Coming Face to Face With Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker)
by Mark Hahn
I moved to LA on New Year’s Eve, 1984. In mid-1985, I rented a house in Echo Park with some good friends. This was a time before cell phones and while my buddies moved our stuff into the house, I was tasked with going down to the corner with a fist full of quarters and a piece of paper with phone numbers scrawled on it looking for a payphone to use to get the utilities turned on.
We had rented an old Spanish bungalow on Parmer Ave, just off Echo Park Ave. At the corner, there was the bodega, El Batey, and the Suku Suku Club. El Batey didn’t have a working pay phone so I was forced to go into the Suku Suku Club. It was your typical sunny Southern California day.
The bar seemed completely dark when I walked in. A man tending bar looked at me silently. I asked if there was a pay phone. He nodded in the direction of the back of the bar. There were two men sitting at the bar. They sat apart and didn’t seem to acknowledge each other as they slowly drank. I could see the chrome payphone in the back by the bathrooms.
When I got about halfway down the bar, a tall Hispanic man turned, looked me in the eye and stood up to block my way. He had a strange smile on his face and acted as if he had been waiting for me—like he somehow knew I was coming. I met his gaze when he wouldn’t let me pass. He was significantly taller than me, but I tried to act as if I wasn’t intimidated by him.
Locked in direct eye contact, neither of us blinked. While trying to stand up to this man, the very fabric of reality seemed to shift—somewhat like cheesy horror movie. I began to feel like his giant hands were holding me up by my throat and that I was just dangling in the air. As he looked deeper and deeper into my eyes, I felt what seemed like the life of me being drawn out of me by him. At the same time, all my limbs became icy cold feeling. The whole time, knowing that I couldn’t move, I saw him laughing to himself.
I tried telling myself that we were in a public place and that nothing really bad could happen, but the two other people in this bar both seemed to have vanished and I believe it was just him and me at this point.
Beyond my limbs losing their feelings of life, my peripheral vision began failing and everything started turning black, like a vignette transition to black in an old movie. I knew I was in the grip of something that was pure evil. I had never experienced anything like this before or after in my life.
While I had pretty much given in to whatever was going to happen, luckily, someone opened up the door to the bar and the bright light streaming in distracted the man’s fixed gaze on me for a moment and I felt like I was falling to the floor. Somehow, I turned and walked out of the bar without looking back. I somehow knew that this was my only chance to leave. When I got to the door, I didn’t see anyone. When I stepped onto the sidewalk, I began to feel safer and safer with each step that I took.
Our house was only a few doors down from the Suku Suku Club. When I walked into the house, my buddies asked when the power was going to be turned on. I could barely speak. I tried to tell my friends what had happened and told them I was leaving. I had to get away from there. Understandably, they were really pissed that I was bailing on the moving work.
I was out of my mind. I knew I needed to get far away to break whatever connection and control this entity gained over me. I figured if I drove for a hundred miles that I’d probably be ok. I think I drove out toward Palm Springs and stopped somewhere in the middle of nowhere and waited until the sun set. It felt like I had shaken the event and I had the sense that I would be safe so long as I never saw this guy again.
Weeks after moving into the house, my friends were upstairs watching TV one night. One yelled down to me, “Hey Mark! They caught that guy you were talking about!”
I ran upstairs to see the newscaster broadcasting a report from outside the Suku Suku Club and explaining how that was the Night Stalker’s favorite hangout and then they cut to a clip of Ramirez being arrested. I was transfixed at the images. In a way, I would have wished that the incident had all been in my mind, but it wasn’t.
When I had met John Wayne Gacy in Chicago and he had threatened my life, it was also terrifying, but somehow, with Gacy, I knew that he was just a psycho-sadistic man, while Ramirez was something else.
Following his arrest, a lot of information on Ramirez became big news, especially his belief that he was an instrument of the devil and that the devil had been giving him special powers. From my run-in with him, I cannot explain what happened in any way other than that he was channeling some power that came from the darkest source that allowed him to take control of me like he did. It seemed that had everything gone black and that all of me had become cold that I would have died and that in that moment, I was powerless to do anything.
But anyway, I try to avoid beliefs in superstitions, the supernatural or the devil . . . but sometimes, there just aren’t explanations.