I live in a friendly, family-oriented neighborhood—or at least it used to be until “X” moved in about two years ago. He is withdrawn, is reclusive, and hates children. He leaves the lights off at Halloween and shouts at any children who knock on his door. He’s lodged several complaints about kids coming into his yard without permission and sent notes to everybody warning that he was not prepared to take on any liability for their safety on his property. He’s had particular difficulty with my 7-year-old son, who seems drawn to his home, and he’s gone from complaining to me to saying horrible things to my child. This runs the gamut from telling him that there is no Santa Claus to a detailed description of the crimes of serial killers to an explanation of how animals are butchered for meat. I’m furious, but X insists that the situation is entirely my fault and has warned that the next time my son steps onto his property he will bring charges. Do I have any recourse here? How do I persuade this angry, unpleasant man that harming a child with words is out of order? And what do I say to my son, who is now having nightmares about serial killers and afraid to cross the street?
—Neighbor Hates My Son