Serial Flasher Aims to 'Shock and Surprise,' But Not Likely a Danger
Authorities, a counselor and shoppers weigh in on the pantyhose-wearing man who has visited nearly two dozen shops and salons in Metro Detroit, including two Chesterfield Township stores.
The man who has become labeled across southeast Michigan and beyond as the "pantyhose flasher" is likely an exhibitionist set on shocking and surprising anyone in his path, a behavior expert said.
Although he is not considered dangerous, he should not be approached and you should call 911 if you see him, police say.
Friday, at the end of another week where the man was seen exposing himself — through sheer blue nylons — in various shops, authorities said they were putting all of their efforts into trying to identify him.
"I am not sure what he is thinking, but thus far it appears he just wants to draw attention to himself," said Utica Police Chief Dave Faber.
Who is he?
That incident occurred in November, on the night of the popular tree-lighting and Santa arrival at the outdoor shopping center. Hundreds of people had gathered for the Friday night event. On that occasion, a man who said he was looking for "bobbles and trinkets" in the boutique opened the down coat he was wearing and exposed himself to store employees; he was wearing only tights underneath the coat, a sheriff's department report stated.
Since then, he was spotted another time at the Village boutique and various locations across Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, including:
- Forever 21 at Partridge Creek in Clinton Township on Monday;
- a Justice girl's clothing store and another clothing shop in Utica on Monday;
- two locations in Chesterfield Township, once in December and again March 7;
- Salon Bliss in Rochester Hills on March 13;
- a salon in Bloomfield Township in February;
- a boutique in West Bloomfield in February
- and other locations in Auburn Hills and Canton.
"With this particular guy, the good news is that he is going into businesses to be seen and not bothering anyone," said Detective Ray White of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office. "A few years ago, we had an instance where a man was doing the same thing but exposing himself directly to young children."
Although this man has recently been seen in two Justice stores and at Forever 21, which are shops for young girls and teens, local authorities have no information that he has interacted with or exposed himself to any children.
However, security footage from an incident earlier this week at a clothing store in Utica shows him brushing against a woman.
What is his motive?
Ann O'Neill is an licensed professional counselor who practices at The Counseling Center for Women in Rochester.
O'Neill categorized the man as a paraphilia, meaning he gets intense sexual arrousal using nonsexual objects or in nonsexual situations. He is also an exhibitionist, meaning he has intense sexual desire to expose himself in public places.
"Usually these people want to shock whoever is watching, or surprise them, or turn the viewer on," said O'Neill, who writes the "Is This Normal?" blog for Patch.
O'Neill said his attire is indicative of a fetish: generally men choose women's lingerie, including pantyhose, or shoes.
Exhibitionists are almost always males, and may or may not be married. The prevailing thought, O'Neill said, is that the behavior starts during adolescence.
"Some are never diagnosed because they don't normally seek treatment," O'Neill said. "This causes a tremendous amount of anxiety for these people."
O'Neill suspects the reason the man's venues have changed — from boutique stores and salons to stores that cater to children — is because young girls are easy to shock and surprise, which is his main motive.
"I'm thinking he's enjoying it," O'Neill said. "The attention is exciting to him."
In Chesterfield Township, women who encountered the flasher in stores catering to female shoppers told police he clearly wanted a reaction from them.
At Sally Beauty Supply, he came dressed in tights, a jacket and glasses. He soon turned to a woman in the store and opened his jacket.
"She was able to see through the tights and see his private parts," township police Detective Sgt. Deron Myers told Patch. "She just kind of was momentarily in shock."
Inside Bath and Body Works, he wore a baseball cap, glasses, a denim shirt and sheer black pantyhose. He asked her about an unknown product to get her closer, drawing attention to his genitals, police said.
"She said it was obvious he just wanted to see her expression," Myers said.
If you see him
The man has been described as in his 50s or 60s. Though there have been varying reports of his height, White said the best guess is that he's about 6 feet tall. He is about 200 pounds and is described as having a big belly and skinny legs. The man wears sheer blue pantyhose and a shirt or sweater. He usually wears a hat.
If you see a man fitting his description, you should call 911, authorities say.
"He has a problem. He's not necessarily dangerous, but he obviously has deep-seated emotional problems," said Clinton Township Police Chief Fred Posavetz, who is among the authorities collaborating on the case.
Though exhibitionism doesn't normally escalate to physical aggresion, O'Neill said those who exhibit these types of behavior normally have other personality disorders like schizophrenia.
Authorities advise people not to approach or confront him.
"Take a common sense approach," Posavetz said. "We ask you to be aware of your surroundings and if you see something that doesn't look right, notify either the store personnel or better yet, local law enforcement."
Police believe he is driving a silver Jeep Cherokee. "If a person feels so inclined, try to get the license plate of the vehicle," Posavetz said, but only if this can be done safely.
Finding him is a priority for agencies from Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, White added.
The man has been the subject of widespread media attention since Patch first reported on him last month.
An Internet search Friday produced more than 100 news stories on the man, from across Michigan and even as far away as Pennsylvania and Arizona.
"The media coverage is essential to warn the public and assist in discovering who this person is so he ultimately be arrested and obtain the help he needs," said Richard Matott, chief of the Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Safety.
Police are asking that people look out for this man and the vehicle he is driving. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-SPEAKUP.
– New Baltimore-Chesterfield Patch Editor Christy Arboscello, Shelby-Utica Patch Editor Marina Cracchiolo, Macomb Patch Editor Jenny Whalen and Bloomfield Patch Editor Art Aisner contributed to this report.