14 June 2013

'night, Stalker...

richard ramirez, the night stalker, living while the night stalker was on the loose, fear of serial killers, growing up in the 80s with the night stalker

I'm stepping into the shadows with this one but something noteworthy happened: the Night Stalker died last week. This might be seen as a delayed reaction but I've kinda been hanging out waiting to make sure he stays dead. Psychokillers usually pop up one last time before they die for real - at least in the movies. Let's get a little dark and say good night to Richard Ramirez. The memories still haunt me, so here's what it was like growing up with a serial killer on the loose...

The spring and summer of 1985 are a pile of surreal and terrifying memories for me after the sun went down. They are a mix of accurate, tall playground tales, and myth. There was this creeper that emerged in Southern California who killed people at night. You know, around the time when the monsters under your bed wake up and you're 9 and have perfected the running jump into bed to keep your ankles out of their reach.

My parents didn't let me watch the news but who needs the news when you have friends? Friends are always there for you. They'll keep you posted on all the gory details. Picture a game of "telephone" with entrails as phone cords and you'll have a graphic depiction of what our discussions were like.

  • Good morning. Did The Night Stalker kill anyone last night?
  • Did you know he prefers going into cream colored houses? (score: my house was green!)
  • Did you hear about how he waited all night in the closet for that woman to come home? She took a shower and when she went to get dressed he stabbed her to death. HE WAS STANDING THERE THE WHOLE TIME! 
  • Did you hear about how he sat in a garage and waited all night for that guy to leave and then stabbed him to death?
  • I heard he likes to keep the eyes - he always cuts them out. 
  • Later: did they find the eyes yet? I heard they were found in a cave above LA in a bag all together.
  • He uses your blood when he's done to pain evil pictures and write messages...
  • Heavy metal made him do it.

Pull the curtains, lock your windows, check the doors and sleep tight little boys and girls...and hopefully you'll wake up.............

When you're a kid, Southern California sounds like your neighborhood instead of a whole section of a giant state. It doesn't help when people you know say they know someone who knows someone who totally saw him looking in windows or slowly driving down their street. You just have no concept at that age.

In later years I met the neighbor of one of the victims. It came up because we'd have Remember the Night Stalker conversations...

Have you tried the new flavor of Kissing Potion?
NO! What is it?
Vanilla. Hey would you trade me that jelly bracelet if I give you two of these? This is a hard color to find.
Sure. Remember The Night Stalker?

...as if we could forget!!!! Ah, idle chit chat once you've known the real sensation of a serial killer on the loose. Dexter is a great show but how would you feel if he was standing in your closet for 10 hours waiting for you? Serial killers are real, they're out there, and they're smart.

Even my brothers remember good ol' Ramirez and they were only five.

It was hot. We didn't have AC but I insisted on the windows being closed and I kept the sheet up to my chin and would try to fall asleep on my back so I could see both windows at all times.

One night I spent the night at a friend's house in Augora Hills and that was as close as I got to him in reality even if he was always right outside my windows or inside my closet waiting in my imagination. Even when my dad made his nightly closet and under-the-bed checks it didn't prove anything when I had to close my eyes.

East LA tackled him one night and held him down until police came and that is the only footage I remember my parents letting me watch so I could see for myself that he had been caught.

So that's that, I guess. Honestly, I'd heard a rumor that he'd already been put to death but I guess that was just a Death Row Rumor. I believed it so when I heard he died last week I said, "Again?" How many lives does this man have? I don't want to know. I still don't believe it...not entirely.

He was my living horror story; I still don't keep my closet shut.

Sleep Tight,
Growing Up in Ventura County

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