John Thomas Draper a.k.a. Captain Crunch

Just as it has been an 'open secret' among security and hacker circles about Draper's behavior toward young men, it has also been known about Draper's "initiation" that journalists were subjected to before they could interview him. Any one story may seem "eccentric" or "in fun", but when viewed over 20 years, along with recent allegations of sexual misconduct, Draper's initiations may be cast in a different light. While Draper and his fans are quick to point out that he has a bad back and does exercises to help his condition, it is difficult to overlook why any of these initiations required the journalist to remove their clothing.

In what is likely the first published description of such an initiation, author Douglas G. Carlston recounted the experience of a journalist friend who had an encouter with John Draper. In his 1985 book titled "Software People: An Insider's Look at the Personal Computer Software Industry", Carlston describes the story. While this is likely the first time such an initiation was published, note that the author references he had heard about this from "a couple of journalists [he knew]". From page 102/103:

This is one of the few profiles in this book that are not based on years of friendship or extensive personal interviews. Frankly, I'm a little wary of approaching John for a direct interview, especially after hearing what he did to a couple of journalists I know. There is apparently a kind of informal Draper initiation ritual that all interviewers must survivie before they get anything out of him. One of the journalists who suffered through a Draper interview agreed to describe the legendary ceremony, with the understanding that I wouldn't use his name.

"Fifteen minutes after I met John Draper," my journalist friend told me, "he ordered me to assume an anatomically questionable position."

What this friend meant was that Draper asked him if he wanted to help out with some stretching exercises." That in turn meant that my friend had to take off his own shirt and shoes and get down on his hands and knees on the floor of John's apartment. Then John got on my friend's back, threw a full nelson, and barked orders into his ears. Such was a typical Draper interview, but it turns out that the Draper treatment is a form of amateur chriopractic. he has a bad back, and he actually does go through various calisthenics and contortions every day.

But nobody had fully explained this to my friend: "By the time it sank in that somebody who I had been warned was rather eccentric was taking it upon himself to debug my spine, I was duckwalking around the room, carrying out odd instructions barked into my ear by this big sweaty guy with an itchy beard. I knew that programmers can be weird, but it had never come to this." My friend survived the initiation, conducted his interview, but canceled his plans for a second conversation.

The story above was referenced in Phil Lapsley's 2014 book titled "Exploding The Phone", along with Lapsley's own tale of his initiation with Draper. From page 337:

On a sunny afternoon in November 2005 I found myself giving a sweaty, half-naked man a piggyback ride around the front room of a dingy little apartment in Burbank, California. The man was heavy and my knees strained to hold us up as he shouted directions in my ear, telling me where to turn or how better to support him as I lurched across the room. The man was John Draper and the piggyback ride, which Draper referred to as "energy work," was my introduction to what one author described twenty years earlier as a "Draper initiation ritual that all interviewers must survive before they get anything out of him."

I survived, knees only slightly the worse for wear. I got little out of Draper that day; actual substantive interviews would come later, he assured me. It was an uncomfortable and slightly inauspicious start to collecting the stories that would eventually turn into this book, and perhaps it should have served as a warning of sorts as to what lay ahead. Had I more sense, I might have stopped there.

After recent discussions of Draper's behavior picked up on various outlets, journalist Arik Hesseldahl recounted his 'initiation' with Draper in 1999, shortly before working for Forbes. Arik shared this story with colleagues and friends on November 5, 2017 and gave permission for us to include and attribute:

Never could get over the creepiness if the guy. I once proposed to write a life story article about him for Forbes. He got all excited at the prospect and demanded I drive out to where he was staying immediately. It was a friend's farm in Pennsylvania he said.

During my visit I was to "work out" with him - in the middle of the night - so that he could see if he could trust me.

The offer of his cooperation was contingent on this request. The whole tone of the conversation took on a creepy tone.

The window of opportunity was also closing fast he said. He was going to India in a few days.

"I'm really in demand there, man,"he said.

I didn't make the trip and never submitted the story proposal. And ever since I've tended to disregard his overall importance as more invented than factual...

The November 2017 article in Ars Technica by Cyrus Farivar recounts another incident. From the article:

Per BuzzFeed News, one such reported incident also came from 2000, where Ethan Smith, then a 29-year-old reporter for the now-defunct Industry Standard was attending the Hackers On Planet Earth conference. Smith met and was trying to interview Draper, who invited him up to his hotel room.

There, Draper began massaging Smith's thighs and then if he could climb on Smith's back. Smith agreed.

"He climbs on my back, wants me to give him a piggy back ride, carrying him up and down in the room," Smith told BuzzFeed. "I'm still not getting what's happening. I could feel he had an erection, that he was grinding against my back."

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