I thought Bob Dylan had fallen in love with me – then he asked me for $5,000

Mystery man: Bob Dylan
Mystery man: Bob Dylan

I have known Louise for 30 years. She’s a writer and traveller, the author of several highly praised books who has visited some of the most remote parts of the world. She’s smart and funny with one great and abiding passion – Bob Dylan.

She is almost exactly Bob’s contemporary. For almost as long as he has been making records, she has been listening to them – avidly. His influence was so strong that after hearing Like A Rolling Stone she dropped out of her PhD in literature. She’s read all the biographies, but never dipped into a Dylan discussion forum or fan page. Having lived in India for some years, Louise (not her real name) is nobody’s fool. But she is the first to admit that she’s a little naïve about social media.

But sometime last year she took the plunge, and joined a Dylan forum on Facebook.

Somebody had posted a story, going back to 2009, about how Dylan, who has spent much of his life on the road, had been talking to GPS companies about using his voice for satnav directions, raising the problem for potential users, as Dylan remarked at the time, that “whichever way I go I always end up at one place – Lonely Avenue”.

Louise posted a comment – “everything that comes out of your mouth is poetry.”

Shortly afterwards, she received a direct message from another poster on the forum, telling her that Bob sometimes liked to communicate personally with his fans, and attaching a link to the encrypted app Telegram. “You never know,” the message said. “He might reply.”

Bob Dylan in 2012
Bob Dylan in 2012 - Chris Pizzello

What Dylan fan has not imagined a conversation with their idol about his songs and his life? Louise had often dreamed of just such a meeting of minds herself. She’d never heard of Telegram, but suffused with hope she registered on the site and dispatched a message, telling Bob how important a part he’d played in her life.

The next day, to her astonishment, she received a reply. It was Bob, thanking her for her “kind words”, telling her how much “prayers and support” from his fans meant to him, and asking her to tell him more about herself. And so it began…

She told him where she lived, talked about her travels, her books and her dog – she loves her dog. Bob, it turned out, loved dogs too. He told her he had a dog and a cat, and revealed surprising insights into his life and thinking. He talked about how he “loved going into the woods, going fishing, watching football and watching the stars,” and lamented he was “lucky with most everything but not love. I have been hurt and jilted by a lot of beautiful women.”

(Bob? Could this be true?)

They had been messaging on and off for some weeks – Bob was busy touring – when Louise asked if he could send a recent photo. “How,” she asked, “do I know you’re the real BD?”

He replied, “I am not a picture person of which you know. You know how I value privacy and simple life.”

But he sent a picture anyway, taken, he said, during his last European tour. It was Bob sitting in upper class in what appeared to be an Emirates plane. Emirates do not fly internal routes in Europe. He seemed to have grown his hair, and darkened it, and he was wearing a Covid mask.

But by now the relationship with Bob was continuing apace. He had begun to address her as “dearie” – was that really what Bob called his girlfriends? – and they were exchanging stories about their loves and betrayals.

He talked about the court-case where he had been accused of grooming and sexually abusing a woman in 1965, when she was 12. The woman had dropped her claim and the case had been thrown out of court and dismissed with prejudice.

“Sad,” he wrote, “is my other name. A lot of people have taken advantage of my kindness and I felt heartbroken so many times, even my so-called management. I just want to love and loved [sic] by the right woman.”

He had been by himself “for over 30 years now,” and celibate for ten years. “In fact I can hardly remember what it’s like. I want the love that’s been locked in my heart for so long to be unlocked by that special lady.”

Perhaps Louise was that special lady?

“You must have been the second woman GOD created after Eve,” he messaged her. “GOD must have lavish abundant time to make such an enchanting.”

Such an enchanting what exactly?

Something strange was happening to Bob. Maybe it was all the touring and late nights, maybe the duplicities of the music business or the lack of love in his life, but his syntax and grammar was getting weird. “Got home not quite long, will definitely write at dawn” he wrote in one message, adding in another, “I love to be seen as a commoner in the society.” That was… odd.

But there were other matters to discuss. Louise had raised the topic of a meeting, perhaps in the UK when he was next here on tour. She invited him to her birthday party. “I feel you inside my whole being,” he wrote. “I am sure we will meet and if you feel it too it will happen.”

He had put her in touch with someone called Ava who, he said, looks after such things. Ava had replied, offering Louise a “meet and greet” VIP package with Bob – for $5,000.

Louise wrote to Bob. “I find it hard that you expect your fans to pay to see you privately. Do you really need to do this?”

“It’s just normal procedure,” he wrote. If he had his way, fans would be coming to his shows “for free”.

Meanwhile she had received another message from Ava, offering to reduce the price to $3,000 because she was “Mr Bob’s special friend”.

She wrote to Bob. “I don’t want to pay to be your friend and can’t afford it either. Secondly, I will always think it’s a scam and I’m being taken for a ride. Bob, why is this happening?”

“You’re getting it all wrong,” he wrote. ‘When two hearts beats [sic] as one then there is this consciousness the bearers feel for each other. My heart is a fragile one and I don’t think I can stand another pain considering my age.”

The relationship had descended into doubt and distrust. She wrote to Bob, telling him that she wanted to speak to him personally and to call her on WhatsApp.

“I have so much to deal with here,” he replied. “I’m the one whose image is been tarnished [sic]. I’m the one who have to attend so many court cases when I also have to prepare for concerts next month. It’s so frustrating when you make things complicated for me too.”

To allay her doubts, he told her that the Telegram account they were messaging on had been verified “by Pavel himself.”

Louise wrote back: “Who’s Pavel?”

“The founder of this app.”

“And where does he live? Ukraine? Russia?”

“That’s not for me to know,” Bob wrote back. “My management team were the ones in contact to make sure the verification happens.”

Things were going wrong.

Louise had been talking to a friend, who told her that Telegram is a rabbit hole of conspiracy theorists, “an endless series of Russian dolls”.

Bob wasn’t Bob at all! She messaged him. “There’s no such thing as a verified telegram account!”

“Your scepticism,” he replied, “is what acting on your consciousness making you believe just what you want to believe. It’s okay. We will write at dawn here and you have a wonderful day.”

She messaged him back. “The game is over.”

Of course she was disappointed. Who wouldn’t be? In their most intimate conversations, despite his eccentricities and his wayward syntax, she was finding herself falling into something like love with the bogus Bob.

It was clear that the thing to do now was to alert Bob – the real one – that he was being impersonated online by a fraudster. And so she reached out to Bob’s son Jakob, formerly the singer with the Wallflowers and now enjoying a flourishing solo career, to help.

There are a number of Facebook pages for Jakob Dylan. Louise sent a message telling Jakob about the bogus Bob.

A few days later, a reply came back, thanking her, saying she could contact Bob herself, and attaching a link to another encrypted app, Signal.

She sent a message saying she had been given this address by Jakob, warning Bob there was an imposter using his name to take money from fans, and including the email address of the bogus Bob – robertzimmerman****@****.

The reply came the next day.  “My son talks about you. I’m the only Robert Zimmerman alive. Block him immediately!”

And so it began – again.  The conversations about their lives – although they did seem to be mostly about Louise’s life, with Bob offering words of encouragement and interest. “Tell me more.”

They had been talking for only a week or two when he made a surprising confession – he thought he was falling in love with her.

“Your beauty is like a captivating work of art, radiating elegance and grace,” he wrote. “Your eyes seem to hold the entire universe within them twinkling with a million secrets and dreams. The curve of your smile is like a gentle caress, instantly brightening the world around you…”

It was not exactly Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, and suggested Bob might have been shopping at Clintons cards, but the sentiment seemed sincere. Even if he did add. “You won’t be my wife.”

A few days later, Louise raised the subject of the Hamas attack on Israel. “I’m so heartbroken towards this incident,” Bob wrote, although he seemed to know little about it, and to have other, more important things on his mind.

“Baby,” he wrote. He was in need of a $500 gift card – “Razer Gold Cards or Amazon, ok? For online streaming. Also I want to update my game site.”

Could she oblige?

Who knew Bob was into online gaming?

A few days later, he wrote again.

He’d performed that night, he said, and after the show had the privilege of spending some quality time with fans who had purchased VIP tickets.

“First I greeted my fans with warm smiles and expressions of gratitude for their unwavering support. We shared stories, basked in the glow of charmed memories from past performances, and discussed our favourite moments from my show.”

Had he mentioned she too could buy a VIP ticket? And while they were on the subject, had she managed to buy a gift card?

If she was having problems downloading one, he wrote, she could always go to Walmart and buy one.

She replied, there’s no Walmart in the UK, and couldn’t he download or buy one himself?

“I do not know how to go about downloading,” he replied. And it was impossible for him to go to Walmart “for security reasons”.

Louise was having her doubts. Was this really Bob?

“I am Bob Dylan,” he wrote back, and to prove it he sent a voicemail on Messenger. Well, it certainly sounded like Bob – anyone could recognise that distinctive nasal drawl, the world weary tone. And the message was affectionate, reassuring. And why not? Despite her doubts, the relationship was proceeding apace.

He was calling her by a pet name by now, Ms Lovely (“What name will you love me to be calling you?”), and telling her, “It will be an exciting moment to make love with you.” (Heart emoji.)

Perhaps it was the heat of rising passion that accounted for the fact that he seemed to be having the same problem with his syntax as the bogus Bob.

“You’re a good observant,” he wrote. “I will love to hear your voice severally.” But what exactly did he mean by “Hope my love you will surprise by your space?” Or “I love asking for people opinions most.”

In fact, Bob seemed to be showing less and less interest in her opinions, when she talked about her work, her travels, the fact that she was getting her basement damp-proofed and the state of politics in Britain.

When she told him of her admiration for Rishi Sunak he replied that “this a kind hearted man indeed,” adding in the next sentence: “I will advise the citizens should vote him out in the forthcoming election.”

What’s more, could she really trust his reassurances that “I love you and I will always continue loving you” – when the next line was “you haven’t paid for the card, you have to complete the payment.” And if she was still having trouble she could always send the money by PayPal instead. “I promise I will reciprocate when I meet you finally early next year.”

Louise replied: “Why don’t you just pay for it yourself.”

She told him she wanted to talk with him in person.

He wrote back, “Please let me know if you’re not still believe that I’m Bob. I give you free access to Carry out the test thank you.” He gave her a number to call on WhatsApp.

Perhaps Bob was out, but the person who picked up didn’t sound like Bob at all. He sounded Eastern European – like a Russian doll.

“You’re not Bob Dylan,” she said. And if Bob wasn’t Bob, Jakob couldn’t be Jakob.

She hung up.

A few weeks later, she was telling the whole story to a friend, just as I’ve told it to you. Give me the phone, her friend said and I’ll give Bob a call. Somebody picked up the phone. “I’m Louise’s husband,” her friend told him. Bob hung up.

Louise received a message later that day. It was from Bob, saying he didn’t know she was married. She isn’t.

Reader, she blocked him. At last.