Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

PHIL LARSON - Berwyn IL. Many letters

13503 views
62 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
PHIL LARSON - Berwyn IL. Many letters
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:31 PM

OK...so for the last two weeks I've been getting letters in the mail - sometimes three or four a day - from this guy. They're all handwritten, with very large letters so one page only has 6-7 lines, and barely legible. All of them are asking me to buy model railroad books, magazines, equipment etc. from him. All include a self-addressed return envelope, and most ask me to call him after 7PM.

I have no idea who this guy is, but apparently he must have some connection to model railroading since that's what he's writing me about, and I'm guessing that must be how he got my name. I didn't find his name in the NMRA member info.

Just wondering if anyone else has ever gotten these, or if anyone has otherwise come across him.

Thanks! Confused

Stix
  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,109 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:38 PM

What phone number did he give you?

-Matt

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
  • 9,303 posts
Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, October 20, 2022 3:57 PM

I Googled his name and some hits came up. I wonder if he is somewhat elderly and has some dementia issues setting in.

Brent

"All of the world's problems are the result of the difference between how we think and how the world works."

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,109 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:00 PM

BATMAN
I Googled his name and some hits came up.

So did I. The guy I landed on is 62, lives on Wenohah Avenue, not a full block from the railroad tracks. Nice brick house with a daylight basement and a cute dormer, oak trees out front, nicely kept lawn. The acme of normalcy from the look of things. I couldn't find any business associated with his name so at least it doesn't seem like a scam or grift operation.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
  • 9,303 posts
Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:17 PM

Not sure how things work in the U.S. but if it were here I would get Social Services to pay a visit, something is not right here.

Brent

"All of the world's problems are the result of the difference between how we think and how the world works."

  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,109 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Thursday, October 20, 2022 4:26 PM

'fwas me, I'd probably just call him, after 7pm. Let him know I don't need any more mailings and <am | am not> interested in his books. Eight seconds on the phone with him will tell you if he's compos mentis or just some sad guy trying to unload his stuff because it's time to sell the house or something. His mother is 95 and lives in St. Charles, maybe he's trying to deal with all that. Life is hard on folks.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Monday, October 24, 2022 2:03 PM

Thanks for the replies!

The phone number and other info matches what I and the replies above found online. The latest letter today mentions that he likes my layout, so I'm guessing he's either seen the pics I posted here on the MR site, or the pics published in a couple of prior Walthers catalogues, then perhaps got my address through the NMRA directory perhaps? Anyway, it wouldn't seem logical I would be the only person he's sending letters to, since I have no knowledge of any prior contact. 

To be honest, I'm a little leary about calling him. I worked on the phones in a call center for many years and I've found folks who are not 100% stable can turn very quickly when hearing something they don't want to hear. 

Stix
  • Member since
    February 2021
  • 1,109 posts
Posted by crossthedog on Monday, October 24, 2022 3:21 PM

wjstix
I'm a little leary about calling him. I worked on the phones in a call center for many years and I've found folks who are not 100% stable can turn very quickly when hearing something they don't want to hear.

That's a good point. Ignore the mailings for long enough and they'll probably abate.

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,391 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Monday, October 24, 2022 7:26 PM

Here's a radical idea - write him back! Maybe you'll find he a great pen pal. Letters and snail mail are a bit passé these days, but what have you got to lose, except a bit of time and a stamp or two?

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 8,762 posts
Posted by maxman on Monday, October 24, 2022 7:31 PM

Pruitt
Here's a radical idea - write him back!

If one doesn't want to walk into an uncomfortable situation, it's best if one doesn't take the first step.

 

See the source image

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 136 posts
Posted by Mark B on Monday, October 24, 2022 9:32 PM

I started receiving letters trying to sell me stuff right after my layout was in MR-June 21. It was several sheets of large barely legible printing (I'm a retired pharmacist and even I had some problems reading this stuff) Two weeks ago I received a postage due of $.84 envelope from this guy. It was a regular sized envelope with 5 more envelopes folded inside and about 6 pages of items I might want to buy along with a request for pictures of my layout. I sent the whole bunch back to him in a large envelope but only put a "forever" stamp on it so he would have postage due at his end. Told him to send me $.84 and not to contact me again. No money in the mail yet. My wife who is a Learning Disabilities teacher said this is some one who probably has some developmental issues.

If anybody has any more info on this guy please share it here.

Mark B.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 2:25 PM

When I get the next letter, I'll see if I can scan a page and post it so folks can see what it's like.

I could see getting a letter - one letter - from someone saying "hey I saw your layout in _________ and it looks good! I sell model railroad equipment and books, if you're interested, go to my webpage and take a look."

But what I'm getting is like 4-5 pages of notebook paper, each side with 5-6 lines written on it lower case letters about 1" high and spaced about 1" apart. Barely legible, roughly like what maybe a 7 year old would do.

Kinda like this:

call me 

call me after 7 pm

i have lgb

lionel

matchbox hot wheels

trainbooks  PTJ magazines

Stix
  • Member since
    March 2005
  • 1,512 posts
Posted by philo426 on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 5:07 PM

Seems kind of bizarre and your instincts are correct Best cut off contact with him.

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,391 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Wednesday, October 26, 2022 9:04 PM

maxman
 
Pruitt
Here's a radical idea - write him back!

 

See the source image

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Besides, the other guy took the first step. 

Maybe a bit less paranoia will result in a new relationship. He's already got the address, so what's the downside?

If, as others have suggested, the guy has some developmental issues, connecting with someone through letters might do him a world of good. The OP too, for that matter - befrending someone who is reaching out, however clumsily, may be very rewarding. 

Sending several letters a day sounds like he may be desperate for some contact with someone who may have a similar interest in model trains. The OP could mention that he isn't interested in buying anything, but is interested in knowing more about how the writer engages in the hobby. If there's no reply, that's it. On the other hand, the guy may be very pleased to share his hobby with a pen pal.

Caution is warranted of course, but I'm not suggesting giving out a Social Security number or something. Just a friendly reply. 

Or not. Up to the OP.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, October 27, 2022 9:40 AM

Except he's not asking for a pen-pal. He's not saying anything about himself, or asking anything about me. One letter had one line where he mentioned he liked my layout (no idea where he saw it), all the rest have been several pages of scribbles listing things he apparently wants to sell me, folded into a tiny wad, stuffed into an envelope, which is then folded up and stuffed into another envelope. No prices, no website, no indication he's an actual vendor/seller or anything.

Imagine you came out of your LHS with some stuff you bought, and a very loud, disheveled guy in a tinfoil hat intercepted you and started screaming at you about how he liked trains and wanted to know what you bought and wanting to come to your house and see your trains. Would you engage him in a friendly conversation hoping to make a new friend, or would you get in your car, lock the doors, and drive off? 

 

Stix
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • From: North Carolina
  • 1,905 posts
Posted by csxns on Thursday, October 27, 2022 3:01 PM

wjstix
wanting to come to your house and see your trains

Does he live in North Carolina.

Russell

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 3,574 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Thursday, October 27, 2022 3:13 PM

Interestingly strange thread.

Over here in the U.K.  it is a form of stalking  and the Police would get involved.

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: 4610 Metre's North of the Fortyninth on the left coast of Canada
  • 9,303 posts
Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, October 27, 2022 4:07 PM

NorthBrit

Interestingly strange thread.

Over here in the U.K.  it is a form of stalking  and the Police would get involved.

 

David

 

Like I said earlier, something is not right, so maybe a call to the police where he lives is in order. They may attend the address with a social worker to make sure he is ok.

Brent

"All of the world's problems are the result of the difference between how we think and how the world works."

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 8,762 posts
Posted by maxman on Thursday, October 27, 2022 6:55 PM

Pruitt
Maybe a bit less paranoia will result in a new relationship. He's already got the address, so what's the downside? If, as others have suggested, the guy has some developmental issues, connecting with someone through letters might do him a world of good. The OP too, for that matter - befrending someone who is reaching out, however clumsily, may be very rewarding.

Maybe.

Looking at this a bit differently, if these were emails rather than letters, would your opinion be the same?

Personally, if I get unsolicited emails trying to sell me something they go directly into the trash folder.

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,391 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Thursday, October 27, 2022 9:52 PM

maxman
 
Pruitt
Maybe a bit less paranoia will result in a new relationship. He's already got the address, so what's the downside? If, as others have suggested, the guy has some developmental issues, connecting with someone through letters might do him a world of good. The OP too, for that matter - befrending someone who is reaching out, however clumsily, may be very rewarding.

Looking at this a bit differently, if these were emails rather than letters, would your opinion be the same?

Personally, if I get unsolicited emails trying to sell me something they go directly into the trash folder.

It would depend a bit on what he's trying to sell me. If it wasn't anything of interest to me (my scope is a bit narrower than many), I'd respond with a polite "No thank you, not interested."

  • Member since
    February 2001
  • From: Wyoming, where men are men, and sheep are nervous!
  • 3,391 posts
Posted by Pruitt on Thursday, October 27, 2022 9:59 PM

wjstix
Except he's not asking for a pen-pal. He's not saying anything about himself, or asking anything about me. One letter had one line where he mentioned he liked my layout (no idea where he saw it), all the rest have been several pages of scribbles listing things he apparently wants to sell me, folded into a tiny wad, stuffed into an envelope, which is then folded up and stuffed into another envelope. No prices, no website, no indication he's an actual vendor/seller or anything.

OK. You're the one that got the letters, so only you can quantify the level of "creepy factor." But you said he did include a self-addressed envelope. Personally I'd invest a stamp and send him back a reply that said I wasn't interested. But that's me.

Imagine you came out of your LHS with some stuff you bought, and a very loud, disheveled guy in a tinfoil hat intercepted you and started screaming at you about how he liked trains and wanted to know what you bought and wanting to come to your house and see your trains. Would you engage him in a friendly conversation hoping to make a new friend, or would you get in your car, lock the doors, and drive off?

Different situation. I this case, the guy is accosting you in person. And it seems you've come to the conclusion that the guy sending the letters is loud and disheveled. Maybe he's just very socially retarded. He might be a quiet, personally very well groomed fella. No way to tell from letters, though I'll admit the odds are probably against that.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 15,703 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Friday, October 28, 2022 5:38 AM

Mark B
My wife who is a Learning Disabilities teacher said this is some one who probably has some developmental issues.

That's my guess too.

Mark P.'s suggestion to try to get to know him a bit better could be a double edged sword. On one hand you might make friends with someone who would just like to talk. On the other hand, given that he has already been sending several letters a day on some days, he could become a bother. I certainly wouldn't phone him (call display will give him your number) or give him your phone number in a return letter, but I don't see too much risk in returning a friendly letter explaining that you do not wish to buy anything from him, and maybe asking about his hobby related interests.

We had a mentally challenged young man in my old model train club. He was there before I joined. Most of the club members paid very little attention to him. One night I invited him to join us for coffee after the meeting. I agreed to drive him to the coffee shop and home afterwards, which was no big deal. He was very happy to join us.

The club was very reluctant to let him use the locomotives which it owned, so I gave him an older DCC Bachmann Spectrum H16-44 (IIRC) with sound. Talk about a happy camper!! He never caused us any issues and his behaviour was exemplary.

Cheers!!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Friday, October 28, 2022 9:25 AM

Pruitt

Imagine you came out of your LHS with some stuff you bought, and a very loud, disheveled guy in a tinfoil hat intercepted you and started screaming at you about how he liked trains and wanted to know what you bought and wanting to come to your house and see your trains. Would you engage him in a friendly conversation hoping to make a new friend, or would you get in your car, lock the doors, and drive off?

My point here was that if a wild-eyed street person who acted and sounded mentally unstable accosted you on the street asking for money or whatever, you probably wouldn't stop and have a conversation with the person hoping you might make a new best friend. You'd walk away as quickly as possible and hope he didn't follow you. It's the same vibe here, I don't get any sense he is looking for friends or whatever. It's kinda hard to tell exactly what he wants to be honest. But my hunch is that responding - even to say I wasn't interested - would be more likely to keep the letters coming than just ignoring them.

BTW I haven't gotten a letter for about a week, which could mean he gave up on me - or could mean he is on (or at least reads) the MR forums and saw this thread. I have posted pics of my layout to the 'my photos' page here so that could have been where he saw my layout.

Stix
  • Member since
    December 2022
  • 1 posts
Posted by NWP Dave on Saturday, December 10, 2022 10:35 AM

A fellow model railroader has received many letters from Mr. Larson also.  Recently his entry to Model Railroader Trackside photos was published. Of course published photos include name and city. From there it's easy to get the complete home mailing address. Including the likely location of the layout.

Just thought I would chime in on this.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Monday, December 12, 2022 2:48 PM

My guess is something like that happened to me, perhaps a couple of my pics being in the Walthers catalogue. If you have name and city, I imagine it's not hard to find someone via the NMRA listings or other ways. 

BTW haven't gotten anything for several weeks now.  

Stix
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 21,602 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, December 12, 2022 2:59 PM

Mark B
I sent the whole bunch back to him in a large envelope but only put a "forever" stamp on it so he would have postage due at his end.

Might have been more effective if you'd sent him a layout picture -- cemented to a brick painted up like a boxcar -- along with all the envelopes with the forever stamp as the only postage. Smile Suspect that would fix much of the further correspondence.

You have the right to refuse items received 'postage due' if you haven't specifically accepted it, as with COD.

To be honest, this reminds me a bit of someone -- I suspect some of you will remenber exactly -- who had an enormous collection of railroad books and magazines, which he listed on a 1990s Web site that never got updated.  You were supposed to choose the items you wanted, and list them on paper along with a check and send it along.  This isn't a sign of mental illness per se, just an older enthusiast who still lives in the era of newsletters and flyers.  

The problem is the frequency of the 'cold-call' communications... and the cost-blind idea of sending stuff that is the snail-mail equivalent of multipage junk faxes.

I see a distressing possibility that Kalmbach has a marketing hand in this somewhere.  I hope I am thoroughly wrong.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 136 posts
Posted by Mark B on Monday, December 12, 2022 9:01 PM

Many years ago I received a parking ticket in Jackson Hole Wyoming. The area was not marked as no parking and a lot of other cars were parked in the same area and ticketed. Felt this was a sort of cash cow for Jackson Hole. The ticket was $5 but it was also a pre-addressed envelope that said postage to be paid by addressee. I put $5 worth of pennies in a box, topped it off with very clingy packing peanuts, used lots of tape to attach the label to the box, and mailed it. The mail clerk said it would cost Jackson over $8 for postage.

I felt vindicated

Mark B.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 313 posts
Posted by AEP528 on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 1:12 PM

Overmod

I see a distressing possibility that Kalmbach has a marketing hand in this somewhere.  I hope I am thoroughly wrong.

 

Do you have any evidence at all that this might be true? If not, this is an incredibly irresponsible thing to post. Why? That is all it takes for someone else to say,"I read somewhere that Kalmbach is giving out our info" and cause it to spread and damage a reputation.

That statement belongs on Twitter with all the other rumors, speculation, and conspiracy theories.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,869 posts
Posted by wjstix on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 1:24 PM

OK not sure if this will work, but this is a typical couple of pages from what I get - it's not from a hobby retailer, or somebody looking for a pen-pal. It's just page after page like this, with one page saying to call him after 7PM....

https://gp1.wac.edgecastcdn.net/802892/http_public_production/photos/images/34844273/original/crop:x0y0w1600h912/hash:1670959292/IMG_20221212_164035.jpg?1670959292

 

Stix
  • Member since
    June 2008
  • 117 posts
Posted by PennsyLou on Tuesday, December 13, 2022 2:25 PM

Everything is $7, call after 7 pm - I'd be careful he might be the hitchhiker from Something About Mary (remember 7-minute abs)?

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!