The Duclod Man was the title given to a man, identified as Robert W. McEwen, who over two decades generated mystery and speculation by sending out dozens of unusual anonymous letters to college students and posting writings on internet pages. The letters, internet writings, and library bathroom graffiti, included the word "duclod" (ostensibly a portmanteau of dual and closeted, or a bisexual person who hides his or her sexuality from both gay and straight people.) The activity occurred over three decades, until his identity was discovered in 2007 by Sarah Aswell, a journalist writing for The Advocate. In her investigative articles, she calls the duclod man "Richard".
Graffiti incorporating the word "duclod" and obscure jokes concerning "two closets" have been seen at Grinnell College since at least the mid-1970s, often in Burling Library bathrooms. In the 1980s, the following peculiar graffiti message could be found in one Whately, Massachusetts restaurant's Men's Room:
Q: What is the difference between?
A: A duclod.
Q: The same as the difference between?
A: Two closets.
As early as 1992, students at multiple colleges received duclod letters, but most prominently, they were directed towards seniors at Grinnell College and the University of Kansas. The letters were sent in groups, during school breaks, from different and seemingly-random parts of the country. The letters were sometimes sent to a student's home address, leading to speculation that the sender intended to "out" the recipient to his or her parents. Because of the nature of the content, it was widely speculated that the sender was targeting students based on their sexual orientation, although apparently straight students received letters as well. The envelopes contained letters folded up to resemble a homemade greeting card, with childish drawings (men crawling on the ground, toilets, trash cans, and twin closet doors) and strange jokes or messages ("Q: What would a duclod like about the land of the giants? A: Standing in two closets without touching either knob.", "If you like shaving cats, try shaving crayons. It's a good a way as any to practice shaving.", "It takes two hands to handle a duclod", "Actual tombstone inscription: DUCLODS DIE TWICE"). The letters sometimes defined the duclod as "bisexual, homophobic, heterophobic, confused."
Several homemade websites hosted on free services such as Geocities, AOL, or Angelfire contained content that appeared similar to Duclod Man's letters. The websites contained original writings - usually musings about the environment, technology, politics, conspiracy theories, or numerology. They also contained jokes, drawings similar to those found in the duclod letters, information about organic gardening, or homemade programs written in Visual Basic. Visiting his pages would often invoke the mailto: protocol to open the visitor's email client, automatically filling it in with dozens of addresses and nonsensical subjects such as "I used to be the Dancing Bear on Captain Kangaroo", "Don't you EVER tinkle in a glass again", or "You want a slap in the face?" Additionally, the author of these websites exhibited prolific activity on a large variety of message boards and guest books, with postings similar to that found on his websites. His AOL homepage at members.aol.com/shavescats/ is defunct but can be found using the wayback machine from the Internet Archive.
Richard used the following pseudonyms on his webpages and forum postings:
- Red Kuller
- Pilldown Man
- Chilee Umgum
- Proctor Zhloip
- Chamo Howards
- D. Trapper
- Gordon Craft
Richard expressed particular interest in the following subjects:
- Organic gardening
- Time travel
- New World Order theory
- Hollow Earth theory
- Nazi concentration camps
- Polar shift theory
- Transmutations of humans into dogs and half-human half-dog creatures called "garbmuts"
- Bears and dogs
- Same-sex marriage / Bisexuality
- Domestic violence, especially battered husbands
- Bodily functions
- Nursery rhymes
In March 2007, writing for The Advocate, Sarah Aswell wrote that she had received a duclod letter years ago, and had tracked Richard down through his series of webpages and forums to a homepage containing an old resume. Ms. Aswell wrote that she repackaged the duclod letter she had received, along with the message "stop sending letters, Richard." She wrote a follow-up article in the May 2007 issue of The Advocate, claiming that Richard had not stopped sending letters or posting duclod jokes in Internet forums. She wrote in the second article that she decided to find and contact his family, who confronted him and asked him to take down his webpages, which he did.
Richard was autistic, the sisters explained. Or, they added, he had a mixture of problems that might be indefinable. He grew up in the 1950s, before anyone knew much about such disorders. They hadn’t even heard about autism until Richard was in his 20s. He was intellectually normal, Janis said, maybe even above average, but emotionally he functioned like a 10-year-old. He was much better at communicating through writing than through conversation. He liked numbers and making up words. He was, she said simply, odd.— Sarah Aswell, Finding the Duclod Man, part 2
He was also quite reclusive and in failing health. Although Ms. Aswell changed the real name of the Duclod Man to the pseudonym "Richard", she left enough correct information in her articles for interested readers to find his correct information, including his name, picture, telephone number, and living address, which were posted on Digg and Metafilter. Shortly thereafter, messages such as the following were posted in his website guestbook:
- "I am aware of your location ... I am coming for you"
- "Thousands of people who sort of hate you know exactly where you live ... I hope someone does something with that address "
- "Consider yourself dead, my friend"
- "You will have much time to explore the male part of your bisexuality in prison."
- "Don't forget to bring some chalk to your trial -- so you can mark off the days until you're paroled."
When Richard removed his webpages, he posted an apology, which read, in part:
I now fail to see the value of being human. I always got told the same things time after time and I just can't see any meaning to it. Some have told me I would never become a man. I always looked for others to feel superior to and really thought I could build myself up by putting others down, but it just doesn't work that way over the long haul, and I'm sorry for the pain I caused to others including Sarah Aswell (not sure I spelled it right) by going postal the way I did. Very remorseful. I was hurting people more than I realized. Don't blame my parents for all of this because I don't.
My health is now failing and I don't have much longer to live anyway. I just don't get over things ... In case anybody is thinking of doing me in, if we meet, I want to save him the trouble by doing it myself. I could easily do it with all the pills I have. I would also rather be dead than to go to any kind of prison. I may have Hell to pay, but even in the Lake of fire (the 2nd -- or maybe 3rd, but supposedly last and final death), I don't think anything burns away to nothing.— "Richard", I Went Postal
- Sarah Aswell. "Chasing the Duclod Man". advocate.com. Retrieved 2010-04-17. External link in
- Aswell, Sarah (Winter 2007). "Campus Mystery, My Search for the Duclod Man". Grinnell Magazine. 40: 25–29.
- Sarah Aswell. "Finding the Duclod Man, part 2". advocate.com. Retrieved 2010-04-17. External link in
- "Richard". "Organic Gardner's Dreambook". dreambook.com. Archived from the original on 17 March 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007. External link in
- "Richard". "I Went Postal". bigpond.com. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 5 June 2007. External link in
- Richard's Pages:
- The Advocate: