A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

“But he seemed like such a nice guy.”

Holy Mother of God…

Ariel Castro


The news story out of Cleveland about the three girls who were kidnapped and held against their will for a decade by 52-year-old Ariel Castro has shaken me to my core.

Are you as glued to the news about this as I am?

How can this have happened and continue undetected for a whole decade? And in a neighborhood where the houses are that close together?

My heart is just aching for those girls and their families. Truly, this kind of violence, extreme selfishness, and utter disrespect for humanity makes my blood boil.

Evidence suggests that Castro knew at least one of his victims and her family. Can you even imagine?

And let’s not delve into the fact that this piece of shit was a school bus driver.

I repeat: A SCHOOL BUS DRIVER. Of children. For twenty years. It makes the skin crawl, does it not?

One neighbor said Castro liked to give neighborhood kids rides on his ATV.

Honest to Pete, I am shaking as I write this.

The very notion of those three beautiful young girls bound and chained inside his nasty rundown house for a decade, away from their families, friends, and basic comforts is beyond my comprehension.

And I swear to God, if I hear one more interview where a neighbor says “He seemed like such a nice guy,” I am going to pull out my hair and choke myself with it. (Although, I have to admit, those interviews with Charles Ramsey are pretty damn entertaining.)

Sure, we should all be so lucky to have a neighbor who is willing to put down their McDonald’s to help rescue someone who is obviously in peril. Not to detract from Mr. Ramsey’s heroic act and Internet celebrity status. But wouldn’t it be even more fabulous if the neighbors had gotten to know Castro better and had figured out he was a psychopath, oh I don’t know…8 or 9 years ago?


Put your shoes on, your smart phones down, step outside, and get to know your goddamn neighbors.

We cannot as a society continue to feign ignorance when we discover that the guy next door has a freezer full of human heads or a den of stolen children being used as concubines.

This is not okay.

Castro’s family is doing the news circuit, trying to convince everyone they are totally shocked their dad, cousin, nephew, etc. was such a sicko.

Who else is calling bullshit on this one?

Hasn’t anyone ever stepped foot in that house for the last decade? If they had, surely they would have noticed the locks, or the girls, or the squalid conditions. And if nobody has visited him, why not? Listen, I watch enough Hoarders: Buried Alive to know that if a loved one or friend never invites you in? Serious red flag, m’kay?

When Charles Ramsey was listening to Salsa music and barbecuing with Castro, why didn’t he ever say “Hey man, those ribs are starting to kick my back door down. I need to use your bathroom real quick,” and go inside for a little medicine cabinet peek-a-boo?

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I don’t know most of my neighbors either, and vice versa. Any one of them could be directing someone to “rub the lotion on its skin” in between flesh-centric sewing projects and I would have no idea.

How well do you know YOUR neighbors?

How well do you know YOUR neighbors?

When we moved into this house ten years ago not a single neighbor stopped by to welcome us. Not one. We eventually had an open house to invite them all over and only a few stopped by.  “Southern Hospitality” my ass.

Sadly, I’m no better. We have relatively new neighbors across the street who moved in over a year ago and I keep meaning to invite them over, but never get around to it.

I always have some excuse…my house is too dirty, or where would I put everyone, or they’re afraid of dogs, or we have lice…

But that all ends today. From now on, I’m going to go out of my way to be more neighborly.

…just as soon as I clean up a little bit.

Because I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that if we were all better neighbors, there would be much less violence and heartache in this world. 

Now here is my challenge for you, dear reader. Don’t make me do this alone. I want some camaraderie up in here.

Perhaps you enjoy reading my blog because you are as socially stunted as I am and it’s easier to connect with virtual friends than real life humans. I get that. I do.

Or perhaps you’re just here for the free guacamole and/or occasional photos of my feet. That’s cool too. Whatevs.

Maybe you think this doesn’t apply to you because you live on one of those idyllic cul-de-sacs where you all get together to play Bunco every Friday night and you’re SURE that nobody in your subdivision would EVER walk into an elementary school armed to the teeth with semi-automatic weapons.

Yeah. That.

But whoever you are, and regardless of your social acumen or socio economic status, won’t you please join me in stepping outside of our comfort zones? Let’s all be better neighbors, shall we?

Don’t put it off. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy. Slap some slice-n-bake dough in the oven and take a plate of cookies to one neighbor.

Maybe start with the neighbor who “seems like such a nice guy,” but never invites you in.

When he opens the door, peek over his shoulder. Do you see any ropes or chains? Hear any screams? If you do, call the police. And if the police knock on his door and nobody answers and you see the police officers shrug their shoulders and drive away? OMG. Call back! (Geez Louise.)

If we were all better neighbors by The Bearded IrisStick your neck out. 

Form relationships. 

Trust your gut.

Be a good neighbor.

Or just sit back and be the next clueless schmuck to say, “But he seemed like such a nice guy.” Your call.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some slice-n-bake and a police scanner calling my name.

Look out neighbors! Here I come!

(Lice-removal tips coming soon. Thanks for your patience.)


  1. Heidi

    I think a big part of this has to do with the fact that over the last 10 years (after 9/11, natch…), our society has been conditioned to view others with suspicion. We aren’t supposed to befriend our neighbors, we’re supposed to spy on them and report to the government.

    Another culprit is that technology, while it simplifies our lives, has also created a situation where lives move faster than we possibly can. We don’t have time to just sit around chatting with our neighbors anymore, because the lines between work and leisure are irreparably blurred. It’s far more convenient to Facebook friend our neighbors and exchange the briefest of updates.

    I don’t know how to fix it, but I can see how it happened. And that makes things worse for everyone.

  2. brandy

    My husband and I have discussed this very thing. Frequently. We know NONE of our neighbors. We knew NONE in any of our previous neighborhoods and buildings, save the one who happened to be related to a friend of mine. We both remember growing up and knowing EVERYONE. How did we get here? Guess I should stock up on break-bakes….

  3. Cindy M

    We moved in 2 years ago and these folks have lived around one another for 8+ years and have never gotten together. It’s crazy. I live in the South, too, and hospitality my ass, as well.

    I have found that everyone is so busy, busy, busy AND so damned judgmental. Who goes to what church (or church at all) is a HUGE deal where I live and I HATE it. Not that it matters, but I am Christian. I have spent numerous hours in a church–not so much recently, but… I don’t have to tell anyone that, nor do I have to tell them if I’m on my period at the time–get my drift?

    We host an annual potluck for everyone one our street and few others that “touch” our street. The potluck thing always works out. The first year I was worried I’d have 12 chicken entrees, but it all worked out just fine. Lots of fun and everyone has made it so far.

    Not to sicken us further, but…how many women and children are there out there in that same boat? We certainly don’t know, do we? Right here in the good ‘ole US of A!! We bust down everything in sight across the globe to “give” women and children better living conditions, more respect, an education, etc….When will we in this country take care of ourselves? It starts on our own streets, etc. My husband and I are very much into getting to know the neighbor. We walk, visit, knock on doors, always invite onto our porch; I even make food when I know someone is having a surgery–so far the surgeries are minor and they have family in town, but I think this is an important step in the right direction to being a part of community.

    Sorry for rambling.

    • Heather

      Yup. Checkout the neighbor and end up locked in a room for years yourself.
      Be careful.

  4. Kristin Shaw (Two Cannoli)

    Right on, Iris!!

    Damn it. I need to check out my neighbors’ medicine cabinets too.

  5. Kristi

    All so scary and makes me vomit-y. I believe strongly in knowing your neighbors and being nosy. I’m fucking nosy

  6. Cindy M

    Oh, and as for Castro & his brothers…someone (perhaps the women & their families) should have the opportunity to do whatever any of them want to do to these PUKES. Why, on earth, should we pay for these pieces of SHIT to stay alive in prison where they’re fed 3 meals a day (unlike the victims) and given a place to sleep–can only imagine those conditions for the victims! I certainly get boiling pissed off to think our tax dollars will probably go to some special solitary confinement conditions so the rest of the prison population doesn’t massacre them. For them to be some big bubba’s bitches would be some justice. I’m afraid they’d end up dead–easy way out. Vile disgusting excuses of live organisms! YUCK

  7. Kate

    I agree. I’m from Cleveland, worked less than a mile from where they were held. My mom volunteers walking distance from that house. It’s so hard to comprehend… I don’t understand how the family had no idea what was going on… I can’t buy it either.

  8. Sarah Nava

    I did know all of my neighbors. . . But then most of them moved. The last ones that moved in is a guy I went to school with. I know his whole sweet family but he’s a total prick. Please don’t make me go there! Lol.

    I honestly think that in so many cases people are afraid to speak up. What if you’re wrong? What if they just like their privacy? What if they have an empty set of cuffs just for you? It’s just not safe anymore to step into a strangers home. . . The unfortunate thing about this is that those girls were taken nearby. . . I feel like the cops dropped the ball. They should have searched an abandoned house!! Nobody saw anything because they weren’t taken far and while an old rundown abandoned house should have been a red flag, for some reason it wasn’t.

    Compassion is truly lacking in this world and I can say that I have had moments where I have wondered if I should speak up. Say something. Anything! But then I think that my imagination is running away with me and I have children of my own. I have to worry about our safety. I can’t put us in jeopardy for a maybe. . . But maybe I should. :/

  9. Debby

    It is beyond my comprehension how something some disgusting could go on for so long….but I think you have hit on a way to possibly prevent it from happening. I am sickened by the thoughts of what those poor girls/now woman have endured. I am going to ramp up my already nosey self and start paying attention…REAL attention. I make a kick arse banana bread which will be a great cover…..keep tellin’ it like it is…I am heading into the kitchen to use those squishy bananas!

  10. Shannon

    Yes! My husband and I have been talking about a neighborhood bbq soon as we live on the other side of the country where our beatiful 8 year old neighbor was stabbed to death 11 days ago. As soon as the police presence dies down we’re making introductions. She lived across the street from us for over a year, I saw her almost everyday, and I didn’t know her name until the police released it to the papers. Neighbor fail right there. Cookies for everyone….and I’ll be checking their cabinets while they’re eating.

  11. Carrie

    Keep in mind, Tutz….”I” am somebody’s neighbor. Do you reeeeally wanna get to know me??


    Seriously thought, I loathe hearing, “he’s such a nice guy” as much as I loathe hearing “once you get to know her, you’ll like her.” Really? I gotta know her first for her to smile or knod her skanky-ass head at me?

    As a society, we make entirely TOO MANY excuses. Call him what he is.

    A waste of skin with no soul. And may he rot.

  12. Lisa

    Thank you for that. Let’s all sit down and watch an episode or two of Mr. Rogers and then lace up our running shoes and ask someone “Won’t you be my neighbor?” I am lucky to live in a small rural community where neighbor means anyone within a square mile radius. We bring each other jam and fresh eggs and soup. We borrow sugar, lawn mowers and put loose dogs back in the appropriate yard. We wave and honk when we drive by and see someone in their yard. Yes places like that still exist. I am never leaving.

  13. Jennifer

    I’m the worst neighbor. I know the people right around me, but no one else in our neighborhood. Mostly because I really don’t like people and there are times that I don’t want to be friendly beyond a nod and wave. If I got to know them then I’d have to care more about walking to the mailbox in my shorty robe.

    BUT we do walk around selling girl scout cookies once a year. How about if I give everyone’s home a little peeky-peek when we do that?

  14. Anna

    yes, i agree. and to check in on neighbors with prehaps less headline-drawing and lesser needs, but needs all the same. the eldery neighbor and people like that.

    there is a book about this, i admit i haven’t read but mean to: “In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time”

    it came about from “Journalist and author Peter Lovenheim has lived on the same street in suburban Rochester, NY, most of his life. But it was only after a brutal murder-suicide rocked the community that he was struck by a fact of modern life in this comfortable enclave: no one knew anyone else.”

  15. Crista

    Also from Cleveland (waves at Kate), and the thing is … I know my neighbors and I just don’t LIKE a lot of them. We live in an idyllic neighborhood (yes, in Cleveland!)with lots of cliques, so I tend to steer clear of the perfectly coiffed moms in their Lexus minivans. But I guess I should stop judging them and try to get to know them (again). You never can tell what goes on behind closed doors.

  16. Pamela Thompson

    The bottom line is these people did socialize with this guy, and if he didn’t want them in his house they weren’t getting in. We moved into our neighborhood two years ago, not be person came by to welcome us. When a new couple moved in I went over and gave them a gift and a card, never heard or saw them again.

    It would be nice if there was someone to blame here, but the only one to blame is Ariel Castro. There have been women married to men that were serial killers and they honestly never even knew. You can not keep tract of someone’s every move. These types of people are very good at hiding there craziness and manipulating people and situations.

    Let’s focus on the fact that there is a good outcome, these women and the little girl are now free rather than dead. The guy & his brothers has been caught and maybe justice will be served and he will not be in the position to ever do this again. I am hoping our justice system handles this case well and this man spends the rest of his life behind bars, with no chance of parole. Better yet, I’d like to see the three of them a chain gang where he earns his keep

  17. Mom Rants and Comfy Pants

    Very thought provoking piece as always. I am fortunate enough to have a friendly relationship with my neighbors – they are VERY elderly. But people here have the attitude of “just leave me alone”. If you try to stop by, they become suspicious. It’s sad really.

  18. Amy

    Are you familiar with National Night Out? http://www.natw.org/about-nno/ Lots of neighborhoods around here do the annual night out block party each summer. We did it at my old house and it was great – everyone came, including the creepy neighbors, and honestly I was glad they did. Turns out they weren’t as creepy as I feared. I am going to organize it this year at my new house so we can meet everyone. In my experience, knowing your neighbors makes a huge difference – totally agree!

  19. Kristin @ What She Said

    I’m proud to say I just introduced myself to our new neighbors this evening. I was out in my yard, they were out in their yard, so I said hello. They just moved into the house next door a few days ago and I’m pleased to see they’ve already mowed the lawn (it was a foreclosure and the grass has been woefully neglected all winter). I also learned that they’re gardeners – yay for curb appeal!

    On the flip side, I actually have called the police on my across-the-street neighbor, as have others. At best, he’s disrespectful jackass and pretty much the worst neighbor ever. And at worst, he’s running a meth house. He also looks like a child molester and I know for a fact that he neglects his dog. Basically, he’s pure white trash and a shitty human being and everyone on our street has their eye on him.

  20. Suburban Snapshots

    I have a total creeper living next door and my comment is always, “If they find bodies in his back yard, I’m not going to be the woman on the news saying ‘He seemed like such a nice guy.'” You’re very right, know your neighbors.

  21. Alison

    I admit, I don’t know my neighbors, other than by sight. We live in an apartment, and are surrounded, just SURROUNDED by people, so the instinctive thing to do, is to hide behind our doors for privacy.

    I guess doing suspicious things when you live in very close proximity to 180 other families, is pretty hard. Though I do agree, we should be more neighborly. If nothing, at least to model good behavior for our children.

  22. Anonymous

    Sorry, not joining you. I’m afraid of strangers. And my gut is utterly untrustworthy. Seriously–I don’t even have common sense; I have to use logic for everything. I don’t get vibes except that if one bad thing happens I feel like I need to be extra careful to make sure another bad thing doesn’t happen at the same time. Like driving over to tell someone the bad news, I better not get in a car wreck. That’s not really a vibe, though.

    Every time I read something about how we should get to know our neighbors so we can help each other out while someone’s out of town or whatever, I can’t help thinking: who’s to say my neighbor is more trustworthy than some stranger?

    I went to the last neighborhood night out, and all everyone did was gossip about the people who weren’t there. Mostly I talked to an old guy with a lot of stories about his old job which were mildly amusing.

    I do hate “he seemed like a nice guy.” I definitely heard that about my best friend’s dad after his murder-suicide. He actually was a nice guy. Having a pretty bad mid-life crisis. And freaking out that his little girl (at age 25) was seeing men. Because men have only one thing on their minds. (Um, Dad–you’re a man.) That’s all I knew. My friend was embarrassed to tell me anything, but had to tell me something when she was unable to make some of our meetings. I told her not to give out my new number or address after I moved in case she ever felt she needed to escape. But I left it all up to her. And no one wants to think such horrible things about their own parents. Plus, he said he had a plan for fixing everything. Unfortunately, he never ran this plan by anyone but himself (I assume).


    On the good side, one of my neighbors likes to call out, “Hi, neighbor!” when she sees me. I love that. She demonstrates that you can be wonderfully friendly even if you don’t know someone’s name. So I’ve copied that. (Unfortunately, I’m not good with faces either!)

  23. Marsha

    My husband and I were one of the first to move into this neighborhood almost nine years ago. It was a brand new subdivision and when the first residents started moving in, we did have several get togethers throughout the year like an Easter egg hunt, cookie exchange during the holidays, there was a book club, and someone giving cooking lessons in her home too. We did make friends with several of our neighbors. We also had some questionable ones move in. We were suspicious of the neighbor directly across the street from us. Single man living alone, but always seemed to be home no matter what time of the day. We wondered if he had a job because he was ALWAYS home. He had the largest model house in the neighborhood with a pool, gorgeous landscaping, had a really nice truck, a motorcycle, and a BMW 78oi (I think that was the model). About a year later, my next door neighbor e-mails me and says that shortly after 7 a.m. police/SWAT team descended on his house, bust his door down, and haul him out in his boxers! Turns out he was dealing drugs and was part of a large drug ring! He was on the news along with about 7 others that evening! That explains how he could afford all those toys! We also got notification that a sex offender moved in. He had been incarcerated in California at one time for the sexual assault and attempted murder of a prostitute! Unbelievable that these were our neighbors in a brand new subdivision! You just never know!

    When the housing market went to hell, we had a lot of people move out of the neighborhood and got new neighbors. One of them was someone my husband had worked with 20 years before! Thankfully the ones that moved in are all very nice and some of the neighbors are the original ones who first moved in. I will be keeping an eye on the new next door neighbor because he’s kind of odd in that he is constantly just sitting in his garage with the garage door up. And not at the front either, where you can see him. He hangs out in the back where you can’t see him! It kind of creeps me out!

  24. Tonya

    I could not agree more and I am going to promote the shit out of this!! Very thought provoking post, thank you for writing it.

    Best line: “Put your shoes on, your smart phones down, step outside, and get to know your goddamn neighbors.”

  25. Robin | Farewell, Stranger

    We’ve lived here for a year and a half and only sort of know a couple of neighbours. Where we lived before we knew a lot of them. It’s sort of sad, especially because there are so many kids on the street and I’d really like my kid to play with them. I shall resolve to make an effort.

  26. Carol

    I currently live in an apartment building (post divorce.)

    Even when I graduated college and got my first apartment, I MADE it a point to introduce myself. I was raised in a small town in Maine and that was considered ‘good manners.’. Even my Mom, who was very agoraphobic, would bake something and bring it over…give them our phone #, and offer the new people a ‘please call or stop by if we can help you.’

    As I have aged , I see people being freaked out by my offers of food or a phone number. I meet more people walking my dogs than anything else. It’s sad really. Thanks for getting a dialogue going Leslie!

  27. Lady Jennie

    A couple years ago, my kids and I made iced Christmas cookies and handed them out to our neighbours. One of them was new and I asked if he was the painter or the owner (What? He was wearing painting coveralls.). Now he runs from me. Another little ole lady asked how much I was selling them for.

    No neighbourliness in France. Fewer psychos too.

  28. Virginia Llorca

    A very troubled neighbor sat dead in his pick up truck for three days. When I discussed It with the young mom across the street she expressed horror and amazement, rightly so. I kept tearing up cuz I had talked with him and his son had played in our pool with my grandsons. Another neighbor joined in our conversation. He was chuckling over it.

  29. Lisa Newlin

    1. I never want to be your neighbor, as you are NOT allowed in my bathroom!

    2. Actually, you can come into my bathroom, because the medicine is in the hall closet. (Damnit! I let that slip!)

    3. I feel like not enough credit has been given to Mr. Ramsey for actually leaving his Big Mac to save the women. It makes his act of bravery even more impressive. McDonald’s should totally send him some coupons.

    4. One thing a neighbor did when we moved in was bring over energy efficient light bulbs and several yard waste disposal bags. I realize it sounds stupid, but that was stuff we could totally use, and it was a nice gesture.

    Come to think of it, she could have been telling us to turn on some lights to see that we needed to do some yard work and pick up all the leaves.

    I choose to tell myself it was her act of kindness and not so much her act of wanting to keep out the riff raff.

  30. Kristine Dahl

    You rock – is all!!

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