For many people who've been around these parts for some time it's hard not to have recent lurid revelations of sexual misconduct by faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy dredge up memories of another sexual deviant who taught at an equally prestigious prep school that shares much of its name, heritage and tradition, the infamous Pumpkin Man of Phillips Andover Academy.
David Cobb, a well-liked and respected English teacher at the prestigious Andover, Mass., prep school for more than 25 years, was arrested in at his home in Gilford, N.H., back in August 1995. Prosecutors said he tried to assault a 12-year-old boy he'd met on a street in Farmington, N.H. The prosecutors said Cobb pretended to work for a summer camp and offered the boy $20 to help retarded children change out of their bathing suits.
When stopped with the boy and questioned by police officers, he was wearing a T-shirt with "Camp KYO" lettering on it, and had more than 500 photographs, most of naked people. He also carried, prosecutors said, a pumpkin mask and a handwritten list titled Pay Scale for Pumpkin, which listed prices for acts like "allowing pumpkin to lotion you."
Further accusations that Cobb had shown photographs to a 13-year-old boy in Rochester brought about felony charges of exhibiting child pornography.
He was found guilty in May 1996 after a jury trial in Strafford County Superior Court.
The nightmare continued for Lebanon.
A month after the New Hampshire verdict an indictment out of York County Superior Court accused Cobb of two counts of unlawful sexual assault involving two Lebanon children in a 1985 incident: a girl, then 9, and boy, 12.
The indictment said that in July 1985 Cobb approached four children playing along the Salmon Falls River and told them he would pay two of them $5 each to help him remove sand from a retarded person's bathing suit. According to then assistant district attorney Kathy McKechnie, while Cobb was wearing a pumpkin mask, he sexually assaulted one of the children. The children's parents filed a police report, but they never realized who it was until the New Hampshire case came to light.
The 18-month jail term imposed by a York County Superior Court judge in 1997 ran concurrently with Cobb's New Hampshire prison term of eight to 18 years.
Cobb got out of jail in 2007 and moved to Dennis, Mass., on Cape Cod, but it wasn't until 2009 that the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board classified him as a Level 3 sex offender, which allowed the police to release his photograph and address, according to an article in the Cape Cod Times.
Cobb, now 79, fought through the years to have his case overturned, arguing in court that his pictures, most of which were made by pasting children's faces from clothing catalogues onto images of naked bodies from adult magazines, were works of collage art protected under the First Amendment.
"I modified the face because I'm an artist," he told the Cape Cod Times back in 2009.
But some photos showed actual naked children, according to The Associated Press. A prosecutor said a note on the back of one of the photos said "Mary, 10" was fondling a man in a pumpkin mask "while smiling Jennifer watches."