March 30th of 1981, 25-year-old John Hinckley wrote a letter to actress Jodie Foster. Hinkley was dangerously obsessed with the 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which a disturbed protagonist, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. The Bickle character was partly based on the diaries of Arthur Bremer, the attempted assassin of George Wallace.
Hinckley developed an obsession with Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in the film. When Foster entered Yale University, Hinckley moved to New Haven, Connecticut, for a short time to stalk her. He enrolled in a Yale writing class, began slipping poems and messages under Foster’s door, and repeatedly phoned her.
Failing to develop any meaningful contact with the actress, Hinckley fantasized about conducting an aircraft hijacking or committing suicide in front of her to get her attention. Eventually he settled on a scheme to impress her by assassinating the president, thinking that by achieving a place in history, he would appeal to her as an equal. Hinckley trailed President Jimmy Carter from state to state and was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, on a firearms charge. Penniless, he returned home. Despite psychiatric treatment for depression, his mental health did not improve. He began to target the newly elected president Ronald Reagan in 1981. To this purpose, he collected material on the assassination of John F. Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, whom he saw as a role model.
There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan. It is for this very reason that I am writing you this letter now.
As you well know by now I love you very much. Over the past seven months I’ve left you dozens of poems, letters and love messages in the faint hope that you could develop an interest in me. Although we talked on the phone a couple of times I never had the nerve to simply approach you and introduce myself. Besides my shyness, I honestly did not wish to bother you with my constant presence. I know the many messages left at your door and in your mailbox were a nuisance, but I felt that it was the most painless way for me to express my love for you.
I feel very good about the fact that you at least know my name and know how I feel about you. And by hanging around your dormitory, I’ve come to realize that I’m the topic of more than a little conversation, however full of ridicule it may be. At least you know that I’ll always love you.
Jodie, I would abandon this idea of getting Reagan in a second if I could only win your heart and live out the rest of my life with you, whether it be in total obscurity or whatever.
I will admit to you that the reason I’m going ahead with this attempt now is because I just cannot wait any longer to impress you. I’ve got to do something now to make you understand, in no uncertain terms, that I am doing all of this for your sake! By sacrificing my freedom and possibly my life, I hope to change your mind about me.
This letter is being written only an hour before I leave for the Hilton Hotel. Jodie, I’m asking you to please look into your heart and at least give me the chance, with this historical deed, to gain your respect and love.
I love you forever,
Transcript:Letters of Note