The following is part of a discussion that took place on the Usenet newsgroup rec.games.frp.dnd regarding the true-life case of the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert. I have not made any changes from the original text except what may have been necessary for clarity and readability on a web page. None of what appears below was originally written by me so I take no responsibility for its content or accuracy beyond superficial editing. In other words, I do NOT agree with some of the original author's attitudes and opinions, but it would be unethical to rewrite the article to omit those statements and still represent it accurately as the work of the original author. However, my own limited knowledge of the facts of the case gives me no reason to doubt that this is a concise and accurate account and I thought it was important enough to warrant space on my web site.
For the exact original text of the post I'd suggest a search from www.google.com using the specific newsgroup, subject, date, and/or author as keywords. For even more information I'd suggest reading the book mentioned below written by William Dear regarding his investigation of the case or doing other independent research into the subject. I have not read this book personally so I cannot comment on it's accuracy either.
You may not recognize the name of James Dallas Egbert but his case is surely the single most responsible for the urban myths regarding AD&D, incidents in steam tunnels and bizarre behaviors attributed to AD&D players. It's a sad, strange and interesting case and the article below provides useful information to all who are interested in this general topic. I think it is useful to AD&D players in particular to know more about the facts of this incident to reasonably discuss it and debunk the myths that it and incidents like it have created around AD&D.
Subject: Dallas Egbert (was Anti-DND movies)
From: Shaun Owen Hately email@example.com
Date: Sun, Dec 7, 1997 23:00 EST
> > > -he had a crush on a college girl who thought he was a complete and
> > > total geek
> > I fail to see how these could both be possible.
Actually it's more than possible. In the case of Dallas Egbert, the boy concerned, he was rather confused about his sexuality. He eventually concluded he was gay, but he certainly had heterosexual relationships before that time according to his own reported statements.
I wrote the following article about 6 months ago, about the Dallas Egbert case as part of a (slowly developing) page about D&D and the facts behind the game. To the best of my knowledge and belief it is an accurate portrayal of the facts in that case. It may be of interest to some people:
The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III
On August 15th 1979, James Dallas Egbert III (known as Dallas Egbert) disappeared from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. Dallas was a 16 year old child prodigy. He was an expert on computers (he had been called in to repair computers for the United States Air Force when he was 12), a Science Fiction and Fantasy fan, and a player of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. On August 22nd a Texas private investigator, Mr. William C. Dear was called in by Dallas' family in an effort to find the boy. Dallas' uncle, Dr. Melvin Gross knew Mr. Dear socially through his sister, who worked for Mr. Dear as a secretary. Mr. Dear is a celebrated, very successful private investigator, and after speaking to Dallas' parents agreed to take the case.
During his investigation he suggested that Dallas may have been involved in some sort of Dungeons & Dragons game that had gone horribly wrong. This theory was widely reported in the press. In 1981 a movie called 'Mazes & Monsters', which bore a superficial resemblance to the case, debuted in cinemas. Many people with vague memories of the Dallas Egbert case reports assumed the movie was a true story rather than a work of fiction. The media reports coupled with this misconception and the fact that William Dear was prevented from clarifying the case, helped to create the common misconception that roleplaying games (RPGs) in general, and Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) in particular were in some way dangerous. In 1984, William Dear wrote a book entitled 'The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III' in which he presented the facts of the case, as he saw them. This book, which forms the basis of my article, was largely ignored by the media and critics of the game.
Why Have I Written This Article?
The reason is simple. Very few people are aware of the facts behind this case. That is true of both the games critics and its supporters. There are a lot of rumors circulating, most of which can be described only as urban myths. The Dallas Egbert case is only one of the cases which form the basis for the games detractors, but it is the one I am most familiar with. It is also one of the most famous.
My qualifications to write this article are simple. The first is simply that I am doing it. Anyone could, and many people could probably do a better job. But there are some reasons why I am writing it. I have been playing Dungeons and Dragons and its derivatives for over a decade now.
To an extent I also understand some of the problems that Dallas faced. There are some similarities between his life and my own. These are personal, and not strictly relevant so I will not define them here (if you must know please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org - I just don't want to discuss them in a public forum.) Suffice it to say that I think I have some knowledge and insight into Dallas that others may not share.
At times in this article I will refer to theories involving homosexual child abuse of Dallas. I wish to make clear that I am in no way suggesting that gay men are any more likely to molest children than heterosexual men. Sadly, however, such incidents do occur. I have no objection to homosexuality or the gay lifestyle. I do not believe that any form of sexuality is more or less valid than any other. I know that the vast majority of gay men would never harm a child, would never engage in non-consensual sexual activity, and find such concepts every bit as reprehensible as other sections of society. References to child molestation amongst the gay community are intended to refer to that small proportion who do engage in such activity. This information is presented for the sake of completeness, and I apologize sincerely to anyone who is offended by it.
The Facts In This Case
Dallas Egbert, aged 16 years, disappeared from his dorm (Case Hall) at Michigan State University on the 15th August 1979, after having had lunch with one of his few friends Karen Coleman. Despite his age, his parents were not notified of his disappearance until the 20th of August. On the 22nd of August Mr. William Dear was called in by Dallas's uncle, Dr Melvin Gross, and his parents, James and Anna Egbert. (For clarity, any reference to James Egbert, refers to the father, while the son (the subject of the article) is referred to by his middle name Dallas. This is how his family and friends referred to him). Mr. Dear immediately dispatched three of his associates to East Lansing, arriving there himself a week later.
Dallas was a D&D player. That is not in dispute. It is also not in dispute that students at MSU played games, including a 'live action' form of D&D in steam tunnels under the University buildings. It should be pointed out that D&D is not meant to be played in this way, and in fact the students were not playing D&D. That is what they called what they did, and there may well have been elements of D&D in this live action game. But D&D is designed to be played sitting down around a table. It is not designed to be acted out. Versions of RPGs called LARP or LRP (Live Action or LiveRole Playing) do exist. They are not D&D however. D&D is one example of a roleplaying game, LARPs are another. To refer to LRPs as Dungeons & Dragons is akin to referring to American Football as Soccer or as Rugby. They are similar. They share some derivations, and some principles. But they are separate entities.
The facts of Dallas' roleplaying were concentrated on by the media, partly due to the investigative efforts of William Dear. There are other facts to be considered, however, which got nowhere near as much coverage.
Dallas was either gay or bisexual. He was also a drug user who used his knowledge of chemistry to manufacture drugs. Let me make it clear that I have no objection to anyone's sexuality. As far as I am concerned it is normally irrelevant to anyone but those directly concerned. I do object to drug use, but am attempting not to let that influence this article. I mention these facts only because they are of relevance in discussing Dallas - certainly as much as the fact he played D&D.
Dallas also suffered from severe depression caused or exacerbated by, in the opinion of an MSU psychologist, "parental pressure, criticism, academic pressure, and the failure of all persons to realize that, although Dallas Egbert was a genius, he was socially retardant, and in some respects could be considered mentally retarded." According to Dr Louise Sause, an MSU Professor who specialized in child psychology, the case was an example of, "the very costly price asked of some children... Their own image becomes one so perfect that they dare not fail to live up to it... At the same time, fear of success can become just as great as, or greater than, the fear of failure. It's the constant demand to be a star."
As an example of this, three days before he disappeared Dallas spoke to his mother and told her how happy he was to have earned a 3.5 for a computer science course. She told him that he should have got a 4.0.
The immediate investigation into Dallas' disappearance uncovered several things in his room. These included a note suggesting suicide, which handwriting analysis said had not been written by Dallas. A collection of poems, part of one (called 'Final Destination') I will quote below as it may give some insight into the character and mindset of Dallas at the time of his disappearance.
"Probably a town up
ahead, maybe a farm.
Probably could make it,
wouldn't be too hard.
If I can find a reason,
then I'll leave the car.
At the moment, I just don't know
where the reasons are.
Whenever I decide there's
a place I'd like to be,
soon as I can find there's
a goal to be achieved,
come the time I'm shown that
there's something left for me,
then I'll go, but until then,
I think I'd rather sleep."
When William Dear was called in he learned all of this. He also found a notice board in Dallas room which had a strange arrangement of drawing pins placed into it. Mr. Dear was convinced that these pins were some sort of message, perhaps a clue to where Dallas was, or what his intentions had been. Over the course of his investigation he considered several possibilities.
1. the first which gained the most coverage was that the pins were in the shape of a map, possibly of the tunnels under MSU. This was considered possible based on the most prominent part of the design which was L-shaped and bore a distinct resemblance to the old power plant at the school as seen from overhead.
2. the shaped design was also considered to possibly represent a gun, and perhaps an indication of suicide. There were also thirty eight pins, which was considered to possibly represent the caliber of a gun.
3. when it emerged that Dallas used to 'trestle' (meaning that he would play chicken with trains on an old trestle bridge near the University) the possibility was considered that the L-shape represented a train and the scattered arrangement of the other pins represented the path of a body hit by a train.
4. an expert on Braille postulated that the pins could represent a Braille message. He worked out a possible translation as being "And for it you braved."
Of these four theories, the first three turned out to have some validity. The design was a map. Dallas had attempted to mark all the rooms in the steam tunnels underneath the University, as close to scale as he could manage. The only one he had not marked was the room he intended to hide in. The dichotomy of the L-shape representing a train and a gun had also occurred to him. The message in Braille, however, was a complete coincidence - or rather the expert had tried to find a message that wasn't there and had managed to come up with something, in a similar way to seeing pictures in clouds if you look for them.
William Dear is a somewhat unorthodox Detective. He is also apparently a very successful one. At the time of writing his book, he says that he had never failed to locate a missing person. He investigates all possibilities. After reviewing the evidence he considered a number of possibilities.
1. that Dallas had committed suicide.
2. that Dallas had gone into the steam tunnels and been injured or killed.
3. that Dallas was playing a game. He had disappeared for the sole purpose of making people look for him.
4. that Dallas had overdosed on drugs.
5. that Dallas was being held by a gay man or a group of gay men. (Please note: whenever he mentions this theory, he is quick to point out that he is not making generalizations about the gay community in general. It is a sad fact that there are gay child abusers. There are also heterosexual ones. William Dear is not suggesting that the problem is more wide spread among gay men.)
6. that Dallas was being held by people who were using his knowledge of how to make drugs.
7. that Dallas had been kidnapped by some sort of intelligence group to make use of his special talents and intelligence.
8. that Dallas had been murdered.
9. that Dallas had come to identify so much with his D&D character that he believed he was his character.
10. that Dallas had been sent on some sort of a mission by a D&D Dungeon Master (the term used for the arbiter or referee of a D&D game) in order to prove that he was worthy to play in an advanced game.
11. that Dallas had been killed or injured while engaging in some sort of dangerous activity - perhaps trestling.
Dear considered some of these theories less likely than others. He seems to have favored the theories of suicide, being held hostage, murdered, injured in the tunnels, or on some sort of elaborate game. First of all I'm going to deal with the suggestions that do have something to do with D&D as they are the ones I am most interested in. These are theories 3, 9 and 10.
Theory 3 indicates that Dallas was playing some sort of game with the police and detectives looking for him. Dear did consider this possible at first. He even thought that it might be an effort to run the ultimate dungeon. He came to discard this theory as the case dragged on as it went on too long for a game.
Theory 9 is a common one used by the anti-D&D groups, and a common misconception held by some people. The simple fact is that becoming this attached to a alter-ego or a persona is a sign of mental disturbance. If a person is at the stage that they cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality they have a medical problem. Such a problem could not have anything to do with D&D in the first instance. If a person is a player it is possible that they could then become this attached to a character. But if a person is a fan of a television show, and takes on the character of that show as the basis for their own personality, do we then blame television? The cause is internal to the person and a game could not cause this type of medical condition.
I should point out that while I accept the possibility of a person becoming this attached to a character, my research has failed to find any case where it is so. A fictional case formed the basis for Rona Jaffe's 'Mazes & Monsters' novel however, and the confusion that led many people to believe that that book (and the subsequent movie) was a true depiction of the Dallas Egbert case have tended to perpetuate this theory.
As to Theory 10, while it might be possible for a sadistic and cruel person to send a 16 year old boy on such a dangerous real-life mission, in order to prove their worth, such actions have more basis in gang cultures than in D&D. Any such action has nothing to do with D&D at all.
Besides theory 3, the theories that Mr. Dear felt were most likely were, as I have said; suicide, murder, being held hostage, or being injured in the tunnels.
He believed suicide was a distinct possibility because of the suicide note (which he felt to be genuine despite the handwriting analysis - he was correct). The depression was evident from Dallas' poetry and from conversations with those who knew him. However he based his investigation on the assumption that Dallas was alive, as that gave him the best chance to find the boy safely.
He considered murder, possibly by drug types, or homosexual child molesters. Again, however, he concentrated primarily on the theories that may allow Dallas to be recovered alive.
Mr. Dear did consider the theories that Dallas was being held hostage. He considered it possible that Dallas was being held by a 'chicken hawk' a gay man who used children for his own sexual purposes. Mr. Dear attempted to investigate this, and when a gay private investigator from New York, Mr. Don Gillitzer, offered his services to assist in the investigation Mr. Dear accepted, as Mr. Gillitzer had a better chance in that area. Mr. Gillitzer's job was to ask questions in the Gay community and if there was a chance anyone was holding Dallas to put pressure on them to release him.
The theory that he was being held by drug dealers, for his skills was also investigated.
As to Dallas lying injured in the steam tunnels, Michigan State University refused to accept this possibility. They claimed it was impossible for the tunnels to be entered despite evidence to the contrary. Eventually Mr. Dear managed to get permission to search the tunnels. He found them to be extremely dangerous, and concluded that if Dallas had gone down there, he was not still down there. He found evidence that Dallas had been down there - a blanket, a carton of sour milk, and some cheese and crackers in a small room.
Mr. Dear was not adverse to using the media to help him, and the Dallas Egbert case was world news. He was faced with a dilemma however. He wanted to keep the drug and sex theories out of the papers for several reasons. The first one was that he didn't want any people holding Dallas to panic and kill him, because they thought the law was closing in. He also wanted to protect Dallas, and Dr and Mrs. Egbert as much as possible. For these reasons, he pushed the Dungeons & Dragons theory.
In fairness to Mr. Dear, his sole interest was the safety of a child. Everything else was secondary, and rightly so. Also the theory was taken seriously by the gaming community. As evidence for this I will quote from The Dragon #30 October, 1979. The Dragon (later called Dragon Magazine) is the worlds largest selling role playing magazine. It is published by TSR Inc of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin who are the publishers of the Dungeons & Dragons family of games. [Note: TSR Inc. no longer exists. D&D is owned by Wizards of the Coast, Renton, WA, and Dragon magazine is now published by Paizo Publishing, LLC, Bellevue, WA]
"As I am writing this (11 Sep). DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is getting the publicity that we used to just dream about, back when we were freezing in Gary's basement in the beginning.
If we had our 'druthers', it would not have happened in such a fashion. By now, as you read this, I hope the mystery surrounding James Egbert has been happily resolved. Whatever the circumstances of the incident, it has been a nightmare for his parents and family, as well as for TSR Hobbies,Inc.
It has been speculated that James was involved in some sort of D&D game that went beyond the realm of pencil and paper roleplaying and may have mutated into something tragic. D&D was seized upon as a possible connection for a number of reasons. First, James was an avid player. Indeed, I have met him at past conventions and he used to subscribe to Dragon.
Secondly, there was the matter of the pins in the bulletin board, and the speculation that they formed some sort of clue a'la a D&D map or clue. Added to this was the fact that the pins possibly resembled the steam tunnel system under James' college, and an anonymous tip that 'live' games had been played out there in the past, as well as other places on the campus. Pictures of the map were sent to TSR for analysis, with no concrete results.
Third, the day of his disappearance was the day prior to GENCON XII, and there have been reports that attendees think that they may have seen him at the Con. Sadly, registration doesn't show him registered anywhere.
Finally, James had an IQ that qualifies him as a genius, and D&D is a very intricate and complex game, appealing to bright people. This was seen as sufficient evidence to link the two, at least in the headlines.
Some of the reporting has been every bit as bizarre as the circumstances surrounding the whole affair.
The chief detective hired by the parents has made some incorrect statements regarding the game that have only fuelled the controversy and added to the misconceptions surrounding it. Unfortunately, the nature of the incorrect answers has led to sensationalist speculation. D&D has been described as a cult-like activity, and every editor knows that cults sell papers, or dogfood, in the case of TV.
These basic mistakes have linked the supposed method of playing D&D to this disappearance. The detective is quoted as saying, by both UP and AP, "You have a dungeon master - he designs the characters. Someone is put into the dungeon, and it is up to him to get out." He was further quoted as saying that, "...in some instances when a person plays the game 'you actually leave your body and go out of your mind'". A campus policeman said that dozens of D&D games were being played by "very secretive groups".
All of this had been grist for the journalist's mill, and has resulted in some pretty bizarre headlines, all playing on the esoteric aspects of the game, some slanted from the incorrect assumptions. A few choice samples that we have seen here, and only the gods know how many we haven't seen, include "Missing youth could be on adventure game", "Is Missing Student Victim of Game?", "'Intellectual fantasy' results in bizarre disappearance", "Student May Have Lost His Life to Intellectual Fantasy Game", "Student feared dead in 'dungeon'", and more of the like.
The most unfortunate consideration here is that all of the supposed links to this unfortunate incident were somehow assumed to exist, when in truth no such link has been proven.
No one connected with D&D, from the authors, through the editors, typesetters, proofreaders, down to the final stage, the shippers, ever envisioned anything like this happening. The slightest hint that this game somehow may have cost someone their life is horrifying to each and every one of us.
If this is true, and the worst fears are realized when this mystery is resolved, something is drastically wrong. If James is located and all ends happily, the amount of suffering and grief has certainly been disproportionate.
If the worst is true, let it serve as a painful and sad lesson to all of us that play games, that games are simply games, meant to be amusing diversion and a way to kill time in a fun fashion, and nothing more.
TSR has never ever suggested that D&D was meant to be acted out. How would it be, when half of what makes it so much fun - magic - can not be simulated?
This incident could conceivably affect each of you who reads this. If the 'bizarre' tag sticks, all of us should consider the idea that we might meet with scorn, or macabre fascination, or be branded as 'intellectual loonies' in the media. In view of the distortions caused by the media, it may become incumbent now upon all of us to actively seek to correct the misconceptions now formed or forming whenever and wherever possible.
For now, we can only hope and pray that James will be located and in good health. No game is worth dying for . . ."
- "Dragon Rumbles" by T.J. Kask. The Dragon, October 1979, pages 1, 41.
One point may need to be clarified. GenCon is the worlds largest gaming convention. GenCon XII was held at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside on the weekend of August 19, 1979. Despite reports that suggested otherwise, Dallas was not at the Convention. A Gaming Convention is exactly what is sounds like. A large number of players of various games, including role playing games meet at a set location and play games. There are organized tournaments as well as a great deal of unorganized games and demonstration games.
It is very unfortunate that Mr. Dear's comments were inaccurate. However it is understandable. In 1979 D&D was still a very new phenomenon. The game had only been in commercial existence for less than six years and was still relatively unknown. Mr. Dear had no real knowledge of how it worked, and yet his statements and those of others were accepted as facts. To Mr. Dear's credit he did make an effort to understand the game. He purchased rulebooks and paid a Dungeon Master to take him through a game. He also enlisted the aid of Mr. Cliff Perotti, a published gaming author and owner of a small gaming company, to help him in his investigations when Mr. Perotti offered his services. He made genuine attempts to understand how the game was played if for no other reason than he thought it might help him to understand Dallas.
But certainly there are no circumstances in a D&D game where 'you actually leave your body and go out of your mind'. The concept is ridiculous. A D&D game is normally played around a table. You are always physically and mentally at that table. Your character - the persona that you play in the game - may range anywhere that the Dungeon Master allows. This is done by the Dungeon Master describing the environment, and by the players stating what their character is doing. The game does not involve any travel of any sort, physical or metaphysical - except perhaps to the refrigerator for another can of Coke.
Eventually Mr. Dear began to make contact with several people who stated that they knew where Dallas was. These contacts took the form of anonymous phone calls which told him that if he left Michigan they would help him find Dallas. When these people provided him with evidence of their claims, he decided to return to Texas. Because his fellow private detectives (three men who worked with him, as well as New York investigator Don Gillitzer) were apparently known to the anonymous caller they withdrew as well, leaving Cliff Perotti, a 19 year old games designer, as his only person on the ground in East Lansing.
After Mr. Dear was back in Texas, a woman named Cindy Hulliberger made contact with Mr. Perotti and said that she knew where Dallas was. She set up a meeting between Mr. Perotti and a man who she said would lead them to Dallas. This first meeting did not go ahead because a police car passed by at an inopportune moment, and by the time the meeting did take place the following night one of William Dear's men, Mr. Jim Hock, was back in Lansing. The initial meeting was with a Michael Barnes who took Mr. Hock and Mr. Perotti to see a man named Archibald Horn.
Mr. Horn admitted freely that he was gay, and had had teenage boys in his apartment. He denied knowing Dallas and he demanded that Mr. Hock and Mr. Perotti leave. They did so. Later that same night (actually early the following morning) Dallas Egbert telephoned William Dear. Over the course of that day, Dallas phoned several more times and finally revealed his location - Morgan City, Louisiana. Mr. Dear charted a Lear Jet, and along with two of his associates, Mr. Frank Lambert and Mr. Dick Riddle, flew to Morgan City where they recovered Dallas. He was released into the custody of his Uncle, Dr. Melvin Gross, at 8.30 PM that evening September 13, 1979.
What Happened To Dallas?
It is difficult to explain exactly what happened to Dallas, what prompted his disappearance, and kept him missing for nearly one month. This is partly because Dallas was reluctant to talk about his experiences, and partly because Mr. Dear agreed to maintain his confidentiality. The following is as accurate a description of the events that occurred as I have been able to construct from the material in William Dear's book.
Dallas had been planning to disappear for a long time. His reasons differed at different times. He planned suicide over a nine month period, and at other times decided merely to run away. One of his reasons was a belief that his mother was putting too much pressure on him to succeed, and expected too much from him, and the belief that she would continue to do so, no matter what the circumstances. He apparently wished to make her suffer in addition to wanting to be free of her. He also felt that he had no control over his own life. He didn't know what he wanted to do with it, and he thought that by getting away for a time, he might be free to think.
"There was never enough time, the way I was living. Interruptions. Pressure. My parents hounding me. I wanted my life to get simpler and it just got more complicated." - Conversation with Dallas reported by William Dear in The Dungeon Master.
Finally on August 14 1979, he decided to stop thinking about it and do it. He wrote, what he described as a contingency suicide note, disguising his handwriting by writing with his left hand. He created the pattern of pins on his notice board.
"I meant it as a combination map and suicide note. The map would show where I was, if you could find me. The note, the message I intended to convey, was that I was dead. Of course, if that's how it turned out. I didn't really know what was going to happen." - Conversation with Dallas reported by William Dear in The Dungeon Master.
He had lunch with Karen Coleman, and then from the basement of Case Hall walked into the steam tunnels. He took with him a blanket, cartons of milk, some cheese and crackers, some marijuana, and what he believed to be enough sleeping tablets to kill himself. He went to the small room he had selected in the tunnels. He smoked his marijuana and considered his life. He thought about computers, his drug problem, his relationship with his parents, and his sexuality. For the first time in months he felt he was thinking clearly.
"No, it was clear to me what had to be done. I was depressed and miserable and not even sorry. I should have done it before. Life was no good to me, and this was the best and only solution." - Conversation with Dallas reported by William Dear in The Dungeon Master.
He took the sleeping tablets with the deliberate intent of ending his life. He awoke the following night. He crawled from the tunnels and then over a mile to a friends house. This was a gay man in his early twenties. This man wanted to call for help, but Dallas told him if he did he would kill himself. The man cared for him for approximately a week until Dallas was recovered.
I should make it clear that according to Dallas, this man did not take advantage of him. Dallas insisted to William Dear that any sexual activity was totally consensual, and that Dallas knew what he was doing and chose to do it. The fact remains however that the man concerned was an adult and Dallas was a minor. When the story of Dallas' disappearance broke, this man felt himself to be in danger from the police. Dallas was moved to another house on about the 24th August. By his own admission he spent a great deal of his time taking drugs and had no knowledge of the news interest surrounding his disappearance. On about the 1st of September Dallas was moved yet again to another house.
This time matters took a sinister turn. The man in this house seemed to regard Dallas as a burden, possibly because he was worried that the police might find him and assume Dallas was being used for sex or other nefarious purposes. He told Dallas not to leave the house, and the boy was genuinely afraid for his life. On September 4th the man took Dallas to a bus station and gave him a ticket to Chicago, and some money. He was told to take a train to New Orleans after he got to Chicago and was given a number to call upon arrival. He felt he was sent to New Orleans because people were scared to have him in East Lansing any longer. William Dear had other ideas. He suspected that Dallas was sent away in case it became necessary to dispose of him.
"If something was going to be done to Dallas, it was better for it to happen far away in New Orleans." - William Dear in The Dungeon Master.
Dallas came off drugs while on the train. He began to think again. He felt he had been rejected by the people he had gone to for help after his first suicide attempt and decided, once again, to kill himself. He purchased the ingredients needed to make cyanide, and rented a hotel room. He mixed the cyanide in root beer and drank it.
Once again he woke up the following day. Having run out of money he tried to phone the number he had been given. It was disconnected. He called the house he had first stayed in, in East Lansing, and the person there told him to stay in touch and he would try and help him. He told Dallas that if he was found, he mustn't tell anyone where he had stayed. Dallas agreed. William Dear believed that this was the first stage in an attempt to arrange Dallas' reappearance. This first man had cared for Dallas when he was ill. It seems likely that he did want to help Dallas. However he had to ensure that it would not create problems for himself.
Dallas lived on the streets of New Orleans for several days, before meeting a man from New York. According to Dallas they became friends, and this man helped him to get a job as a roustabout in the oil fields near Morgan City. He stayed in regular contact with East Lansing. Finally the man he spoke to told him that matters had gone far enough and that for everyone's sake he should contact William Dear. Dallas discussed matters with his friend from New York who persuaded him to make the call.
From these facts as related by Dallas, the following scenario seems likely. Dallas after attempting suicide was seriously ill. He went to the house of a man of his acquaintance, possibly a lover. This man cared for Dallas. He wanted Dallas to get proper help but Dallas threatened to kill himself if the man contacted anyone. Just as the boy was getting well, all hell broke lose with the police investigating his disappearance. Because of either an actual sexual relationship with Dallas, or merely the fear that such would be suspected, this man did not feel able to contact the authorities. He enlisted the help of friends to keep Dallas hidden. Eventually when the danger of discovery in Lansing became too great, they sent Dallas to New Orleans. These men then contacted Mr. Dear anonymously. They wished him to leave Lansing in order to increase their chances of avoiding detection. They were also attempting to negotiate a way of handing Dallas over to the authorities safely. Cindy Hulliberger somehow knew where Dallas was (in fact, Dallas said he believed he had met her at one of the houses). She, either of her own volition or as some sort of go between, made contact with William Dear through Cliff Perotti, and eventually arranged meetings with people who knew of Dallas and his whereabouts. Finally, perhaps as a result of the meeting with Archibald Horn, Dallas was told to contact William Dear.
In this scenario, D&D plays absolutely no part, and I do not believe that anyone who is cognizant of the facts in this case can possibly believe that D&D played any significant role in Dallas' disappearance. The question then needs to be asked: Why did D&D get so much blame? As I have said before Mr. Dear had several theories concerning Dallas disappearance. The D&D related theory gained publicity because of its unusual and sensational nature, and because Mr. Dear felt it unwise to widely publicize some of his other theories for a number of reasons, which I have outlined above. But why, after Dallas was found, did the facts not become clear?
The answer is simple. Dallas did not want the publicity associated with his case, both for his own sake, but also for that of his younger brother Doug. He did not want Doug to endure teasing about his "faggot brother, the dope addict." Mr. Dear agreed to honor Dallas wishes for silence on the case, despite being offered large amounts of money for information.
This meant that Mr. Dear was placed in a position where he was unable to clarify or withdraw the statements he had made to the press. When he finally wrote The Dungeon Master after Doug had finished school and that was no longer a problem, it was nearly five years after the case. The media were not particularly interested in setting the record straight.
Unfortunately even though Dallas was found his story does not have a happy ending. For a time after his disappearance his life improved greatly. His relationship with his mother improved and he reenrolled at University, this time at Wright State. In early 1980 matters began to revert to type however, as his problems reemerged. William Dear remained one of his few friends and attempted to help him. On April 14 1980, Dallas quit school. He wanted to work in a computer store, but instead took a job in one of his fathers shops. In late July he moved into a flat with a twenty three year old acquaintance. Mr. Dear attempted to persuade him to return home, but Dallas insisted that life with his parents was unbearable.
On the 11th August 1980, James Dallas Egbert III shot himself in the head in the living room of his apartment. He died at Grandview Hospital on the 16th of August, just over a year after his disappearance.
Dallas Egbert's death was a tragedy. There is no denying that. But to blame the game of Dungeons & Dragons for it is ridiculous. Furthermore it is irresponsible in the extreme. Dallas died because he was exposed to pressures that were beyond his ability to deal with. He died because he suffered depression and could find no way to fix his life. He died because he no longer wished to live.
He did not die because of a game.
Dear, William C. The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas
Egbert III. Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd, London, 1991.
Kask, T.J. "Dragon Rumblings". The Dragon. Vol IV, No 4. October 1979.
Dungeons & Dragons and D&D are registered trademarks of TSR Inc of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. They are used for information purposes and without permission. The lack of symbols denoting the trademark status is not intended as a challenge to such status.
With the exception of quoted material this article is Copyright 1997 Shaun Hately. All Rights Reserved. Permission is given to distribute it in its entirety only.
V1.0 16th May 1997.
* * * *
Obviously since I wrote the original article a few things have changed with regards to D&D and to TSR. I'd also stress that while I believe the article to be fair and accurate, it is based on limited sources (I'm attempting to get hold of more of them) and further information may lead to other conclusions.
Yours Without Wax,
|'Don't knock mutant freaks. That's how
Dreadnought |evolution works. Something new appears
/ |that might turn out to be just what the
o=== ======================- |species needs.'
\ |- Stephanie Tolan 'Welcome to the Ark'
There's not a lot to add. Some of the minor details may be inaccurate, but by and large the above seems to be true and correct. I also agree with much of the author's opinion on the case, but not everything he says. Note particularly that D&D figures only superficially, if at all, into the entire event. It certainly didn't CAUSE it nor even exacerbate it. This is apparantly the case with every other well MIS-publicized case in which D&D is said to be to blame - it figures in only very superficially if at all. That's the kind of ignorance and stupidity we need to fight. The best way to do that is with accurate information, patience and persistence.
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