Lonely Hearts | WBEZ
Skip to main content

Hidden Brain

Lonely Hearts

Jesse started receiving the letters in 1985, when he was in his 30s.

He had signed up for a pen pal service, that was supposedly putting him in touch with a woman he could correspond with and befriend. The woman was named Pamala. She was beautiful, and understanding, and sympathetic. Jesse cherished her letters — and never looked closely enough to realize they were mass-produced.

This is a story is about a con that unfolded very slowly over two decades. When the con was finally exposed, some of the victims defended the people who had been fooling them. They preferred to believe the lie.

This episode of the Hidden Brain podcast originally aired on the public radio program This American Life, in an episode called "The Heart Wants What it Wants."

The Hidden Brain podcast is produced by Kara McGuirk-Alison and Maggie Penman. Follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain, @karamcguirk and@maggiepenman, and listen for Hidden Brain stories every week on your local public radio station.

Get the WBEZ App

Download the best live and on-demand public radio experience. Find out more.