Aug. 21, 2007 — -- Do you ever have a creepy feeling that things aren't where you left them? Perhaps you put your hairbrush down on the sink, only later to find it somewhere else. Or you're sure you closed your dresser drawers, but you come home to find them pulled slightly open.
Twenty-four-year-old Nicole Bishop had just moved to Houston when she started noticing odd things in her one-bedroom apartment.
Bishop, a pharmaceutical sales representative who grew up in a small Oregon town, returned home from work on numerous occasions in 2005 to find her lights turned on -- in the closet, her bedroom, even in her bathroom.
"I knew something was wrong. I had that intuition from the beginning," Bishop said.
At first, Bishop didn't act on her suspicions. "I just kind of chalked it up to losing my mind," she explained. But over the course of two months, the number of unexplained incidents increased and became harder to ignore.
"I found a package delivered from UPS on the back balcony of my apartment," Bishop said. "And the only way to get to that back balcony is to actually walk through the apartment."
Bishop's boyfriend, a student who lived an hour away, became increasingly worried. So the couple devised a plan to put their suspicions to the test. When Bishop left for work one morning, she dropped a tank top just inside the door. If the door was opened while she was away, the shirt would be pushed aside.
"When I got home that night, I peeked my head around the corner, and it was clear up against the wall," Bishop said. "I'm thinking 'Oh my God, somebody's been in my house!'"
Bishop was reluctant to alert authorities without some physical evidence. "I mean what would I call and tell the police?" she asked. "My lights are left on?"
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said, "We just don't have enough police officers to go around and they're not going to sit in your living room waiting for some stalker to come by."
Bishop's boyfriend suggested she buy a hidden camera to catch the intruder on tape, and with the surveillance industry booming, Bishop had dozens of hidden cameras to choose from. The technology has progressed a long way from the jerky images captured by the first "nanny cams," and cameras are hitting the market in all shapes and sizes.
One manufacturer in Jacksonville, Fla.,custom makes hidden cameras that look like dozens of common household products. Safety Technology (http://www.safetytechspy.com/hidden-cameras.htm) can outfit a Pringles can, a tub of Oxi Clean, a container of Slim Jims, a tissue box and even a baby wipes box -- all with a camera planted inside that videotapes through a tiny hole, almost impossible to see without careful study of the packaging.
Bishop settled on a digital clock with a tiny camera hidden in its face. She set up the device so that it faced her front door and then added bait to her trap -- some lingerie left lying on the couch. She hoped the intruder would be distracted long enough for the camera to get a good shot. For good measure, she again placed the tank top behind the door as she left.
When Bishop returned home that evening she was relieved to find that the tank top had not been moved. At her boyfriend's suggestion, she decided to test out the camera anyway, assuming it would have recorded a clip of her entering the apartment minutes earlier. "[I] sat down and plugged it in. Thinking, OK, it's going to show me walking in. Well, next thing I know, I'm looking down, and I see that there's all these different tidbits of footage."
What she found confirmed her worst fears. As she watched on her computer screen a stranger poked his head through the door and then entered her apartment. "I lost it," she said. "I'm seeing this person…picking up my underwear, [he] starts smelling it. And you know, then I see him just walk around my apartment just looking through my things."
The video showed the intruder undressing and putting on Bishop's lingerie. "He's wearing it," she said. "He's pleasuring himself. He's…doing really strange things with my furniture." Then, in the video, the man put his own clothes back on, placed everything back carefully where he had found it, and exited the apartment.