Sometimes people can lead a quiet, unassuming life, be content and have no enemies, and yet some strange stalker with dark intent will come calling. Cases such as this can at times be so totally terrifying because in some instances the perpetrator remains hidden in the shadows, out of the periphery to launch their campaign of terror from the gloom. There is often no face to the madness, no answers or cause, just a living nightmare for those bearing the brunt of it. One case like this comes from a small town in Ohio, where a couple found themselves at the mercy of a nameless, faceless phantom stalker with inscrutable intent, and it is a disturbing case which has never been solved.
An elderly couple by the name of Bill and Dorothy Wacker had a quiet, unassuming life in the small, peaceful town of Massillon, in Stark County, Ohio, in the United States. They had lived in this town their entire lives and in their modest home together for nearly 48 years, were well-liked by their neighbors, had no known enemies, and had never had any trouble here until one day in 1984 when they came home to find their house ransacked. Although their belongings were strewn about everywhere and the place had been left a complete mess, nothing seemed to have actually been stolen, so they kept it to themselves and did not notify police. It was all very strange and unexpected, as this was the type of rural, peaceful small town where these things didn’t happen, where everyone knew each other and where it was so safe that people left their doors unlocked. Yet, this was to prove to not be the case at all, as their lives were about to be turned upside down, and to take a harrowing turn into darkness.
Not long after this first home invasion, the Wackers experienced another break-in that same year, again leaving their house in shambles but nothing stolen. Again the couple did not notify authorities, but the third time was to be a charm, as after yet another incident on January 16, 1985, Bill Wacker had had enough and informed the police. A full investigation was launched, but no suspect was found and no reason for the crimes could be ascertained. When nothing was turned up, the Wackers warily went back to their normal life, never knowing when it was going to happen again and every slight noise at night causing them to check the house for intruders, but things remained quiet and gradually gained some semblance of how they had been for the past 48 years. They dared to think that things were back to normal, and for 6 months they were, but this would change and the next chapter of their evolving nightmare would begin.
In July of 1985, one day Dorothy was relaxing at home after undergoing heart surgery. Everyone in the neighborhood knew to let her be and allow her to recover, so she was surprised when there was a loud knocking at her door. There in her doorway was a young, Caucasian blonde man she had never seen before, and when she asked through the door what he wanted he informed her that his car had broken down in the area and he needed to use her phone. She was a little startled by this, but the man looked normal and clean-cut, and she did not feel he was threatening in any way so she let him in. The man then went to make the call and she could hear him talking from the next room, after which he said goodbye and she could hear him heading back out of the house. Dorothy thought it was odd that the man had not even called out to thank her, and she got up to go see if he was gone yet. It turned out he wasn’t.
As soon as she stepped out into the living room someone allegedly hit her over the back of the head and she lost consciousness, waking later in a stupor to find that she had been bound and gagged and moved into the kitchen. The terrified woman frantically looked around but could see no sign of the intruder, which left her wondering when he would come back to do who knew what. Dorothy then risked crawling and squirming across the floor to a window, not knowing if the man was lurking right around the corner, where she was lucky enough to flag down neighbors. During none of this did the stranger return, and before long the authorities had arrived with an ambulance.
Luckily, Dorothy was found to not be seriously injured, just a bit shaken by the whole ordeal, and she was lucid enough to give a detailed description of the attacker to police, who made a sketch. The house was searched by the police and this time it would be found that something had been stolen, but it wasn’t their cash, jewelry, or valuables, but rather an eclectic mix of items composed of a .22 caliber revolver, an antique watch, a movie camera, and a radio scanner. Also rather bizarrely was found a message scrawled on a wall in crayon that merely said “cheaper, but will do.” What did this message mean, why had the intruder attacked Dorothy Wacker, and why had he taken only those specific items? No one had a clue and we still don’t.
After this harrowing incident, the couple began receiving harassing phone calls at all hours of the day and night, with the person on the other end sometimes remaining silent, at other times breathing heavily, and more frighteningly swearing, saying threatening or offensive things, and mocking them before hanging up. The scared couple tried changing their phone number several times but the calls kept coming unabated. It was during this time of escalating creepy phone calls that the items that had been stolen began appearing on the doorstep, each time carefully wrapped in a plastic shopping bag and wiped clean of fingerprints. Why someone would return the stolen objects and in quite this way was anyone’s guess, but it was becoming pretty obvious that this was all connected, and that it was the doing of that mysterious man who had wanted to use the phone. And it wasn’t over yet.
The unsettling harassment would then graduate to banging on their doors and walls at night, but with no one there when they looked outside. This continued until they decided to put up a security light to ward off the unseen trespasser, but this only invoked a mocking note left on their doorstep that read, “your lightz are a laugh.” This would be the first of many more notes left at the front door, ranging from the creepy and unsettling to the downright terrifying, all of which were written in a childish scrawl and devoid of fingerprints. This sort of harassment and torment went on unabated for years, despite numerous police visits to the home and a thorough investigation. No one had any idea of who was doing this or why, and it would become even more critical that the perpetrator be caught when Dorothy was once again physically attacked in her own home, when on October 27, 1993, a surprise attack by an unseen assailant in her home knocked her to the ground and left her with a concussion and lacerations to her skull.
This brutal attack was enough to cause the Wackers, now fearing for their very lives, to attempt a stakeout of the house the following month. Three groups of people, mostly friends and relatives, were positioned at various locations around the house and kept in touch with walkie-talkies. They would stay there vigilantly watching the residence for hours but no one suspicious made an appearance until they were getting ready to call it a night and there was a thumping at the back door of the house. The groups moved in to find a note lying there, which read “Get the message.” Whoever the perpetrator was had been able to somehow sneak in with all of these people around to leave that note and then get back out. How? No one knows.
The campaign of terror orchestrated by this devious phantom intruder continued all the way up until Bill Wacker passed away on July 9, 1999, followed by Dorothy on July 22, 2010, without ever having any closure or knowing who was doing this to them or why. The case would go on to be notably featured on the TV show Unsolved Mysteries, and it has remained a mystery that has never been solved. One theory has always been that the perpetrator was someone the family knew, a friend, relative, or even Bill Wacker himself, but there has never been any evidence for this and no suspect has ever been apprehended. One intriguing support for the angle that this was done by someone close to the family comes from a poster on Reddit, who writes:
What is odd is that despite receiving a blow to the head that knocked her out, she didn’t have serious injuries. Taking a blow that knocks you out long enough to be bound and gagged is usually fairly serious. I also found it odd that whomever saw fit to ransack their house did it three times — typically ‘professional’ thieves knock over a couple of choice houses and move on. But, when I consider that it might have been a family member, this detail makes more sense. I have several friends that have been robbed by family members — often more than once as the thief usually only takes what they feel they need at the time.
This fits in with the random return of stolen items, and the taunting messages. This part feels personal. This is the part that makes me feel strongly that this was a person known to them. When I see that the stalker then continues to call them after they changed their phone number, I am fairly certain that this person had an ‘in’ somehow with the Wackers. It would take a lot of foot-work to get their number that reliably after multiple changes.
One could also argue that the ability of the intruder to slip past the stakeout to leave that note could point to one of them being the perp, but even if it was someone in with the family, we still don’t know why they would have so relentlessly terrorized the couple over the course of years, and indeed we don’t really know anything at all. We are left with myriad questions. Who was this mysterious, twisted stranger? Did he have an accomplice? What was the purpose of tormenting, playing mind games, and psychologically and even physically attacking this peaceful old couple over such a long period of time? What was the meaning of those messages and the writing on the wall? Why were only those few miscellaneous items stolen and then returned in plastic bags? Why were the police unable to glean a single clue to it all despite the never-ending incidents at the Wacker house? Nobody knew then, and nobody knows now, propelling this into the annals of very creepy unsolved cases.