Sue's paranoia

Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh

 

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Although the FBI once said the Mafia didn't exist, no one could have

sold Sue on such a lie.

 

The Mafia, as best described in the film "The Godfather," formed the

central part of Sue's personal mythology. From the day I met her to the

day I last saw her, Sue talked about the mob, and being stalked, as well

as secret plots of the CIA in which she was involved. Most of us shook

our heads when she made such claims in college, thinking her just a

little strange on their account.

 

While friends blamed these stories on drinking, the use of Xanax, or an

untreated bi-polar disease, Sue's stories predated all these things.

 

As in school, Sue shaped elaborate tales for her friends and business

associates, Robert Ludlum level stories about spies and stalkers, about

threatening calls she received in the middle of the night, about men who

called her beeper incessantly in order to get her attention. These men,

like the men we heard about over a decade earlier, just wouldn't leave

her alone, no matter how many times she told them to go away. Melissa

said Sue's beeper went off constantly, and Sue constantly said it was

one of her stalkers calling.

 

What amazed people was how nonchalant Sue had become about these

stalkings. While she managed to manufacture fear in other people, she

seemed to take the whole issue in stride, as if she ought to be stalked,

or deserved the attention. Yet during an interview she conducted at the

WFMU-FM radio station in June, Sue seemed troubled.

 

"It seemed like she had some secrets," Dorian Devon told the Herald &

News.

 

But Sue sold everyone the same repackaged conspiracy theories. A man in

fatigues some students remembered from her conspiracies in college

became the mysterious "Number 22" in the 1990s. And the ex-boyfriends,

exbosses and former professors who stalked her on campus, became the

dark and sinister stalkers from sex clubs now. While she always

suggested the Mafia might be interested in her, now she had developed

motivation for their apparent interest, using contemporary Russian

history to bolster the tales she invented at school. She wasn't just

part of some mysterious plot any more, but a target of their

ill-intentions because of her reporting.

 

For this reason, many friends from Sue's college days think her stories

of stalking have no more validity in 1996 than they did in 1979 when

many of us first heard her telling them. Most of us heard some version

of these stories during our long association with Sue. Even Sue's

current collection of friends admit she had "a very vivid imagination,"

one which emphasized her love of danger. This was true in 1979 when many

of us met Sue for the first time at William Paterson College.

 

"She was always talking about people stalking her," said Dorothy. "She

even talked about knowing somebody from the CIA."

 

Dorothy said she once closely questioned Sue about the CIA man, asking

what he look like and where Sue met him, and never received a

satisfactory answer. Eventually, Sue pointed out someone.

 

"She showed me some skanky guy in fatigues," Dorothy said. "I think she

said his name was Jim."

 

Even Sue's updated 1996 version who she constantly referred to as "22"

is only a truck dispatcher. someone part of a local cult, celebrating

the 1970s legendary "22 caliber killer."

 

But all Sue's talk caused an immense amount of intrigue as she

constantly sought secrecy. When she worked as a waitress in the Totowa

section of Paterson between classes at school, she constantly left to

make or answer tethe Totowa section of Paterson between classes at

school, she constantly left to make or answer telephone calls or stepped

outside to meet people privately. Whenever a t

 

Sue perpetually used public telephones, part of some unquenchable need

to communicate with someone about some important issue. She rarely

explained about these calls in more than a few cryptic works, except to

emphasize the terrible importance of each call.

 

"Sometimes I thought she might be caught in some kind of phone sex,"

Dorothy said. "Or that she might be setting up some kind of kinky

meeting."

 

But Sue always talked about men staking her, claiming that some of the

calls she got at work or school came from ex-lovers and others who

refused to leave her alone. At school, she told everyone that the

customers where she worked, truck drivers and cops and yes, CIA men,

were constantly pursuing her, too.

 

"She used to tell me how much the truck drivers really loved her," one

old friend from school said. Then later, she would tell us that these

men had begun to stalk her. She said they just wouldn't let her go."

 

In fact, Sue talked so much about being stalked that she gave people the

impression that everyone from students to teachers stalked behind her on

campus, though for the most part, she remained vague as to who.

 

"Sometimes I got the feeling from her that every man she met was

stalking her," Dorothy said.

 

Every conversation Sue had was salted with suggestions of stalking, and

she even alluded to them when talking to me about fiction and poetry.

Being largely out of touch with that part of her life, I thought her

joking, and perhaps my failing to pick up on her clues kept her from

enlisting me into her secret clan. Later, I learned that Sue recruited

people to help her resist her stalkers. These allies didn't merely sit

and listen to Sue's tales, but took an active part in keeping tabs on

these stalkers. Sue would have her friends call up her alleged stalkers,

then hand up. She said she needed to know where these men were at any

given moment. Her allies would lend sue money, give her rides, provide

her with safe places to sleep when the stalking became unbearable or

when she needed to drop out of sight for a while.

 

"She always had a secret friends the rest of us knew nothing about," one

of Sue's self-proclaimed victims said.

 

Many of the tales Sue told her friends in Nutley in the 1990s she

already had worked out in College as early as 1982. At school, she

claimed that men from the mob sought to "Flush her out" that she didn't

always give reason for their attraction to her or when she did, the

reasons often didn'tschool, she claimed that men from the mob sought to

"Flush her out" that she didn't always give reason for their a

 

This theme of stalking even filtered into her fiction as did the idea

that she could survive on the edge of the dark world, indeed, maybe even

thrive there. She seemed to like being a player in the game, immune to

the consequences of the dark world's violence. In a story she published

in the school's literary magazine, Sue more or less described herself as

a "thin bony bird who trailed unfriendly streets because of an

uncontrollable insidious energy.

 

For all her talk, Sue rarely confided in people about what this energy

might be, alluding to her deeper motivations in extremely vague terms.

Only a handful of people could claim to have an inkling as to what went

on inside her head, and even these few did not understand what energy

pushed her on. Ron Hardin thinks its madness, but others claim it was

ambition. What was this energy? Why did she feel so threatened (if she

really did)? Was it paranoia or fancy that made her tell such elaborate

tales which led Melissa to call Sue "the most paranoid person she'd ever

met. In her fictional story "Dry Ice" Sue said "There were people,

sticks with machine guns all around. They walked the streets. The tiny

creature knew that if she kept going, kept her feet steadily hitting the

ground, she could avoid the marble fire of their eyes."

 

Many of those who knew her at school, disagreed with Ridgeway's drug and

alcohol theories, saying Sue made up stories because she chose to,

inventing a consistent personal she wanted people to believe was her.

 

"She always used to pretend she was so brave and unwilling to give into

these mobsters," one friend said. "And she talked about how she was

constantly walking through dangerous situations."

 

"The truth is," Dorothy said. "Sue was up to her neck in shit she'd

caused, trouble she'd created, and if she was in danger, it was from

those people who wanted to give even with her for the hurt she put them

through."

 

Not everyone thought of Sue as a victim or even as a remotely nice human

being, and over her four years at college, she apparently created a

number of enemies for life.

 

"She had a way of playing boy against boy and girl against girl," one

former school mate said. "If a girlfriend of hers expressed interest in

a boy, ten to one odds Sue would go after that boy, and land him before

her girlfriend could."

 

Around Sue, wise women became wary and kept their attractions to

themselves, and some women took a particular interest in watching what

Sue did, and listened closely to what she said, finding strange

contradictions in her tales.

 

"Sue used to talk about how much her stalkers bothered her, how she

really wished they would go away. But then, she would call them on the

telephone so much, they hardly had time to call her," said one of Sue's

former close friends.

 

In one instance, Sue came back from making a call to one of these men,

then began to go on and one about how afraid she was and how she wished

he would go away.

 

"But if you don't want him bothering you," this friend asked. "Why are

you calling him all the time?"

 

Sue gives people just enough information to worry. When Sue tells bad

stories about other people, she changes the dates, the times, the

places, when telling each person. If you could chart her stories, and

collect them, you find the inconsistencies, how she would say to one

person, how she went with another person to some particular place. When

telling the other person, she would say she went to that very place with

the first person. In reality, she might have been some place else

entirely.

 

One friend of Sue's used to buy her lunch, worry about her, get her

coffee, comfort Sue if she was crying in bathroom.

 

"I spent a great deal of time taking care of Sue," one friend said. "She

would tell me we were very good friends and couldn't live without me,.

and how I helped keep her sane. She would complain about what a mess her

life was and wished how she could be like me, having control over my

life. Then she would ask me how I did it."

 

A months before she disappeared in July 1996, Sue would meet Glenn Kenny

had the book party for "Redlight," and try and sell him on the old

theories.

 

"It seemed that one ex-boyfriend of hers was a hit man for the mob who

had left in her possession a 90 page handwritten confession of his past

sins, which she in turn took to her friend in the FBI who's in love with

her, and mentioned to her friend from the CIA who's in love with her who

she met on account of being afraid of a previous boyfriend who's in the

RUSSIAN mob, the upshot of all these conspiratorial tendrils being that

she's not safe anywhere and that several parties are out to have her

killed, and did I know that back in the '80s she was on the verge of

being recruited by the CIA because of the high grades of her

intelligence tests and....etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

 

"She was trying to sell this tale to the publisher of Ridgeway's book

also, and kept trying to get me to commiserate.

 

" 'Glenn's known me for 20 years, and he knows I'm not delusional! Tell

him!'

 

"Well. Susan had, in fact, been many things over the years, but

seriously delusional was never one of them. Still, people do change. I

wasn't sure if she was having me on or what, but I was a little worried.

 

 

"And then again, for someone who was apparently in imminent danger of

assassination, she was pretty high-spirited, at one point doing a

variation on her go-go routine on the dance floor of Sally's, something

I generally would discourage a biological woman from pulling in that

environment (tends to make the queens think they're being shown up).

 

Before she disappeared in 1996, Sue said she told the police and the FBI

about the stalkers, and about this mob leader who allegedly visited her

apartment several months before. But each person had a different version

of this story. Some reports claim this was a Russian Mobster aggravated

by Sue's reports in the Village Voice. But one friend of Sue's and

another source for Ridgeway's book, said Sue had told her this was a

more conventional mobster who was concerned over a confession made

during a Newark police investigation. A still older and perhaps more

reliable friend said Sue had told him about the mobster, and this visit

involved a 50 page hand-written confession Sue had in her possession, a

confession that the mobster felt may have implicated him in some crime.

 

Sue claimed -- in some of these reports -- that the mob's pursuit came

because she spent too long in the wrong neighborhoods asking

uncomfortable questions. She claimed to have a friend on the FBI who

loved her, and one on the CIA who loved her as well, and she said some

people actually considered her dangerous.

 

Ridgeway, when interviewed by local newspapers said he was not overly

concerned over Sue's reports of danger. While she did ask some hard

questions concerning the go-go trade and did wander around some seedy

neighborhoods -- including Brighton Beach (the reported headquarters of

the Russian Mafia), Sue took a prescription drug Xanax. Combined with

her recent return to drinking, this drug may have hindered her

judgments.

 

Yes, Ridgeway told the Newark Star Ledger, Sue ran into some problems

with the Russians, especially when she claimed some Russian women were

being held against their will by club managers, and yes, she wandered

around in a reckless disregard for danger, but Sue liked dangerous

situations, he said, and he believed Sue had become paranoid when she

spoke about being stalked.

 

"Sue likes to hear herself talk," said one friend. "She often talks

herself into circles, telling the same story in different ways, about

different people."

 

While most of Sue's current friends and her family believe she is in

trouble, either as the result of violent characters or something darker

in her head, Dorothy and others claim this is all part of "the Sue

Merchant Act."

 

"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

damaged."

 

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 hunting 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."

 

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 face she can get away with it."

 

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 her rides, buy her

groceries and lend her their car.

 

"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."

 

And thus, we return again to the idea of SCUM, and Sue's dedication to a

revolution of Fucking Things Up.

 

But when Sue moved to Nutley, she came closer to making her fantasies

real than she might even have known. Her landlord, Louis Riccardi could

trace a direct blood line to the family of mobsters that haunted the

Vailsburg section of Newark for nearly a quarter century.

 

Within a five minute drive from Sue's apartment was the headquarters of

a Bloomfield-based Italian newspaper that served to clean up the mob's

bad public relations, threatening discrimination lawsuits that

associated Italians too closely with the Costa Nostra, thclean up the

mob's bad public relations, threatening discrimination lawsuits that

associated Italians too closely with the Costa Nostra, this despite

busts of pizza p

 

Sue could hardly have thrown a stone in any particular direction and not

hit a mobster of some kind. Just down the street at a local motel, two

people died during a mob-related murder during a drug deal just about

the time she came into Nutley. And a study of local prostitution showed

an odd circle of whore houses with Nutley at the circle's center.

 

I knew a lot about the Pizza connection as early as 1967 when I'd

witnessed the beating of several men in a Paterson pizza center. I was

waiting for a bus to New York. The pizza man, who mistook me for a boy

much younger than I was, warned me not to say anything, telling me the

man had owed him money. He also alluded to a possible visit to my own

family, if I was to go to the police. At the time, I had such a poor

relationship with the police that few officers would believe my report

as anything more than my usual vivid imaganation. I kept silent about

it, even though I cringed when two thugs dragged the bleeding victim to

the street, called an ambulance, and claimed he had been hit by a bus.

 

For this reason, I have always given Sue's stories more credence than

they deserved. Anyone who knew Sue even remotely agreed that

"conspiracy" was her middle name. She not only invented stories of

stalking, but enlarged upon them, built them into world-threatening

plots with her at their center. She was being hunted because she knew

too much and could thwart some secret attempt to murder a government

officials or steal some state secret for sale in the Soviet Union. She

told many people that the CIA and FBI both sought to recruit her because

of her high IQ.

 

Yet by moving to Nutley and associating with some of the local officials

here, Sue may have stumbled onto something as large as her imagination

built for us at school. She hobnobbed with the local police, the local

publisher, and the owners to the local go-go bars. People visited her

apartment at night, some of them married men with prominent positions in

town government, some with state and federal connections.

The Russian Mafia

 

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