A mentally ill man who allegedly was obsessed with the Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn turned himself in to Brooklyn police Thursday for violating two restraining orders. Benjamin Campbell, a 35-year-old from Ottawa who lives in Brooklyn, had been charged with stalking Finn in August 2017 when he sent the singer hundreds of Instagram messages – up to 30 a day – for more than two months. At one point, according to the New York Daily News, he threatened to slit the singer’s throat and promised that an upcoming Hold Steady concert would be “a funeral feast.” Finn asked Campbell to stop, but he persisted.
Finn, whom Campbell compared to Jesus Christ, obtained an order or protection against him, as did a local bar owner whom Campbell threatened to kill after vandalizing the bar. Campbell, who reportedly works for an artificial intelligence startup and penned a dissertation on neuroscience, pleaded guilty to aggravated harassment and disorderly conduct. A judge ordered him to go to a mental-health program. The paper reports that Campbell is bipolar and suffers from bouts of suicidal depression. Since he didn’t complete the mental-health program, a judge issued a bench warrant.
In the meantime, he’d been arrested in Texas on felony arson charges for setting fire to a Best Western. One day earlier, Campbell told his mother that he’d been listening to Finn’s song “Galveston” and felt compelled to commit the arson. “The beautiful thing,” he wrote, “is that I have a gas canister and several lighters and will simply burn it all the ground if not freed by noon tomorrow.”
His parents told authorities they were close to obtaining a mental-health warrant for him, while his lawyer, Philip Gommels, blamed his behavior on “another acute episode of psychosis,” per the Daily News.
Finn declined to comment on the situation to Rolling Stone through a rep.
An anonymous source close to the Hold Steady told the paper that they had become aware of him in 2017. He claimed that Finn was Jesus and that bands that followed around them were apostles; if he were to start a group, he said, it too would become apostles. At one point, Campbell spent $125 for Finn’s handwritten “New Friend Jesus” lyrics, which the singer personalized for him. The source also said Campbell had a Hold Steady tattoo on his chest.
Campbell began posting threats to social media again recently. The source also believed that he had spray-painted the building where Finn lives and left a package with books and song lyrics outside it.
Finn has felt the need to move twice because of the harassment. He’s also taken the measure of making concert promoters aware of Campbell and asking them to check their ticket logs.