In the late ’90s, pop-culture historian Bill Geerhart had a little too much time on his hands and a surfeit of stamps. So, for his own entertainment, the then-unemployed thirtysomething launched a letter-writing campaign to some of the most powerful and infamous figures in the country, posing as a curious 10-year-old named Billy.

To his surprise, replies soon started pouring in. Everyone from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (on tree-fort diplomacy) to Oprah WinfreyMister RogersJanet Reno, and members of the Supreme Court had words of wisdom for Billy. (“I like the Egg McMuffin,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas when asked about his favorite McDonald’s food. “Actually, I like almost everything there.”) Responding to Billy’s idea for a “Hustler for kids,” Larry Flynt wrote back encouraging the fourth grader to “Hang in there. You’ll be 18 before you know it.”

As it turns out, no group hates to disappoint a child more than convicted killers, all of whom responded promptly to Billy’s questions about dropping out of school. Their letters, published here for the first time, range from criminally insane to downright sensible, offering snapshots of the personalities behind some of America’s most hideous crimes. Recently, Radar asked Billy to follow up with his mentors as a college student. (Click here to skip ahead and read Billy’s correspondence with Arnold SchwarzeneggerLarry Flynt, and other non-murderous celebrities)

Richard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker
Résumé: The devilishly handsome Satan-worshiping rapist and serial killer terrorized Los Angeles in 1985, racking up more than 25 victims. Known for nocturnal home invasions and occasional impotence, Ramirez was an equal-opportunity madman, using guns, knives, and blunt objects to slay single women, couples, teenagers, and senior citizens. He currently sits on death row in California’s San Quentin State Prison, though he managed to marry his number one fan, fellow crazy person Doreen Lioy, in 1988.
Notable Quote: “Send some girls in bikinis.”

Little Billy’s original letter:

To: Billy
From: Richard Ramirez
Received: January 21, 1999
Greetings. Got your letter. What school do you go to? Who’s your friend? You should stay in school. Send pictures.

Billy’s follow-up letter in 2008:To: Billy
From: Richard Ramirez
Received: February 22, 2008

Greetings. Received your letter. Glad to hear my letter to you in ’99 made a difference. When do you graduate? Yeah, get me a subscription to Radar Magazine. What is it about? Know any Asian girls willing to correspond? Send pictures. You can photocopy 5 on 1 page or send ’em singular. Nothing scenic though. Send some of girls in bikinis. Do you go clubbing? Seen any good movies? Saw 3:10 to Yuma the other day. It was an OK Western. Didn’t do too good at the box office though. Do you have family? I’m youngest of five. That’s all for now. Take it E/Z write when you get a chance.
Your friend,

Charles Manson
 As leader of the L.A.-based cult known as The Family, America’s most notorious psycho masterminded the slayings of Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, and four of her friends at the home she shared with her husband, director Roman Polanski, in 1969. The following night, Manson and his disciples murdered supermarket mogul Leno LaBianca and his wife at their Los Feliz residence, misspelling “Helter Skelter” in blood on their fridge. (Manson preached that the Beatles’ song was a prophecy about an imminent race war.) A resident of Corcoran State Prison in California, he has received more mail than any other prisoner in U.S. history.
Notable Quote: “Just to forgit I didn’t take your money when I had all your credit cards locked up in my dreams.”

Little Billy’s original letter:

Manson’s first response:

To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: December 15, 1998

Find out why the L.A. Times hasn’t sent my newspaper —Charles Manson.
Easy easy EASSY

(Manson also attached the mysterious picture of a barn, above.)

I bet you don’t remember this —you dont [sic] even know where its [sic] at. HAHA. I got you there.
Charles Manson


Little Billy’s follow-up letter in 2007:


Manson’s response:


To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: January 7, 2008

Hay Lo Soul,
Good To Too Two 2 here from you. I thought things got so good for you that you just 4 GOT WHAT you could of remembered or could remember what you don’t forgit. Where is your mind—must you watch TV all day to go to night school to be a D.A. JUST to forgit I didn’t take your money when I had ALL your credit cards locked up in [continued on second page] my dreams—Rife with Con Va Lution due 2 subjewgashen. My spelling got better—see when you go to school you learn to spell—oh well I’m just playing clown words to say I didn’t forgit Hellbilly—Bill we always had good days + I’m glad your gonna be a D.A. Be one who works for justice + not one who wants to win win + and don’t care if people didn’t do rong—anyway be as good as you are when you git a job + don’t let the job make you bad you make the JOB good.
Easy Charles Manson

Letter Marginalia:
You even typing now—Cool. A HILLBILLY that can type—FAR OUT.
I know if you payed what you owe you would be brok brok in like broak ones a panter brock + that they is a crook

Ted Kacynzski aka the Unabomber


Résumé: Until his arrest in 1996, Kaczynski sent out 16 mail bombs in 18 years, killing three and injuring 23, and was the target of one of the most extensive investigations in FBI history. His 35,000-word manifesto on the evils of industrialized society, which he forced newspapers to publish on the threat of more violence, was remarkably free of spelling and grammatical mistakes. He’s now doing life in Colorado’s Federal Supermax prison, where he has apparently been too busy to follow up with Billy a second time.
Notable Quote: “I can’t advise you about whether to drop out of school, because I don’t know anything about you.”

Little Billy’s original letter to Ted Kacynzski:


Kacynzski’s response:


Erik Menendez
 In 1989, Erik and brother Lyle fatally blasted their parents with shotguns as they watched television in their Beverly Hills mansion. The pair were caught two months later when Erik confessed to his psychiatrist, but not before burning through roughly $1 million of Mom and Dad’s $14 million estate. The trial, in which the defense claimed that the murders were retaliation for years of sexual abuse at the hands of their father, was a national sensation. But the jury didn’t buy the tale.Erik is currently serving a life sentence in California’s Pleasant Valley State Prison. Reportedly, he and Lyle, a resident of Mule Creek State Prison, have not spoken in more than 10 years. He has been equally quiet with grown-up Billy.

Little Billy’s original letter:

Menendez’s Response:


To: Billy
From: Erik Menendez
Received: July 16, 1999

Dear Billy,
I apologize for the length of time it has taken me to respond. That will not happen again. Tell me a little about yourself Billy. How old are you, why do you want to drop out of school? Are you having problems at school? What sort of things do you do with yourself, hobbies, etc. It is hard for me to imagine that you should drop out of school. Fill me in some more on the details of your life.

I am here and would like to listen to you and do what I can to help you Billy. But I really need to know more about you. No need to send stamps or that sort of thing. Thank you though Billy.

Larry Flynt
In 2001, Little Billy sought the council of Hustler magazine’s founder and publisher, Larry Flynt. The first-amendment activist took the time to respond to Billy’s query: How soon is too soon for a Hustler magazine subscription?
Notable Quote: “You should read the Sears & Roebuck catalog.”

Little Billy’s original letter:


Larry Flynt’s response:

Alan Greenspan
In 1999, Little Billy turned to then-chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan. His question for the master economist: What’s the easiest way to save up for a speedboat?

Little Billy’s original letter:


Greenspan’s prudent response:


Arnold Schwarzenegger
In 2004, Little Billy reached out to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: How should he deal with an unfair punitive response? After all, he had only given one of his female classmates an appreciative pinch on the tush. If the Governator could relate, he didn’t let on.Little Billy’s original letter:


Clarence Thomas
In December of 1994, young Billy sent a message to supreme court justice Clarence Thomas.Thomas responded. Perhaps he was glad that, with the passage of years, he could now field questions about delicious McDonald’s food and not Anita Hill?

Little Billy’s original letter:


Clarence Thomas’s response:


To: Billy Geerhart
From: Clarence Thomas
Received: January 10, 1995

Dear Billy:
Thank you for your recent letter. I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to write to me. As you have requested, I’m including a copy of my official photograph. Best wishes for a successful school year.

Clarence Thomas

Handwritten below: I like the Egg McMuffin. Actually, I like almost everything there.


Dick Cheney
In 1998, Billy reached out to former Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney.

Cheney wished Billy luck with his political career, and even included a trading card.