September 18, 2010
36 Yogananda — Sandy Hook, Connecticut
The door was closed.
He got an email from his father.
I am very happy to hear from your mother that you are enjoying your classes. I hope that we can spend some time together soon, just let me know when you are available (even if only for a short period of time).
He closed the message.
He wasn’t attending any classes. He would have been, had he enrolled at the community college like he threatened to. But when the start of the term came around, he just stayed up in his cave. And Nancy’s handwritten plans — of how to construct another protective bubble around her son, so that he could survive when she sent him off to live on-campus — were on hold; it might be easier, she thought, if she just moved along with him to whatever town he needed. But selling 36 Yogananda, and leaving Newtown, was a major decision. She needed time.
* * *
Two days later, he was on the Columbine forum. There was a thread about “favorite foods,” which had already drifted off into a debate over what the best regional cuisines were. Everyone, naturally, voted for the dishes they grew up eating. He hated that.
Smiggles: Why would you be proud that you were born in a random place and sycophantically accepted being indoctrinated by the arbitrary beliefs your society imposed onto you? I have a lot of animosity for the notion of geographical culture.
He was still sending PMs, leaking little bits of his real-life existence. One user remembers that he “portrayed himself as someone who lived an isolated life in which he was always in discomfort,” and that he “believed he had issues with his sensory inputs.” Foods in general were “unappealing in terms of taste and texture,” and he complained that he “could not find clothing that fit him comfortably.”
In correspondence with another user, he talked about life inside the black plastic cave:
Smiggles: Those drapes haven’t been opened in the last five years, and the drapes in the room I’m in right now have actually been taped shut (to block the gaps from allowing sunlight through) for the same amount of time. I absolutely hate sunlight, along with any artificial light which resembles it.
The few times I see an extremely bleak, dark, and dreary day outside during the morning or afternoon with thick gray clouds covering the entire sky, I get into a good mood and think about how wonderfully beautiful it is outside. Bright, sunny, “cheerful” days are depressing. Nearly every afternoon is miserable for me. Beyond just the normal animosity I have for sunlight, I get exhausted between noon and sunset when I’m in a room which allows the slightest amount of afternoon light in.
I hate having my skin exposed to sunlight, so I always wear a hooded sweatshirt and full-length pants, even in the hottest weather. The sunglasses I wear are gigantic and almost completely prevent me from seeing any direct sunlight when I’m looking in any direction. I would also wear a full balaclava if it wouldn’t get me profiled as a criminal. They need to make a fashion come-back…
I intend on eventually living in northwest Washington (probably Seattle.) It’s among the most consistently overcast regions in the mainland US. I always get disappointed when I check the UV index for the day and see how low it is compared to my state’s level.
He kept the sunglasses in the center console of his black Civic, down in the garage. (They were a “Cocoon” model — meant to be worn over a pair of prescription glasses, and “completely isolating the eyes in a cocoon of filtered light,” as the manufacturer boasts.)
He talked about his still-growing obsession with old horror movies. It led to a discussion of fear itself — the sensation of it, when it got intense. He likened the way he felt at those times, when the fear came, to a scene late in the 1972 movie Terror House, in which a woman is surrounded in a moonlit forest by knife-wielding attackers — suddenly, the film cuts to a rapid sequence of their faces, as seen through her eyes.
Smiggles: When I first saw the scene, I mentally flinched for a moment because of its similarity to what I have imagined in the past. When it happens and I get slightly paranoid over them, I usually go straight to my bedroom and try to sleep; I don’t even bother to brush my teeth first because the bathroom’s window only has partial drapes and I don’t like being around exposed windows during it. It sounds pathetic, but when I get into my bedroom after it happens, I search it to determine that there’s no one in there with me, and then feel better knowing that the only route someone could take is through the closed door…
Getting back to the subject of paranoia — those images were the worst “hallucinations” I had experienced until a couple of weeks ago late one night when I was getting very tired. The incident was so surreal that I only remember a small amount of the details. Basically, I began to “see” many different things. Although I knew that none of it was actually real, it came as close to being real as it could for me without it being physically tangible. I heard screaming around me, and I had an overwhelming sense that there was someone dead behind me. I kept seeing silhouettes of flickering people everywhere. I felt like I had to cry. The entire ordeal persisted for about fifteen minutes and sort of faded away. Prior to it happening, I had never had that sort of delusional hysteria before. It was possibly the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced.
* * *
In some of his public postings, users remember that he shared some of his view of the world outside his cave. They remember that he was “angry and resentful about society’s structure,” and “believed that those in positions of authority were inappropriately controlling children and young adults,” and that “teachers and parents, too, were improperly controlling, smothering, and intentionally molding their students and children.” He viewed teachers, especially, as “an extension of parents’ control over children.”
But even worse than teachers, were doctors. He saved a special loathing for the physicians he had seen throughout his life, and the role that society afforded them. In one of the documents on the external hard drive (among those later released due to the Courant lawsuit) he wrote why:
I was molested at least a dozen times by a few different adults when I was a child. It wasn’t my decision at all: I was coerced into it. They felt me all over my body, and it usually culminated in the fondling of my penis. What do each of the adults have in common? They were doctors, and each of them were sanctioned by my parents to do it. This happens to virtually every child without their input into the matter: Their parents sanction it.
I don’t see how I and every child was not raped by doctors: We did not consent to it. We only did it because our parents made us. Which is another point: If we as a society taught children that they are independent of their parents and that they should not blindly follow them, they would not be abused by their parents in the way they often are.
“My Place” Restaurant — Newtown, Connecticut
Nancy was drinking wine, chatting with the bartender. She had known him for years now, and would open up now and then, when it got late and the bar was empty — sometimes, about her son back at the house. “I really hope he gets to the point where he can take care of himself and I don’t have to be there all the time.”
On better days, she spoke with pride about her ever-expanding firearms collection. A local landscaper, Dan, was another My Place regular, and could vouch for it: he was doing some work at 36 Yogananda recently, when Nancy showed him her latest purchase. He couldn’t go in the house, so she brought it down to show him: a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. It was a bolt-action piece from the first world war, in excellent condition; her eye for antiques was still strong. “She was really proud of that one,” Dan would tell the New York Post.
Another bar patron, John, remembers a night at My Place when Nancy got a text from a friend in town; it turned out they were having trouble getting their turkey back in its coop. Nancy and John got in the car and drove over, he would tell the Los Angeles Times, and he remembers watching the owner struggle to corral the bird, when suddenly Nancy, the old girl from the farm — “who was elegantly dressed” — simply picked up the bird by its feet, said, “This is how you do it,” and deposited the animal back in its cage.
Newtown High School
NHS’s school newspaper was called the Hawkeye — to match their school mascot, the Nighthawks. But back in 1996, when the school mascot was still the Newtown Indian, the newspaper was called Smoke Signals. And although separated by only fourteen years, by 2010 these older editions already seemed to have come from a different society. In a way, they did: the last time Smoke Signals was printed, there were only four computers in the entire school — and only one of them had access to the “world wide web.”
To give an idea of how much society had changed in that short time, the Nighthawk in 2010 reprinted a “technology” article from the April 1996 edition of Smoke Signals, in which one student Editor-in-Chief at the time predicted how the internet could change their culture in profound ways, in the near future. “This non-discriminatory device allows people to travel around the globe, looking and talking about things they’re interested in. […] All your desires are at the touch of a button,” he wrote. But, he had reservations. “Have we gone too far? When the first color televisions were introduced, people began to stop going to the movies. Now that everyone can get the world at their computer, will we become a sheltered society?”
The senior went on to predict that “the web” — mostly populated by users of dial-up AOL and Prodigy connections at the time — would be a catastrophe for the journalism market. “Now that all the news anyone could handle is right there on the screen, the paper will become a thing of the past.” And with the advent of Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms, there was suddenly “a way to meet people without having physical appearance be any sort of factor… There are obvious benefits to having certain things run on the internet, but let’s all be sure not to get carried away.”
November 12, 2010
36 Yogananda — Sandy Hook, Connecticut
The door was closed.
He went to the Columbine forum. There was a thread where people were talking about pedophilia, saying that “pedos” should be thrown in jail — or simply executed.
Smiggles posted a comment to the thread, hinting that he had something to say on the topic, but that he was holding back because he thought it would get misinterpreted.
One of his contacts sent him a PM, asking what he was holding back. What they got in reply was rather lengthy, they recall, and “described adult/child sexual relationships as possibly beneficial to both parties.”
The recipient saw why the essay might offend people — it was pretty offensive. But they were quite certain that “Smiggles”, whoever he was, “did not express any sexual interest of his own in children.” In fact, he didn’t seem to have a sexual aspect to his personality at all. “He wrote that he was sexually attracted to maybe only one or two people in his entire life and it was not really a factor for him.”
The long swathes of text he was sending to his acquaintances online were all copied (or possibly condensed) from a file on his hard drive — the “pbear” Word doc — which the Child Advocate would later examine. They found that the text “advocated pedophiles’ rights and the liberation of children,” by referencing “varying cultural norms across the span of time to support a premise that our modern day attitudes about pedophilia are arbitrarily constructed.” The investigators determined that it was originally to have been an essay for a college application — one that required only 500 words. But apparently, he just kept writing, and writing. It was 34 pages long by the time he was done. He had never sent the application to the college, but clearly, his essay topic was still on his mind.
Another user who talked to Smiggles saved some of it; the essay’s argument centered on a total rejection of any concept of “age of consent,” in harmony with the logic behind his loathing for doctors:
Smiggles: I’ve had these thoughts for years and haven’t spoken to anyone about them… Why is this society so adamantly opposed to pedophilia? Children deserve all of the rights and respects that an adult should receive, yet this is not the case to any extent. The inexorable battery of children (“spanking”) is fully legal in the United States. Children’s free will is suppressed and annihilated in every conceivable manner within families. Beyond having their associations, location, and every action subject to their parents’ wills, they are denied their own thoughts, opinions, values, and religion, and instead are coerced into adopting their parents’… if an adult wants to force any medical procedures or treatments onto a child, the child does not have any choice in the matter.
…The children who choose to engage in sexual relationships with adults are invariably severed from their loving relationships and are indoctrinated into believing that they have been abused, being labeled as “victims” and being subjected to the genuinely abusive will of psychiatrists (the most immoral profession I can imagine) who “treat” (coerce) them into believing that they can overcome their “abuse”.
The Child Advocate would determine that despite the obsessive length of the essay, “There are no other writings that speak to a preoccupation he may or may not have had with pedophilia.” And of its writer: “There are no records and there is no evidence that he had pedophiliac tendencies.”
He had given his own disclaimer, when he shared his thoughts on this subject in a PM:
Smiggles: All of the sexuality which is rampant in this society in general is as disgusting to me as pedophilia is, but that isn’t sufficient reason for me to desire the violent persecution of anyone over it because of personal perspective. I’m pretty confused when it comes to my sexuality, but I’m certain that I’m not a pedophile.
In one other document, he imagined how he would raise a child, and do things differently than his own parents had:
I’m certain that I would be a phenomenal father because I would foster a free environment for my child. S/he would never do anything “because I said so.” Instead of treating her/him like a pet that can talk, I would treat her/him like a little person who doesn’t know very much. I would not subject my child to my opinions: I would encourage them to think for her/himself.
As for the person with whom this family would ideally be formed, at least in this thought exercise, he imagined a female:
She needs to be contemplative, introverted, introspective, insubordinate, non-confrontational, able to communicate with me, and engage in banter. And I think I want her to be at least vegetarian.
* * *
Five days after the pedophilia debate, he sent an email to a friend. The Child Advocate would identify the recipient only as a “Cyber-Acquaintance” — from the context, it appears likely that they were the same person he had once played Combat Arms with, his love for whom he had so strenuously renounced three months before:
Nov. 17, 2010
It’s amazing how fast time passes. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been this long. I’m sorry about my mood over the summer. I was more depressed than I had ever been before. When I apologized for it, you said that I wasn’t behaving disrespectfully and that I never had been, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as kind toward you as you deserve. I don’t know how much it ever seemed like it, but I’ve always really appreciated your friendship. I’ve pretty much been a complete loner throughout my life but I’m sure that even if I had more friends, you’d still be my favorite person I’ve met. I’d like it if we could do something together again sometime… Please email back and we could figure out something amazing.
* * *
He got another email from his father, on December 2nd. “I miss seeing you. I hope all is well with you. Let me know if and when you would like to shooting or go on a hike.”
* * *
Later that month, a doctor’s office in the area got an angry phone call from Nancy Lanza. They had recently done some tests for her son, and he was 18 now — so, when they sent out the results (which showed “increased liver functions,” but nothing serious), it was addressed in his name this time, instead of his mother’s. They noted that Nancy was “very upset” about this.
The office’s record of the call indicates that they offered to change the addressee back to Nancy, but explained they would need her to put her son the phone, so that he could request it himself; Nancy advised them that her son did not use the phone. If they had to communicate, they had to talk to him in-person.
The next day, he came in for a visit. He indicated that he “felt well generally.” He weighed 120 pounds, and was still 5 feet 10 inches. The doctor recorded that he was “alert,” “well-nourished,” and “well developed.”
* * *
Ryan visited his family for Christmas in 2010. The exact details of how the Lanzas spent the holiday that year are not known, although certainly Nancy’s younger son would have been reluctant to participate, as usual. Whatever took place, the holiday break of 2010 was the last time Ryan Lanza ever saw his kid brother.