For 15 years, anyone could call a number in Manhattan and apologize for anything they’ve ever done in total anonymity. The answering machine would tell them they had reached “The Apology Line” and could confess about whatever it was they felt they needed to apologize for. But, it quickly spun out of control, from people confessing to petty thievery, infidelity, and cheating on tests in grade school, to abusers and murderers confessing their crimes. And the man behind it all, Mr. Apology, had to listen to them all, until one day, he received a confession more dangerous than ever.
From Wondery, “The Apology Line” is hosted by Marissa Bridge, the wife of Mr. Apology himself. She met Allan Bridge in 1981, just one year after the start of his apology line. The project was an experiment: the answering machine asked that people call from a telephone booth and not reveal their names to preserve the idea of true anonymity.
He wanted to line to be a place where people could free themselves of their burdens and be able to move on from whatever plagued them. Whether the person they wanted to apologize to could never know their secret, was no longer a part of their life, or even dead and unable to hear an apology, Bridge invited people to apologize without jeopardizing themselves. His plan was to eventually play the calls in public, hence the “no names” rule.
But not everybody played by that rule. The first disturbing call that Bridge had recorded came from a man named Mike Devito, who confessed to beating gay men and taking their money. He said that he would let them bring him back to their apartments, where he would beat and rob them, confessing to even murdering a man. There was no apology.
At this time, Bridge had allowed a reporter to hear some of the tapes, and in the SoHo weekly news, he wrote about Mike Devito’s confession. Shortly after, there was a murder case in the New York neighborhood of Chelsea, where two men had picked up two other men at a bar and taken them home. Both men were attacked, one dying from his wounds. Soon, Mr. Apology got a call from a detective investigating the case.
Allen was totally unprepared to get involved with law enforcement. Having committed some petty crimes in his youth, he was extremely wary of police. But the detective had read the SoHo Weekly article about Michael, believing that the M.O. he described in his apology line call matched the crime in Chelsea. But Allen’s project was supposed to be a vice, a tool for people, even criminals, to get their sins off their chest and diffuse their guilt. He had to decide whether to honor the pledge he had given to callers, to not pass on their tapes, or to help bring a potential murderer to justice and give the recording to the police.
Allen eventually gave the detective the tape and never heard about what happened with the recording. This was just one of many murders and serious crimes that would be recorded on “The Apology Line.” But none were more terrifying than the apology of a man who swore he would kill Mr. Apology. His gleeful tone and nearly buoyant threat of death before he even commited a crime was so disturbing, Allen had to get help. Hear the story from the woman who knew Mr. Apology best and what ever happened to “The Apology Line.”