Please beware of Matthew J. Stephenson
This page exists to warn people about Matthew Stephenson.
Hi, my name is Sheep and I wanted to warn everyone about Matthew Stephenson. Matthew has been cyberstalking and impersonating me online since 2016. [sheep's story] He has threatened and defamed my friends and I, stolen money and expensive camera equipment, and threatened and harassed other parkour people. He has affected people in San Francisco, Seattle, Taiwan, and possibly other communities already.
Please do not host or welcome Matthew Stephenson to your community. He takes advantage of the goodwill of others. Please check your facebook accounts as well as community groups and block him. This is important because he uses social networks to find new victims and has already harmed parkour communities in different countries.
Community, travel, and hospitality are important parts of parkour culture. We cannot let one bad person change our attitude, but we can keep our communities safe by protecting against Matthew Stephenson.
Here is a list of things you can do to help:
Block Matthew’s accounts on social media. Facebook: Account1, Account2. LinkedIn: Account1. Twitter: Account1, Account2. If you find any new accounts he has opened, please contact me and I’ll update this post.
Share this post and Sheep’s post on social media, and ask your friends to do the same.
DO NOT host Matthew Stephenson or allow him anywhere near your communities.
And lastly, if Matthew has victimized you, please share your story so we can understand the full level of his destructiveness.
In late 2016 I acquired a stalker named Matthew Stephenson. Here's how it happened.
I started parkour early 2016 in San Francisco. One of the things that struck me most about parkour was the openness and warmth of the surrounding community. I learned all I know from the community, so when newcomers wanted to learn, I was happy to pay it forward.
Matthew found our small weekday sessions in San Francisco and wanted to learn parkour. For a few months, we trained with Matthew. He was strange, but always respectful, so we would show him parkour and invite him to the social events after training. I know many autistic people or people who are otherwise a little weird -- most people would say that I’m a little weird. I know what it feels like to not be included, so I always try to make sure that other people are. He would join us for dinner and never order anything, always citing a ketogenic diet as the reason. I worried that he didn’t have enough money for food. He got weirder and weirder, often taking on a subservient tone, seemed to be roleplaying, and talking about anime stuff. He also talked about performance enhancing drugs that allow you to get by with almost no sleep, and a desire to train an assassin in parkour. He asked me to train the assassin who he said was a Japanese girl named Shiina that he will bring from Japan, and I declined, telling him that’s not what parkour is about. My friends and I thought he was just taking his anime interest and role playing a little too seriously at that point.
SF Wednesday Parkour
I must have let on that I went to MIT at some point and he started talking nonsense with buzzwords like “blockchain” and “radiology”. I knew that something was wrong in his non-parkour life at that point, and thought he might be involved in some drugs that were messing with his brain, but we were determined to stick to our policy that if he is not harmful, and is respectful during training, we don’t exclude him. Maybe good things from our community will rub off on him.
After a few months, without any notice, he stopped attending our parkour sessions. By then, he had been coming frequently enough that when he stopped, we were worried about him. I was afraid that he was having more problems with drugs. When he returned to training, my partner Filip and I had already decided to move to Seattle. He told us that he visits Seattle often and will move there a couple months before our move. He told us that he’s a postgraduate researcher at University of Washington, that he will be working for Google, and that he will also be working for Amazon. I knew that was a lie because you cannot work for Google and Amazon at the same time. I have never taken seriously anything he has said, but we wondered why he was always lying. We started being less and less warm to him.
When we moved to Seattle in February 2017, he joined us at free community parkour sessions lead by Ox. He behaved even stranger, almost robotic, and looked like he was having a rough time financially. He also sometimes went to Parkour Visions open gym. One time we were there, he introduced us to a guy wearing a vegan shirt because we were vegetarian. On a later day, we went to open gym and the vegan guy asked us where our “friend” Matt was. We didn’t know, and he proceeded to angrily let us know that Matt borrowed money and never paid it back.
Interspersed between periods(months) where we would not hear from him, he would occasionally stop by at our weekly Friday night training sessions. Friends had notified me of Matthew impersonating me on Facebook, and of his blog. At first, I tried telling him in person to take down the blog and stop impersonating me. He always made up a bizarre story about the situation and said that they will be taken down, but he never did.
In his blog, he became more and more hostile towards me. He took pictures of himself traveling across the country to my alma mater. He took photos of things with “Sheep” or “follow the Sheep” written on it. He took photos of the emblem of a living group I used to hang out at. He posted my real name.
He posted my real name. Very few people know my real name. I’ve been going by the nickname ‘Sheep’ before age 10. Some of my closest friends don’t even know my real name. How did he find out about the old living group? How did he know I used to hang out there? Who did he talk to there? What did he say to them? Why does he care so much? What does he want?
I was perplexed so reached out and contacted several victims on his blog to understand what’s going on. One person reached back to me and shared with me her story. That’s when I knew it was serious, so I notified my immediate social circle about my impersonator. This included Facebook friends as well as parkour groups. I encouraged friends to report his blogs and his Facebook page.
When I did this, it felt like Matthew retaliated. He said he has an assassin girl in Japan named Shiina. He kept on using her photo online with my internet handle. He sent me photos of binoculars at a gun store and the view of a house at night through one of the binoculars. He titled images on his blog things like “bewaresillymit” or “mitsucks”. I was “the MIT” on his blog because that's where I studied so I know those messages were intended for me. He took photos with people who I used to know or work with and sent them to me or posted it on his blog. Random strangers started messaging me on Facebook delivering messages from Matthew. One guy said he knew Matthew from prison.
Sometimes I wonder, what is he going to do with all those binoculars? Does he also have a gun? What if he ambushes me on my way home from work? What if he gets his friends from jail to help? I’ve never felt scared walking around the city alone before, but now, I’ll look behind me every once in a while to make sure no one is following, or do a double take at anyone with Matthew’s build.
Images from Matthew. Good thing these are binoculars and not guns!
This was becoming too much so I contacted the police October 2017. The police officer informed me that he has served jail time several times, that he is known in their system as a cyberstalker already, that he has been transferred to a mental health ward and should be living there, and that he was currently wanted by the police because he has not been checking in at the mental ward. The officer matched the periods where Matthew disappeared from training or from making new posts online with periods where he was incarcerated. The officer also informed me that there is not much they can do about what happens online, but that if I ever see him in person, I should call the police.
Discouraged, and unaware that Matthew could be using my extended social network to find new victims, I decided that the most effective thing I can do is to make sure his blog is taken down so that he will stop threatening me. Apart from that, I ignored everything. Wonderful friends handled outbursts of activity from Matthew, blocking him from groups and getting posts and accounts removed before I even noticed. My partner and my friend would get furious about his behaviour, and spend a lot of their own time and energy managing the situation. I just hoped that eventually he will be bored and move on to something else.
Around that time, Matthew started to try to defame me. I know that he was trying to gain contact with distant acquaintances and trying to post things about sleeping with me. I’ve seen him do this to other women - using their sexuality as a weapon against them to create power over them.
Attempts at defaming me.
I stayed more or less quiet about all this because any action from me required a lot of effort and I wanted this situation to impact my life as little as possible. When I personally warned acquaintances that had him as a friend on Facebook, often the response would be along the lines of “I don’t usually filter my social media and he hasn’t done anything bad to me” or “what happened? Did you use to date him?” I was discouraged from personally reaching out to people and warning them about Matthew, so I made all of my accounts and groups private in an effort to isolate myself from his influence. As time passed, I felt that keeping everything private was impeding my goals, so in order to minimize impact he had, I opened them back again.
I found out about what happened in the Taiwan through a friend. People from the Taiwanese parkour community hosted Matthew and welcomed him into their community, but Matthew just took advantage of them and stole expensive camera equipment and a significant sum of money from them.
I’ve interacted with Matthew over a long period of time. He is not a normal person. He is an edge case with mental illness. The danger here is not just Matthew, but that the actions he takes erodes social trust, undermining core values in parkour culture, of openness, community, travel. However, despite the damage he has done, there’s a lot of good that’s come from it. I felt a lot of support from parkour communities I’m a part of. It brought me closer to my friends because they supported me and listened to me. I had the opportunity to depend on them during a bad situation, and because of it, I trust them more. Even as I am writing this, parkour communities across continents are uniting to deal with his newest transgression.
There is always potential for something good to come out of a bad situation. After hearing about Matthew, we can either become scared and silo ourselves off -- never include people different from us, never host people, or we can come together and build a stronger social fabric where we become more connected, watch out for each other, and create social trust. I hope we work towards the latter.