The Man Who Collects Secrets

    17 May, 2015

    Some people collect postage stamps -- the small pieces of paper you place on letters or postcards before mailing them. Other people collect works of art, antiques or musical instruments. But a man in the American state of Maryland collects...secrets.

    For the past 10 years, people from throughout the world have been sending Frank Warren postcards and other objects with secrets written on them. He now has a million secrets.

    "It's a drawing of an elevator. And the secret says: ‘I feel guilty when I take elevators for one floor, so I limp when I get out.'"

    Mr. Warren lives in Germantown, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. Ten years ago, he created an art project he calls "PostSecret."

    "I invited strangers from all around the world to write down their deepest confession on a postcard, something they'd never told anyone else before, but something that was true. And I asked them to mail it to my home anonymously."

    People send him postcards, other objects and emails telling their secrets. Every Sunday, he chooses 10 secrets and puts them on the PostSecret website.

    "The way I choose to see it is someone is finally finding the strength and courage to make their heart vulnerable."

    Mr. Warren says he created PostSecret so people would have a safe place in which to share their secrets.

    "I was struggling with secrets in my own life. And it was by creating this safe place where others could share their secrets with me without judgment -- anonymously -- I think that space was something I needed just as much as they did."

    He has published six books full of the secrets people have shared with him. One secret in each book is his.

    Eric Perry delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He has brought thousands of secrets to Mr. Warren's home over the past three years.

    "I have a couple of the books that Frank's given me and I've read 'em all and my family's looked at em all and it's, it's wild!"

    The project itself was once one of Mr. Warren's secrets. His wife Jan did not know exactly what he was doing until the first book was published.

    "The publisher actually called me, and told me that the address was going to be on the book, and I said ‘No, it's not.' And she said, ‘Yes, it is -- it's in the contract.' And I said, ‘No, it's not!' I mean, I was really...I wasn't very happy about that."

    Some people tell Frank Warren of their secret desire to kill themselves. So he and the PostSecret community have raised more than $1 million to help prevent suicides.

    I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.

    VOA's Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu reported this story from Germantown, Maryland. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    postcard – n. a card on which a message may be sent by mail without an envelope and that often has a picture on one side

    antique – n. art, furniture, jewelry or other objects that were made at an earlier time and are often valuable

    elevator – n. a machine used for carrying people and things to different levels in a building

    limp – v. to walk in a slow and awkward way because of an injury to a leg or foot

    confession – n. a written or spoken statement in which you say that you have done something wrong or committed a crime

    anonymously – adv. being done by a person who is not named or identified

    wild – informal/adj. very enjoyable, lively, interesting or exciting