Postcard stalker?
December 20, 2013 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Since mid September I've been receiving vintage postcards in the mail from an anonymous person.

They are still arriving as much as 3 times a week. They are all vintage postcards, written with the same pen, by the same person. The messages are not personal in nature, and seem to always pertain to the specific postcard (i.e. one from Atlanta read "It costs $25 to visit the Coca-Cola bottling building. I saved my money and bought some booze instead. Had a better time - I think." Also, all of them appear to be sent from San Diego (I'm in Indiana, and have no friends in that area).

None of the messages have been creepy or threating, but after getting 30 of these over the past 4 months it's just getting weird. I've posted on my social networking profiles asking whoever it is to come forward with no luck. Frankly, none of my friends are motivated enough to keep something like this going so long. I get a male vibe from the tone of the messages and the content.



Is this something I should be concerned about?
posted by Hellafiles to Society & Culture (140 answers total) 118 users marked this as a favorite
 
possibly someone sending stuff to the wrong address?
posted by raihan_ at 1:03 PM on December 20, 2013


Have you recently moved into your place? If I had to guess either a wrong address or it's meant for someone that use to live there; if it's not creepy or threatening, enjoy it and have a few laughs now that you have a quirky story.
posted by lpcxa0 at 1:04 PM on December 20, 2013


They are all personally addressed to me, and I have a very unique name. Also, I have only been at this address for 2 years.
posted by Hellafiles at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2013


It's weird and borderline creepy. It could be completely innocent, but the frequency is still odd even for that. I would save them, maybe document the dates you receive them. If they hint at anything even remotely threatening, report to the police just so they have something on file.

Do you have an online presence at all through which someone might discover your name, writing and/or picture?
posted by Ouisch at 1:06 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe an ex? I agree that if they are personally addressed to you, it's weird - could you get a PO box?
posted by lpcxa0 at 1:07 PM on December 20, 2013


Do ANY of the messages contain anything personal, or are the messages unrelated to you? If the latter, I've got two hunches:

- A Manic Pixie Dream Person decided it would be cute to "bombard a total stranger with quirky postcards". I can absolutely, 100% see this happening. Much like Improv Anywhere's stunts, things that seem "cute" on paper can be upsetting in real life.

- A mentally ill person decided it would be - well, not CUTE, but somehow urgently imperative - to bombard a stranger with quirky postcards.

In either instance, I'm not 100% sure how to address it. Is there a return address? Does the stamp cancellation mark have any useful info, maybe?...
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


How could a series of post cards be a threat? I don't see that at all.

It reminds me of several books with similar story lines — like the Griffin and Sabine series. This is incredibly cool, and something to treasure. Save them in a beautiful book or fabric box, and enjoy being the recipient of such creative attention.
posted by Capri at 1:11 PM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I have a friend who is a latent fingerprint examiner with the local police who advised me she could check them out, I just figured they've been handled too many times for that to be viable. Plus, since they haven't been threatening, I hated to over react and possible get someone in trouble for no reason.

For those suggesting an ex, I get a strong guy vibe from the penmanship, and I would have no male ex's.

I'll see if I can upload a redacted photo of the cards to an image hosting site.
posted by Hellafiles at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of post office routing is done by machine. Fingerprints could be usable. Also, you have a very cool friend.
posted by amtho at 1:14 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sending unwanted gifts or letters repeatedly can be a symptom of stalking or potential stalking, and that is why this would seem potentially (not necessarily, but potentially) threatening to someone. Odd, unsolicited gifts and repeated unwanted contact are reasons for concern.
posted by Ouisch at 1:16 PM on December 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


How could a series of post cards be a threat? I don't see that at all.

An unknown person obsessively sends mail to someone's home address with no explanation = someone knows where you live and does not follow normal social conventions. That's creepy in my book.

Where are they addressed from? Is there a specific place?
posted by winna at 1:17 PM on December 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Okay guys, here they are - hopefully I got all the personal info off: http://s9.postimg.org/jwssroulb/cards2.png
posted by Hellafiles at 1:18 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


How could a series of post cards be a threat? I don't see that at all.

It reminds me of several books with similar story lines


Real life isn't always like a work of fiction, which is why the OP is feeling unsettled by this -- and why her feelings aren't wrong and don't deserve to be belittled or dismissed.
posted by scody at 1:19 PM on December 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


They ALL appear (from the postal markings) to be coming from San Diego, I'm in Indiana. No return address, not signed by anyone.

Yeah this person would basically have to have my address memorized at this point. If it was just me at home it wouldn't bother me as much, but have a wife and baby here too.
posted by Hellafiles at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2013


I'm a HIM :)
posted by Hellafiles at 1:22 PM on December 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Heh, sorry! My assumptions are showing. ;)
posted by scody at 1:23 PM on December 20, 2013


Weird. You can back-track what post office they were processed at via the number on the stamp (i.e. the ink + wavy lines on top of the original stamp).

This could help you find out of they were sent locally or from one station. This would imply someone thinking they're being funny, pretending to come from all over when they're just at one location. If the numbers are different, maybe they are actually traveling to these places, which is 1) more weird but 2) less threatening.

Is your name anything like a celebrity? Have you googled yourself lately? Any old friends from junior high or highschool?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine just posted this insight on my FB, which paints a creepy picture :/

"Do you know any stamp collectors (besides me)? The Legends of the West stamps are from '94, the American Kestrel and Eastern Bluebird stamps are from '96 and the 1cent green Jefferson is from '68 and was worth @$2.50 before your stalker licked it and mailed it. I would suspect an older male (older than 40) or stamp collector widow, white, nerdy, history buff. I don't think there is a stamp in the pic that is even close to current"
posted by Hellafiles at 1:25 PM on December 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


I wonder if the postal employees have noticed it at the office they're mailed from. I know my postman notices my crazy decorated packages a friend and I swap.
posted by winna at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in a flat where we still get mail for people who haven't lived there in more than a decade. Or never.

But if I were getting actual postcards (not junk) addressed to me (and I have a weird name), I would be creeped the fuck out. One or two? Whatever. But so many, over such a long period of time, buries the needle on my weird-o-meter.

On preview: The interesting/rare/collectible stamps makes this even weirder.
posted by rtha at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is your name and address in the same handwriting as the messages? If not its possible someone bought the cards addressed and stamped and is putting your name/address on them.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Have you participated in the Secret Quonsar gift swap? Maybe you mentioned some cool stuff there and a previous quonsee decided to prank you.

I get random postcards at certain times of the year, but that's because I'm a member of a vintage postcard club and I think some people just decide to be nice and send them out. Is it possible that you're in any societies like this, or have friends who are?
posted by vickyverky at 1:29 PM on December 20, 2013


Also, I use older stamps all the time because I find them at estate sales or thrift stores -- it's fun to put a few of them on a letter.

(Note: I am not your stalker.)
posted by vickyverky at 1:30 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hellafiles, I noticed the stamp thing too (only because I mailed a bunch of Christmas cards overseas and used some ancient stamps to add up to the correct postage and I realized I had some that were 15 years old on there.)

I wouldn't discount the handwriting being female. My husband has big loopy "girl" handwriting and mine is a more masculine scrawl.
posted by vespabelle at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013


"Woke up with a tiger in the bathroom. It's deja vu all over again" is a reference to The Hangover.

I can't read any of the other cards so clearly, but is it possible that the other cards are talking about specific pop culture stuff like that? Or is there a theme that runs through them, and one of your friends is writing a short story or something and wants to make it go viral?
posted by vickyverky at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could easily be someone who picked up a bunch of stamps at a garage sale, or something, an decided that they were going to be unpredictable and no doubt bring a shot of unexpected joy into someone's life without much thought that it would be potentially disturbing. (Uh, I guess be glad they aren't banjos?) I have a cigar box full of stamps that I just keep around for crafting purposes, and am probably not the only one.

Uh, I also collect postcards, but only art-related ones and they live in a box at work and occasionally hang from a mobile. I, like vickyverky, am not your stalker.
posted by PussKillian at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If your question is "should I do what I can to figure this out", then I think the answer is yes.
posted by amtho at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


From what I can see in the picture, the notes are all so random... a little googling about postcards + prank and variations thereof turned up this Boing Boing post from 2008. Maybe it's something similar?

Maybe you have a friend with an off-kilter sense of humor that has family or an old college roommate living in SD? Do you have a birthday, or your own vacation (to Atlanta or some other place mentioned) coming up? Is there any discernable pattern at all? Perhaps it's an elaborate puzzle that will be revealed to you as time goes on and you get more postcards.

Do check back in and let us know.
posted by vignettist at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013


Yep, my name is in the exact same writing as the rest. I'm in no secret society or "secret quonsar" organization (although it sounds kinda neat).

I even tried to search ebay for completed listings of vintage postcards to try to match some of these with an ebay ID. no luck.
posted by Hellafiles at 1:33 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Back when dinosaurs walked the earth and I was posting under my real name on Usenet, an anonymous person would send me postcards like this, albeit not as frequently. I thought it was harmless fun and still have them. YMMV.

I am not sure what you could do about it. You can't stop an unknown person from sending you mail. It feels like performance art to me.

The sender may not necessarily be in San Diego, by the way. The cards might be sent from a remailing service in San Diego.
posted by Tanizaki at 1:34 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the stamps seemed really weird to me, and now they seem weirder after you posted your update.

The "woke up with a tiger in the bathroom" postcard is part of the plot from a popular movie. Do the others read like scenes from movies? That points to "prank" to me.

Also: "I don't know who got the worst deal, the bull or the babe..." and "This is what I"m talking about. Super nice view and the babes - que magnifique. Surf's up, dude"... something seems very familiar about these, but I can't put my finger on it.
posted by k8lin at 1:35 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was thinking the assortment of postage was interesting, though I don't know as much about it as your friend. Do you know someone who had a family member or friend die recently? An inherited stamp/postcard collection isn't something someone without interest in the hobby would necessarily research for value, and the sender could've moved to San Diego to provide end-of-life care or deal with an estate?
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:36 PM on December 20, 2013


If/when you have the time, would it be possible to get a higher-res photo of them kinda spread out, so we can see the messages on each of 'em? I'm getting a strong feeling of familiarity of SOME kind from the quotes that I can see.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:36 PM on December 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sure, I will get a better pic of them posted - I would love to know if there is some kind of pattern!
posted by Hellafiles at 1:38 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this sounds cool. I would be thrilled to get something mysterious and fun like this. Because none of the messages are even remotely threatening, I would just enjoy the ride.
posted by jph at 1:39 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


My wife made the creepiest comment about these when she said, "What if the only way to get these to stop is to start doing it to someone else?".
posted by Hellafiles at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2013 [93 favorites]


I should also note that in 1999, when I went on vacation with a bunch of friends, we randomly decided that it would be funny to write some of each other's postcards home.

This backfired a little when one of my friends didn't recognize the handwriting and thought I must have been kidnapped in the middle of my vacation by a psychopath who completed my holiday cards before disposing of my body in the La Brea tar pits.

(Note: I am not anybody else's stalker, either. Despite all this.)
posted by vickyverky at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The quotes all seem odd to me -- in the ones I could read, there's some sort of down feel to them -- the word "disappointment" for instance.

But yet, I'm getting nothing googling them, which is kind of maddeningly odd.

If this were me, I'd almost be inclined to try to find others with my name and see if they think these are for them -- but then I recognize that receiving that message from you could be just as unsettling.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's a code? Try things like, put all the postcards in order by postmark or date and see if all the first words in sequence make some kind of a message. Or the first letter of the first words of each in sequence spells something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Color me intrigued! Now I want to google all of the phrases on the post cards and solve your mystery (slow day at work, ahem).

(It costs $16 to visit the Coca-Cola bottling building - and $32 for an annual pass.)
posted by vignettist at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2013


I am not sure if it matters, but maybe the original stamps were on there and the additonal ones were added to make up for the increase in costs. If you friend who does prints is able, there is probably DNA on the stamps if they were licked and not sponged.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2013


Random idea, just because it's been a plot point in many stories, and because the stamps ARE notable: try steaming one or two off to see if anything is hidden behind them.
posted by julthumbscrew at 1:47 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This strikes me as mega-creepy and I don't think it's possible that anyone of sound mind could possibly think this is bringing an "unexpected shot of joy" rather than fear and dread into your life.

This is freaky enough that I would contact the police and the postal inspector/postal police in San Diego.

Here's the thing -- an insistent flow of cryptic postcards from an unknown source is inherently creepy as shit. It could easily drive someone crazy under the right circumstances. It's not cute or fun. It arguably would violate the harassment and maybe the stalking laws of your state or the originating state.

Why I take the above position. My family had a stalker once. We got creepy as hell mail from this person, constantly. Trust me, this was Stephen King-type shit the likes of which you've never seen. But what stopped us from contacting the police was that none of the mail was threatening until it had gone on for a long time. Finally, when the explicit threat came, we contacted the police and the matter was brought to an end through a combination of criminal and civil actions. The police, when we finally called them, came to the house and saw the letters all laid out (ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE YOURS), and were really conpassionate and said something like "you really should have called us earlier. No one should have to live with something like this, without at least letting us look into it."
posted by jayder at 1:48 PM on December 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


My wife made the creepiest comment about these when she said, "What if the only way to get these to stop is to start doing it to someone else?".
posted by Hellafiles at 1:41 PM on December 20 [4 favorites −] [!]


Twilight Zone territory!

Are you sure you don't share all or part of your name with someone else, famous or semifamous? Have you recently posted about anything connected to pranks and postcards or offbeat stuff on Facebook, and a friend of a friend saw the update and decided to play the long game with you?

It probably wouldn't be too hard to find someone's address, especially if you are a registered voter or homeowner or what have you. Have you Googled yourself to see what else is out there?
posted by vickyverky at 1:48 PM on December 20, 2013


I sort of asked this earlier, but is your job (or are your hobbies) public-facing in any way?
posted by Ouisch at 1:50 PM on December 20, 2013


Here's the 1st batch of higher resolution pics
posted by Hellafiles at 1:54 PM on December 20, 2013


Ouisch - Not at all, I actually work from home for a large tech company.
posted by Hellafiles at 1:55 PM on December 20, 2013


You're not internet-famous are you? I mean, are you sure no one's doing this because they're enchanted by your Deviant Art or YouTube, or fanfic, or anything?
posted by tyllwin at 1:57 PM on December 20, 2013


I have done this before. Random postcards to a random person whose address I had. Even the handwriting looks like mine.

I did it for the laughs. Theirs and mine. Only now do I realize how creepy this must have been for the other person. Okay, other people.
posted by ColdChef at 1:58 PM on December 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


I agree that it's rather creepy and weird, even if it doesn't seem threatening right now. It does look like a male's handwriting, and the style of writing seems a bit aggressive to me - the little notes also seem familiar, like it's out of a TV show or movie or something, even thought they don't come up when searching.

Have you considered the possibility that it could be someone trying to be creepy towards you because they are interested in your wife? Does she have any exes in San Diego?
posted by gemmy at 1:59 PM on December 20, 2013


I don't know why someone is doing this, but I would try writing "not at this address return to sender" and remailing. Maybe if they think you're gone they'll stop.
posted by windykites at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2013


ColdChef, did you do it multiple times a week for 4 months? What really strikes me as odd about this is the frequency and the duration. Seems pretty involved for a joke, though a lot of the messages on the postcards are jokey in nature. If I received one or two of these, I would probably laugh and hang it on the fridge. After 4 months...ugh.
posted by Ouisch at 2:00 PM on December 20, 2013


Okay, it's depressing as hell to say this but I'm not in ANY way, shape or form, famous in any group or notable for any reason. :/

Also, there are only 1 other person on Google with my name, and he's not famous either and he lives in Russia.
posted by Hellafiles at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2013


Do they all have the same zip code?
posted by bq at 2:01 PM on December 20, 2013


ColdChef, did you do it multiple times a week for 4 months?

Um...yes? Perhaps not that long, but I have carried on jokes WAY longer than they should be continued. I convinced my wife that I was unable to pronounce the word "cinnamon" and called it "cimanon" for twenty years.

Reading the text of these cards, it sounds exactly like the kind of random gabby stuff I would be likely to write. This is not to say that you shouldn't be concerned. But I could easily see this as a "joke" in someone else's eyes.
posted by ColdChef at 2:05 PM on December 20, 2013 [42 favorites]


Getting postcards from a random undertaker (ColdChef): Now THAT's a Twilight Zone episode!

Is there a nine-digit ZIP on any of these that can pin down the area of San Diego?
posted by vickyverky at 2:05 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have also written many postcards at the same time, stamped them, and sent them in a large package to a friend in a different part of the country with instructions to mail a few at a time. But these were love letters. But the point is that I wrote all of them at the same time...hence the same pen, same ink, same style.
posted by ColdChef at 2:08 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


That shows...impressive commitment. But that is an excellent point that these may have all been written in one sitting.
posted by Ouisch at 2:10 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The very similar placement (and variety) of stamps also suggests that this may have been done in a large batch.
posted by ColdChef at 2:13 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


that is an excellent point that these may have all been written in one sitting.

In which case the San Diego address could well be a complete red herring. Concentrate on the kind of person you know who may find this entertaining and open up the location possibilities in your options. You may have discounted someone because 'they don't live in San Diego'.

Also, all caps suggests some attempt to mask handwriting in some way to me. It also doesn't look necessarily a male hand to me.
posted by Brockles at 2:13 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


All the messages are referencing the postcard's image right?
posted by Caskeum at 2:15 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This article talks about a sort-of similar postcard prank from 2008. And here's another.
posted by Ouisch at 2:20 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This strikes me as mega-creepy and I don't think it's possible that anyone of sound mind could possibly think this is bringing an "unexpected shot of joy" rather than fear and dread into your life.

Do you know any creative writers, art students, poets or MFAs? Because I've imagined doing similar things when I was younger and more "whimsical." Saving wacky stamps to use would have only made me artier and more original in the quirky Amelie-esque universe in my head.

Yes, I was obnoxious at 20. But the whole thing screams "art student" not "stalker" to me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:21 PM on December 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Perhaps a look at the front of the cards would help.
posted by ColdChef at 2:21 PM on December 20, 2013


Caskeum - YES, they ALL reference the blurb on the back of the card or comment on the pic on the front.
posted by Hellafiles at 2:21 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Possibly interesting, the middle two in the high res picture don't have a cancellation mark, only a POSTNET barcode, and the barcode on the right-middle one is really faded. Maybe they aren't actually coming from San Diego, and are previously-mailed postcards being hand delivered locally.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:22 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Know anyone who'd sign you up for an ARG? Any secret gift exchanges?

Umm, have you (I know, this is getting out there) traced out the locations (of the sites on the cards) on a map, or the dates on a calendar looking for a pattern?
posted by tyllwin at 2:22 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This article talks about a sort-of similar postcard prank from 2008. And here's another.

Those people kept it up for seven years. This is the kind of joke I'd be likely to make.
posted by ColdChef at 2:23 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This one struck me as weird, too.
posted by Hellafiles at 2:23 PM on December 20, 2013


Maybe they aren't actually coming from San Diego, and are previously-mailed postcards being hand delivered locally.

Suddenly, we're back to creepy.
posted by ColdChef at 2:24 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hmm actually, the postmarks show NOV 2013 on the cards that have them, so they've recently been mailed. Still, that right-middle card is weird.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:25 PM on December 20, 2013


it's part of the cosmic jest. you must achieve perfect calm and center to identify the jester.
posted by bruce at 2:27 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, 2 of them have a printed # at the bottom left - see here

That looks to be your ZIP+4 code plus your delivery point - does your house number end in 44?
posted by payoto at 2:28 PM on December 20, 2013


Payoto - Bummer, yes you're right it does. Okay nothing exciting with that then I guess.
posted by Hellafiles at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2013


Like JohnnyGunn said, it looks to me like the original stamps on the cards were the 29c and 32c stamps, with additional stamps added later to make up the current postage rate. The 29c rate for postcards was in use between April 17, 2011 and January 22, 2012, and the 32c between January 22, 2012 and January 27, 2013.

Useful info from the postage will be the imprint over the stamps that say "San Diego 92###" because you can then look up the zip code sorting office and the catchment area for it - the area where things are mailed that get sent to a particular sorting office.

Yea, I also noticed that some of the cards in your last photo don't seem to have a cancellation mark. Or is the cancellation mark underneath the 1c and 2c stamps?
posted by gemmy at 2:29 PM on December 20, 2013


I'm with PhoB here, this is someone's Amelie-esque attempt at 'art'. They've bought a batch of old postcards and stamps and are getting weird and creative on your time. Whether you know that someone or not is for you to figure out I guess.
posted by Caskeum at 2:30 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree with PhoB that this sounds like an experimental art project. Maybe your name and address was selected randomly for this person's intervention into your life. It's of course slightly unsettling. That's the point of art sometimes...
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:32 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ickety ick ick ick.

I don't care how artsy this person thinks they are. I'd be calling the police. No kidding. And hoping they care enough to do something like check the DNA on the stamps.
posted by bearwife at 2:34 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Try mapping the locations of the landmarks on the postcards according to the date they arrived. Does a pattern emerge?
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 2:35 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


All the text has a pseudo Kerouac tone, like a stoned 60’s dude on the road, probably in keeping with the vintage vibe.
posted by Caskeum at 2:35 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


[Folks maybe try to stick to the narrowband question here and don't just riff on the idea of anonymous postcards?]
posted by jessamyn at 2:36 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This one struck me as weird, too.

They're free associating/writing loose fiction with the postcards as prompts. It's pretty easy to do. Like I have a postcard that references Route 66 and I can write something like "Didn't find my kicks here. Found some shoes on the side of the road, but they were both left" or whatever.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's legitimate to be concerned about. The sender is either deliberately trying to upset you, or they're a very thoughtless person. It's not ok to constantly send stuff to people when those people have no way of asking you to stop.

I would report them as harassing mail to the postmaster, and begin marking them all as "Refused - return to sender" and giving them back to the mail carrier.
posted by frobozz at 2:39 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


put a couple of postcards into your microwave for several seconds. there may be something on there in invisible ink!
posted by bruce at 2:40 PM on December 20, 2013


Postcards, lacking a return address, cannot be returned to sender.
posted by ColdChef at 2:40 PM on December 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I can really see this being someone's attempt at cleverly revealing to you that you will be going on a trip to somewhere nearby where the postcards depict.

All they all depicting Georgia landmarks, or other places as well? Maybe map out the places they depict, or nearby, modern attractions. Has any of your friends talked about going on a roadtrip?
posted by vignettist at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2013


Do you have a Facebook account? Perhaps post this thread there, in the hopes of shaming the sender.
posted by ColdChef at 2:41 PM on December 20, 2013



Do you have a Facebook account? Perhaps post this thread there, in the hopes of shaming the sender.


Depending on your friends, that could just as easily get you snowed under in weird cards.
posted by tyllwin at 2:43 PM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Coldchef - I tried this already and went as far as lying and saying I'd filed a complaint with the postal inspector, nobody fessed up.
posted by Hellafiles at 2:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Postcards, lacking a return address, cannot be returned to sender.

No kidding. It's the traditional phrasing to indicate to the post office that you don't want them.
posted by frobozz at 2:46 PM on December 20, 2013


Here's where they're all from (not in order):

The Fireplace Room - Holiday Inn, Aspen Colorado

Cayucos, CA

Aladdin Hotel, Vegas

Farmers Market, Los Angeles

Outrigger Hotel, Waikiki

Motel Capri - Twin Falls,ID

Carlton Lodge - Hollywood, CA

Georgetown Motor Inn - Georgetown, CO

The Mirage - Vegas

Colony Motel - Williamsburg, VA

Dean's Motel - Saugus, MA

Ridgewood Motor Hotel - Beaumont, TX

Circus Circus - Vegas

Patton Motor Hotel - Fairfax, VA

New York City

Spring Court Hotel - Wytheville, VA

Times Square - NYC

Round-up Motel & Restaurant - Tucson, AZ

Rancho Tourist Court - Apalachicola, FL

Atlanta, GA

Kit Carson House - Taos, NM

1991 "A Girl and her Bull"

Wilderness Church - Silver Dollar City, MO

Excaliber Hotel - Vegas

Cayucos by the sea

Hotel Aristos, Ixtapa MX

Pine Mountain Hotel
posted by Hellafiles at 2:52 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I have a friend who filters mail both into and out of a criminal mental institution. I'd be happy to run these by her to see if any of them raises her spidey-senses. With this many examples, a nefarious intent may become obvious to a trained eye.

The fact that the messages are all card-specific leads to my belief that these are a joke. Where did they get your address? Anywhere. Off a magazine you left at a doctor's office, from a form for a pledge-drive, from a piece of mail that randomly got stuck to theirs. Read through all the cards again. Do they seem to SPECIFICALLY go out of their way to be non-creepy? Look for the obvious jokes and see if those are the same jokes you'd make.
posted by ColdChef at 3:03 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also keep in mind that there are mailing services that will re-mail stuff from other locations. This could easily be someone you know. You just put them in a big envelope, already stamped, and enclose a couple of bucks for the service. They then drop them in the mail from their city and the receiver doesn't know they actually came from their own town. I've done this many times as an elaborate prank, but not quite with this volume.
posted by raisingsand at 3:04 PM on December 20, 2013


What about a former co-worker? My old man used to get a postcard every so often from a former colleague. They were always some cheesecake photo with a faux love note, but they were all from the same guy. Some sort of long running joke. Never at that frequency though. As kids, finding them in the mailbox was always sort of puzzling.
posted by jquinby at 3:08 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


military censors hold mail up to the light, because soldiers signal their loved ones with tiny pinpricks in the paper. are there any tiny pinpricks in your paper?
posted by bruce at 3:09 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Coldchef - You're welcome to share them with your friend. And yes, I'd say they are going out of their way to keep the messages PG and as non weird as possible.
posted by Hellafiles at 3:09 PM on December 20, 2013


> I would suspect an older male (older than 40) or stamp collector widow, white, nerdy

That would fit in with the joke about "tofu and sprouts." Who makes jokes about tofu any more?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:09 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hm, no obvious pattern.

Do you have a cousin with a wacky sense of humor, whose parents used to like to travel a lot, and maybe they came across their parents postcard collection?

Anyone else that you might know who took trips to these locations "way back when"? Maybe the years of those trips would jog something else in your memory to point to a culprit?
posted by vignettist at 3:10 PM on December 20, 2013


Also keep in mind that there are mailing services that will re-mail stuff from other locations. This could easily be someone you know.

This is how I'm leaning, too, after reading some of the messages -- I get a "some guy you used to know who thinks he's just hilarious even when he isn't" vibe from them. Any former roommates or coworkers or relatives who fit that description?
posted by scody at 3:12 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am leaning toward prank, too, after all the q&a. It is quite possibly someone you know using one of those services, and who finds your social media posts about this very amusing. If you ever find out who it is, I believe it is your moral imperative to prank them back even harder, preferably without saying a word. (And also without appearing stalkerish.)
posted by Ouisch at 3:15 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Deleted comment per OP request]
posted by jessamyn at 3:18 PM on December 20, 2013


If I were playing armchair detective, I imagine they probably bought the stamps and postcards together at a flea market, and did the whole set in one sitting. Probably doesn't actually know anything about stamps, just bought a bag for ten bucks. From the photo it looks like it's the same kind of ink on all the cards, but it's hard to tell.

To answer your question, I personally can't imagine getting concerned about this and I have actually had for-serious real-world scary stalker mail before. The postcard text is so carefully benign that I would guess someone thinks it'd be really cool to receive time-capsule postcards from the past and decided that you were gonna be the lucky person.

The idea that someone knows your name and address isn't in any way creepy to me, but that might just be because when I was a kid there used to be these things called phone books.
posted by Jairus at 3:25 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a single person living alone I would be concerned. Do you make it a habit of sharing a bit too much on public social media outlets, i.e., Twitter? Do you have any Facebook friends who aren't really friends? I worry that people are too relaxed when it comes to privacy these days. I wouldn't get too worked up about it, but I would absolutely comb through your 'friends' on your social media profiles and delete anyone that you do not actually know.

Also, get an alarm installed if you don't already have one. Good to have anyway. Unless the postcards become threatening or you notice someone following you around, I'm sure you're fine
posted by OneHermit at 3:31 PM on December 20, 2013


[Seriously folks could you please stop goofing on this thread?]
posted by jessamyn at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a 57-year-old grandmother. I personally think this would be a cool thing to do, and would never have thought it stalkery. Last year we had an activity here on metafilter where we all sent postcards to each other. Of course, only to those that signed up, but they were sent under our user names. We also exchanged hand-made crafts. I received such neat cards that I, in turn, sent anonymous cool cards to a friend living in another city. I used the remail services, so they arrived from a different city each time, signed with a happy face. If i had the imagination and a supply of old cards and stamps, i would have SO done this. Since you work from home for a tech company, I'm thinking this is a coworker. A coworker who also thinks, like me, that this is a very cool thing to do. It's kind of an internet thing. Also, since we know one of them was a line from a movie, maybe they all are. Do you like movies?
posted by raisingsand at 3:38 PM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


So if the zip codes are all the same, next step seems to be trying to look up some mail forwarding businesses within that zip (try using Yelp for that), and then make a few calls. I'm sure there's privacy issues on their side too, but if you somehow manage to find the needle in the haystack, maybe the business owner would be sympathic and give you some answers.

Seriously, if you ever figure it out, check back in and let us know.
posted by vignettist at 3:46 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would totally lose it if I started receiving anonymous post cards signed with smileys, raisin. It would seem totally bizarre and even threatening to me.

OP, Because you're receiving these post cards from such random places, it seems like a re-send service, or perhaps someone who travels a lot for work. That said, I still think it's a bit too aggressive/happening too often and for too long to be a friend. I know I don't have any friends who are that cheeky or antagonistic enough to commit to something like that for an extended period of time. Have you tried getting in touch with the postmaster in your area? They may be able to even block them from arriving.
posted by OneHermit at 3:46 PM on December 20, 2013


Could this be your wife's way of leading up to a Christmas gift reveal?
posted by _Mona_ at 3:48 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd side with the theory that this is some kind of arty/goofy/meant-to-be-cool sort of thing. There's a long tradition of mail art projects, and its the sort of thing that you read about when you are starting to read about avant garde art that seems oh-so-sophisticated.

I don't think this is too uncommon an activity. A friend used to send postcards from fictional characters to a wide variety of very casual acquaintances, and when I was at university I remember a group of friends thinking it was hilarious and cool to send teabags to randomly selected students though the university postal system with a note saying "have a cup of tea on us". I'd have probably done similar things at some points in my life it I had had the time and energy; I probably wouldn't now, or at least I would choose my audience carefully. The slightly trying-too-hard to be arty/cool nature of the quotes reinforces this too, this is exactly the sort of thing I would have done.

This is the sort of thing that divides the population. Some people think that the world needs to be more random and whimsical, and that this sort of thing is amazingly cool and wow-here's-something-that-I-don't-understand-isn't-that-amazing-its-like-I'm-part-of-those-wacky-art-collectives-like-I've-read-about. For others it's just weird and freaky-as-shit and why-on-earth-would-anyone-who-wasn't-disturbed-even-think-about-doing-this-sort-of-thing.
posted by Jabberwocky at 4:00 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just wanted to say that totally looks like my very ugly handwriting and I am a woman. So don't discount that.

It's not me, though.
posted by Tarumba at 4:06 PM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had this happen once. Got random postcards from Canyonville, OR. Turns out a friend of mine worked at the Post Office, and was able to get one of his buddies who worked in the Canyonville post office to mail them out from there. But I was not the only target.
posted by Danf at 4:09 PM on December 20, 2013


I haven't read all the cards, but absolutely nothing about this seems threatening to me. This seems like someone writing 30 word short stories on the back of postcards. It looks like an artistic exercise, a prank or someone just being goofy.

I mean, if they were personal or coming from prison or something, I could understand.
posted by cnc at 4:10 PM on December 20, 2013


Is this something I should be concerned about?

In my view, no. Of all of the things that could appear anonymously and repeatedly on your doorstep, vintage postcards is about the most innocuous. Different people have different ideas about how annoying this would be, but fear or concern would be about the last of my reactions in your place. One person's "annoyingly persistent" is someone else's "long form art project." To me, this is intriguingly mysterious.

That said, I once was behind a mail prank that ended up involving West German military intelligence questioning people I had never met about how they knew me, so I may have a higher tolerance than most.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:17 PM on December 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Have you tried googling what's written on each card? Maybe they are lines from movies or books? I could easily see this being someone's elaborate prank but whoever it is has gone to a lot of effort.
posted by leslies at 4:17 PM on December 20, 2013


A little dating data, if it'll help date those postcards:

The Patton Motor Hotel in Fairfax Virginia was apparently built in the 1920s; don't know exactly when it was demolished, but it was before the 1980s.

Three of the Las Vegas hotels on your list, the Mirage, Circus Circus and the Excalibur, are all open under those names.

The Aladdin (also in Las Vegas) is interesting. It opened as the Tally-Ho in 1963, then was the Aladdin from 1966-1997, when the hotel was purposely imploded. It was rebuilt and reopened as The New Aladdin in 2000, but was renamed Planet Hollywood Las Vegas in 2007.

So not only the stamps but also some of the postcards themselves are vintage.
posted by easily confused at 4:18 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This strikes me as an extended practical joke by someone you were close to when you were both teenagers/early 20s and that person--former school pal/neighborhood kid/cousin/college dorm mate/frat brother--is hoping that you figure it out.

Had you ever talked about going on an extended road trip with someone when you were younger? They could be tweaking your settled, married self.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:29 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My immediate thought was some kind of bizarre direct-mail marketing scheme. But that would mean eventually someone would need to try to sell you something. Have you registered accounts with any online stores in the past few months? Also I would expect to have heard about this happening to someone else, somewhere.

It's relatively easy to buy a list of people within a certain demographic that would include their names and mailing addresses. If some vendor you signed up with sold your info to an aggregator, your contact info could be anywhere. Anyone in any marketing department anywhere could end up with your name and address -- I looked at two lists with approximately 15000 strangers' contact info today as part of my job. If I were an unscrupulous person or a prankster, I could pick an address at random from those lists and do what I wanted with it. (Note: I am not an unscrupulous person, and I am not a prankster, and also I am not your stalker.)

Either that, or a crazy time-traveling future-you is skipping from year to year in now-you's past and sending now-you cryptic messages from to alert you to an approaching apocalypse. But in that case I would expect your name to be Sam Beckett.

The possibilities are basically endless, so I would advise contacting your local police department. If they can't help you, at least they can get this complaint on the books. The worst thing a person being stalked can do is stay quiet about it.
posted by kythuen at 4:30 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's super-easy to buy a bunch of vintage postcards like this pretty cheaply at a thrift store, or find them at your own grandma's house, or whatever. I snap up "boring" postcards for pennies all the time, especially if I need an offbeat card to write a note to a friend, or if it's from their hometown and I think they might be amused.

I think it's a red herring to see them as a collection -- I'm not convinced there is a theme to them, other than they are all old. But maybe you can have fun trying to figure out if there is somehow a coincidental connection to your own life from any of these destinations.
posted by vickyverky at 4:47 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So not only the stamps but also some of the postcards themselves are vintage.

But odds are the sender is just buying them in batches from on ebay or possibly from a seller like this (similar to one of them). Or just at whatever thrift store they got the stamps.
posted by advil at 4:50 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


These seem very much like the postcards twitter person @MarylandMudflap sends. The writing on yours is not as neat but the style is close and many of his postmarks are in CA, as well. Inspiration, maybe?
posted by marmago at 5:17 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's a red herring to see them as a collection -- I'm not convinced there is a theme to them, other than they are all old.

Agreed. Vintage postcards are super cheap and easy to come by in large batches. I seriously doubt there's a deliberate theme beyond "send postcards."
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:24 PM on December 20, 2013


Also, all caps suggests some attempt to mask handwriting in some way to me. It also doesn't look necessarily a male hand to me.

First, I have to emphasize that I am not your stalker.

Second, and more to the point, all-caps writing could be indicative of someone in my profession (architecture) who was around for the hand-drafting days, since I had all-caps writing drilled into me in drafting classes and it's just easier for me now than changing case. The handwriting actually looks disturbingly like mine to the point that I wonder if I'm pulling some sort of very whimsical Tyler Durden maneuver, since I live in San Diego. So, if you know someone in San Diego (or someone elsewhere who might be using a mail-redirect service as mentioned above) in the architecture, engineering, or construction fields, that may be your person.

Finally, I must re-emphasize that I am not your stalker.
posted by LionIndex at 5:32 PM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


all-caps writing could be indicative of someone in my profession (architecture)

Or indicative of someone like me, (a female) who started writing in all-caps at some point in high school—I think it started out as a way to be cool/different—and then simply forgot how to write lowercase letters. Couldn't do it convincingly now if I tried.
posted by heyho at 5:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Would you be able to scan all of these cards in chronological order and put them onto a tumblr or something? You could put black bars over your address for privacy.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:00 PM on December 20, 2013


You could search completed ebay auctions and see if you can find an auction where they were purchased.
posted by 445supermag at 6:06 PM on December 20, 2013


***UPDATE***

After seeing my similar post tonight on Facebook, and getting the link to this very thread forwarded to him by a family member, the mystery is solved!!

- It was my brother-in-laws father!!

Apparently a few of my family members knew the whole time, and this is something he's done to his old college roommates and his buddies for years! He said he kept one friend in the dark for 5 years doing the same thing.

After seeing this thread he was worried I was freaking out, and revealed himself via text.

He's a very clever and funny guy, and I'm happy he put in the time and effort to write all these, and have his friend in San Diego mail them, just for me.

(if you're reading this, Thanks Ted!!) :)

Also, thanks to everyone in this thread for sleuthing with me, and it amounted to a very interesting thread!
posted by Hellafiles at 6:09 PM on December 20, 2013 [129 favorites]


Man, we can ruin anything.

I mean, congratulations on solving your fun mystery!
(I was kind of hoping this would take a week or so; I like a good puzzle. Yeah, yeah, easy to say once you know it's harmless fun.)

posted by heyho at 6:24 PM on December 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Are you a big TV fan, and does your wife or your friends know this?

All the "dang!"s make me think of Family Guy. The postcards sound like things the characters in the show would say, too.

Also, you could be getting cards from Jesse Pinkman. After all, he has been on the run since Breaking Bad ended (in September, when your postcards started arriving).
posted by misha at 6:36 PM on December 20, 2013


Oops! Well, yay for solving the riddle of the prank, then!
posted by misha at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2013


Kinda bummed it was solved by the time I read the thread; have to say, given the doesn't-strike-me-as-threatening-or-creepy-whatsoever samples, I'd have been crazy-curious to figure out the mystery, but not weirded out.

So... was your wife in on it? Because her "what if you have to start doing it to get it to stop" comment sure strikes me that way. :)
posted by stormyteal at 6:39 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now that this is solved, I don't feel so bad pointing out that you can find some weird postcards in unexpected places. For example, I found a few unused Russian postcards in a rural New Mexico thrift shop.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:08 AM on December 21, 2013


Glad that you aren't freaking out anymore and that it isn't something creepy.
posted by Canageek at 11:28 AM on December 21, 2013


Is it too late to get Ted a book deal for the holiday?
posted by mimi at 11:41 AM on December 21, 2013


Props to your brother-in-law's father for the pop reference to the Hangover.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2013


Something very similar happened to me three years ago. Anonymous postcards with vaguely literary writing. I was able to find out who was sending the messages via internal evidence in the writing.

You can privately message me to find out if we know this same person, or someone else in this person's group. Maybe this is an art project they've been pulling on unsuspecting mutual friends.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:20 PM on December 21, 2013


Posted before I scrolled to bottom of thread. My prankster was not your father-in-law.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:21 PM on December 21, 2013


Glad it's resolved. But I can't believe all these responses and not a single Bearnaked Ladies reference. Odd.

Another Postcard
posted by robverb at 5:08 PM on December 21, 2013


Brother-in-law's father? Your wife's stepfather? Or different? Now I'm intrigued all over again.
posted by mrsh at 1:54 AM on December 22, 2013


Brother-in-law's father? Your wife's stepfather? Or different? Now I'm intrigued all over again.

It could be his sibling's husband's father or his wife's sibling's husband's father.
posted by payoto at 7:40 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad this turned out to be delightful and innocuous rather than creepy and threatening. I was hoping it would turn out well because those postcards and the stamps were just amazing!
posted by janey47 at 1:01 PM on December 26, 2013


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