David Holthouse on Confronting Childhood Abuser, After Once Plotting to Murder Him


3 years ago



David Holthouse

2 appearances

David Holthouse is a writer, producer, and director. His new docuseries, "Krishnas: Gurus, Karma, Murder," is streaming on Peacock. www.davidholthouse.com


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Well there was also some pretty heavy moments in the documentary, the series where you talk about yourself. Yeah. And you talk about your own experiences as child being raped. Yeah. Which is unexpected and very intense. And how difficult was that to sort of express on camera? Well I'm pretty comfortable talking about that. Yeah. About being raped when I was seven years old. But it was relevant to this show because it came up, to your earlier point about the sort of topics that, what a dark world it was up there. Right? So it's like why am I drawn to those kinds of stories and why have I spent so much of my professional life steeping myself in dark worlds, criminal subcultures? Right? That was why that particular part of my life story I think was actually relevant to this series. But to answer your question, how difficult was it? Not very difficult. It was difficult for me to go public with that story for the first time, which was in 2004. I mean I'd lived with it as a secret pretty much my entire life. But the decision to write about it was, that was a very difficult decision, a very difficult thing to do. Since then I've gotten pretty comfortable talking about it publicly. That story's been adapted as a play that's been produced all over the world. A play? Yeah. It's called Stalking the Boogie Man. I wrote an essay called Stalking the Boogie Man. That's kind of when I went public with that I'd been raped when I was seven. I had then planned to kill the guy when I was in my early thirties. That was the subject of the essay. And then that was adapted as a play and it was on this American life. So I've gotten comfortable with talking about that over the years. Were you approached by law enforcement when you kind of went public about wanting to stalk this person and kill him? I got arrested. You got arrested. I got arrested. Really? Yeah. After the first essay came out, the cops arrested me. I'd admitted stalking the guy and planning to murder him. I'd admitted to criminal behavior in the piece that was published. Had the guy ever been prosecuted for what he did to you? No. He was a juvenile when it happened and also the statute of limitations. It happened in Alaska. The statute of limitations had expired. And also it's my word against his at that point. I have since gone to the police and filed an official police report. I withheld his name in the first piece that I published and I let him know. Because I met with him in person as part of the reporting, if you will, of that piece. What would that look like? It was a pretty uncomfortable conversation. It was a pretty uncomfortable conversation because I'd been following the fucking guy for months, like planning to kill him. I didn't tell him that when we met. How old were you at the time? Let's see. I was early 30s, 32, 33. How old was he then? How old was he when it happened? When it happened, he was in his late teens. Still a juvenile though, so 16, 17. He was a bit in his early 40s when I was stalking him. Then when he and I met- How'd you meet him? How'd you arrange it? Well, I sent him a letter. I sent him a letter, like I sent him a register mail letter, a FedEx letter. I just made sure he was going to get this letter and that I knew he'd gotten it. There was a couple of reasons for that. One is, by that time I had planned to publish this essay and just for legal reasons, needed to let him know that this was- I needed to give him a chance to comment. Even though in the letter I didn't tell him that I was planning to write the piece, I was just like, listen, I remember what happened and you and I need to meet. If you don't respond to this letter, I'm going to show up on your doorstep and have a conversation with your wife. He responded pretty quickly. We set a meeting at a restaurant and then I switched up the location several times and we met on the 16th Street Mall. Why did you switch up the locations? I thought he might be dangerous. That's just like basic sort of- You're still mad. I understand. What is the purpose of switching up the location? I didn't want him to be able to set up on the location at all. I didn't want him to have other people waiting for me there or Tim. Frank, I just wanted to keep him off balance the entire day so that he wouldn't have a possibility to sort of arrange anything. We met on the 16th Street Mall, which is a pedestrian mall in downtown Denver. That experience obviously branded my memory pretty clearly. You're a big guy. Is he a big guy as well? Not really, no. He was a lot bigger than me when I was seven. Of course. That was one of the first things that crossed my mind is I could just fucking dismantle this guy. We walked around the block a couple times and I had- You talked while you were walking? Yeah, and I had a hidden recording device and a bike courier bag and a pistol that I was carrying. Were you still thinking about killing him? I knew I couldn't get away with it. See, I planned to get away with it. I think I would have gotten away with it. What did he say? He apologized. He apologized and he said that he'd been sexually assaulted when he was a kid. Which is one of the most infuriating things to me when child molesters, or let's call them what they are, men who rape children, when they put that out there as an excuse or a rationalization or a reason for the behavior because that just infuriates me. But he apologized. He said that it happened to him when he was a kid and he swore that it had only happened with me, that I was the only person that he'd raped when that person was a child, right? Up and like repeatedly. And I had been going back and forth on naming him in that essay and his telling me that I was the only one, in the end I decided not to name him. Like up to when, again to that point of they have to take the story away from me, it was just like an hour from the print deadline and I still didn't know what I was going to name him. And my editor, Patty Calhoun at the Westward, she was like, just go block yourself in a room for 30 minutes, write both endings and then we just got to pick one. Just like go with whichever one feels right. So I wrote one ending that ended with his name and one ending that ended with how the essay actually ends, which is not naming him and him just sort of disappearing into the crowd on the mall. And went with that one. That one felt right. It felt like a better ending and it also, it kind of spoke to a point that I want to make, which is that they could be anybody, you know? And I also wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. Wow. You're a good man. That's a powerful thing to be able to forgive someone for such a horrific act. I'm not sure I have forgiven him. Well, enough to not name him. Yeah. Just to give him that. That's a lot.