Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Mad Pooper caused a shitstorm in 2017

Illustration for article titled The Mad Pooper caused a shitstorm in 2017
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)
Wiki WormholeWe explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 5,664,405-week series, Wiki Wormhole.

We explore some of Wikipedia’s oddities in our 6,290,703-week series, Wiki Wormhole.

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This week’s entry: The Mad Pooper

What it’s about: History is full of unnamed criminal masterminds who evaded the law. D.B. Cooper. The Zodiac Killer. The Cigarette Smoking Man. A more recent add to that list is the Colorado Springs woman known only to authorities as “The Mad Pooper.” In the summer of 2017, she frequently took a break from her daily jog to take a dump on the sidewalk. Despite being caught in the act repeatedly, and even after being photographed jogging away from the scene of the crime, she was never identified and never caught.

Biggest controversy: Several magazines had a running debate as to what the Mad Pooper’s motives might have been. Women’s Health speculated that she may have suffered from Crohn’s disease, an inflammation of the bowels that can cause a very sudden need to go. Psychology Today argued against Crohn’s, as the Pooper seemed to change up her routine to avoid being caught, but not to avoid pooping in public, which she continued to do all summer. Instead, Psychology Today argued in favor of exhibitionism (or more clinically, impulse control disorder), and that the thrill of flaunting society’s pretty reasonable restrictions on pooping out in the open, and getting away with it repeatedly, was enough motivation for her to keep going. (Our own sister site Deadspin also monitored the story closely—so closely the Colorado Springs Police Department asked them to stop calling.)

Strangest fact: The Mad Pooper seemed completely unashamed. A woman named Cathy Budde first noticed the Pooper when her children ran into the house and announced, “There’s a lady taking a poop!” Budde investigated, and found the mystery woman squatting, pants around her ankles. She confronted the woman, “about having defecated in public and allowing the Budde children to see her private parts,” and the woman mumbled “sorry” and left. Budde assumed (perhaps overly optimistically) that she would return to clean up after herself, and (more realistically) that she’d be embarrassed enough never to return. Instead, Budde found she returned to the scene of the crime to do more dirty, sinful business at least weekly, and Budde personally witnessed three separate poopings. Budde was convinced the public pooping was deliberate, as there were several public toilets nearby.

Thing we were happiest to learn: Mad Pooper V. Colorado never became a landmark first amendment case. Once the local news picked up on the story and the Mad Pooper’s fame grew, a video appeared on YouTube from a man purporting to be a family member of the Mad Pooper, who he identified as “Shirley.” He apologized on her behalf, saying she had suffered a traumatic brain injury. But he insisted that she was breaking no law (in fact, she was breaking several), and that public pooping was protected by the First Amendment and belonged in the same protected category as breastfeeding. The local news brought on a lawyer who “emphatically rejected that claim,” and a few days later the video was revealed to be a hoax—the man claiming to be “Shirley”’s relative was in fact an established YouTuber “known for producing videos of flatulent pets,” and his pro-pooping manifesto was an attempt at satire.

Thing we were unhappiest to learn: The long plunger of the law never managed to catch up with the Mad Pooper. Budde called the police, providing pictures of the Pooper she had taken with her phone. The police said she could not only face charges of public defecation, but also indecent exposure, possibly labeling her a sex offender. However, at least one officer suggested the Pooper likely suffered from a mental health issue, and that “she’ll still be held accountable, but we would want to get her help.”

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She apparently never got that help. After Budde posted a sign near the jogger’s favorite pooping spot, warning that the police were now involved, the Pooper simply changed her routine, pooping at different times of day to avoid capture. She also ran past the note “15 times in one day” before pooping near it. Even after Charmin offered her a year’s supply of toilet paper if she turned herself in, the police never had any contact with the Pooper, or received any further leads on her identity.

Also noteworthy: There are other Mad Poopers out there. The Lincoln Pooper was caught on camera repeatedly pooping near a public swimming pool, both before and after hours, and was never identified. The Brisbane Poo Jogger was caught, as neighbors banded together and caught him in the act—photos revealed him to be a 64-year-old corporate executive, who was charged with creating a public nuisance. The Newcastle Star Jumper was a British female jogger caught pooping outdoors by a security camera, and then doing a star jump (known in the U.S. as a jumping jack) before running away.

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Most unpleasantly, Wall Street banker and first-class airline passenger Gerard Finneran was so angry when the flight crew stopped serving him alcohol that he pooped on top of a food cart in full view of other passengers, later wiping his shit on the walls of the plane. He later claimed he had diarrhea and was prevented from using the bathroom by the security detail for the president of Portugal (who was also traveling in first class). But in the end he pled guilty and agreed to reimburse the airline for cleanup and pay fellow passengers’ airfare, amounting to nearly $50,000, making it one of the most expensive dumps in human history. Even among the very low standards of public poopers, finance bros are the absolute worst.

Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: For those of you who just read Wikipedia for the dirty pictures, exhibitionism (NSFW link) does not disappoint, with photos of male and female nudity, as well as an in-depth look at streaking—primarily as a fad in the ’70s and a not-infrequent occurrence at sporting events. The page also breaks down the difference between flashing, mooning, streaking, sexting, and obscene phone calls, while examining naked bike rides, medieval religious nudist sects, and various college campus’ nude traditions.

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Further Down the Wormhole: While pooping in public certainly qualifies, indecent exposure is usually thought to mean exposing one’s genitals, masturbating, or having sex in public. Public lewdness has run afoul of the law in this country since at least 1874, when the Sacramento Daily Union described a “shameless fellow” who had been arrested after making a habit of exposing himself to schoolchildren. But people have also rightly pushed back against public indecency laws, as it was once forbidden for women to go swimming without full-body “dresses and pantaloon combinations,” until Australian swimmer Annette Kellermann challenged the law by wearing a one-piece swimsuit in Boston, and social mores (and the law) soon changed.

Whatever the law may say, sex and nudity is an inescapable part of life, even creeping into video games, which have included X-rated content even before there were graphics: 1981’s Softporn Adventure was a text-only game that sold 25,000 copies for the Apple II at a time when there were only 100,000 Apple IIs in existence (and the game was widely pirated on top of those paid copies).

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Sex, however, is far from the most immoral thing to make it into the video game world. We’ll look at advergames—video games designed to blatantly advertise a consumer product—next week.

Host of the podcast Why Is This Not a Movie? His sixth book, The Planets Are Very, Very, Very Far Away is due in fall 2021. He tells people he lives in New York, but he really lives in New Jersey.