“Gang stalking. Human torture.”
The cryptic message appeared overnight in at least six locations throughout Regina and one outside of the city, according to Regina Police Service. Media outlets and businesses were targeted, but the message appears elsewhere, like under the Lewvan Drive overpass on Ring Road.
Global Regina was among those tagged with the phrase, but what appears to be petty vandalism could be a cry for help from a member of a small online community.
“Gang stalking, as far as I can tell, is the belief that individuals or groups of individuals are following a person for really no other reason than to derail and destroy their life,” Dan Blondeau, the communications coordinator for the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association said.
According to a New York Times article from 2016, roughly 10,000 people claim to be affected by gang stalking.
“They refer to themselves as targeted individuals, and a lot of the time they’re looking at government surveillance as a plausible answer for what they’re seeing around them,” Blondeau explained.
“You might see a car that you think is following you – and your mind is already thinking that you’re being followed – so you see that, and they turn off and another car turns on, now those two are working together,” he continued.
“They’re taking random, unrelated events and narrating them together in a stream that looks as though they’re being tracked.”
The mystery person, or persons, behind the stalking is unclear, and the theories cover nearly every possibility.
In the book The Devil Beside Me: Gang Stalking, The Secret War and How to Win author E.J. Wyatt theorizes that “non-humans” are behind it; meanwhile, others like Richard Lighthouse, author of Targeted Individuals, theorize it’s the CIA, NSA, or even a Russian program led by President Vladimir Putin.
These “targeted individuals” discuss their fears on online message boards and through social media- creating echo chambers that only exacerbate the delusion.
“It leads to people just constantly being told that their ideas are valid, and not having any counter arguments made and that again can push people to really polarized ideas,” Katia Hildebrandt, a PhD candidate with the University of Regina’s faculty of education said.
“If you have somebody who’s maybe on the edge of a particular idea, not really sure, but then they enter into one of these chambers where that idea is being magnified over and over again it’s much easier for them to be taken into, what may otherwise seem, outlandish ideas,” Hildebrandt added.
Part of the challenge in tackling these ideas is the groupthink that comes with the echo chambers, and the fierce opposition to critiques from medical professionals.
One of the rules on the sub-Reddit /r/GangStalking says accusations of mental health illnesses are specifically banned.
“It’s particularly dangerous when you’re part of a group and that group is saying that part of the conspiracy are those people who could best help,” Rebecca Rackow, the director of advocacy, research and public policy for the Saskatchewan branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association said.
“That’s very dangerous because that puts a block between someone who may be struggling, and has extra stressors, and the help they may be getting,” she continued.
In 2015 a study called Complaints of group-stalking (‘gang-stalking’): an exploratory study of their nature and impact on complainants, researched self-identified victims of stalking. Of the 1040 respondents, 128 reported themselves victims of gang stalking.
The study found all of those cases were likely to be delusional, but noted that “complainants suffer marked psychological and practical sequelae,” adding they also scored more highly on depressive symptoms and post-traumatic symptomology.
Regina police are investigating the vandalism and are asking anyone with information about these incidents to contact them or Crime Stoppers.
They have not been able to confirm whether the graffiti was the work of a person or persons, and have not identified a suspect at this time.