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Whispering Caller Harasses Undergrads

By Hera A. Abbasi, Crimson Staff Writer

A soft-spoken phone caller has awoken about a dozen female students this semester with lewd questions in hushed tones—prompting concerns that the so-called “serial whisperer” has returned.

This week alone, at least three women received such harassing phone calls in the early hours of the day.

According to Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) spokesperson Steven G. Catalano and victims of the whisperer, the “sexually provocative” calls are brief and consist of the unidentified male asking students who they are and trying to engage them in conversations.

The students who have reported calls this year said they were contacted between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. The whisperer calls in the early hours of the day to catch the students off guard, according to Catalano.

“It’s a person or persons taking advantage of students not being totally up in the morning,” he said.

Jessica M. Isaacs ’05 said she received such an early morning call. The whisperer woke her up at 6:30 a.m.

“He said he was having a bad night and couldn’t sleep at all and he was lonely and just wanted to talk to someone,” Issacs said. “I was so disoriented I thought it was someone I knew.”

Isaacs said she started asking the caller what was wrong. At one point, she thought the man was someone she had taught in English as a Second Language class and started asking him about his job and talking to him in Spanish.

When the unknown voice responded that he didn’t speak Spanish, Issacs gave up.

“I told him, ‘I have a midterm and am going back to bed. Go call Hotline if you’re really upset.’”

In some cases, the whisperer’s questions are more personal.

“He asks them sometimes what they’re wearing, what they’re doing, questions that are sexual in nature,” Catalano said.

Ebonie D. Hazle ’06, who is also a Crimson editor, said the phone whisperer called her three times after she had hung up on him.

“He asked me what I was wearing,” Hazle said. “I told him I was wearing a tutu.”

Catalano said that he did not recall the recipients being afraid for their safety.

In November 2001, HUPD located a man in South Florida who had allegedly been making similar harassing phone calls for two years to Harvard female undergraduates.

This man was known as “the serial whisperer.”

He was found by HUPD after a trace was placed on the phones of students he had been calling.

No further calls were reported after police in Boca Raton, Fla., contacted the suspect at HUPD’s request.

Catalano stressed that HUPD is not sure if this year’s calls are being made by one man or by a group of people.

He said the best thing that students can do if they are contacted by the whisperer is to report the incident to the police.

If any formal report is made by a student and the student continues to receive harassing calls, the phone company can trace the calls if the trace is for law enforcement reasons.

Catalano warned students to be guarded with their information over the phones.

“Don’t give people your name, date of birth or social security number,” Catalano said. “This is just a range of advice for [receiving] phone calls.”

–Staff writer Hera A. Abbasi can be reached at abbasi@fas.harvard.edu.

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