Lonely Hearts | Hidden BrainWhen the perfect woman started writing Jesse letters, it seemed too good to be true. Because it was. This week, a story about a con, and why sometimes we prefer a lie to the truth.
Jesse started receiving the letters in 1985, when he was in his 30s.
He had signed up for a pen pal service, that was supposedly putting him in touch with a woman he could correspond with and befriend. The woman was named Pamala. She was beautiful, and understanding, and sympathetic. Jesse cherished her letters — and never looked closely enough to realize they were mass-produced.
This is a story is about a con that unfolded very slowly over two decades. When the con was finally exposed, some of the victims defended the people who had been fooling them. They preferred to believe the lie.
This episode of the Hidden Brain podcast originally aired on the public radio program This American Life, in an episode called "The Heart Wants What it Wants."
The Hidden Brain podcast is produced by Kara McGuirk-Alison and Maggie Penman. Follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, @karamcguirk and @maggiepenman, and listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.
Jesse still keeps a binder of the letters, photos, and stories he received from Pamala over the years.
Pamphlets about the "angels."
Don mailed these brochures to men like Jesse. If a man wrote back, Don began sending letters to him as Angel Kristina, or Angel Linda.
The angels supposedly lived together in a remote commune, hidden away from the world. Many were lost souls, escaping drugs and bad men.
If Jesse had wanted to see it, there were plenty of signs the letters were mass produced. They look typed, but the paper doesn't have the indentations that come from typewriter keys. The signatures look like they have been stamped or printed.