrowolski guilty of touching and hugging female patients without their permission, while more explosive charges claimed that Dobrowolski had engaged in several sexual relationships with his patients. When police gained access to Dobrowolski’s personal computer, they further learned that the bad doctor not only possessed child pornography, but that he was guilty of producing it himself. Today, Dr. Dobrowolski is serving a four-year sentence.
6 London’s Biggest Case
According to the Metropolitan Police, George Thomas, an Indian national and a father of one, is the worst voyeur in the city’s history. Over a six-year period that began in 2009, Thomas filmed over 3,500 individuals without their knowledge or consent. Some of these victims include children and even babies. More shocking still is the fact that Thomas was a prodigious eavesdropper who placed recording devices everywhere, from the bedrooms and bathrooms of his own home to public restrooms throughout the city of London. Most of these recordings wound up on George’s work computer, and from there, they would be used in order to satisfy George’s strange sexual urges.
George’s elaborate operation didn’t come to the attention of the police until March 2015, when a female colleague at Ernst & Young (where George worked) discovered a recording device in the company showers. Later, upon searching the locker that George kept in the company’s gym, police uncovered two cameras and a memory stick that contained illicit photos. In December 2015, George was sentenced to four years in jail.
5 The Creep In The Ronald Reagan Mask
On December 31, 2015, while millions of people around the world were celebrating New Year’s Eve, the Yancey family of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, was being terrorized by a strange prowler. At around 10:53 PM, an unknown man entered the family’s breezeway. As seen on the security camera footage that the Yancey family released, the man was nude except for a sock that was place over his genitals. The man also concealed his face behind a rubber Ronald Reagan mask. All told, the man’s actions lasted no more than 30 seconds.
In an interesting twist, the prowler may have known that the home belonged to Danielle and Bart Yancey. After all, Danielle Yancey is a minor celebrity because she starred on the reality television program Jersey Belle. After discovering the nude man on their breezeway, the couple called 911.
No similar incidents have occurred since then, and it’s possible that the man was either intoxicated or caught performing some sort of strange prank. Either way, Vestavia Hills police believe that the man must have fled to a vehicle or a nearby house, given the extremely cold temperature that night.
4 Prelude To Something Horrible
Joshua Komisarjevsky is a prime example of how voyeurs can quickly become killers. Komisarjevsky (pictured above) and his partner Steven Hayes are also proof positive that the US justice system sometimes fails to consider serious threats serious.
During the early morning hours of July 23, 2007, Komisarjevsky and Hayes entered the Cheshire, Connecticut, home of Dr. William Petit. After severely beating Dr. Petit, Komisarjevsky and Hayes located 48-year-old Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley. Komisarjevsky and Hayes were interested in stealing some of the Petit family’s considerable wealth, but they hit a snag when Jennifer informed them that she would not be able to secure a large amount of money until later that morning. At that point, the burglars drove Jennifer to a bank where CCTV footage caught her withdrawing thousands of dollars from her account.
At this point, the crime should have been over. However, for seven horrific hours, Komisarjevsky and Hayes tortured the Petit family. During this period of time, Komisarjevsky raped and killed Michaela and then helped Hayes to douse the entire house in gasoline and set it alight. Shockingly, several Cheshire police officers were manning a cordon outside of the Petit home during these assaults but did not enter the house.
After Komisarjevsky and Hayes were arrested not far from the Petit residence, investigators learned that Komisarjevsky had selected the Petit family after seeing Jennifer and Michaela in a local grocery store. It is widely believed that Komisarjevsky, who some have accused of being a pedophile, decided to follow the pair because he was sexually attracted to Michaela. Later police documents and confessions also revealed that prior to committing the home invasion murders, Komisarjevsky often broke into homes just to watch people sleeping. Komisarjevsky even admitted that he sometimes used night vision googles to silently stare at snoring couples.
Anuj Parekh, a 20-year-old native of Mumbai, India, currently stands accused of being a very active voyeur. After watching the Virginia Tech student enter a vacant apartment located at the Terrace Apartments complex in Blacksburg, Virginia, police discovered that Parekh had drilled two sets of holes—one set in the walls and one set on the floor. Parekh’s alterations to the drywall were done so that he could covertly spy on his neighbors. Along with a drill, police also found two cameras, a laptop, and multiple hard drives at the scene.
After this discovery in March 2016, police hit Parekh with six charges, including one count of felony burglary with intent to commit larceny, one count of felony burglary with intent to commit a felony, two counts of voyeurism, one misdemeanor count of property damage, and one count of felony burglary with intent to commit a misdemeanor. While it’s clear that Parekh was extensively involved in Peeping Tom activities, he does not seem to be the only voyeur in Blacksburg. In fact, Parekh was caught thanks to a larger investigation into voyeurism on campus. Parekh is currently awaiting trial.
Priests, pastors, imams, and rabbis are supposed to be people you can trust without reservations. Obviously, considering the many cases of sexual abuse that have rocked the world’s major religions over the last few decades, that trust has eroded. Rabbi Barry Freundel is just another reason why so many people are losing faith.
Freundel, the former rabbi of the Kesher Israel synagogue in the Washington, DC, neighborhood of Georgetown, plead guilty in 2015 to filming women as they changed inside of a Jewish bath. In total, Freundel secretly filmed 52 women as they prepared for the mikvah, an Orthodox Jewish cleansing ritual. For these crimes, Freundel was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
In the summer of 2015, Freundel appealed his sentence on the grounds that he should have been charged with one count of voyeurism instead of 52. A federal court judge in Washington, DC, upheld the original verdict in July and further argued that Freundel would serve the remainder of his sentence in a federal prison. Surprisingly, one man, Jeffrey Shulevitz, wrote in The Jewish Daily Forward that despite the fact that Freundel had videotaped his wife, he did not think that the disgraced rabbi deserved be locked in solitary confinement. Other members of the city’s Jewish community even went so far as to publicly forgive Freundel for his actions.
1 No Longer Cold
The case of Jonathan Scott Graham took an unexpected turn when the convicted Peeping Tom helped to break a very cold case. On August 16, 1986, Edmond, Oklahoma, resident Gary Dale Larson and his fiancee were attacked during the night by an unknown intruder. Larson was stabbed 24 times in the chest and stomach after leaving his bedroom in order to investigate a noise. A while later, when Larson’s fiancee went to go check on him, she found a strange man standing in the couple’s home. The man then proceeded to rape the woman for three hours at knifepoint. When he was finished, the intruder bound the woman with rope and shoved her into a closet.
For decades, the case haunted Edmond police officers. Then, 18 years after the murder, motion censors belonging to Edmond resident Scott Eggleston were triggered by Graham, whom Eggleston later found barefoot on his property. On April 5, 2004, police arrested Graham for peeping. Graham was charged with spying on certain individuals in the 1200 block of Pepperdine Avenue, which was just a block away from the former home of Gary Larson. When police compared Graham’s footprints to ones that were discovered at the 1986 crime scene, they were a perfect match. Because of this damning evidence, Graham was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole in January 2005.
Benjamin Welton is a freelance writer based in Boston. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic, Listverse, and other publications. He currently blogs at literarytrebuchet.blogspot.com.