They've been stalked, harassed, pestered, even flashed. We asked readers to share their own stories after we published one about people who inexplicable attract oddballs. Turns out, a lot of you are freak magnets.
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"A friend sent this article to me with the note 'Saw the title and thought of you,'" began one e-mail.
Readers told us about a litany of weird experiences we hadn't even thought of. One ran into a guy who tried to lick her palm and worked with another who carved her name in his arm. Another met a stranger who showed her his three nipples. "I sometimes hesitate to leave my house," wrote an Illinois reader.
One thing is for sure, there are a lot of freaks - and a lot of you who they're drawn to. MSNBC.com readers share their dispatches from a freaky world:
I had a transient scream at me that I was evil outside a Denny's, some guy scream at me outside a Starbucks about how I should just admit we were meant to be together, a next door neighbor wait for me every morning and walk me to my car and pretend it was an accidental meeting, a guy on a bike swerve from traffic to shout obscenities at me as I walked into a restaurant, a guy follow me around campus and then enroll in my classes only to stare at me the entire time, a guy who stalked me at a 99 cents store, a guy who followed me through a K-mart, many a men who have exposed themselves to me, run-ins with religious freaks who stop me at odd places to tell me Jesus is coming, and a once best friend who suddenly decided he loved me and turned into a psycho who still crank calls and stalks me. Life is strange.
— Anonymous, Costa Mesa, Calif.
I'm happy to know I'm not the only one out there with this issue. Let's see, I was browsing the CDs at a local music store and a young guy came up to me and started a conversation. He grabbed my hand, and sniffed my palm. He started rubbing it on his face, and when he went to lick my palm I yanked my hand back, and ran away.
The busboy where I was working as a waitress carved my name in his arm with a knife when I wouldn't accept $300 cash from him to go buy myself a new jacket. So I said, ok fine, I'll take the money, I was afraid of what would happen if I didn't show up with a new jacket the next day!
— Amie, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A friend sent this article to me with the note "Saw the title and thought of you ..." I entertain my coworkers with stories that "could only happen to me." I have taken public transportation to work for six years, which may increase the likelihood for encounters. These incidents include, but are not limited to, a nose-picker who sat right next to me despite many open seats, a love letter from a stranger, a teenager eyeing me suspiciously before pointing me out to everyone as a "SELLOUT! SELLOUT!!" However, my encounters are not limited to the bus. My sister (is it hereditary?) and I once happened upon a masturbator outside the Getty Museum. Another time while waiting for a ride home, a guy on an old squeaky bike with a giant Panama hat meandered up to me and asked if I was surveying the city. Huh? Another time in San Diego, I was at a stoplight, two or three cars back in the left lane, and a wild woman ran out from the sidewalk and chose me, banging on the windshield, to give her directions. There are too many others to relay, but they are men 90 percent of the time. Maybe this reflects the ratio of male-to-female freaks? You article suggests most of the magnets are women.
—Jen, Houston, Texas
I have MANY stories — especially from the years I worked in a grocery store, but the most memorable was this odd older man (he was probably in his 50s, while I was 20 at the time) who constantly followed me around the store, commenting on my hairstyles and clothing (sometimes negatively) and insisted on telling me all about his daily stresses. One afternoon he ran up to me after purchasing his groceries (in front of everyone). He started crying and shouted "Why are you doing this to me?!" and ran away. He later called the store and had me paged, then proceeded to tell me that he had accidentally cut himself while cooking and it made him think about me. This is in addition to other men who've followed me home from work, who've followed me to work and left notes on my car, one who ran across a parking lot and dove in front of my car so he could ask what nationality I was (I'm a relatively plain-looking white woman), a telemarketer who I eventually hung up on — then he called back a few minutes later and asked if I was "into guys with motorcycles," and many more.
— Jamie, Seattle
One day I was walking down the street when a man who was talking on a pay phone dropped the phone and jumped out in front of me. "Did you see that?" he asked, excitedly. "My thought just hit your jacket and then floated to the ground like my favorite piece of cheese!" He then proceeded to fall madly in love with me, and pursued me for four months before I finally called the police. This is just one of a multitude of my freak-magnet experiences.
—Tobi, Leadville, Colo.
I picked up a hitchhiker and drove him to his home. While shaking hands he proceeded to try to "squish" my hand as hard as he could — even using a second hand. Unfortunately for the man, I'm pretty strong and he gave up and left.
— Brad, Anonymous
I live in the city and know the drill: walk with a purpose, don't make eye contact, don't show any interest at all, don't attract attention to yourself in any way. And yet the freaks still flock to me. A few recent incidents: while waiting at a crosswalk, the older man next to me turned to me and asked if I'd give him a piggyback ride. Excuse me? I asked, just to make sure I'd heard right. He disparagingly looked me up and down- I'm a petite 5'1" - and snapped, "Bah! you're not strong enough anyway!" Not long after, I was walking home from the grocery store with a bag in each hand when a Mr. Clean look-alike drove his Moped off the road and up onto the sidewalk in front of me. Did I want to get a coffee? No. Could he give me ride home, at least? No. Wouldn't it be nice to spend August together? No! Could he kiss me? No!!! Come on, just lips, no tongue ... He leaned in and I ducked under his big bald head just in time, and continued on my way home. I was waiting for a friend at a park when a waiter from the cafe where I occasionally get coffee came over and sat down next to me. He pulled out a plastic bag. Gym socks, he said. Look at these gym socks. Indeed, he had a six-pack of new gym socks. Such a rip-off, he complained, then packed up and left. Ah, there's been a whole slew of them. The teacher who used to tuck stray hairs behind my ears, the college boy who talked of nothing but his kidneys, an overbearing hand-shaker, the dirty old library man, the Beavis impersonator, the guy who swiftly grabbed my hand and cracked (albeit painlessly) joints I didn't even know I had, the girl who caught up to me on the street and breathlessly recounted the weather patterns of Camelot ...
— Anonymous, Chicago
I can really relate to this article. I seem to attract the weirdo's and the eccentrics along with the highly intelligent with absolutely no common sense. People that I meet seem to open up to me immediately and within a 30-minute conversation share very personal and inappropriate information about themselves, leaving me dumb-founded and scrambling to politely excuse myself. I once dated a man for several weeks and when one day he was visiting me at my home, I suddenly noticed a strange behavior when he thought I wasn't looking. He appeared to be shushing to somebody, but there was nobody there! I tried to ignore the incident until about an hour later when he excused himself to go outside to have a cigarette. I thought I would watch him from inside the house to see if the behavior was repeated. To my horror he was engaging in a full on conversation with some imaginary person! MY poor heart fell to the floor along with my bottom jaw! I panicked, I didn't know what to do! This man knew where I lived, knew my phone number, I even kissed him a number of times and then some! I eventually came to my senses and calmly confronted him. He told me that he was bi-polar with schizophrenic tendencies and that he had taken himself off his medication because he didn't like the way they made him feel when he would have a couple of drinks! He told me that he knew that eventually I would find out about him and that we would be over, but he just needed to be with me for as long as he could. He said a lot of things and gave me a lot of excuses for why he did what he did. At one point I asked him what the voices were saying to him. He told me that he never listens to them when they tell him anything negative. I didn't press him any further at that point. Thankfully we ended our relationship calmly that day and I never saw him again. That was my most regrettable encounter!
— Barbara, San Diego, Calif.
This story was sent to me by a friend because of my long history as a "Freak Magnet." Here are a few: While having dinner in Boston with my boyfriend, he asked why I was so nervous and I replied, "Because urban environments expose me to the freaks and mutants." He laughed and reassured me and told me to continue enjoying my meal and a nice view out of the window-side table. At that moment, a man planted his face onto the window, opened his mouth, lolled his tongue across the entire pane in front of our window and then crossed back across the street. Next: At lunch with co-workers, I had just finished saying that I usually didn't go out to lunch (different city by the way) because strange things happened to me. When they insisted I explain I had just finished saying the term "freak magnet" when a man leapt in from the street, turned to me and cried out "I have a special song for you!" and proceeded to dance a jig and play the harmonica, then without asking for a tip, jogged out. My coworkers thought it was novel, it was just another day in freak city for me. Is there a fight brewing? Horny clowns? A crazy cat lady that smells like pee-pee? A crazed Wiccan with a snake fetish? Just hang me out on a fishing pole and they will come to you, my friends.
— Malterre, Boston
My name is Sheryl and I am a Freak Magnet. A couple of years ago I moved into a new apartment in a suburb of L.A. During the day of the move my new neighbor, who happened to be the owner of the building next door, came out to introduce himself. He was nicely dressed in an expensive suit and I had no idea of the freakiness that I was about to get hit with. My phone wasn't hooked up yet and I asked him if I could use his. He agreed, so I went up to his apartment and he excused himself so I could use the phone. I made my call and he came rushing back out of a room sans expensive suit and wearing nothing but bright red Speedo two sizes too small and he was sporting body hair you could have braided and permed. Apparently this was all for my benefit and he told me how happy he was that I was moving in next door. I could feel what I had for lunch the week before coming back up so I promptly left.
Finally, I belong. Anyone that has traveled with me on any form of public transportation can attest to that. Some are homeless, some are not. The strangest was a man who was driving an 18-wheeler next to me, cut me off, jumped out of the truck (I was about to enter the on-ramp and he was turning) knocked on my window and said he was looking for a wife and I looked like a good candidate. He also offered to buy me a car. This is about the fourth time I been asked to be someone's wife by a total stranger. I don't consider myself all that attractive so I am completely mystified by this whole ongoing experience.
— Tricia, Houston
It was the day before Thanksgiving and against better judgement I had decided to go to the local car wash. Since it was too cold to be washing your car, I was the only person around. As I soaped up my car a guy walks up from out of nowhere and starts chatting it up with me about how his son was having a bad day and he noticed me from the street and asked could I meet him and give him a hug. Yes, he asked me to hug his son! Feeling very uncomfortable I politely declined saying that I was late for work. The stranger was so distracting that I let my minutes run out on the car wash. I started feeling a little trapped because I was out of change and couldn't drive off in a soapy car. I proceeded to look for more change and to my dismay, I realized I had ran out of cash. I had to call my friends to bring me some money fast. The gentleman kept coming over so I tried to sit in my car and wait for my friends. He was very persistent that I hug his son. Getting frustrated I declined again. My friend came pulling up. The man still would not leave. He proceeded to tell me that "he didn't want me to break him in, just give him a hug to make his day better." By this time I am doing everything to just get out of there. He walks off and then his son comes around the corner and gives me a hug! Too scary. I never want to put myself in a situation like that again. These things always happen to me. My friends always tease me about being a freak magnet.
My name is Dave and I'm 37 years old and I have a story for you. One evening last year I was at a party of a friend. During the evening I was introduced to my friend’s sister-in-law and she asked me to take her home as her ride had left her stranded. I proceeded to take her home and we came to a stop light. From out of the darkness across the street staggered a very drunk and very naked man. He was screaming as loud as he could that the aliens had put an implant up his a**. He came to my side window and was begging me to reach up and take out the evil alien implant. Then he vomited all over the side of my car. I looked over at the girl I was taking home and she looked a bit miffed about the situation. I told her not to worry and that I will get her home soon. She said to me, not to bother and that she was getting out here. I said there is a crazy drunk out there and she wouldn't be safe. She looked me in the eye and said, "My father always thinks aliens are trying to get him when he drinks too much." She then got out of the car and helped the drunk guy, her father, back across the street and into the house. I left wondering why things like that keep happening to me. I sometimes hesitate to leave my house.
— David, Lockport, Ill.
My cousin and I enter a Philadelphia watering hole with a pale lit sign above the door that simply reads "BAR." The place is nice and not extremely busy on this particular evening, but as soon as we order drinks a group of guys approach. The character who is talking mostly to me is wearing a wife beater accented with a medium size Band-Aid on his forehead. So I have to ask, "What's with the Band-Aid?" Expecting some outlandish story full of blood and carnage I was disappointed to learn that the guy was swimming underwater and hit his head on the swimming pool wall. Then for no apparent reason, the guy then lifts his shirt to show me a third nipple. Yes, he had three nipples and for whatever reason he thought it would be a good idea to expose this extra feature to me, a complete stranger. Realize that there was no conversation regarding nipples or any other body parts. Of course it could be possible that my inquiry about the Band-Aid, misled him to think I was interested in other abnormalities. Though I did not take a close look, the random and uncalled for flashing of this extra nipple is burned into my brain. I am still recovering from this encounter.
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