A Marvelous Manipulating Sue
Years later, after Sue vanished from Nutley that warm July in 1996, we
would look back and realize that when Sue dispatched Stanley, she was at
the top of her form.
She was a master of manipulation who seemed to waste her talents on
petty things, a flim-flam woman who never managed to con her way into
anything of significance.
Many recall how desperate she constantly seemed, how life was such a
burden and she was at the edge of her rope, and how if things didn't
turn around for her soon, she might have to do something desperate.
Only in retrospective did some of us understand the nature of the games
Sue played, how Sue played off people, changing her appearance as
completely as a chameleon, and how she used different strategies for
luring different men into her webs.
How had Sue managed to ensnare Stanley, who was neither a student, nor
Some associates from college said she worked on men in various ways, but
one was what they called "The IQ game," or as they put it more bluntly,
"You're so smart and I'm so stupid and I wish I could do all the things
you've done and known all the people you've known" bit. This was a game
she would play years later to great success with Rob Hardin.
Sue would continually berate herself, working her victim into a false
sense of superiority, the bigger the ego, the more easily duped the
victim was. Sometimes, people -- close friends, lovers, even family
members -- went on for years deluded by this deception, Sue actively
reaping the rewards of their talents. At school, her boyfriends wrote
her papers for her, gave her money, drove her from place to place,
bought her clothing, fed her, and did some of her dirty deeds, such as
checking up on supposed stalkers.
Dorothy said Sue would make her daily and weekly rounds, harvesting the
seeds she'd sown, collecting money and favors from men (and women) to
whom she professed love and friendship. When these people ceased having
anything she wanted, she "distanced" herself from them, acquiring new
friends who still had something to offer. Even when she still had use
for such people, Sue abused her lovers behind their backs, often mocking
their sexual problems or their egotism in front of her new friends.
Sometimes, she came straight from bed with a man, mocking the experience
among her girlfriends. Yet, this side of her rarely showed to those she
needed to control.
"She always played herself off as a victim; she always presented herself
in earnest need, and needed your help in particular," Dorothy said. "She
would run around town begging rides from people, or borrowing their cars
and money and whatever else she could get -- always with the air of
hopelessness. But she was getting over on people. It was always a role
she was playing. She was a drama queen."
In appealing for help, Sue used to tell people she had this huge problem
that only this one person could help her solve, a problem that she could
not control. She was a target of some conspiracy or the result of an
involvement with shady people, people she fell into because she didn't
initially know what they were about.
"Sue always found gullible people as helpers, people not wise enough to
see through her act," Dorothy said. "She would make herself seem so
genteel to them, and emotional fleeting and make these people care so
deeply about her, and worry over her so much, believing she was so
These men -- sometimes women -- would think nothing about ruining their
own lives to help Sue, trying to nurture her, Dorothy said. These people
would give into Sue every wish and care.
"They cared so deeply they couldn't see what she was doing to them or
how she was hurting them," Dorothy said. "And they couldn't see how she
didn't care for them at all. They thought they were finding a real
relationship and what they got was mind-fucked."
"From all her old friends' accounts," wrote Joel Lewis in his
unpublished manuscript on Sue's vanishing, "Susan Walsh seemed to be in
a state of perpetual crisis -- on issues ranging from boyfriend problems
to her family life to Beacon office politics."
"Everybody lived vicariously through' Sue's life," said Nicole.
"Everyone seemed to get involved with whatever was happening with her at
the moment -- which I think was what she wanted."
At school, some school mates described Sue Walsh as "a constant flirt,"
saying she had a way of leading men on, then brushing them off.
"She's on a real power trip," one fellow writer once observed. "She
likes the fact she can get away with it."
"Sue often talked to friends about her poor relationship with her mother
and often spent the nights at the time, sleeping on a student center
couch because her mother often threw her out of the house after an
argument -- often over Walsh's current step-father," wrote Joel.
"You could go to a movie and she'd try to hit on someone while you were
in the theater," Bill Madaras told Joel.
Most of those clever enough to observe it, admired Sue's delicate touch,
her ability to manipulate people into giving her what she wanted. She
often got other people to pay her bills, give heshe wanted. She often
got other people to pay her
"She's a master manipulator," said Dorothy. "I know. She confided in me.
She would tell me what she was doing and how she operated. She was proud
of herself. She thought I was too stupid to remember things, but she was
the one who sometimes forgot what she told me. But she didn't have many
friends she could really rely on. So I just sat there and listened. She
told me everything."
Sue constantly played the role of a helpless soul, who needed people to
do things for her, often pretending to be ill or depressed. She was
neither. Despite claims for bipolar disease by her mother -- a
convenient excuse the woman used for years to explain Sue's abhorrent
behavior and something she may have read about in one of the many
self-help books she read at the time -- Sue displayed none of the
classic signs of that disease: the fits of sudden generosity, the sudden
impulse to help other people, and the deep depression caused after a
rush of sudden activity.
Abbie Hoffman, on whose life Sue modeled much of her behavior, struggled
with this disease most of his life. She may have been talented enough to
fake alcoholism as well, since she had more than one person upon which
to make a personal study, or may have suffered from the depression
typical of family members of alcoholics.
"Some (former classmates) felt that Walsh had some sort of mental health
problems," wrote Joel, "and that she herself claimed she was suffering
from a manic-depressive disorder -- now called bipolar disorder -- and
claimed to go into `fugue' states, where everything appeared foggy and
detached. She claimed she was taking lithium as treatment."
For the most part, Sue was talented enough to deceive even those most
close to her, using combinations of behavior to make sure people stayed
deceived. Even after nearly twenty years, Bill Madaras still believed
much of what Sue had told him.
But towards the end of Sue's college career, her lies wore thin. People
started seeing her as someone who loved to be the center of attention,
the center of the universe, even if this meant getting herself into
"The attention feed something inside of her," Dorothy said, noting that
Sue's 1996 vanishing fit in with her behavior at school. "She might be
afraid to come back. But she will come back, and when she does, she'll
suffer the consequences nobly. She has always played the part of the
Sue entertained herself in other ways, too. She had a fascination for
motorcycle gangs, and was constantly developing scenarios in which she
was being stolen away for a gangbang by some biker group. And she may
have actually dated one of the New York Hells Angels during the early
1990s. The whole concept of bondage seemed to tickle her fancy. She
could not stop talking about the possibilities, and over time, those
possibilities grew into stories she expected other people to believe.
She would pick some scurrilous looking fellow on campus and say he was a
biker out to rape her.
Sue was also fascinated with the CIA, and continued to imagine people as
members of the CIA trying to recruit her. She often told fellow students
that the CIA had been impressed with her high IQ, and constantly
reported contact with people who claimed membership in that covert
And then, of course, there was the Mafia. Sue never tired of inventing
plots in which she played a central role, if not as a victim -- who the
Mafia wanted to sell into white slavery or rape or kill -- or as a
possible hero who knew something that could destroy their operations.
Sue constantly pulled other people into these plots, forcing friends to
aid against her perceived enemies. Sue would claim some ex-lover was
stalking her and ask her new lover or new friend to help her keep track.
These plots varied, sometimes incorporating elements of her CIA tales or
those of the Mafia. But in each, Sue was the target and everyone had to
cease conducting their lives in order to save her.
The Dry Alcoholic