*This episode is told in three parts. Part 2 dives into the mind of Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s killer. Listen to Part 1 for a recap on John’s life and career.
*Trigger Warning: This episode contains graphic details crimes including stalking and murder, as well as descriptions of suicidal thoughts and psychosis with hallucinations or delusions.
Book source: Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man who Killed John Lennon by Jack Jones.
Diane (Mark’s mother)
David (Mark’s father)
Gloria (Mark’s wife)
MARK DAVID CHAPMAN
Mark David Chapman’s story is chaos.
*book source* based on 200+ hours of interviews with Chapman, as well as interviews with friends, his wife, people who worked with him, and so on.
With that said, a lot of what we know about Chapman is from his own account, and the guy is known to live in his own fantastical world. Like, he is a pathological liar, but you will find that he also lives in an out of a world of fantasy. Often when he speaks, he sounds like he’s writing a book, like he’s very dramatic and just… well, a storyteller.
Mark David Chapman was born in Ft Worth Texas on May 10, 1955. His parents were named David and Diane Chapman. Mark was born weighing almost 12 lbs. His mother, Diane, was panicked that something was wrong with him, because she knew back then that nurses would lie and keep a straight face to avoid upsetting new mothers. So she insisted on seeing him before they finished cleaning him up. So they brought her the baby and she saw that he was ok, just a chubby little baby.
Mark’s mother, Diane, was a sweet and whimsical woman. She doted on Mark and she always told him he was a good boy, very well behaved and rarely cried. He did have a habit of rocking when he was a baby, to the point that he would rock his crib across the room. Diane became worried and took him to a doctor, ut they told her not to worry and that he would grow out of it. He never did though. As of, well this book which came out in 1992, he had said “to this day, I still sit and rock back and forth sometimes.”
Mark remembers his mother as an extroverted and expressive woman. She made little effort to hide or stifle her emotions or thoughts. Like she would cry during movies and she would be the one to answer difficult questions for him, like “why was I born” or “What am I supposed to be.”
Diane was very whimsical, though. She would encourage him to have thoughts and feelings and use his imagination. She was a free spirit and very creative and imaginative.
Diane always told David that he was brilliant and special, and that he was destined for greatness. She totally inspired him and made him believe that he could be a brilliant writer or whatever he wanted to be.
The only problem was that Diane didn’t teach Mark about the real world or about how he would have to work hard to achieve his dreams. As an adult, he kind of expected things to just be handed to him in life. You’ll find that he’d work menial jobs like as a security guard or something, and he’d be like, shattered when things didn’t work out as he expected.
Mark’s father, David Chapman, was a total contrast to Diane. He was Staff Sgt in the Airforce and he was discharged shortly after David’s birth. He moved to Indiana to be with Diane and Mark. He decided to pursue a new career and a new education with the GI bill for military veterans and got a job for the American Oil Company. For a while, Diane worked as a part-time nurse to help put him through college.
Mark describes his father, David, as emotionally distant and abusive. One of Mark’s most vivid childhood memories is of his family having thanksgiving dinner, and everything was all set up and Mark and his sister and Diane were all waiting for David to come to the table. David then came down the stairs muttering to himself and he grabbed the steaming turkey in his bare hands and slammed it onto the table.
He never explained himself or apologized.
On another occasion, he pushed Mark’s face into a plate of spaghetti.
He also abused Diane. Mark recalled seeing his mother with her clothing in disarray, and she would run through Mark’s bedroom to escape him.
Mark told psychiatrists that he would wake up some mornings and find his mom in his bed with him, battered, and that when he was about 10 years old, she started crying out for Mark to help her fend off David’s advances. He says that he tried to physically place himself in between his mother and father and even threatened his father.
Diane has admitted that she wasn’t much like a mom to Mark, as she was more like his best friend. Psychologist Alice Hoagland says that male children thrust into the role of surrogate spouse and protector of their mothers often “grow up with incredibly grandiose ideas about themselves,” and that “the child at an early age learns the bizarre message that he is so powerful, he can take care of the most powerful person in the world– his mother.”
The family eventually decided to move to the south, to Decatur, GA.
Mark recalls having little pockets of inexplicable and violent impulses that he had no control over. He says he felt like a normal kid in his early years and then suddenly he started to get these occurrences, mostly in school or when he tried to interact with other kids.
He didn’t fit in, other kids teased him and he felt alienated and didn’t know how to defend himself. One day at school, a bigger kid gave him an atomic wedgie on the playground in front of like 20 or 30 other kids. Not only was this painful and embarrassing, but there was also a brown stain on his underwear and everyone laughed at him saying that he had shit his pants.
Mark never got over this. He eventually tried to be the bully to kids smaller than him, but it would backfire on him. One time, he decided to fuck with a kid named Artie, he took the ball he was playing with and kicked it away. Artie was like “look, stop doing that.” Mark didn’t stop, so Artie decked him in the face four or five times.
Mark said he only punched back to his arms, he could never bring himself to hit someone in the face.
“This was a fight I picked, and it set a tone for me. It scared me for the rest of my life about confrontation. For the rest of my life, I would always back down from a confrontation. It made me feel scared inside. It made me a coward. Even years later, when I killed a man– I had to shoot him in the back.”
There was another guy named Neil who physically bullied Mark, so Mark got this idea that he would learn karate. He called up this karate place and left a message on the machine. The next day, Neil went up to him at school and he knew all about Mark’s phone call. As it turned out, Neil was in that karate studio when Mark called and left the message.
When Mark was about 10, Diane had now been turning to him more and more to express her feelings. She told him about how she hated his father and she only married him so she could have a baby, and she told him that she worried she was becoming unattractive and he was having an affair. She would also tell Mark that she might commit suicide when she turns 50, like her movie idol Charles Boyer.
So Mark kind of felt a lot of responsibility to care for his mom and had little support to deal with his own troubles. And he felt like an outsider at school and among his peers, so he turned to his own imagination to deal with his problems. This is when he created the Little People.
The Little People were a make-belive society that lived inside of Mark’s walls. They adored him and called him King Mark. Mark would summon them from the walls to make them work in like stores and communities that he would envision. They worshipped him and called him King Mark. He would make them dance for him, and whenever he was angry, like if kids at school were fucking with him or he was mad at his dad, he would get revenge by murdering the Little People.
He had a button on the arm of his couch, and he said that when he pushed it, it would blow up the houses where the Little People lived.
Then after he calmed down, he would apologize and they would forgive him.
When the Little People pleased him, he would reward them with music from his favorite band, The Beatles.
Mark used to pay Meet the Beatles as he played, which was the only rock album he owned. He had built a little cardboard stage and used action figures or like little army men to make little Beatles to play with. He used to sit and stare at the album cover and observe the faces of each of the Beatles. There was one thing he didn’t like about the Beatles, although he couldn’t put his finger on why. When he looked at the album covers, he just didn’t like something about one of the men.
That was John Lennon.
He said he had “thin lips” that he didn’t like.
Sometimes he would sit on his floor for hours listening to this album and rocking back and forth in front of this little stage, and like reciting the lyrics of the songs and then applauding as as each song ends.
“He beamed the rhythmic signals into a pretend sound system so that it could be broadcast into the homes and shops of the Little People.”
Mark says he doesn’t know exactly at what age the Little People showed up, but he feels as if they were always with him and they knew everything about him and had been everywhere he had been.
At first, they were invisible, and then one day, he saw them going in and out of their homes and he found it odd that nobody else could see them.
This first time seeing them came after a restless night. He had been upset and unable to sleep because he could hear his parents fighting and his mother crying in her bedroom. He had also gone to bed weight a fever and a bad cold that night.
He also said that he had seen a movie called Toby Tyler, which was about an orphan boy who ran away from his cruel uncle to join the circus.
Mark’s parents had remarked that Mark looked like Tyler and that he was handsome like Tyler, and one time, his father took him to a Toby Tyler circus. When he got home, he retreated to his room and lost himself in imaginary adventures for several days. In his mind, the Little People were somehow connected to Toby Tyler.
So the morning that he first saw the Little People, he tried to push the memory of his mom crying the night before, he sat on his bed and lowered his head and he beamed a signal to the little soldier-Beatles. He was rocking from side to side and he looked straight ahead, looking closely at the walls, until he finally saw the Little People picking up his signals. They started singing along and smiling, and rocking their bodies with him. They would cheer and chant:
“Mark the king of music, Mark the king of the Little People. Long live the king of the Little People!”
In the little town within the walls, Mark could see like an entire city. They had big screens that were broadcasting Mark. And Mark starts to address them saying “listen, remember what I’ve been telling you guys about my parents? Well it’s happening again and you guys have to make my dad stop hurting my mom.”
Later on, he heard his dad’s car start and leave the driveway and he noticed he was home alone. He went to the den and put on the record. He rocked furiously and summoned the Little People, and when they showed up through the walls, he slowed his rocking to the beat of the music. He changed the words to the song Little Child and sang “Little People, won’t you play with me. Little People, you must stay with me.”
As the song ended, he laughed outloud at the new words he made up. He stared back into the walls when he suddenly thought of his parents again. Without any warning, he rapidly started moving his fingers, pressing imaginary buttons in the arm of the couch. Then he started making little-kid war sounds like, shooting and explosions.
The Little People inside the walls started screaming and falling to the streets, buildings tumbled as they screamed for help under the rubble.
He said “I’m sorry. But that’s what happens when I get angry.”
A few years later, he forgot about the Little People.
And then he discovered masturbation. See, Mark didn’t know about sex. He didn’t even think about it until he was about 13 and he kind of saw it happening on tv, and he asked a friend about it, who explained sex to him for the first time.
Mark was shocked and appalled. His parents had always slept in separate rooms, and Mark couldn’t believe what they did in order to have him. Especially since his mom said she didn’t even like her husband and she only stayed to have a baby. Mark thought the whole idea of sex was just really dirty.
His friend also told him that if he put his hand in his pants and rubbed himself, it would feel good.
Several months later, he was watching a Doris Day movie and remembered what his friend told him. There was something about Doris Day that aroused him for the first time in his life.
But he didn’t know what to expect so he was really surprised and frightened when he ejaculated. It freaked him and he fought the urge to run to his mama. He actually thought he had injured himself.
After he discovered masturbation, he would masturbate up to 7 times a day, using mature women as his fantasy objects, like women from tv or church or something. He never felt that sense of arousal with girls his age.
Chapman sometimes fantasized about having all of his objects of affection lined up and naked in a secret dungeon in the basement in his school.
In his fantasies, he almost never had sex with these women in his fantasies, he just made them touch him and give him oral.
His mom would make comments about it that made him really uncomfortable. Like she’d dangle his underwear from his hamper and say “I know what you’re doing up there in your room” and that made Mark feel exposed and violated.
When he was 14, he discovered psychedelic drugs. The Beatles were like a whole different band then. The Magic Mystery Tour album had come out and the Beatles now had long hair and were into meditation and drugs. He gave himself the nickname “Mark the Freak”. Mark kind of felt like he finally belonged with a group of people with his new druggie persona.
In Fall of 1969, Mark was a freshman in high school. Everyone noticed the change in Mark. He went from a clean-cut nerd to this mysterious hippie “Mark the Freak”. Diane said that it was that year that Mark became “a stranger in his own home, an alien creature she and her husband could no longer either control or understand”. She said that she grew to fear her son and to believe that he held a mysterious power over them.
Mark ended up getting high whatever way possible. He would smoke pot and he also sniffed glue and lighter fluid on his way to school. He would do small doses of acid in between classes.
One night, he snuck out and went and did acid with a bunch of friends in somebody’s basement. Everyone fell asleep except Mark. There was a knife in the room and Mark felt the urge to pick it up and kill everyone in their sleep.
He didn’t end up killing anyone. This was the first sign to Mark of how bad his rage was.
On another occasion, he got into a confrontation with his father, and he grabbed a knife that was nearby and went after him, but his father was able to grab his arm and twist it backward until he dropped it and was just like “ok, ok, it’s cool, its cool.”
Mark was using a loooot of LSD at this time. In 1970, he ran away to join the circus. He planned this elaborately. He kept it a secret and was really mysterious about his whereabouts, even with his classmates, so his parents wouldn’t know where to find him. Mark said he couldn’t explain it, he just had to leave his house.
I just think it’s funny that he joined the circus, like Toby Tyler.
So Mark came up with a plan to move to Miami, but he told his friends that he was going to California. He started saving his lunch money and setting aside clothes for this trip. Weeks before his trip, he called a taxi company and arranged for them to pick him up from a movie theater and take him to the airport. So he had his mom take him to the movies and told him he was meeting friends, and then he snuck out a rear exit and took the cab to the airport. He bought a one-way ticket to Miami. He went back to the cab driver and arranged to have them pick him up in two weeks at 5am at a diner. So this whole cab ride was simply to buy the tickets. The flight was 2 weeks later, Chapman woke up before 3AM and put on a disguise, which was just a hat and sunglasses, and he walked out of his front door with a suitcase.
He walked to the diner, certain that someone, like a policeman, were going to stop him. Remember, he’s 14 so it’s shocking on its own that this cab driver agreed to pick him up and take him to the airport.
When he got to the diner he bought a cup of coffee, which was his first cup of coffee ever. This moment felt like the beginning of adulthood to Mark.
He had gone to the airport in nicer clothes, trying to look less like a sloppy hippie, so that he would blend in more. When his plane landed in Miami, he went to the bathroom and put on his hippie clothes– bell bottoms, leather jacket, sandals– and dumped his hat and glasses into a trashcan.
He left the terminal and walked up to the cab driver and said “Take me where the freaks are”.
(sure you did, Mark.)
Mark didn’t know a soul in Miami. And he had no idea where this cab driver was taking him. He had $30 in his pocket. But he supposedly had a sense that he would be able to find food and shelter once he ran into other freaks, and they would recognize him as one of their own and accept him into their little tribe.
The driver dropped him off at the beach. He started walking along the beach and looking at the faces of others passing by. He studied their behavior and listened to their conversations, just hoping to find someone who was a freak like him.
He walked for like an hour before he sat down. He stared off into the ocean, feeling overwhelmingly lonely. He had planned everything out and didn’t consider that he would be alone like this. So he sat there and meditated for a while, and then he started eaves dropping on the conversation of two young men and a girl who were sitting nearby. They were a little bit older than him, like 18 or 19.
He started edging closer before he struck up a conversation and asked if he could join them, and they offered him a beer, which he had never done before. He had just had his first coffee literally like 12 ago.
He passed out on their beach blanket and when he woke up, he saw a couple of teenaged guys chatting nearby and he realized that he was now among the freaks. He tagged along with these hippies for 4 days. They taught him how to shoplift and panhandle, and they would all sleep in concrete sewer pipes at construction sites near the beach.
The only reason they let Mark tag along was because he had a little bit of money. Once it ran out, they started to get tired of him. And because he was so young, he was catching the attention of police officers.
So they dumped him, but they told him that they were going to get money to get to the Miami Pop Festival, and that they would meet him there.
He walked for a while, sticking his thumb out trying to hitchhike. He eventually came across a low-budget carnival.
Mark talks a lot about the child in him and the adult in him. The child in him tends to be exciting and the one who gets emotional and planned Mark’s escape. The adult in him is apprehensive and uncertain but the child in him needs the adult to carry out the plans.
When he found the carnival, the child in him was ecstatic. The carnival people offered him food and shelter if he would perform menial tasks around the carnival grounds. His first job was as a security guard. He would sleep on cardboard boxes under tables as he was supposed to guard the food.
One day, he met a guy named Carlos who invited him to stay with his family. Carlos’ father felt bad for Mark because he was a little kid, so he let him stay with the under the condition that he would work in their appliance rental business. So during the day he would work, and at night, he and Carlos would hang out and look for pot.
After a while, Carlos’ dad was like “listen, I know you’re a runaway and you can’t stay here.” So he took him to the bus station to go home. When he got back home, he was shocked to find out that he had only been gone for two weeks.
Later that same year, Mark went to a religious retreat after his friend told him that there would be lots of girls there. There, he got reacquainted with a girl named Jessica, who was actually in his second grade class. She introduced him to friends who invited him to play in a christian rock band.
On this retreat, Mark was deeply affected by a film about Jesus.
When the retreat was over, he went home and got back into his Mark the Freak identity. He went on another retreat after that where he passed out LSD to young christian kids who had never taken it.
The following summer, he went on vacation in Florida to visit his grandmother. There, he went in search of the freaks again. He found some hippies and druggies to hang out with.
He continued to take a lot of drugs and they started taking a toll on his sanity. He suffered a series of bad trips and flashbacks and he said he had frightening hallucinations where the world became a two dimensional cartoon.
One day, he was hanging out with all these hippies all day and then later on he went to get something out of his wallet and he noticed that his buddies had ransacked it. Mark felt really low at this point and started crying.
At this point, Mark decided to turn to Jesus. At 16 years old, Mark had become a born again Christian. He stopped dressing like a hippie, because it just felt right after making this huge turnaround in his life.
It was around this time that he would start to voice his intense loathing of John Lennon and the Beatles. He was really angry about the whole thing where John said that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus. Mark also would say that the song Imagine was a communist song, and blasphemy.
He even would sing to the tune of Imagine “Imagine John Lennon is dead.”
At a party with a religious group, Mark really wanted to play a song that he had written on the guitar, but the party was so busy and noisy that he didn’t get a chance. It bummed him out and little by little he just stopped showing up to the meetings and kind of started losing his focus on religion.
So now Mark had a void to fill again and he turned to the rock n roll music of Todd Rundgren, who once had some beef with John Lennon.
Todd Rundgren called John Lennon out in an interview in 1974, where he called John out for his hypocrisy, like for example, the way he treats women poorly while singing about peace and love.
"John Lennon ain't no revolutionary," he said. "He's a f***ing idiot, man. Shouting about revolution and acting like an a**. It just makes people feel uncomfortable." Rundgren then went on to suggest that Lennon was only promoting said views as a ploy to gain attention.
They went back and forth a little, just talking smack about each other in interviews. John would intentionally butcher his name and call him “Sodd Runtlestuntle” and “Turd Runtgreen”.
Anyway so Mark became a big big fan of Todd Rundgren. More so than he was with John Lennon. Mark truly felt like Todd Rundgren had the greatest influence on him and he believed Rundgren was a musical genius. Mark felt that his music and lyrics provided everything he needed to express his identity.
He tried to get everyone to listen to music, and tell them to really feel it, but nobody was ever quite as enthused as Mark was.
Mark started working at the YMCA as a counselor when he was a teenager. He was very committed to this role and later became an assistant protgram director.
Reportedly, Mark was great with kids. The people who worked with him had nothing but good things to say about him.
The kids called him Captain Nemo (which i think was also his idea). This was like, another persona for him, like Mark the Freak. But Captain Nemo was from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and this would set the stage for his later role as the Catcher in the Rye.
When asked if he cares about anything, Holden shares a selfless fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert Burns's Comin' Through the Rye), in which he imagines himself as making a job of saving children running through a field of rye by catching them before they fell off a nearby cliff (a "catcher in the rye").
In 1975, Mark was given a chance to travel to Beirut, Lebanon, but he was only there for a few weeks because the country was in the middle of a civil war. S Mark and another volunteer spent their days huddled under furniture while bombs, rockets, and gunfire went off in the streets.
The volunteers were evacuated and when Mark got back to Georgia, he was visibly shaken up.
So then he was moved to Arkansas to work with Vietnamese refugees, where again, he fully committed himself to his work and everyone had nothing but good things to say about him.
That year, he rekindled his friendship with Jessica, the girl who was in his second grade class and he saw at the Christian retreat. By October 1975, they were engaged. But just a few weeks before, Mark had actually cheated on her and lost his virginity to another camp counselor. And he felt horrible and sinful for it.
He was sure that she was saving herself for marriage and he started to despise himself. They ended up breaking off their engagement.
He committed himself more than ever to his work with the YMCA, kind of hoping to make up for his mistakes.
In 1976 he was in community college. At this time, he really started to feel like a nobody. He had just finished these important experiences, survived a war zone, and then he was suddenly in community college, studying hard, just a normal person like everybody else. But he didn’t feel like a normal person.
“I wasn’t in charge of anything, I wasn’t in a forein country taping bomb sounds down the avenue I was a regular college student with regular responsibilities and studies and that was it. That was all. I was just like everybody else– a nobody. And when I had to face that truth, my insides fell in on myself. I fell down a dark hole. So what does a nobody do? A nobody gets a nobody job because he feels like he can’t handle anything else.”
He really started to struggle with his sense of identity, he felt like he was constantly searching for this personality he would never find.
Before Mark gave up and got himself a “nobody job”, he went back to the YMCA for the summer camp. For a short time, he was back in his element and out of his depression. But then one day, he made a comment to another counselor, who turned around and snapped at him. This small incident was enough to put him back into his depression.
This is when Mark decided to go to Hawaii and kill himself. He tried praying but it wasn’t helping and he felt like God wasn’t there for him.
When he got there, he was filled with this exhilarating joy of life. He wanted to go and spend a week or two in paradise before committing suicide. So he spent like a week just living it up, drinking and partying and going on boat tours, and blew all of his money.
But he wasn’t ready to die yet. So he got a cheap room at the YMCA.
While he was there, he called his ex-fiance, Jessica. She told him she was no longer in love with him, but he told her that he was going to kill himself. He said that he went to Hawaii to kill himself but after seeing the beauty, he just wants to come home and for her to forgive him.
Jessica was scared, so she told him to come home. But she had no intentions of reconciling the relationship. When he got to her doorstep in Atlanta, she let him down and he spent the next couple of weeks at his parents’ house.
After that, he decided to go back to Hawaii but not to kill himself. This time, he would get a job and start a new life. He spent his last $1200 on this trip, and as soon as he landed in Hawaii, he went “oh fuck. I’m all alone again and Hawaii is fucking expensive.” Lots of people go out there with similar plans or as tourists and they blow all their money, and they end up with no place to go. It’s similar here in Las Vegas– I can’t tell you how many homeless people I’ve met who came here on vacation, or even travelling musicians, who ended up gambling away every penny and then ends up living in the streets of Las Vegas.
So this was 1977. He spent his days working temporary low-income jobs that he would often abandon after payday. When he had money he’d stay at the YMCA and when he didn’t, he’d sleep on the streets. Sometimes he’d hang out in a payphone booth and talk to the suicide hotline.
He fell into a dark depression and again, started to plan for his suicide. He bought a vacuum hose and drove to an isolated parking lot and jammed one end of the hose in his exhaust pipe, and draped the other end across his backseat. He sealed all the edges of the car and closed the windows tightly, and when he was ready, he got into his car and turned on the ignition. He laid his head back and closed his eyes.
But then, he woke up. He got out of the car and looked at the hose and saw that it had melted…. Because it was plastic.
He took this as a sign that God wanted him to live.
He realized that he needed help at this point, and he checked into a mental health facility. He spent the first few days sleeping, exhausted by his thoughts and feelings from the past month. The notes from his stay at this facility state that he was severely depressed and had no will to continue living.
And yet, about a week later, he bounced back. He was said to show no signs of depression. After two weeks, he was like a whole new person. He was then discharged, and returned to the clinic to work as a volunteer.
And then his doctor actually supported a decision to hire Mark in their maintenance and public relations departments. It wasn’t long before Mark started trying to be a counselor to the patients. One one occasion, the doctors actually asked Mark to talk to a patient who, like him, had come to Hawaii for a last fling before killing himself.
While Mark was still searching for his identity, he finally felt accepted. He became like one of the other doctors. He was a peer, he would go out for beers with them and hang out and go to dinner. They had to remind themselves that he was a former patient. One of the counselors noted that he preferred the company of older people like herself (Mark was only about 22, while the other employees at the clinic were like in their 40’s) and she theorizes that maybe he was searching for parental figures.
Then Mark met Reverend Peter Anderson, and Mark told him all about the depression and his suicide attempt, and how he felt like God saved him and now he was letting down by not fulfilling his purpose.
Peter invited him to live with him and his wife, and Mark started avoiding the doctors in the psychiatric unit. They became worried when he started to withdraw and they feared that he was using religion to mask a much greater pain and darkness inside of him.
At the end of the day, the staff in the psychiatric clinic did acknowledge that Mark had darkness, pain, anger, and confusion inside of him. But nobody saw the slightest clue that he may have what they now believe is schizophrenia.
During his sessions, he explained that at an early age, he developed a parasitic, mirror-like survival skill, where he learned to capture and reflect the character traits of people he wanted to like him.
He said “even without knowing it, i would reflect people’s own personalities back to them. I was almost always charming to people, until I started reflecting back to them the parts they didn’t want to see. Then, they didn’t want me around anymore.
Even when I was very young, my mother told me ‘Mark, you don’t wear well with people.’”
Mark started to improve. He was doing really well at his job and it made him feel really important, like people needed him. His parents and sister went to visit him in 1978, and his father gave him $1,000 as a Christmas gift. Then Mark got the idea to travel to the Far East.
His idea grew bigger and bigger, as he was heavily influenced by films like Around the World in 80 Days and The Great Race. So he got 6 weeks off work and decide to travel around the world.
This trip also gave him an excuse to see his travel agent, Gloria.
Gloria Abe was a petite asian woman and Mark would call her up often to make changes to his travel plans. He would like read about a new place in a book or brochure, and then call her to add it to her itinerary. And then he would send her thank you notes, which eventually became teddy bears and roses. He showed up at her job with coffee and pastries and said “you can’t possibly work this hard for all of your clients.” He was right, she didn’t.
Eventually, Gloria fell in love with Mark. On the day of his flight, she looked up his address and showed up to his house a few hours before his flight. She put a Hawaiian lei around his neck and gave him a warm kiss.
Over the next few weeks, he sent her postcards from all over the world.
In Tokyo he spoke with an official from the YMCA who asked him about his work with the Vietnamese refugees. It was at this moment that Mark realized that he had become void of compassion. All the love and compassion he felt for these refugees had escaped him, as if all that feeling had dried up. And he felt guilty.
And then his depression came back as he started feeling bad about not going further in his work with the YMCA.
In Thailand, he had his first encounter with a sex worker. He went for walk after having dinner and drinking a few beers, and this woman, who was very drunk, threw her arms around him, trying to make some money.
He allegedly tried to push her away but ended up giving in and going with her. They went to a hotel and she had more beer brought up.
In India, he saw the contrast among the poor and the rich. The pain and desperation that separated the wealthy “phonies” from the “real people” who struggle daily to survive.
Mark arrived back in Hawaii on August 20, 1978. Gloria was waiting for him at the gate. She ran right into his arms. After that, they were pretty much inseparable. They would go on dates and when they didn’t have a date planned, he would show up at her door with some drinks in him and tell her that he was depressed and needed to talk. Gloria never turned him away, no matter how late it was.
He didn’t tell her about his suicidal thoughts or what brought him to Hawaii, but she could sense that he was hurt and had felt wronged by others.
Mark and Gloria got married on June 2nd 1979. Around this time, Marks parents announced that they were getting a divorce. Not only that, but his mother, Diane, was moving to Hawaii. Gloria recalls that in the early months of their marriage, Mark was torn between spending his time and his money on his wife and on his mother. Diane would even tag along on dinner dates, cruises, and excursions that Gloria felt she should’ve been able to enjoy with her husband alone. And she voiced this to Mark, but he would insist that his first duty was to his mom.
Gloria admits that she was kind of jealous as Mark was doing his best to get his mom set up in a nice place, and that she kind of pressured him to choose between her and his mother. He ended up cutting off contact with his mother. Admittedly, Gloria hated that she had this jealousy on her and was working on it, and she says she overcame it a few months before Mark would commit murder.
Mark’s father, David, had left Diane with no money, no financial resources. So Mark was pissed and he felt like he had to help his mom. He said that he wanted to kill his father for what he had done to his mother during and after the marriage.
He also recalls feeling a parentlike responsibility to care after his mom after she moved to Hawaii. He told psychiatrists he didn’t actually want her there though. It was his island, not hers, and she interfered.
Mark started to get really annoyed with her because she couldn’t stop talking about herself, and her new life, and her boyfriends. She would have sexual encounters with beach bums and guys who were Mark’s age. Mark would get mad at her and he would call her menopausal, and then she’d get mad as hell.
Diane did her usual thing where she would turn to Mark as kind of a confidant instead of acting like his mother. She confided in him that his sister Susan wanted to visit, but she didn’t want her to because she was starting her new life.
And Diane basically moved to Hawaii without a plan. Mark got her a divorce lawyer and found her a job.
Eventually, Gloria made peace with Diane. The three of them would rent a car and drive around the island, sometimes stopping for dinner or drinks at elegant hotels. Their credit card bills started piling up, but Gloria knew better than to question Mark about his spending.
Mark explains that his lavish spending of money was a way to bolster his self esteem, which was at an all-time low. He felt ridiculous working as a housekeeper while he was now a married an. He felt he needed a more important position in life. This is when he became a printer and public relations representative. This job was prestigious, but it was very demanding and it started to take a toll on Mark’s emotional health. He was no longer able to socialize like he did at his old job, and he didn’t feel important. And when Mark was alone, he got really, really lonely, and he had too much time to look back on his faults and his life.
Mark started noticing his behavior becoming more aggressive. It was like he would explode on someone and when they would react, he would get terrified.
Like one time, he and Gloria were walking up stairs to their apartment, and there were a couple of guys who were talking loudly, and Mark yelled at them to shut up. Then he felt guilty and went back to apologize, and they ignored him. After that, they walked by one of the guys, and he whistled at Gloria. Mark was enraged, and he wanted to jump out and grab him. But he didn’t. He felt really frightened.
So they moved. They broke their lease and moved to a luxurious condo.
One day, Mark went to pick Gloria up from work and he got mad when she took too long. He laid on his horn and yelled at her. Then he went into the office and started yelling at her boss. Then it happened again, and her boss slammed the door in his face. So he made Gloria quit her job.
Mark’s colleagues started to notice his increasing hostility. He wasn’t satisfied with his job, so he would create programs and system for himself and others. He had a perfectionist attitude that would cause him to become enraged when others did things differently than how he thought they should be done.
He was eventually fired after having a confrontation with a nurse who confronted him about taking to long to do a print job.
In December 1969, he got a job as a security guard and basically cut off all ties with his friends from the hospital, who had basically helped him find the will to live after his suicide attempt.
Mark was in pretty bad shape again. He started drinking heavily, and at some point, the Little People came back. But now, they had grown up and were wearing 3 piece suits, and they were here to help Mark organize his life and his finances. and instead of a monarchy where Mark was the king, it was now more of a democratic parliament where he was president. Meaning that where he used to be the ruler who could just blow them up willy nilly, he now had to like submit proposals to a board and get their approval before making decisions.
Mark would address the little people on this little screen that came down like a presentation in a board room, and he’d tell them that they’re going to be okay financially. The Little People made him feel like he was running a country, and they were the only thing that kept him functioning.
Mark became obsessed with artwork, and he started making watercolor paintings. Gloria recalled that his paintings were really good, but Mark could not leave them alone. It’s like they were never perfect and he would always go back and add to it or try to make it better, until it was just a dark mass of color.
Gloria: “it’s like nothing was ever good enough until he destroyed it.”
In March 1980, Mark abandoned his obsession for art and traded it for an obsession with finances. He would get up early in the morning or late at night and sit at the table with a pencil and a calculator, just staring off into space for hours. Sometimes even talking as though there were someone else there. Gloria asked him who he was talking to, and he tried to tell her about the Little People.
He told her how they were tiny people who lived in his walls when he was a kid, but now that they were back to help him reorganize his life now.
Mark was in really bad shape now, at the lowest of his lows. And talking to the Little People and organizing things was the only thing that kept him going.
He shut out everyone around him. He was so sensitive that he just felt like every single person had let him down or rejected him in some way.
He started doing weird things for his own amusement, like calling in bomb threats and making threatening phone calls to his old landlord or a tv repairman who he didn’t like. He had a payphone outside his apartment and he would watch it from his window, and whenever someone was standing near it, he’d call it, and when they answered, he’d tell them “I’m watching you, I’m going to follow you and kill you.” Sometimes he would also use a laughing box during these calls–
He started spending all his time at the library, with the goal of reading every single book.
Eventually, he left his job. It was just too hard, too much pressure. He thought he could stay home with Gloria and clean and cook for her.
Mark remembered the book Catcher in the Rye one day, and he decided to look for it in the library. He had only read it once before, when he was 16. (25 at this point)
But the library didn’t have it. So he went and bought a copy and started reading it, and he couldn’t put it down until he got to the last page. And when he finished it, he read it again.
Mark related to the main character, Holden Caulfield, a lot. And Mark tends to do this. He sees synchronicities, and to him, they mean everything. Like he believes all these things connect in order to give him some kind of purpose.
Catcher in the Rye is about a depressed 17 year old named Holden Caulfield. Holden is like an angsty teenager and everyone he interacts with, he feels, seems to let him down somehow. He calls everyone “phonies” and therefore, Mark starts to refer to everyone as a phony. And Holden Caulfield does kind of remind me of Mark, but not in a good way. Not in a way Mark should be proud of.
Holden calls up this girl who he calls “queen of all phonies” and then he invites her to run off with him. Like, if anything, Mark and Holden are the real phonies here.
Mark went out and bought two new copies of Catcher in the Rye. One copy he kept for himself, the other copy he gave to Gloria after signing it “Holden Caulfield”. Mark told Gloria that she should read it to better understand him, and she did. He told her he was thinking about changing his name to Holden Caulfield.
Over that month of October 1980, Gloria noticed that his mood seemed to have improved. He told Gloria and her parents that he was seriously thinking about taking a trip to London. Then this idea evolved, and he said he now wanted to take Gloria and move to England. Then he abandoned that plan and told her “sometimes I just get so frustrated and bottled up that I just want to blow somebody’s head off.
On October 18th, after re-reading Catcher, he was at the library and he just happened to see a book with John Lennon’s picture on it. The book was John Lennon: One Day At a Time by Anthony Fawcett. He looked through the book and carefully observed all the photos.
Remember by this point, John Lennon was taking a career break. From 1975 to 1980, John was a stay at home dad. So this is now 1980, when John had just gone to Bermuda and written a bunch of new music.
So Mark is looking at these photos of John at the Dakota, throwing up a peace sign. And like every other book or movie that Mark has ever seen, he got sucked into this book.
So he’s reading this book and looking at pictures and he started to become enraged with John.
It wasn’t just envy, but the way Mark puts it: John was a successful man who had the world on a chain, and there was Mark, not even a link of that chain.
And he starts remembering when he used to listen to the Beatles as a child, back when he was taught that the world was a whimsical place where he could be whatever he dreamt of “I thought I loved reality, and I didn’t want the world to be the way it was.”
And then something inside of Mark just flipped a switch. His mind went really dark. He wasn’t thinking about murder yet, but he was angry, to the point that he would’ve destroyed the world if he had control over nuclear weapons.
*cue childhood war sounds*
He checked out the book and took it home to his wife, Gloria, and he pointed out the pictures of him smiling. “The decadent bastard, the phony bastard, who had lied to children, who had used his music to mislead a generation of people who desperately needed to believe in love and a world at war that desperately needed to believe in peace.”
He sang about imagining no possessions, while he’s really got millions of dollars and yachts and estates.
Around the same time, he was looking through a newspaper and saw a picture of John Lennon in the recording studio, with an article talking about his new album, Double Fantasy. In this article, apparently John called himself a phony and said that all the concerts and promotional packages and the bed-in for peace, were just for publicity.
I couldn’t actually find this news article. I found an article from November 1980 from the New York Times where he promotes Double Fantasy, but I didn’t see any quotes where John said anything about being a phony or doing things for a publicity stunt.
Anyway I’ll link that article on brokenlimelight.com in case anybody wants to see it.
Anyway, Mark read that article and he says that John’s quotes were proof that he was indeed a phony.
By the way I forgot to tell you about John and Yoko’s bed-in for peace. This was shortly after they were married and during the Vietnam war. They stayed at a hotel in Amsterdam and they wanted to promote peace. So what they did was instead of doing a sit-in, they called it a bed-in for peace, where they stayed in their bed in this hotel. For two weeks. They invited reporters and news crews into their room to publicize it. Anyway they did a couple of these bed-ins.
After reading this article about Double Fantasy and also reading the book about John, he purchased John’s album Imagine and this was another thing to enrage him. He sang about not believing in God and not believing in The Beatles, he only believed in himself and Yoko.
Mark describes how this all made him want to scream. Like “who the fuck does this guy think he is?”
And he just finished reading Catcher in the Rye and still embracing the persona of Holden Caulfield, so he’s thinking about how this shitty world and all the phonies have wronged him, and then he comes across this book about John Lennon, who in his mind, is now the biggest phony of all.
One day, Mark was sitting cross legged on the floor of his apartment staring out the window and holding Catcher in the Rye in his hand. His wife, Gloria, had a few Beatles albums and he started leafing through them. When he got to the Sgt. Pepper album, it’s the yellow album with all the Beatles dressed in colorful like marching band uniforms, and Mark spotted John Lennon’s face with his glasses and his little mustache.
And at that moment he just knew that he was going to kill him.
He said to himself “Wouldn’t it be something if I killed John Lennon?”
It seems like Mark had a real problem with the John Lennon he knew as a child, who he admired, and this new Lennon in Double Fantasy.
“Lennon as a Beatle. Lennon as a phony. Just seeing these terrible inconsistencies, mirroring my own inconsistencies and my own pain and my own guit at not having accomplished anything. This trinity– the Catcher, the new Lennon, the old Lennon– it was just kind of pointing out at me, like an arrow, like the sharpened tip of a triangle, pointing at me. And it was almost like I was handed something– that here was a solution: Kill John Lennon.”
He envisioned himself as Holden Caulfield doing what Holden wanted to do, but didn’t. There’s a part in Catcher in the Rye where Holden finds a sex worker who was wearing a green dress, but when she takes her clothes off, he gets nervous because he’s a virgin. He pays her, but she comes back with her pimp they beat him up and took all his money. Holden then fantasizes about going shooting the guy and killing him.
So Mark took it a step further and decided to get a gun.
Mark was still in a really dark place, but now he felt that he had a purpose and an identity.
Mark would continue to listen to Beatles records while his thoughts swirled around his brain. He would take off his clothes and sit in front of the record player, naked, wearing only headphones. And he prayed “hear me Satan, I ask only that you give me the power to kill John Lennon. Give me the power of darkness. Give me the power of death. Let me be a somebody for once in my life. Give me the life of John Lennon.”
And then he realized, he was going to need more than Satan. He needs to make a plan. And so, he summoned the Little People.
Mark told the Little People that John Lennon ruined his life and he must be stopped.
The Little People debated and ultimately told Mark “we have unanimously agreed that this is a very foolish, a very nonproductive decision that you have made.”
Even his subconscious is like “dude, wtf?”
They told him that if he carries out his plan, it’ll cause a lot of pain and grief to a lot of people including to his wife and himself.
The Little People then got up, one by one, and disappeared into his mind, leaving Mark alone.
While Mark was praying to Satan and having board meetings with Little People in the nude, Gloria was sleeping in the next room.
At first Mark would glance over his shoulder kind of nervous that she would catch him, but it’s Mark, so he got all into this moment and he’s like chanting to Satan and shouting Beatles lyrics. So Gloria woke up to the sound of Mark shouting “must die! The phony bastard must die!”
Gloria was scared. She hid under a blanket and tried to call his name, but she couldn’t force her voice above a whisper.
According to Gloria, it sounded like the voice was coming from two people at once. It turned into a kind of chant:
“The phony must die, says the Catcher in the Rye.
The Catcher in the Rye is coming for you.
Don’t believe in John Lennon.
Imagine John Lenon is dead, oh yea, yea, yea.
Imagine that it’s over.”
The music stopped and he was silent for a few minutes before he started quietly muttering to himself:
“The fool. The goddamn phony fool. He doesn’t even realize that soon he’s going to be dead. Just imagine that.”
One day, Mark saw a television rendition of a short story by Willa Cather called Paul’s Case, which was about a guy, Paul, who was an artistic and misunderstood man with a morbid desire for cool things and soft lights and fresh flowers.
No surprise, Mark related to this character.
Paul was also a sociopath who was planning to run off with thousands of dollars that didn’t belong to him for a final fling that would end in death in NYC. Paul had a sweet at the exclusive Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
So what does Mark do? He spends multiple calling the Waldorf trying to make reservations.
He finally got a room for 2 nights at the end of October.
On October 23rd 1980, Mark quit his job as a security guard. He signed out for the last time using the name “John Lennon” and then crossed it out. He also pasted the name John lennon over his nametag before he took his uniform off for the last time.
Ironically, on this same day just a few hours earlier, John Lennon had officially released a new song, “(Just Like) Starting Over” which was supposed to symbolize John Lennon’s return to life.
According to Mark, he knew on the day he quit that he was going to kill John Lennon.
There’s a quote from Mark about how he was feeling during this time. He said this after the murder:
“There was no esteem. Nothing had meaning or value. There was either manic happiness and joy about something new, or there was tremendous depression and drinking and fighting and anger and isolation and fear about other people.”
“I needed to scream, but I had no mouth.” he continues. “John Lennon, when he was going through a tremendous time of confusion and depression in the sixties, from what I’ve read, in his own words, about the song ‘Help!’ that he wrote: The song was a genuine cry for help. It was his way of getting it out. Fortunately for him, he had the ability to put it out on a record and keep such feelings from poisoning his mind and taking total control of his life.”
“Listen to some of Lennon’s records. Listen to the background of some of the Beatles songs. That screaming in the background, that’s JohnLennon. Listen to him scream when he’s singing about not having his mother, about being abandoned by his mother and his father. The poor guy, his father left the family, then his mother left him to be raised by his aunt and uncle. Thenhis mother got killed after she came back to him years later. Just to think after a person had been through all that he had been through as a child, then to get murdered by somebody like me..”