Breaking news in a flash!
Ten years ago the Skiff exposed the truth behind the infamous Reed Hall Flasher
By Rick Waters '95
The first day of classes of any given semester brings with it the return of the TCU Daily Skiff, and traditionally, the first issue is light on news. During the summer especially, very little happens and few students are around to cover anything that does.
The beginning of the Fall 1994 term was an exception. Not only did one of the biggest stories of our college careers occur (hey, it's not every day that the mystery behind a campus legend is discovered), but we also had someone on campus to get the scoop. That honor went to senior journalism major and Skiff news assignments editor Christina Barnes, who was a resident assistant in Colby for the summer.
Don't know the story? Here's the naked truth in a paragraph: For at least four years, a middle-aged man had appeared at various places on campus (the majority in a second-story window of Reed Hall) and flashed his privates to unsuspecting passers-by. He eluded campus police for years because no one could ever get a good look at him -- the man's face, I mean -- and calls to police were not always prompt. Consequently, he became a campus legend known as the Reed Hall Flasher or the Nude Man of Reed Hall. Sororities made up T-shirts about him. Anytime he appeared, it was big-time gossip in the Main and front-page news in the Skiff. But in June 1994, he managed to get caught by now-retired English professor Bob Frye, chased across campus and detained by TCU police. He never returned to the campus.
I was managing editor that semester, and I remember fondly the Skiff staff working furiously for a week to produce a large 20-page issue for the first day of class. We wanted comprehensive coverage with sidebars, opinion columns, even a map of how the suspect was caught.
But amid all the fun, we were reminded of journalism lessons, too: on how to obtain and use police reports and what is and isn't publishable when a person is detained but not charged with a crime.
It made for a lively and creative newsroom, one I will never forget.
From the TCU Daily Skiff, August 24, 1994:
Reed Hall Flasher exposed
By Christina Barnes
Campus police have solved the mystery of the Reed Hall Flasher.
Following a chase that began by a university professor surprising a man in a reed Hall classroom in early June, police arrested the suspect who later admitted to flashing students at TCU over the past three years.
Campus police could not charge the man, a middle-aged minister from a rural community near the Dallas-Fort Worth area because the man's [genitals were] not seen during the incident.
The Skiff contacted the man at his home. He did not deny being involved in the incident, but declined further comment.
The Reed Hall Flasher is not a TCU original. Almost three years ago, the SMU campus police charged a man with disorderly conduct, according to SMU Detective Sergeant Nick Doran.
SMU police charged the man, the same suspect caught at TCU, with a Class A misdemeanor for disorderly conduct and released him on a $224 bond, according to an article in the SMU student newspaper, The Daily Campus.
According to the TCU campus police report, Bob Frye, professor of English walked into a Reed Hall classroom at 10:50 a.m. on June 2 where he saw the man at a window. The man appeared to be urinating, Frye said.
When he heard Frye enter the room, the man fumbled with his zipper, Frye told police. Frye asked the man what he was doing and the man left the room, according to the report.
The man then ran out of Reed Hall and Frye chased him through the mall area between Reed and Sadler Halls yelling for someone to stop the man.
At the time in Sadler Hall, Derek Skaggs, assistant dean of admissions, was walking from his office to the Business Office when he said he saw a man running toward him. Skaggs said he heard someone shouting, "Stop that man," and then realized the shouter was Frye.
The suspect then turned left and ran into the front lobby of Sadler Hall with Skaggs in pursuit. Skaggs said he caught up with the man, lightly touched him on the shoulder and told him to stop.
The man did stop, Skaggs said. At this time, Security Officer Henry Lewis arrived at the front door to Sadler Hall and told the man to "freeze," according to the report. Lewis has heard Frye's shouts while he was on foot patrol and had run to the front of Sadler Hall in attempt to block the man's path, according to the report.
Lewis ordered the man to sit down inside the Sadler lobby, and then he called for other officers, according to the report. The man did everything the campus police officer told him to do and did not try to escape, Skaggs said.
"The gentleman was obviously disoriented and so forth, and scared," Skaggs said. "It was very, very sad."
Police escorted the man to the Campus Police station where he was issued a criminal trespass warning. If caught on campus again, the man could be arrested and charged with criminal trespass.
Campus Police Chief Oscar Stewart said he was glad that the police force had finally apprehended the flasher, since the suspect had been successful in evading police previously.
Over the course of time that the flasher has made appearances on campus, the police have held stakeouts and dressed officers in plain clothes in attempt to catch the flasher, Stewart said. None of these attempts was successful, he said.
"It's almost as if he was able to know what we were doing," Stewart said.
The suspect would park off campus, sometimes several blocks away and walk on to the university grounds, Stewart said. This explains why police had no records of parking tickets for the suspect's car.
Stewart was disappointed that they could not charge him with something that would bring him public exposure and force treatment, he said.
Although the man admitted to flashing at TCU in the past, there was no witness for this incident of the man in the act of flashing, Stewart said, so therefore no charges could be filed.
The Fort Worth police did not write a report on the incident, so no record of the flasher is in Fort Worth police records, Stewart said.
The "Flasher" could go to other universities, performing the same act, he said. If these schools report the man to the Fort Worth Police Department, there will be no record of any of the man's past flashing history, Stewart said, and the chain of events could easily continue.
"It is very frustrating," Stewart said. "Where is he now?"
In meetings between other local university police chiefs, Stewart said he has talked about the flasher in order to warn these campuses about potential sightings.
Assistant Managing Editor Chris Newton contributed to this report.
From the TCU Daily Skiff, August 24, 1994:
Mystery shrouds Nude Man history
By Chris Newton
At long last the Campus Police were finally able to apprehend a man who they believe to be the mysterious Reed Hall Flasher. After more than three years and almost four dozen appearances, a campus legend has finally come to an end.
But how did the Nude Man manage to evade the Campus Police's best efforts to catch him for so long?
Campus Police Chief Oscar Stewart said the flasher's methods may never be discovered.
"We were not able to obtain a lot of details as to how the man got in and out so quickly," Stewart said. "That is still a mystery."
Police say the biggest problem in apprehending the flasher was the lapse in time between the incident and the victim calling campus police.
"Sometimes it would take two to three minutes for the victim to call," Stewart said. "Sometimes more than an hour. That's plenty of time for a suspect to escape a scene."
Stewart said the man's looks also fit into the "look" of the campus.
"He looked like a middle-aged professor," Stewart said. "By no means did he look out of place on the TCU campus. He could have just 'walked out the front door.' "
Like any legend, the unknown methods of the Reed Hall Flasher drew large amounts of speculation from police and students.
At one time, police even thought the flasher could have been someone who was employed by the university or had regular access to campus buildings.
"Whenever a crime is committed in a way that suggests that the suspect knew the crime scene we have to investigate the possibility that the person is an insider," Stewart said. "We're very pleased that is not the case."
The flasher usually struck from the second-story windows of Reed Hall, exposing himself while hiding his identity by pulling the blinds down over his face.
Speculation was also made that the flasher evaded police and students by remaining in the building after striking.
"We just didn't know how he got away so fast," Stewart said. "The idea that he never left held some weight."
Although the man claims to be the only flasher, police believe he has inspired copycat cases over the years.
"We know for certain that there were at least three other men flashing students from different areas of the campus," said Crime Prevention Sgt. Connie Villela.
Campus Police reports over the past three years contain descriptions ranging from skinny to overweight, early 20s to late 40s and even varying ethnicities.
The student body has almost taken a sort of liking to the legendary flasher.
Alpha Phi Omega, the service fraternity, even created a T-shirt that said on the front, "I saw the Nude Man."
"It was a fund-raiser," said APO member Angela Kaufman.
"It sold great," she said. "The next semester we even did reorders."
One TCU student that saw the flasher said she thought his capture was long overdue.
Apparently, the flasher was a tradition at SMU long before he arrived on the TCU campus. The man who confessed to being the flasher was apprehended for flashing on the SMU campus one year before the first sighting at TCU. The exact date and location of the first sighting of the flasher one the TCU campus is another mystery.
From the TCU Daily Skiff, August 24, 1994:
Mystery shrouds Nude Man history
By John J. Lumpkin, editor of the TCU Daily Skiff
We know something you don't know. And we're not going to tell you.
The Nude Man, the Reed Hall Flasher, that guy waving his privates in the window, has been caught. Elsewhere in this paper you already read how it happened. Conspicuously absent from the story, however, was the man's name.
It's not that we don't know his name -- we do. We know more about this guy than you know about your roommate.
From the campus police report, we learned not only his name, but his birthdate, address, phone number, hair and eye color, social security number and what car he drives. There's even a picture of the guy.
Further investigation revealed the man's job, the name of his church, police history and how he got on campus.
All this we know, but only some of it we can tell you.
The man was not formally charged with any crime; therefore, in the eyes of the law, he didn't do it, even if we know he did.
And since he wasn't charged, we are ethically and legally obligated not to print his name -- or word the story in a way that he could be specifically identified (like running his address or photo). Doing so would be grounds for a libel suit.
And libel suits are bad.
The reasoning behind not printing the name and photo of arrestees before they are charged is usually a good one. Anybody can accuse anybody else of a crime -- from minor offenses to rape and murder -- and police will investigate.
But it takes verifiable evidence for an actual charge to be filed. And once the charge is filed, specific identification is obligitory.
Running everybody's name who is arrested or investigated would be wrong, because people could trump up accusations and use the paper to degrade the reputation of someone else.
Journalists know lots of stuff they can't tell, sometimes because of the law but usually because of ethics. Reporters have a curious love-hate relationship with the phrase "off the record," because it means the they get to hear something private, but can't use until somebody else verifies it "on the record."
So it will have to stand that this guy is a Baptist minister from a nearby rural town. This area being the buckle of the Bible belt, there are going to be plenty of Baptist ministers from such places, and only one of them is the Nude Man.
Another question, then, is why this guy wasn't charged. He told police officers when, where and how he made his appearances.
But because Bob Frye did not see the "suspect penis," according to the Campus Police report, they couldn't charge him with indecent exposure.
But the man told police -- on the record -- that he was indeed the fabled Nude Man. Isn't that good enough?
Apparently not. To charge somebody with a minor offense like indecent exposure, you must first have a complaint. (In major crimes, the state can file the complaint.) Frye didn't see anything to officially complain about, so this man, who clearly needs help, merely got a warning.
And the previous victims of this guy can't identify him.
But imagine the police lineup if they tried.