- "You know what, Michelle? I'm going to tell you, what I told him... You need to eat, you need to sleep, and you need to start showing me a little bit of appreciation... My name is Howard, by the way."
- —Howard to Michelle
Howard Stambler is the main antagonist of 10 Cloverfield Lane. He was a former US Sailor who worked with satellites, but he discovered alongside his teammates a terrible secret. After that he became an insane and paranoid man and began to prepare himself for an unknown threat of some kind.
- "Little trick I taught myself as young man stationed on a ship with way too much free time. Every now and again, if the CO was working us too hard, we'd freeze and snap the knob off the bathroom door while he was still inside. It usually took him an hour or two to get out."
- —Howard tells Michelle about his days in the Navy.
Howard served in the Navy for fourteen years working on satellites. On a mission called "SEASAT" - intended to track Soviet Spy satellites - he found something "much bigger" than he expected. Howard and his co-worker reported what they'd found and inquired about what it was, but their commanding officers refused to answer. The mission was shut down, and Howard's co-worker was sent to prison for life (a 365-year sentence). Howard was threatened with the same fate if he didn't stay quiet. He left the Navy, but continued quietly searching.
- "There was this mission called SEASAT. We were supposed to be tracking Soviet spy satellites but what we found up there was much, much bigger. So they cancelled the project and made up a story to explain why. But one guy I served with, he understood the importance of what we were seeing. He was kind of a mentor for me and the few others who didn't want to let it go. So we began compiling all of this evidence. And once we started looking for it, we saw the signs everywhere. We assembled so much evidence and tried to get the commanders to listen, but they didn't want to hear any of it. They shut us down, and they accused my mentor of spying for the Soviets. They sent him to prison for 365 years and they made it clear that they wouldn't hesitate to do the same to me if I didn't stop asking questions. They didn't want to answer. I left the Navy not too long after that. But I never stopped looking."
- —Howard's message to his daughter, Megan
- "Do you remember how everybody thought the whole world was going to end when it turned 2000, and I built us that little bomb shelter out back? I don't know what I was thinking - that tiny place would have lasted us about a week, especially with how much your mother complained about it, no matter how many times I tried to make her happy."
- —Howard on one of his messages
After Howard retired, he married a woman named Denise, and had a daughter named Megan. However, Howard was still traumatized and paranoid from the SEASAT findings, and went to extreme measures to protect his family, even building a bomb shelter on their backyard to protect them from a potential Y2K disaster (despite his wife's complaints). As time passed Howard become more aggressive and paranoid with his family, blowing up at Megan because she accidentally displaced a medal of his father's. Fed up with Howard's paranoia, Denise moved to Chicago, taking Megan with her.
Building the Bunkers
- "He bought this property a while back. I never paid much attention, until he hired me to help him get this place set up."
- —Emmett to Michelle
At some point after his divorce, Howard moved to a small farm near Houston. He hired a young man named Emmett DeWitt to help with construction of his bunker, which took several years. He also built a separate bunker near Megan's grandmother house in case she wouldn't be able to reach him.
Working for Tagruato
- "Howard will celebrate his 7-year anniversary with Bold Futura in the fall. This month, Howard's drive, commitment and refusal to accept easy answers resulted in a significant breakthrough diagnosing transmission complications with two of our governmental clients' orbiting satellites."
- —Description about his work and accomplishment
Around 2009 (one year after the events of Cloverfield), after his retirement, he was hired and worked at Tagruato, perhaps to continue his research (and possibly because of the connection between Tagruato and the Incident of New York). In the movie, the letter from Bold Futura to Howard can be seen. After working for Tagruato for seven years, he was awarded for the Employee of the Month of February 2016, a month before the events of the movie.
Sometime after finishing his bunker, Howard kidnapped a young girl named Brittany to live with him and assume the role of his daughter Megan; but after Brittany attempted to escape, Howard killed her. According to Emmett, everyone thought that Brittany had simply run away from home.
Trying to Contact Megan
- "I hope that you can see this now. I've been trying to email you and call you, but you haven't answered. It's okay, I figured out why - your mother is blocking my email, and she made you change your number. I forgive you, it's not your fault. "
- —A message from Howard addressed to Megan
In order to save his daughter from an incoming threat, he created (around February 2016), a website called FunAndPrettyThings.com so he and Megan could talk in private, discussing the imminent attack and how she could be prepared for it. Megan never answered, but Howard's ex-wife Denise found out about the site, confronting Howard about it and telling him to seek professional help.
In 10 Cloverfield Lane
- "You're lucky to be here at all.
What do you mean?
I found you, and I saved your life, by bringing you here.
I don't understand.
There's been an attack.
An attack. A big one. I'm not sure yet if it's chemical, or nuclear, but down here we're safe."
- —Howard and Michelle
After Michelle wakes up, Howard enters the room bringing her a crutch. Michelle desperately begs for him to let her go, stating that her family must be looking for her, but Stambler tells her that 'no one is looking for [her].' After he leaves, Michelle burns her blanket in order to lure and attack Howard, but she fails to hear Howard before he sedates her. When she wakes up again, he tells her that she has 'fight' in her, and that he respects that; Michelle, however, still begs him to let her go, but he states once again that there is nowhere to go, informing her about the attack and telling her that they are safe in the bunker.
He also tells her that he brought her here after her accident, remarking that he saved her life. Michelle thanks him and tells him that she should go to an hospital, but Howard insists that they can't leave as the air of the surface is contaminated. Then Emmett accidentally knocks over a shelve, to which Howard begins to yell at him. He then tells Michelle what he told Emmett: that she needs to eat, sleep, and to show him 'a little bit of appreciation.' He then leaves the room telling her that his name is Howard.
In the bunker
- "Shouldn't we at least try... to call the police? Someone to find out what actually happened?
There's no one left to call."
- —Michelle and Howard
After hearing noises from above Michelle believes that it could be a car, but Howard denies this, insisting that the surface is contaminated. She argues that they should at least try to contact someone, but Howard states that it is useless. He then decides to take Michelle to 'know' his pigs Frank and Mildred, both of which are seriously burned. Howard states that that is what happens when someone is exposed to the air.
- "Do not let her in!"
- —Howard to Michelle
At night, Howard invites Michelle and Emmett to the dinner he cooked. During dinner, Emmett keeps talking about regretting not being able to get a tattoo, then comments that they could spend their time in the bunker playing board games. This makes Howard uncomfortable, and he tells Emmett to let him and Michelle eat. Michelle, however, tells Emmett about the board games she used to play as a child, and in the process inadvertently flirts with him. Howard, enraged, sees this as an insult and demands for her to tell him what she’s up to. Emmett tries to calm Howard down, but he tells him to shut up; while he is distracted, Michelle steals Howard's keys. He then makes Michelle apologize and promise that she will behave.Just when Howard realizes that he has lost his keys, the group hears a car above. Michelle grabs a glass bottle and breaks it over Howard's head, then tries to escape. Howard goes after her, but when Michelle was going to open the second door, a woman with a blistered and scarred face appears outside and begs Michelle to let her in. Howard, however, orders Michelle to not do it as she was exposed. With a more aggressive tone, the woman demands Michelle to open the door, but the former marine tells her that she can't help her. The woman then begins to smash her head against the window until she collapses.
After the incident, Howard confesses to Michelle that he crashed into her car, saying that he was in a rush after he found out about the attack. After a shower, Howard tells Michelle to help him stitch his injury up, as she caused it. Michelle states that she is not qualified, but Howard tells her that he will guide her on how to properly do it. Later Howard, gives Michelle some of Megan's clothes, to which Michelle asks if she was her daughter. The older man shows Michelle a picture of 'Megan' and tells her that she moved to Chicago with her mother after she 'turned her against me.' He then comments that people are 'strange creatures,' as one can't always convince them that 'safety is in their own best interest.'
A Little Peace
- "My guess? Those flashes that kicked this all off? The was phase one. Take out your opponent's population centers with big hits, all at once,fast. And then for round two. Ground Sweep. A satellite log showed an increase in coded traffic recently. Possibly extraterrestrial signals. I bet what we've just heard were airborne patrols sent to hunt down the remaining signs of life."
- —Howard to Michelle and Emmett
As time passes, the trio begins to adapt to a life in the bunker, becoming friendly towards each other and acting almost like a family. But in a few days, they hear some strange noises coming from above. Although Emmett believes it could be a helicopter, Howard states that it might be an extraterrestrial ship. However, this causes the air filtration systems to fail, which Howard states will result in everyone running out of air if they don't fix it. Howard then tells Michelle that she must go to fix it, as she is the only one small enough to reach it. Guided though the vents by Howard, Michelle manages to reach and subsequently fix the air system.
Thanks to Michelle's work, the air filtration system started working again. However, unbeknownst to Howard, Michelle and Emmett discovered a message written one the hatch of the air filtration system's room that said Help, alongside a bloodstained earring that Michelle remembered seeing on the picture that Howard showed her. However, Emmett recognized the girl, stating that her name is Brittany and that she had disappeared two years ago, after which the two realize that Howard had kidnapped and killed her. They are briefly interrupted by the former marine himself, who congratulates them and states that that is a great example of teamwork, and starts dancing to some music, telling Michelle that she should take a shower.
- "I accept your apology."
- —Howard right before killing Emmett
After a while, Howard discovers that some of his tools have gone missing and suspects Michelle and Emmett, who are secretly making a makeshift biohazard suit to escape the bunker and get help. While she is working on the suit, Howard tells Michelle and Emmett to help him to move a barrel to his bedroom. Once Howard reveals that the barrel contains perchloric acid, he threatens to kill them if they do not confess what they where doing.
Emmett decides to cover Michelle by taking all responsibility, claiming that he was using the tools to get his gun, and that he feels sorry for it. Howard accepts Emmett's apology, shoots him in the head, killing the man instantly. He comforts a devastated Michelle stating that 'it was the way it was always supposed to be.' He then proceeds to burn Emmett's remains with the acid.
- "You're going to walk out on me? After I saved you? And kept you safe? This is how you re-pay me?"
- —Howard to Michelle
Some hours after killing Emmett, Howard, now shaved, visits Michelle in her room, bringing her ice cream and saying that they can now they can now be a 'happy family.' After she finishes the suit, Howard reappears to tell her that dinner is ready, but he finds the Biosuit. Michelle locks him in her room and proceeds to escape the bunker, but Howard gets free and corners her in his room. She kicks the acid barrel over and he falls into the liquid, burning his face and igniting an electoral fire.
Michelle goes back to her room to recover the suit, but she is cornered by Howard again. She manages to knock over a shelf on top of him, briefly knocking him unconscious. Even after that damage, however, he soon stands back up again and tried to force her back into the bunker with a knife while she is crawling through the air ducts. He grabs her leg and in desperation pleads for her to stay as he claims that she can't run away from 'them.' Michelle barely manages to escape before the bunker explodes from the fire minutes later, killing Howard in the process.
Personality and traits
- "You think I sound crazy. It's amazing, you people...You wear helmets when you ride your bikes, you have seat-belts, when you're in your cars, you have alarm systems to protect your homes. But what do you do when those alarms go off? Crazy, is building your ark after the flood is already come."
- —Howard to Michelle
Howard was an aggressive, mentally unstable, paranoid and violent man, caused by his time in the U.S. navy and the SEASAT mission. He refused to let things go, this is evident as even after he left the Navy he couldn't stop looking for information about what he and his colleagues saw, and spent the rest of his life searching for answers and information, which slowly began to drive him mad and paranoid. He also took extreme measures so he and his family could be prepared for imminent threats, but his paranoia was what ultimately destroyed his relation with his family. He was also short-tempered and emotionally unstable, going from being calm to extremely aggressive, and was intolerant towards other peoples mistakes and wanted everything to be in perfect order, he also demanded other people's respect, and appreciation. Howard was an extremely paranoid man firmly believing that an attack could come from anywhere at anytime, and he was also know for his numerous conspiracy theories, with Emmett commenting that he was "a black belt in conspiracy theories." Howard also stated that he "knows what a traitor looks like."
Howard seemed to care deeply for his daughter Megan as he wanted to her to be safe, going as far as to build two separate bunkers and creating a website in order to deceive her so he could communicate and help her be prepared for the upcoming attack in secret. According to his ex-wife Denise, however, Howard was aggressive towards her, stating that he became furious with her because she accidentally misplaced the medal he gave her. However, it appears that Howard refused to recognize that it was his fault for being estranged from his family, and instead chose to blame Denise , who never believed in his conspiracy theories, stating that she turned Megan against him.
It appears that some time after his ex-wife and daughter left him, Howard tried to somehow replace Megan by kidnapping a local girl named Brittany and trying to make her assume the role of his daughter, forcing her to live with him in the bunker. However, when Brittany tried to escape, Howard killed her. With Megan not answering his messages, Howard tried to look for a new 'daughter,' to which end he decided to kidnap Michelle and keep her as prisoner during their stay in the bunker, treating her like his daughter. However, that didn't mean that Howard was soft with her; he threatened Michelle when he saw she was flirting with Emmett, which Howard took as an insult.
Howard was also intolerant towards Emmett as he tried to enter on the bunker, although ge reluctantly allowed him to stay. Despite Emmett meaning no such disrespect to him, Howard still showed anger at the other man's attempt to keep an optimistic and positive attitude about their stay in the bunker, which the former marine was annoyed by and considered to be mocking their dismal situation. However, this was be more likely due the fact that Emmet's presence ruined Howard's plan for being alone with Michelle. After accepting the blame for his and Michelle's actions, Howard made Emmett apologize only to execute him, claiming that that was the way it should be. With Emmett gone, Howard finally had the father-daughter dynamic with Michelle, and acted as if nothing serious had happened.
Alternate Reality Game
Howard was awarded as the employee of the month of February of Bold Futura, as it can be seen on the Tagruato website. On his picture, Howard can be seen wearing a T-shirt that says Radioman70. By entering Radioman70.com it will lead you to the website FunAndPrettyThings.com which was designed by Howard.
On that website, you can see several photos of Megan's hobbies, including a screenshot from the movie "Pretty in Pink" (which Howard mentioned as Megan's favorite movie and was seen watching it.) However, this is the only picture you can click on and then it asks for a password which is "Do you want to talk?" (which is a phrase from this particular scene in "Pretty in Pink".) It then takes you to a chat site, which features messages send by Howard (using the name Radioman70) to his daughter Megan, who is referred to as Radiogirl). The messages shows an attempt from Howard to to warn his daughter about an upcoming attack, with some messages containing links to real world websites and news. There is also another page known as "Life Preserving Information" which, as the name says, contains tips and information on how to survive the attack, it also has more links to real world websites and a simulator (also designed by Howard).
There is no answer from Megan, however, which Howard assumed meant that her mother has prevented her from contacting him. However Denise, Howard's ex-wife, found out about the site and confronted him, calling him sick and stating that it was a violation of his restriction order. She told him to leave her alone and to forget about them, as he needed to accept that he 'will never see Megan again.' She stated that she was 'tired of being afraid of [him]' and accused him of trying 'to [take] away everything that [she has] worked so hard to rebuild,' and finished the message by telling Howard to get help and to let her move on.
The last message left on the chat is from an unknow person that identifies as 'NL,' who starts the message with apologizing for his intrusion and comments that he needed 'somewhere away from prying eyes and ears.' He also states that he and Howard have 'danced along a fine line between enemies and friends,' and that he has 'always respected [him] as a colleague and taken [him] seriously.' He finishes the message by leaving an encrypted audio file that contains a messaged that can be decoded by using Slow Scan TV. Although the identity of the person that sent the message is unknown, it is highly likely that it could have been Nikolai Razo who, like Howard, used to work for the U.S. Navy, and began to work for Bold Futura after retiring, being awarded as the employee of the month of March.