Interesting Facts

Interesting Facts About Mary Ellen O’Toole, PhD

On the significance of color: “I think color says a lot about a person and your message. I pay attention to the color of clothes people wear—or the color of their hair. I love the color red and I have red all over my house and five colors of red in my hair. It is definitely a post FBI hair color.”

On the love of animals: “We always had animals growing up, always strays or rescue dogs. My mother would not let me have a cat because she was badly scratched by one when she was a little girl. Initially her fear of cats became my fear of cats, too. Then in graduate school, while living in a trailer by myself, my loneliness for a pet was so strong. I knew I couldn’t have a dog so I adopted Moonie, a rescue kitten.

I later went on to adopt Miffy and Muffy, two rescue cats. I was so over the top about these cats. One time when I was traveling on business, I waited in line at the animal cargo office to ship Miffy and Muffy so they could come with me. I had notes all over that carrier like, “These are my treasured babies,” “Please don’t hurt these cats as I love these animals,” and, “Watch them closely.” I heard the airline worker on the phone apologizing because he had accidentally shipped a dead body to Rochester, New York instead of to Rochester, Minnesota, causing the deceased man to miss his own funeral. I was so freaked out over this. I turned and ran out of the office. I was muttering, “How can I expect him to take care of my babies, if he cannot even get that poor man to his own funeral?”

On books and reading material: “On my bookshelf you would find many titles about psychology and crime. But I also love history and have many books about it—especially books on Abraham Lincoln and what he was like. Lincoln’s home was only six blocks from where I grew up in Springfield, Illinois. My mom used to tell me that Abe Lincoln’s ghost walked down the alley behind our house late at night. When I was small, that scared the heck out of me. Even today, I would never walk down that alley at night!”

On why she went into law enforcement: “Some people might say I was hard wired for law enforcement. My father was an FBI agent for a while and my mother was a secretary for the FBI in the Springfield, Illinois Field Office. Mom used to take the train up to Chicago from Springfield where she would take short hand for J. Edgar Hoover. In fact, I have a picture on my desk signed “To Isabelle Murphy with best regards J. Edgar Hoover.” My brother Michael O’Toole was a San Francisco Police Office for many years, and my brother-in-law Andy Caster was an FBI Agent for nearly 30 years. It’s in our blood.”

On being uneasy around the site of blood: “Despite all of the grisly crime scenes I’ve seen over the years, I’ve never been comfortable around the site of blood. I vividly recall when I was a sophomore in high school and it was time for me to dissect a frog. I thought I was going to die. I hyperventilated, got dizzy and ended up walking out of the class. My teacher, a very strict nun, could not coax or even demand me back into that class that day. I never completed that exercise and I barely got a passing grade in biology.”

On airline travel: “I travel so much and I try hard not to irritate my fellow passengers. I am careful not to smack people in the face with my suitcase as I attempt to find my seat. If you sat next to me on the plane I would be very quiet. I would not invade your armrest space or tray space. If I sat in front of you, I would never push back my seat back and box you in. I would also be buried in a book and not likely to engage in idle conversation. If I do talk with someone, I am nearly always asking them questions or following them in the stories they are telling me. If you sat next to me, I doubt you would even remember me.”