Posted on | January 19, 2014 | 46 Comments
On Oct. 18, 2013, MIT-trained aeronautical physicist Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt — a former Pentagon contractor who had worked on the Stealth bomber project — committed suicide, which must have been difficult: It’s hard to kill a person you invented.
Known as “Dr. V” in the world of golf, the person who died of an overdose last fall in Gilbert, Arizona, had won fame as the reclusive inventor of an innovative putter, the Yar Oracle GX1. What made the putter an overnight sensation in 2012 was its claim to scientific superiority on the basis of Dr. V’s advanced knowledge of physics.
Except “Dr. V” had no such knowledge and was not a Ph.D.
Never attended MIT. Apparently had no college degree at all.
As reporter Caleb Hannan learned, Essay Anne Vanderbilt was a Pennsylvania native whose birth name was Stephen Krol, a former auto mechanic who had been married and divorced twice before deciding, at about age 50, that he was a woman trapped in a man’s body.
Seven years ago, now living in Arizona, “Dr. Vanderbilt” met Gerri Jordan, a retired Bank of America senior analyst, who became both Vanderbilt’s girlfriend and president of Yar Golf:
In 2008, [Vanderbilt] tried to kill herself with an overdose of prescription drugs and carbon monoxide poisoning from closing herself in a garage with her car running. A police report offered some explanations for why she might have tried to take her own life — Yar’s business was slow and Dr. V’s romantic relationship was on the ropes. She had recently fought with her girlfriend, Gerri Jordan, president of Yar Golf. Jordan told police that she and Dr. V were in a monogamous relationship and that they had gotten into an argument two days before. She had found Dr. V in the passenger seat of her car after the suicide attempt and tried to keep her awake. Jordan had also presumably been the first person to read the suicide note Dr. V had taped to the window of the car door, which read in part, “Tell Gorgeous Gerri that I love her.”
Narcissistic sociopaths have trouble coping with failure, and there can be little doubt that “Dr. Vanderbilt” was in fact a con
man person, as Caleb Hannan discovered:
I heard from a mysterious “silent investor” whom both Jordan and Dr. V had alluded to in our previous talks. His name was Phil Kinney. He was a retiree from Pittsburgh and he said he wasn’t the only one who had put money into the company. He had invested $60,000 — money that he believed he’d never see again. . . .
Dr. V had told him that she was a $1,000-an-hour consultant. She said she was one of the original designers of Bluetooth technology. She even suggested that her status as a Vanderbilt provided access to some exclusive company who could help Yar’s business. Kinney said Dr. V told him she was good friends with the Hilton family, and that the relationship would pay off in the form of putters sold at their hotels. Kinney also recalled a trip he had taken to Arizona where, in Dr. V’s house, she had shown him a computer that she said mirrored the one in Phoenix’s airport traffic control tower.
This shameless liar had evidently conned the old man out of tens of thousands of dollars, and was hiding another busted scam:
I also found a lawsuit filed against the town of Gilbert, Arizona, in July 2007. The plaintiff’s name: Essay Vanderbilt, who had accused the town and three of its employees of sexual discrimination. The suit alleged that the previous year Vanderbilt was working as a “vehicle service writer” in Gilbert’s Fleet Management Division. In other words, at the same time that Dr. V claimed to have been working on top-secret government projects in D.C., she was actually coordinating car repairs for a Phoenix suburb. Vanderbilt didn’t win her case. . . .
The claim of sexual discrimination failed not merely because it was untrue, but also because Vanderbilt had lied her way into the job, making up jobs she never had and schools she never attended. Her entire existence was an enormous lie and, like all sociopaths, she feared nothing so much as exposure of the truth.
Once you know someone is a liar, it is impossible ever to trust them again, and the sociopath’s exploitation of credulity therefore depends on concealment of their deceptions.
Caleb Hannan is a reporter who followed the old newsroom maxim, “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” And if someone tells you they are an MIT-trained physicist — especially if that claim is basic to their story — this is the kind of biographical fact a diligent reporter must verify. So when Caleb Hannan attempted to verify the facts about “Dr. Vanderbilt,” he quickly discovered that her story didn’t check out.
Then weird things started happening, things which might surprise people who haven’t had any experience dealing with sociopaths. “Dr. Vanderbilt” and her girlfriend Gerri Jordan claimed victimhood:
The last time I heard from Dr. V she warned me that I was about to commit a hate crime. But before that, I received a voice mail from Jordan.
Neither of them had contacted me in months, since I had sent an email trying to confirm what I had discovered, and Jordan wrote back to deny everything. “Your attack tale should be published in the National Enquirer,” Jordan wrote, “right next to the article on Martians … If I am to believe your diatribe, what you are telling golfers is that the most scientifically advanced Near Zero MOI putter, and the science of the Inertia Matrix was invented by a lesbian auto mechanic.”
Predictably — that is, if you’ve been paying attention to these things — the sociopath’s posthumous enablers ganged up on Caleb Hannan, accusing him of transphobia and breaches of ethics:
Dr. V Is Dead, Caleb Hannan Is
Celebrated: Why We Can’t Accept
Lazy, Transmisogynistic Journalism
— Audrey Zee, Autostraddle
Careless, Cruel, and Unaccountable
— Melissa McEwan, Shakesville
Caleb Hannan, Gender Identity
and Journalistic Ethics
— Jonathan McLeod, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen
All of this is preposterous hysterical bullshit. Caleb Hannan spent months working on that story, and didn’t publish it until three months after “Dr. Vanderbilt” committed suicide. His attackers — mimicking the tactics of “Dr. Vanderbilt” — are trying to make the story about Caleb Hannan, but he is merely the storyteller.
Josh Levin’s claim about “moral dilemmas” involved in the story is insulting. The villain in this story is the phony “Dr. Vanderbilt,” who was responsible for initiating a chain of events that Caleb Hannan merely describes. Remember the old “Schoolhouse Rock” jingle?
Mr. Morton is the subject of the sentence
And what the predicate says, he does.
The same is true of Caleb Hannan’s story: “Dr. Vanderbilt” was the subject of the sentence and the predicate was “lied.”
Professor Donald Douglas called my attention to this story because he was himself targeted by this “Accuse the Accusers” tactic:
— Sarah Lennox (@Sarah_LNX) January 19, 2014
@Sarah_LNX Clearly, others knew of Dr. V's trans* status. They just didn't push on that. It's right there in the piece.
— Donald Douglas (@AmPowerBlog) January 19, 2014
This is the problem with sociopaths who claim victimhood: Invariably, the con man will succeed in deceiving some people who, buying into the clever victimhood narrative, will attack those who tell the truth. If you arrive late to the story, it is easy to become confused by the claims made on behalf of the sociopath by defenders who hurl accusations of mala fides at the truth-tellers. “Dr. Vanderbilt” has acquired a mob of defenders who insist that this is a story about “transmisogynistic journalism,” when in fact it is the story of a dishonest creep who committed suicide rather than cope with exposure of the truth.
— Robert Stacy McCain (@rsmccain) January 19, 2014
If those who are attacking Caleb Hannan genuinely want to rectify an injustice, perhaps they could ask a few questions about the still unsolved murder of Julia Scyphers. Somehow, I doubt they will.