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Threatening and Otherwise Inappropriate Letters to Hollywood Celebrities

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: (January 1991) Pages: 185-209
Date Published
25 pages

This study examined the characteristics of threatening and otherwise inappropriate letters sent to Hollywood celebrities.


Such communications, known colloquially as "nut mail," "hate mail," obscene letters, and threat letters are received by famous people in great numbers. This research examined approximately 1,800 such letters to entertainment celebrities from 214 subjects, who averaged 8 letters each. This article quotes excerpts from these letters, describes objects enclosed with them, and provides quantitative data on such variables as the form, appearance, volume, and duration of such letters; the subject's perceived relationship to the celebrity; the thematic content of the letters; and the messages and threats they communicate. Comparisons between 107 subjects who pursued encounters with the celebrities and 107 who did not revealed 15 factors associated with such pursuit. Contrary to expectation, the presence or absence of threats in the letters was not associated with pursuit behavior. This finding contradicts the common assumption that threatening letters warrant the greatest concern and follow-up security measures. Both the law and security strategies should recognize that harassment without threats can pose greater danger of harm to persons or property than persons who openly communicate threats. 5 tables and 6 references

Date Published: January 1, 1991