Get Rich or Lie Trying: The Life of Wolfgang Halbig

Happy Birthday Wolfgang Halbig!

Howdy, folks. Blade here. I’ve been hard at work polishing up Get Rich or Lie Trying: The Life of Wolfgang Halbig, in between shifts down at the warehouse. But I wanted to make sure we don’t go too long without acknowledging a very important event that happened in the meantime: Wolfgang Halbig turned 74 years old this past month!

Happy Birthday, Wolfgang! (It was August 10th, to be precise.)

Now we all know that when birthdays roll around, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on our lives, and where our path has taken us over the years. So today I thought we could take a look back at Wolfgang’s life, and see how things were unfolding during three of his previous birthdays. Sound good? Let’s go!

Wolfgang Halbig’s Favorite Position

First, let’s go all the way back to around the time of Wolfgang’s 24th birthday, in the summer of 1971. He was just getting into playing college football at Abilene Christian College at the time, after getting out of the Air Force. The local newspaper, the Abilene Report, mentioned this among a bunch of updates in their college-sports coverage, with the reporter noting that Wolf should be able to perform in that position “if the coaches leave him there.”  

What I like about this (this very, very unremarkable article) is that it results in the very first time that Wolfgang Halbig was ever quoted in the press, at the age of just 24, and already, it’s him being butt-hurt and whining over basically nothing. One gets the impression that Wolfgang was actually waiting at the newspaper stand with bated breath, all amped to read about himself and how much the team valued him… then saw what the article said, and immediately went to a nearby payphone to start his cry-fest. 

The next week, the paper issues a correction; there’s only this little fragment available online, but you can tell the reporter was annoyed at what a little baby Wolfgang was about the whole thing:

Wolfgang Halbig of Abilene Christian College telephoned to report he WILL be the Wildcats’ fullback this fall. We had reported that Halbig had been shifted to fullback and should add power “if the coaches leave him there.” Halbig was somewhat upset over the statement as he is confident he will be at fullback. We did not know anything Wolfgang didn’t know so will confess, Wolfgang, that you [fragment ends]

It must have seemed odd, that this big tough-looking dude would be whining like this over something so minor. But a few weeks later, we learn why Wolfgang was so sensitive about these details: because he only got his last position after someone better got hurt:

Halbig, 25, recently was sidelined with a bruised kidney and didn’t return to drills until Monday, although he’s been running through some passing patterns in shorts. His main challenge this year, he said, is to make the starting lineup. “I don’t want to make it this year because somebody is injured. I did it last year and I think it’s a poor way to have to start.” 

So, he knew his actual abilities on the field had relatively little to do with his success so far, and the suggestion that he might get moved to another spot from fullback, or that he was somehow untested in that role, triggered his insecurities. (These sorts of paranoid thoughts likely played a role in his surprise career change a few years later: he had been talking about going into coaching, or teaching, but then suddenly, quit the school district to go be a cop. He wasn’t any good at that either, but it would come in handy later when he got into the “school safety” racket.)

Vote for Wolfgang

For our next Wolfgang milestone, let’s jump forward to the 1980’s. It’s August of 1982 in Florida, and perhaps if Wolfgang had stuck with the law enforcement career track, he’d be busting cocaine smugglers while wearing a pastel blazer and loafers with no socks, like his colleagues down in Miami around that time. But no, after ‘ol Halbig quit coaching to join the Florida State Patrol, it wasn’t even 2 years before he turned in his badge. (His reasons for doing so are… let’s just say questionable. But that’s another post.) 

So now, at age 36, Wolfgang is back in the education game, and has become a family man. He’s teaching Driver’s Ed at Vanguard High School, but as always whenever he’s teaching, he has little side-hustle project going on too. (It seems like teaching was all he was left with after his coaching gig crashed and burned — see the chapter Hurricane Fail from the archived Hoax of a Lifetime — but he couldn’t ever see teaching students as more than a foot in the door to obtain something more lucrative, so he just goes from failing at one scheme to failing at another, until his retirement.)  

At this time, his side project was to try and get involved in local politics. This started when he was just trying to get a law passed that would make Driver’s Ed mandatory (basically guaranteeing himself employment). He succeeded there, and it must have been a real thrill, because then he started running for office! 

Wolfgang Halbig’s campaign ad from 1982

On August 26, 1982, the candidates for the District 5 School Board seat assembled for a public forum (which was held at a funeral home for some reason). Wolfgang had some public speaking experience from his years coaching, but little more than that at this point.  And he didn’t have long to make the case that change was needed at the school board. So, he chose to argue that the district was afraid to give failing grades to bad students… and used himself as the example:

“When it came time to attend college, Halbig said, he did not have the grades. ‘The school board is responsible. They have to answer to you.’ They had their chance; now it’s time to put a teacher in there who knows the needs’ of local students, Halbig said.”

It’s a bit difficult to parse exactly what point Halbig is trying to make here — especially since he did not “fail” as the black students he cites did, and he did go on to college. I guess his pitch is “as revenge for letting me graduate with failing grades, now you should elect me to the school board.” It’s a bold strategy, highlighting your lack of genuine achievement as a qualification all by itself. Perhaps it’s no surprise that this strategy was not enough to get Wolfgang into a position of power. He lost, and lost so badly that the newspaper didn’t even report his vote totals. But it wouldn’t be the end of his battles with school boards in Florida — or elsewhere.  

The Buzzkill Conspiracy

For our last stop on memory lane today, let’s jump ahead 16 years and see what Wolfgang was up to in August of 1998: he’s just turned 52, and has secured a position as the District Security Chief for Seminole County Schools. This is probably the height of his professional achievements, a role with a lot of visibility and responsibility… so of course, Wolfgang sees it as a stepping stone to something more lucrative, and he starts figuring out how he can exploit it. He and some of his buddies in the school safety racket are already making plans to shift over to the private sector (to collect some of that sweet, sweet, independent-contractor money that Wolfgang already has plenty of experience appropriating). But that’s a competitive industry, and they know they need an edge.

In addition to his role as Director of Security for all schools, Wolfgang is also an administrator at one specific school, Project Excel — an alternative school, for the district’s discipline cases. And one day that August, he learned that none other than the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, was going to be visiting his school!

At this point, something happens. Here’s how Wolfgang put it, when he wrote about the event in a later article, Breaking the Code of Silence:

One central Florida school district operates a Save-A-Friend hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is contracted out through a private company, which has people manning the phones at all hours. One morning, a call was received from a high school student, who anonymously reported that drugs were being sold in the high school parking lot before the start of the school day.

Under the protocol in place, the company contacted the district’s security director — who, in turn, alerted the high school resource officer. The officer went to the parking lot, where he saw someone talking with students arriving for classes. After the man was approached by the officer and questioned, he became defensive and left. The officer pursued and ultimately arrested the man. He was taken to the administrative office of the school, where he was searched. The search showed he was carrying 22 bags of marijuana.

That morning, a top political leader in Florida was visiting the school. Television reporters were covering his visit. When the district security director received the details of the incident, he immediately informed the principal. Unfortunately, fearing the glare of perceived negative publicity that would be associated with the confiscation of drugs on campus, the principal did not share what had just happened with his visitors. As a consequence of the principal’s silence, state legislative leaders were not made aware of how well the Save-A-Friend hotline worked that morning.

Halbig while working as a representative for security contractor Sonitrol

Note that the “private company” that Wolfgang does not name is in fact Sonitrol, a company he also will go to work for, and that several of his business partners also work for. By 2000, when Wolfgang and said partners have launched the National Institute for School and Workplace Safety, Halbig is still pissed about this lost opportunity, retelling the story to a newspaper reporter… but oddly, the amount of seized cannabis shifts from 22 bags, to 28:

Halbig said the entire community needs to recognize that children will do illegal things, and come together to take preventive measures. An example: Around six months ago, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was to visit a high school campus. The morning of his visit school officials got a call from a student warning them that another student would be selling marijuana in the parking lot. Officials caught the student with 28 bags of marijuana, but the principal didn’t want Gov. Bush – and the hordes of reporters following him – to know about the bust. That frustrated Halbig, who thought it would have made a good learning opportunity about the value of working together to promote safety and lawful behavior in school. “Now Jeb Bush left that day thinking there’s not a problem. We have to share the good as well as the bad and not be afraid of it,” Halbig said.

This is another question that Wolfgang MUST answer, now that I think about it — what happened to the other 6 bags of contranband? Why is Wolfgang hiding this information? Did he smoke it? Did he sell it? Plant it on an innocent student? Personally it’s the not-knowing that really keeps me up at night… but Wolfgang refuses to answer these questions, so what else can we do but speculate?

Anyway, one thing you have to keep mind here is that the company Wolfgang was tied up with, Sonitrol, already had a contract for “tip lines” with the district, and was trying to expand that contract at the time. So in other words, on the day that the governor is visiting that specific school, the tip line that Wolfgang’s buddies profit from got an “anonymous” call that some drug dealing was going on, right where there’d be a chance that Jeb could witness the aspiring-contractor Halbig’s heroic actions in person. Serendipity!

Do you buy that? Because I don’t. I mean… it could be true, I wasn’t there after all. But it sounds to me like a more likely story is simply that Wolfgang knew there were dealers there every day, had failed to do anything about it so far, and then just called in the “tip” himself. Hell, it might even have been weeks or months prior when he first found out about this massive drug-dealing operation going on outside his school, and he chose to sit on it until he knew Jeb was in town.

Also, none of the articles name the person who was supposedly arrested, which is unusual. So maybe it’s completely made up? Maybe he just threw a few dozen ziploc baggies of lawn clippings in a drawer and told his boss he made a bust? Who knows!

Anyway, look, the weed wasn’t even the important thing: the REAL crime was that Jeb never even found out about Wolfgang’s heroism. That’s the part that really stuck with Wolfgang. He would stay mad about it for years.

And so in the years that follow, Wolfgang and his Sonitrol pals would repeatedly and shamelessly email Jeb, essentially begging for a contract (I’ll have to do a separate post just about those emails, they’re hilarious), trying to revive that opportunity that was lost in the parking lot of Project Excel that fateful morning. Maybe if things had gone differently, the National Institute for School and Workplace Safety could have landed that crucial bid, and flourished into a successful business. Wolfgang’s whole life could have gone differently after that… maybe he’d even be wealthy by now, and he’d have every school board in the state begging for his help. He could get back at all those professional educators who laughed at him over the years, and dominate them with his incredibly valuable and consistent ability to keep schools safe.

But it just wasn’t to be. He’d have to find another way to exact revenge on the education system that had so spurned his gifts. Yeah…. someday he’d show everyone…. somehow…

..Well, that’s all for today! Take care, fellow wolf-watchers, and one more time: Happy Birthday Halbig, from your biggest fan!


Austin “Blade” Tompkins is a certified forklift and order-picker operator located in the province of Ontario. He was an active Sandy-Hook “hoaxer” from 2013 to 2014. He has been sober since 2015.

Share this: