The Mystery Man of Eastlake

Three years ago I blogged about “Joseph Newton Chandler III”, an elderly gentleman who shot himself in 2002 and left behind a slew of troubling questions when the name he lived under for close to 25 years turned out to be a sham.

Now the Cleveland Free Times makes “Joe” their cover story this week, and the portrait that emerges is of a man with serious idiosyncrasies and something very much to hide:

Joe Chandler was quite peculiar. He wore factory-style

protective eyeglasses, even outside of work. He stood about 5-foot-8

and looked to be in his 60s, although Mike noticed that whenever

someone asked how old he was, Joe always gave a different age. He had

larger-than-average hands, with thick fingers. He smelled kind of

funny, too, like he didn’t bathe often. And he was always making little


Joe built himself a white-noise machine that

piped static through headphones which he wore at all times. He kept it

turned up so loud, you could hear it if you were standing close to him.

Joe also wired his TV so that it shut off during commercial breaks and

clicked back on when the program started up again; he hated

advertisements of all kinds. As a favor to another coworker named Mark

Herendeen, Joe once rigged the Madison Fire Department’s alarm system

so that it turned on the lights in the sleeping area whenever it


Joe also had a habit of disappearing.

Occasionally, he would call [his friend and eventual executor] Mike and explain that he wouldn’t be coming

to work for awhile. “They’re getting close,” Joe would say. Usually, he

was only gone for a few days, though once he was gone for months.


should have suspected something,” says Mike, thinking back. “But I

didn’t. I just thought he was a paranoid schizophrenic or something.”

So who was “Joe,” really? As much as I still like the idea of him being the Zodiac, it’s a longshot possibility that still doesn’t really lead to any conclusions. Odds are decent that he could have been the federal fugitive Stephen Campbell, though the “easily explained away” discrepancies (like a six-inch height differential) aren’t necessarily so in my mind. It still troubles me that there was no way to extract DNA from any item “Joe” was known to handle, and that his cremated remains wouldn’t reveal much even if they were exhumed. So unless someone knows something, the fictitious Mr. “Chandler” seems destined to remain a cipher.