When Frank Warren was in fourth grade, a new kid moved into the neighborhood. The boy was charming and charismatic, and he quickly became popular with all the other boys. After school one day, the boy convinced two of Warren’s friends to pin him to the ground, hold open his eyelids and take turns spitting in his eye. It was a painful childhood memory and a secret Warren kept to himself for years.
On Jan. 21, Warren revealed his and other’s secrets to a packed Kendall Hall audience in a College Union Board sponsored event. Warren is the mastermind behind PostSecret, a project that has people across the nation divulging their deepest, darkest secrets to complete strangers.
“When we keep secrets, the secrets are really keeping us,” he said. “The reason I started PostSecret was because there were secrets in my own life I was struggling with.”
During the last four years, Warren has received more than 300,000 artfully decorated postcards and letters at his home in Germantown, Md. Warren brought some of his favorite postcards to the event, reading them throughout the night while projecting some onto the big screen in Kendall.
“You called me an idiot, so I sent your bags to the wrong destination,” wrote one baggage handler. “I guess you were right.”
One postcard, featuring a gloomy picture of the World Trade Center, read, “Everyone who knew me before 9/11 thinks I’m dead.”
PostSecret began in Washington, D.C., where Warren walked the streets passing out blank postcards with his home address. He encouraged people to write down a never-revealed secret with no restrictions. Slowly postcards trickled in, until some started arriving from nearby states. Eventually, Warren stopped passing out postcards. But the mail never stopped.
Over the years, secrets have been sent on more than just postcards. According to Warren, he has received secrets written on fruits, vegetables, money, checks, death certificates and even a bag of coffee.
Online, people anxiously wait at their computers for the weekly Sunday posting of 20 new secrets at postsecret.blogspot.com. In the short time Warren has been collecting secrets, he has released four books containing hundreds.
Warren concluded the evening by allowing audience members to ask questions or even reveal one of their own secrets.
An audience question concerning his wife’s secrets prompted Warren to whip out his cell phone and call his spouse on stage. After a quick speaker-phone conversation, Warren produced his wife’s “secret postcard” and read, “I want to sleep with Richard Gere.”
Prompted by another audience question, Warren admitted he has a wonderful relationship with his mail carrier, Kathy.
“Lets just say she gets a big tip around Christmastime,” he joked.
Warren assured the audience that exposing secrets was truly a therapeutic process.
“If I could go back to fourth grade to prevent that incident, I wouldn’t,” he said. “The pain it caused stayed with me until the PostSecret project allowed me to bring it out into the light and share.”
Kristen Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.