Escape From A Kidnapper!
In the last few weeks, I have been writing thoughts and testimonies of divine protection. Last week’s post was about two believers who were saved by an angel from death. Today we have a guest post from a friend -Brian Hogan- who has been in danger so many times that he wrote a book called “An A to Z of Near-Death Adventures“. This is an excerpt from his book. I thought that you guys might enjoy this story!
“K” For “Kidnapping”
I have been on the receiving end of God’s protection in harrowing and life-threatening experiences more times than I can count. I believe that there is a “hit” out on me from the Prince of Darkness and that God has prevented it from being carried out again and again. Being a apostolic church planter and trainer of church planters and having been instrumental in bring the Mongolian people into the Kingdom of God may have something to do with the enemy’s desire to “rub me out”.
At any rate, I wanted to share one story with you that exemplifies God care even before I served Him . . .
(Spring 1971) I was nine years old and doing my best to ignore pangs of guilt. I was ditching choir practice at church and hurrying home to enjoy an afterschool snack with Patty Jean, our live-in childcare. Patty Jean was a close family friend from my mom’s hometown of Blue Island, Illinois, and was staying with us while she attended college. This pretty, Jesus-freak hippy girl traded room and board for watching over me while my mother worked at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I had my first crush on Patty Jean and was trying to get her to promise to wait until I was old enough to marry her (there was only an eleven-year difference!). This probably had a lot to do with my decision that day to skip choir.
Our home at 214 N. California Street in Burbank, California, was only one long downhill block from my school, R. L. Stevenson Elementary. It was usually an uneventful walk, aside from having to scurry past our street’s “haunted” house at the top of the hill. This neglected place looked more like the set for The Addams Family rather than any of the other houses in our quiet neighborhood. It produced delicious thrills of fear in all of us kids on California Street. My house was far down the hill on the opposite side of the street, but I dared myself to walk on the right-hand, or scary, side.
Perhaps it was my brief burst of speed past that house that attracted his attention. Maybe there were foul spirits operating in that place. At any rate, I had just made it past the fearful house when a beige 1963 Ford Galaxy pulled to a stop next to me. A young man leaned over and spoke to me through the open passenger side window.
“Hey, kid. I have a mini-bike in the trunk and am looking for the trails where I can ride it. Do you know where they are?”
We were facing down the street and the scrub filled hills of Griffith Park were clearly visible straight ahead of us. I didn’t know anything about motorcycles or mini-bikes or anything motorized, but, ever helpful, I guessed, “The trails are up there in Griffith Park,” and I pointed toward the hill.
“Thanks!” He replied, with more seeming gratitude than my ignorant help warranted. “Would you like to come along and ride with me?”
“No” I quickly responded. I knew better than to accept rides with strangers. I started walking again.
Pulling up alongside me, he asked, “Where are you headed?
“Home. It is right down there,” as I pointed out our house in the distance.
“I can walk. It’s real close.”
“Hop in. I’ll give you a ride home.”
“No. Let me pay you back for the directions you gave me. Just get in and you will be home in a few seconds.”
His logic seemed sound and I felt like I’d be impolite rejecting his kind offer, so I got in. He started down the hill. When we came to my house I told him “Here it is,” but he just kept driving without a word, right past my house. As we drove toward the intersection, just 266 feet beyond our house, I realized this was a kidnapping. I instantly had a vision of myself sitting in choir practice, where everyone would think I was, and bitterly regretted my wicked decision to play the truant. As he paused at the intersection of N. California and W. Alameda Ave., preparing to make a right turn, I could see all the costumed “Let’s Make a Deal!” hopefuls lined up across the street in front of NBC Studios, and briefly thought of getting out and screaming for help. My abductor read my mind and clenched his hand on my shoulder. Hope died.
I was terrified. The only thing I could do was pray. Since I’d offended God by refusing to sing to Him, He was my only appeal. I silently called out to Him.
“God, I’m so sorry. Please save me from this man. Please, please, please. Help me! Get me home!”
As we turned onto Alameda, racking sobs began to push up from my chest. More tears than I thought possible began to spout from my eyes, and I began to wail like I’d never done before. I had no idea what was happening to me, but God had just given me the spiritual gift of uncontrollable crying!
The man told me to shut up. I could not. I only cried harder. He repeated his demand several times with increasing menace in his voice as we drove down that busy street.. I wanted to comply, frightened of what he might do if I didn’t, but I was helpless before the supernatural gush of inconsolable weeping. He turned left onto N. Hollywood Way and began a torrent of verbal abuse as he cursed me and threatened with some words I had never heard before and just about every word I knew and had tried out—with a mouth scrubbed out with soap as my payment. I put my hands over my mouth to stifle my sobs but it was as useful as trying to stop the flow from a fire hose with your hand.
He turned right on W. Olive Ave. and drove a half mile. As we crossed the bridge over the concrete-jacketed Los Angeles River, my abductor pulled out a Bowie knife and held it against my throat.
“Quit crying! I haven’t done anything to you, but if you don’t stop I swear I will cut your head off and make you stop!”
I redoubled my efforts to squelch my squalling. I was trying to save my life. But my desperate attempts to silence myself only resulted in adding violent and loud hiccups punctuating my tearful lamentations.
As we turned left onto Forest Lawn Drive, the beginning of the perimeter road around Griffith Park, I could see the channel of the Los Angeles River on the left side and chaparral scrub covering the hills to my right. I knew that just ahead lay Forest Lawn Memorial Park, a sprawling and typically Californian cemetery. I had been there many times to see the faux historic churches, Liberty Bell, mural, Crown Jewel replicas, and the famous graves. Now I had the unwelcome thought thrust into my brain that I might very soon be taking up residency in a grave there.
As the misplaced verdant green of the cemetery came into view amidst the unrelenting dry greys and browns of the surrounding hills, my kidnapper lowered the knife and gripped the wheel to turn right onto a dirt road. We went up the hill about 200 feet and pulled off into a stand of dry bushes. We were exactly across from the famous Hollywood sign on the opposite side of the hill. Stopping there, he parked and came around to my door. I was bawling as loudly and moistly as ever as he pulled my arm and forced me into a clearing in the brush, screened from prying eyes on the road below.
“It’s all right. You’re fine. Stop your stupid crying!” the tall thin man demanded again, throwing out a filthy blanket pierced with foxtail burrs onto the dry sandy ground.
I tried again, but with no more success than before. My shoulders wracked with sobs and periodic hiccups. His face glared rage and disgust with my unseemly display. I was sure my time was extremely limited as I noticed he’d replaced the knife in its belt sheath.
He then did something completely unexpected. He reached down and undid the snap and zipper on my jeans. He then pulled my pants and underwear down around my ankles. I was shocked beyond words. I was naked in front of this stranger. I didn’t let anyone see my privates anymore. Even my pediatrician, Dr. Vera Schlamm, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, had surrendered to my demands that my underpants stayed on while she examined me. She was sensitive to my childish modesty, perhaps because her own had been so cruelly stripped from her, along with her clothes, on the roll call grounds of Bergen-Belsen.
Shocked and shamed, I wanted to protest, but even as I tried only wails came in place of words. He next pulled off my shirt and demanded that I lie down on the blanket behind me. Howling with more force than I’d ever managed in my life, I complied. He then undid and lowered his own pants, revealing an adult nakedness I had never seen before. He kept on his plaid shirt that I thought looked like something a lumberjack would wear, its tails not quite covering his privates. I was horrified. I had no conception of what he intended, but something in me screamed that this was really wrong.
He stood there for what seemed like an hour and was probably less than a minute, looking down on a naked weeping nine year old boy. Then he yanked me to my feet by my arm and, with a fresh torrent of cursing, pushed me toward the car.
“Get your pants up and put this back on!” he yelled, throwing my tee shirt into my face. I quickly complied and slid into the passenger seat, willing myself to be silent and invisible. I was unsuccessful, as my unworldly wailing continued unabated. This bawling completely astounded me, and I had no idea where it was all coming from.
My kidnapper stomped around and slid back behind the wheel and started up the car. We raised quite a cloud behind us as he tore back to the paved road. Even though I could see that we were returning the way we had come, and sensed that I had escaped something really horrible, I still wept loudly.
He was silent as he drove us back across the river into Burbank. The only thing he said was, “You need to keep your mouth shut about this, okay? If you tell anyone I will come and kill you with my knife. I know which house you live in.” Then he fell back into brooding silence. When we pulled back onto W. Alameda Ave., he reached across me and opened the passenger door. We were driving slowly in the right lane and the curb was sailing by just four or five feet away. I was looking out the open door with alarm, having never before been in a moving car with a door open. Without a word, he viciously shoved my shoulder and sent me toppling out of his car and onto the pavement. I rolled to the curb, and leapt to my feet and starting running toward home. I never gave a backward glance. I don’t remember when exactly the weeping stopped, but it may have been immediate upon my ejection onto the road. It had continued unbroken from the moment I had called out to God for help, until I was free. As I ran, I took stock. Aside from minor road rash, I was physically unharmed.
I burst into our front door, screaming for Patty Jean. She ran into the living room and I ran into her arms. Then I started crying again, but these tears were natural. I poured out the story between sobs and Patty Jean held and comforted me, then led me into the kitchen, and while wiping my face with a wet washcloth, told me that we were going straight to the Burbank Police Department.
As we were heading out the door toward her Ford Maverick parked in front of the house, the phone rang. Patty Jean ran back in to answer it. It was my mother asking if everything was alright. Patty simply told her, “Brian was kidnapped but he is fine. I’m taking him to the Burbank Police Department now. Meet us there.” My mom calmly replied, “Okay. I will see you in twenty minutes.”
Just recently I found out the rest of that story. I was visiting my “Aunt” Marcia who still lives in Burbank (my mother died in 2011). Marcia went to nursing school with my mother at the University of Michigan, and they had come out to California together and were roommates as they worked at Children’s hospital. They ended up marrying best friends (both of whom abandoned their families after fathering children) and were still very close. When I asked Marcia if she remembered my kidnapping, she said, “Yes, because I was with your mother as she found out you’d been kidnapped.” I’d never heard this and asked her to relate the story.
“Your mom and I were in a nursing supervisors’ meeting at the hospital. Suddenly I saw her smile disappear and her face blanch. Carol immediately stood and left the room without a word. No one said a word, but puzzled looks passed around the table. A few minutes passed and she returned, swept her papers into a folder and announced, ‘There is an emergency with Brian and I have to leave.’ We had no idea what caused this completely unprecedented behavior, but we just pitched in and covered for her the few hours remaining in the day. It wasn’t until the next day that she filled me in. Of course, I was shocked about what you endured, but the thing that really amazed me was what had happened with your mom. She told me that in our meeting she had suddenly had a powerful and undeniable impression that something was wrong with her son, and she rushed out to call home. She had reached Patty Jean just a moment before she shut the door and left the house. You know the rest of the story. She paused only to grab her things and tell us she was leaving and then rushed to meet you at the police station.”
I was amazed at this story that I had never heard, and Marcia simply said, “You and your mother were alone in the world and only had each other. That caused a powerful bond where she could sense your distress even eight miles away.”
The only things I remember from the rest of that day were a Detective Coyle asking me lots of questions about the man, his car, and everything he said and did, while writing down all my words, helping a really cool police artist draw a picture of my kidnapper’s face (I really felt like a bad describer, but the drawing later helped Det. Coyle to break the case), and my mom arriving and wrapping me in her arms. Those were the best tears of the day.
In the year to come my abductor was caught and brought to justice for the kidnapping and molestation of twenty other boys in Van Nuys and Burbank. I was the only one where he stopped short of full molestation. The charges in my case were only lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor and kidnapping beyond city limits. I bore witness at his trial and he was convicted.
Forty-six years later I found my kidnapper on Megan’s List and paid him a visit at his home. If you want to know what happened when victim and kidnapper met – read my book. There are 25 other tales just as thrilling and every one is an example of Divine Protection.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
BRIAN HOGAN earned his Master’s in Ministry from Hope International University in Fullerton, CA specializing in World Christian Foundations. He is a sought after speaker, trainer and coach. Brian serves full time with Church Planting Coaches, a global ministry of Youth With A Mission. He serves YWAM on the Frontier Mission Leadership Team. He enjoys sacred-cow tipping, hanging out, climbing his family tree, reading books, traveling and trying anything new, novel, and different.
Brian has participated in, led, and started organic expressions of Jesus’ Body in the USA, Malta, and Mongolia. He coaches those involved in these movements on five continents, especially focusing on unreached and unengaged peoples and where the church isn’t.
Brian is the author of There’s a Sheep in my Bathtub: Birth of a Mongolian Church Planting Movement. These days he and Louise call Northwest Arkansas home.