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The True Story Behind Baby Reindeer Makes The Netflix Hit Even Scarier

This article contains discussions of sexual abuse and mental illness.

If you felt disturbed by the new Netflix original miniseries "Baby Reindeer," you'll probably be unhappy to know that the real-life story of the crime is even creepier.

Concocted by British comedian Richard Gadd, "Baby Reindeer" tells an unsettling story of a man who offers a free drink to a woman while he's working as a bartender ... a decision which leads to her stalking and harassing him nonstop. According to Gadd, who spoke to several outlets about the series, though he changed his name and some specific details about the events, they did happen in real life.

Though the character Gadd plays in the series is named Donny Dunn and his unnamed stalker is named Martha, he did reveal that he endured some of the deeply harrowing things depicted in "Baby Reindeer." 

"It's very emotionally true, obviously: I was severely stalked and severely abused," Gadd told The Guardian. "But we wanted it to exist in the sphere of art, as well as protect the people it's based on."

Gadd also spoke to The Times UK in April of 2024 about the incident, saying that he did, in fact, offer a free drink to the anonymous woman before things went haywire. "At first everyone at the pub thought it was funny that I had an admirer," Gadd said about the 2015 incident. "Then she started to invade my life, following me, turning up at my gigs, waiting outside my house, sending thousands of voicemails and emails."

Richard Gadd says he endured constant, frightening attention from this woman

Apparently, Richard Gadd was relentlessly harassed and stalked by this unnamed woman; just like Martha does in the show, the stalker began showing up at his stand-up comedy shows and announcing her presence from the audience. She watched his house and abused him, and even started targeting and harassing Gadd's parents (another horrifying circumstance that's depicted in "Baby Reindeer"). Gadd says that he received thousands of emails, hundreds of written letters, and endless social media interactions and voicemails from the woman. When Gadd spoke to the police in real life — yet another situation he dramatized for the show — they dismissed his concerns, apparently feeling as if a case where a woman stalks a man wasn't serious. 

"When a man gets stalked it can be portrayed in films and television as a sexy thing," Gadd said during his interview with The Times UK. "Like a femme fatale who gradually becomes more sinister. It doesn't carry as much threat of physical violence, is less common and can be trivialized."

Not only that, but Gadd says that he was genuinely worried that the woman would come after him physically: "I was physically scared because I didn't know how far she could take it, she could have a knife, but I did think how terrifying it would be if she was a tall scary man."

Richard Gadd says writing Baby Reindeer helped him heal

In the show, Martha ends up going to prison, leaving Donny in a very confused and fraught space as he tries to heal. While talking with the Times UK, Richard Gadd said that the situation is officially over, but he didn't get into specifics. "It is resolved," he said. "I had mixed feelings about it — I didn't want to throw someone who was that level of mentally unwell in prison."

In a different interview with The Independent, Gadd said that it frightened him that the police didn't seem to take his situation particularly seriously, and that he still suffers from issues related to his abuse and stalking. Still, he says working on "Baby Reindeer," which itself was based on Gadd's one-man show, really helped. "When you go through quite a relentless ordeal of stalking, it does imprint itself upon your soul a little bit," Gadd said. "I still live in its aftermath a bit, for sure, but I guess that's why I do the art: to work through it, to understand it, to try and let go of all these kinds of things."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.