The most disturbing places people have found hidden cameras
In 1890 Harvard Law Review published “The Right to Privacy,” a seminal work in which Samuel Warren and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis championed the freedom “to be let alone.” While making their case, the legal eagles argued that “numerous mechanical devices threaten to make good the prediction that ‘what is whispered in the closet shall be proclaimed from the house-tops.'” That’s pretty prescient, considering the authors lived in a time when photographers needed eight hours to successfully snap a blurry photo.
Nowadays any weirdo with a smartphone can record you removing a wedgie in HD and share it with the world in seconds. “Numerous mechanical devices” can be disguised as virtually anything and hidden practically anywhere. Modern cameras have effectively created a peepers’ paradise where unseen machines make privacy disappear. Under such conditions the freedom to be let alone becomes a mirage of solitude. It’s a disturbing state of affairs. Most disturbing are the depraved steps some people take to secretly watch you.
Warren and Brandeis’ reference to whispers proclaimed from house-tops might ring a bell for some of you, specifically a church bell. The line alludes to a passage from the Gospel of Luke, which is fitting since according to Christianity, the Man Upstairs sees everything everyone does. You might think belief inures believers to privacy violations, but details matter, and not just because the devil’s in them. God watching you whisper in a closet sounds odd but harmless. A man of God recording you in a water closet, however, would constitute an unholy trespass.
In 2015 a Portland priest sinned against his congregants. As The Oregonian explained, Reverend Ysrael Bien bought a $295 camera disguised as a wall socket. In April of that year, a 15-year-old parishioner uncovered that precise kind of device in a bathroom of the church where Bien worked. Understandably alarmed, he brought the camera to Bien. The priest, in turn, bore false witness.
Per The Oregonian, Bien misled the boy and his family for weeks, proclaiming that police already knew about the camera and were on the verge of making an arrest. Curiously, he asserted authorities didn’t wish to interview the kid who found the camera. His parishioners kept pressing for updates, though, and Bien begrudgingly revealed his ruse. Once he finally contacted police, the camera vanished. Not long after, Bien fled to the Philippines. Perhaps he embarked on a mission to show himself mercy.
The sight of music
To know kids is to love laughing at them. They have excessively large heads and say adorably dumb things, and the younger ones walk like drunken penguins. Those traits alone warrant not hating these tiny primates. Lamentably, some people take their non-hatred of children to extremes that warrant arrest warrants. One such individual was a monster in man-skin named Robert Anthony O’Hare.
Much like alligators and Burmese pythons, O’Hare was a dangerous predator who lived in Florida. According to ABC affiliate WFTV, he both made and amassed illicit videos of kids. He even brazenly downloaded clips at a coffee shop. In an especially insidious ploy, O’Hare installed cameras in two toy jukeboxes and hand-delivered them to a pair of youngsters who lived next door. Law enforcement later learned that “as long as they were plugged into the wall, those cameras were activated,” and he could aim the cameras with a remote control.
O’Hare had tried to twist youthful innocence into a sick source of adult entertainment, and revoltingly, his plan partly worked. The Orlando Sentinel reported that police found footage of a child standing in front of one of the modified jukeboxes. Unsatisfied, O’Hare recorded the second child via a telescoping camera he aimed at the victim’s bedroom window. The high-tech peeping Tom got arrested in 2016 and slapped with 51 criminal charges. His neighbors, meanwhile, probably wanted to slap him.
Locker room stalk
Locker rooms look, smell, and taste terrible. Yet somehow they make you feel comfortable enough to change clothes in front of sweaty humans and moist cockroaches. The individuals who use these rooms may differ in degrees of flabbiness and athlete’s-footedness, but they can all take solace in knowing that no matter how shamefully out-of-shape or embarrassingly fungal they are, only the putrid people around them will see their grossness. That is, unless a creep discreetly films them through a peephole.
Between 2012 and 2016 a creepy Michigan man manifested his grossness by filming underage athletes in locker rooms. Per the Washington Post, varsity crew coach Timothy Vallier made roughly 100 videos of Rockford High School’s female rowers disrobing. He masked his nastiness with success, helping the very girls he violated become the eighth-best rowing team in the nation.
The coach’s dark deeds came to light thanks to two Rockford High graduates who helped run the rowing team. According to MLive, the pair uncovered incriminating videos in Vallier’s vehicle. An ensuing police investigation revealed that the once-trusted trainer had drilled spyholes into the locker rooms of two separate buildings and exploited at least 62 girls.
The loathsome betrayal rocked Rockford High’s rowers. The girls went from winning competitions to losing their ability to trust, and Vallier rightfully lost his freedom. A Michigan court sentenced him to 22 years behind bars.
A dirty kind of clean
Mud baths aside, uncleanliness makes most of us uncomfortable. The mere mention of it conjures thoughts of greasy grime, grimy grease, and enough dead skin to make your live skin crawl. Settings like hotels can amplify this unease because everything you touch there bears the squirming germs of anonymous past inhabitants. Even so, if uncleanness is the ickiest aspect of your hotel, consider yourself lucky.
In 2015 Harmony Hachey (above) experienced something dirtier than dirt and more sickening than microbes at a Travelodge in Oxford. According to The Telegraph, she noticed something unnerving while taking a shower. Hachey looked at the air vent and realized it was looking back. Someone had seemingly planted a camera in the perfect position to capture people washing themselves. An unhappy Hachey asked hotel staff to investigate.
The receptionist played detective and detected a cord extending from the camera to a janitor’s closet, but it was supposedly “switched off.” How long it was off is unclear. Management managed to muddy matters further. A higher-up claimed the camera served a maintenance-related purpose. But why keep it in an air vent? What repair-relevant information could come from recording an empty shower?
The unhelpfulness continued as the higher-up told Hachey to “calm down” and denied that she’d been filmed. According to Hachey, no one had checked. Understandably, she tried to check out of the Travelodge, but she was unable to find an alternative and settled for a new room and a refund.
The grim peeper
When the Grim Reaper asks you out, it’s almost impossible to say no. So you might as well go out in style. That’s where funeral homes come in. If you’re lucky … well, you won’t die in the first place. But if you’re unlucky, the funeral home will make you so snazzy that Death will die from your killer good looks. If you’re super-duper unlucky, your looks will be overlooked because of the funeral home’s image issues.
Chicago’s Smith and Thomas Funeral Homes presented itself as “The people who cared.” In 2014 it seemed at least one of those people cared about the wrong things. As WGN described, workers at the company’s West Side branch received an ugly surprise when someone discovered a camera in a unisex employee bathroom. Police later confirmed the find, marking the first time bodies weren’t the creepiest part of a funeral parlor.
The last thing you want when chilling with cadavers all day is for a ghoul to haunt your pooping ground. No one would say whether that ghoul could be a ghost, but that’s probably because nobody asked. The funeral home owner wouldn’t say anything about the incident, despite being asked to comment. Receptionist Eunice Young, however, did have something to say: “I feel violated.”
Sleazy bake oven
Tanning salons cater to people who don’t trust the Sun to do its job. Customers basically bake themselves until they get their desired complexion or an undesired skin cancer. Not every patron wants to look like a well-done turkey, though. Benjamin Brossard, for example, wanted to look like he wasn’t leering.
Brossard definitely leered; he was practically King Leer. Per the Wisconsin State Journal, he visited the campus-area Sun Tan City in Madison, Wisconsin, “every two or three days.” Yet over the course of a year he didn’t become “considerably darker.” The reason was considerably dark. Brossard had been collecting cellphone footage of dozens of women disrobing in tanning booths. Breaks in the barriers between booths served as his opening.
In 2014 a woman trying to tan caught the untanned man’s hand trying to catch her on video. Police proved the man attached to that hand was insatiably invasive. In addition to targeting tanning enthusiasts, Brossard unlawfully recorded two deli workers, a neighbor, a woman he knew intimately, and an elderly relative. He filmed some of them under their clothes, others when they were unclothed, and all of them when he shouldn’t have.
A criminal court put the kibosh on Brossard’s behavior. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, he received a three-year prison sentence and was banned from having functioning cameras. For the rest of his life, he’s required to blind every phone he owns. Hopefully no one ever lends him one.
Where there's smoke detector, there's prier
As we’ve previously pointed out, renting a stranger’s place can blow up your face like a punctured balloon. Various Airbnb guests have had their rubber bubbles burst by marauding monkeys, malicious junkies, and every other unthinkable thing you can think of. For one married couple, that unthought-of thing was a smoke detector.
In 2017, Indiana resident Derek Starnes and his wife rented a condo in Longboat Key, Florida. Their trip took a wrong turn when things got weird in the bedroom. Something about the smoke alarm alarmed them. Per The Sun-Sentinel, they spotted a black hole in the machine. This particular black hole didn’t suck, but the thing it hid did. Starnes and his wife were being filmed, which understandably “freaked [them] out.” Hopefully they retaliated by mooning the smoke alarm with cigarette butts.
Airbnb host Wayne Natt had some serious explaining to do. He had equipped his condo’s smoke detectors with cameras he could control remotely, and police discovered “numerous recordings.” Hoping to avoid jail time, Natt provided a perfectly unreasonable defense. He claimed to like recording raunchy parties at his home -– with his guests’ permission of course. That’s why he concealed the cameras rather than leaving them out for attendees to see, right?
The excuse had serious shortcomings. Besides being stupid, it couldn’t explain why he filmed the Starnses without their permission. Authorities arrested Natt for video voyeurism. Once Airbnb caught wind of the incident, it banned him.
Wrong on Target
If dressing room walls could talk, they’d probably be asked to give fashion advice, and they would lie to spare your feelings. After complimenting you on your ill-fitting pants, the walls would likely tell store staff about the various horrible things they’ve seen. Most of that discussion would revolve around your taste in pants, but a significant chunk would touch on serial self-touchers, shoplifters, and Andrew Persen.
According to ABC affiliate WBAY, Person made 66 videos of six women trying on clothes at a Wisconsin Target. That’s devilish yet weirdly fitting. The letters in Persen’s name can also spell “peer,” which describes the act of looking closely. Then again, Persen didn’t technically “peer” at those persons. NBC reported that he used a Velcro strip to conceal a camera in a fitting room. That means the most fitting thing about him didn’t actually fit, which fits perfectly for a discomfiting criminal.
Persen was also a fiendish friend. In 2017 he hid a camera in a female friend’s home so he could furtively film her showering. Rather than keeping this privacy invasion private, he shared it with an adult website. Persen’s probably-now-ex-pal learned about the visual intrusion and alerted authorities. A search of the perp’s belongings yielded incriminating evidence, and Persen yielded a confession. He also copped to shooting Target customers with his Velcro cam. Fittingly, the cops arrested him.
Lost at see
Carnivals and cruises contain the best and worst things life has to offer. Carnivals present you with the gift of cotton candy and the curse of clowns. Cruises fill your days with luxury and your lungs with pathogens. Logically, Carnival Cruise Line’s cruises should provide boatloads of extravagant cotton candy and coughing clowns. But for one Florida family, a Carnival cruise brought grief.
It wasn’t good grief like Charlie Brown has or the bad grief you’d feel if your favorite beagle died. It was the grief of feeling harmed and helpless. As the Miami New Times described, in 2017 a married couple and their 10-year-old son were on a cruise ship headed to Mexico when something fishy caught their attention. The dad had an allergy attack, which prompted the family to search their cabin for a cause. Much to their dismay, they found a bunch of dust and a camera behind the TV that was “warm to the touch.”
The parents had a shudder-worthy worry. Had some unseen onlooker seen their son’s bare body? Were images of him stored somewhere? The Carnival crew’s response wasn’t reassuring. A crewmember inspected the camera without gloves, possibly obscuring fingerprint evidence. Staff steadfastly asserted the device didn’t work and baselessly guessed that the last guest left it. A Carnival spokesman claimed cops were contacted, but the family never received updates. The father drew a gloomy conclusion: When crimes occur on cruise ships, justice is lost at sea.
The Village People brainwashed us into believing it’s fun to stay at the YMCA. It supposedly has everything for young men to enjoy, including and especially all the boys. That sounds swell, but if “all the boys” are there, at least some of them are bound to be thieves. A YMCA in New Brunswick, Canada, had to face that harsh reality after a series of locker room thefts. In 2011 employee Hugh Croll did something about it.
Too bad Croll did something wrong. As CBC News described, the wannabe crime fighter decided to beat crime by planting a camera in the men’s and boys’ locker room. In fairness to Croll, it wasn’t a completely outlandish plan. The YMCA had formally implemented a locker room surveillance system. However, the official system’s artificial eye gazed at the entrance –- where boots were stored –- whereas Croll’s camera focused directly on the lockers and young men using them.
Croll was obviously emulating the cop from the Village People, but that didn’t justify electronically intruding on patrons. It also didn’t help that he left the camera in place (although he deactivated it) after the stealing stopped, per CBC News. A coworker accidentally accessed the security footage and alerted her supervisor. Croll failed to see the “big deal,” even when he got in big trouble. The YMCA fired him, and in 2014 a court convicted him of voyeurism. Still unremorseful, Croll fought the conviction and won a discharge, meaning he wasn’t punished.
The doctor's stealth-oscope
Health professionals invert the natural order of things. Surgeons heal patients by cutting them. Pharmacists immunize you from illnesses by injecting you with diseases. Saving injured limbs from amputation costs an arm and a leg. Sometimes those inversions get vile, like when cardiologist Vincent Pacienza used a purifier for impure purposes.
Per the district attorney of Nassau County, New York, in 2008 Pacienza executed a multi-pronged plot to peek at people’s nether regions. He closed one of two available restrooms at his private practice, making patients and coworkers share a single toilet. At the heart of the cardiologist’s con was an air purifier he put in the remaining restroom. Seemingly a thoughtful way to reduce methane inhalation, it actually served as a spy cam.
According to court documents, the purifier sat at toilet-seat level, giving Pacienza a turd’s-eye view of female coworkers and patients as they did their doo diligence. The apparatus wirelessly transmitted footage to the doctor’s desk, presumably so he wouldn’t have to distract himself with life-saving while at work. Then again, urine tests can help diagnose heart failure, so he could have had patients tinkle for his pleasure while simultaneously performing a health assessment.
Pacienza’s devious doings were undone by an invoice for the surveillance equipment. A coworker found it and contacted law enforcement. A judge prescribed 45 days in jail plus five years’ probation. Given how sick the doctor was, he had no choice but to take his medicine.