Police Warn Of ‘Evil Elmo,’ A Man Harassing Residents Of Santa Cruz While Dressed As Cookie Monster

Published February 27, 2023

For years, a man with the nickname "Evil Elmo" has terrorized cities across the United States while dressed up as Sesame Street characters — and he was most recently spotted in Santa Cruz.

Evil Elmo

Robert Caplin/New York TimesA man named Adam Sandler, also known as “Evil Elmo,” is reportedly terrorizing the Santa Cruz community by dressing up as Sesame Street characters and yelling at tourists.

Police in Santa Cruz, California are warning tourists and residents to avoid a “creepy” man dressed as Cookie Monster. Authorities have identified him as the same perpetrator also known as “Evil Elmo,” a street performer who earned that nickname a decade ago by terrorizing people in major cities across the United States while dressed as the beloved muppet.

For years, the 59-year-old man, who goes by the name Adam Sandler (no relation to the actor), has wandered from tourist hotspot to tourist hotspot, adding to his RAP sheet as he goes.

In each city, Sandler dresses up as a Sesame Street character and stations himself in a crowded area, inviting visitors to take photos with him. Once they do, “Evil Elmo” often launches into vulgar rants, conspiracy theories, or anti-Semitic tirades, especially if his customers refuse to pay up for the photos.

“At first glance, it just seemed like maybe it would be fun to do a selfie with him,” Michelle Roberts, a tourist visiting Santa Cruz, told KSBW news. “We went to the back of the wharf by the deadlines, and that’s when we saw him coming out making a commotion and getting in people’s faces.”

Several residents and tourists have already complained about Sandler’s behavior to the Santa Cruz police.

“We are getting calls from people who say he is ‘creepy,'” Santa Cruz police spokesperson Joyce Blaschke said to KRON4 News. “Based on his history, we advise the public to not engage with this individual. Steer clear from him.”

Who Is The Man Behind “Evil Elmo?”

Sandler already had a long history of disturbing behavior prior to appearing on Santa Cruz’s wharf.

In 1999, Cambodian officials deported Sandler from the country after he created a pornographic website called “Welcome to the Rape Camp,” which featured videos of nonconsensual sex.

In 2012, the NYPD arrested Sandler for disorderly conduct after he launched into an anti-Semitic rant in Times Square, allegedly in response to some customers neglecting to tip him.

“I’m Jewish myself,” Sandler told The New York Post in a bizarre statement after his arrest. He claimed that people who refused to tip for photos represented “Jewish business interests.”

In 2013, the NYPD arrested Sandler again after he attempted to extort $2 million from his former employer, the Girl Scouts of America. The New York Times reported at the time that Sandler emailed the Girl Scouts and “threatened to spread the false story that the Girl Scouts regularly arranged sexual encounters between men and its campers if he did not get the money.”

The courts sentenced him to a year in jail, and two former employees issued restraining orders against him.

Sandler later received substantial news coverage as a street performer in San Francisco. Several residents complained that “Evil Elmo” made them feel unsafe and uncomfortable, and according to SF Gate, the San Francisco police arrested Sandler in 2014 after he reportedly shouted at a woman: “I’m going to rip your throat out.”

Evil Elmo In San Francisco

Sam Wolson/SF GateAdam Sandler in San Francisco in 2014. San Francisco police arrested him after he made threats to local vendors.

The city of San Francisco eventually banned Sanders from the Fisherman’s Wharf and Embarcadero piers, and he has since relocated to several locations across the United States. According to the LA Times, Sandler lived out of a maroon van and traveled the country in it. Reports place him in places such as New York, Los Angeles, and even Hawaii.

“Evil” Cookie Monster Arrives In Santa Cruz

Currently, Santa Cruz appears to be Adam Sandler’s home, and the police want to make sure that he does not cause any trouble in the city.

“He is exercising his First Amendment rights,” the Santa Cruz Wharf said in a PSA on Facebook. “However, if you have concerns about inappropriate behavior or him claiming to be hired by the City or a business, you should contact Santa Cruz Police immediately.”

But while multiple people in Santa Cruz have already reported Sandler for harassing victims on the wharf, law enforcement cannot do anything until Sandler commits a crime in the city, and “Evil Elmo” has yet to do anything illegal.

“He’s looking to make a little bit of money, most likely going through some struggles in life, and found a way to make a few bucks offering pictures to people,” a resident named Nick Padron told KRON4 after getting a picture with Sandler. “At the time he didn’t seem too bad. (I) even got him to chuckle little bit.”

One Los Angeles business owner, who reported Sandler for battery in 2016, shared his opinion of Sandler to the LA Times: “I would like to see him get some kind of help. I don’t think he belongs out on the street… No one wants to hear the Cookie Monster say he’s going to kill their family.”

After reading about Adam Sandler, the “Evil Elmo,” read about how the Muppets were never meant to be child friendly. Then, read about Peter Scully, a man who made a child pornography empire on the dark web while living in the Philippines.

Amber Breese
Amber Breese is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.