If you were stopped at an intersection and suddenly saw some dudes run out, pry up the manhole cover from the street, and take off with it, you'd think you were watching some fraternity prank or somebody's wacky scavenger hunt. The thieves have now created a deadly trap door in the street, and for what? What the hell are you going to do with an iron disk that probably takes two people to carry? Well, this is an incredibly common crime.
There have been over 10,000 confirmed cases of theft in Calcutta, 900 in Birmingham, U.K., 30 in North Carolina, and 166 in Florida (a feat pulled off by exactly one man). Why are they doing it? The obvious answer is they're selling them for scrap, but is there honestly no easier sources of iron laying around? It's not gold, they make all sorts of random shit out of it.
Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images
Yeah, stuff like irons and, uh ... hmm ...
Remember that standard manhole covers weigh more than 100 pounds and are difficult to pry loose -- they're made to be that heavy specifically so they can't be moved. In the case of Calcutta, where over 10,000 covers have vanished, those things are made of freaking concrete (they're busting them apart to get the iron rods out of the middle). But at least with that example, the thieves can claim they found the iron rods laying around or something. What possible story are the other manhole cover thieves telling to the scrap metal dealers?
Keep in mind, one thief walked into a recycling center with over 150 sewer covers from the same county the recycling center was in. Is scrap metal just a "don't ask, don't tell" type operation? "Yes, these are, uh, coins from my homeland. They're all giants there. As you can see, these bear the name of our emperor, 'Polk Co. Sewer Dept.'"
"Just put them with all the Route 69 signs people keep 'finding.'"
In late 2012, a truck containing 40,000 pounds of material was bound for Texas, but never reached its destination. Several days later, another truck containing the exact same amount was bound for Miami, and it too went missing. Both trucks originated from the same California location, which means whoever did this went back to the scene of the crime and did it again. The perpetrator has not yet been found.
But our Cracked composite sketch artist believes they'd look something like this.
At face value, this sounds like something straight out a Hollywood blockbuster: an imposing, 6'2" supervillain (with an equally imposing Russian accent, no less) arrives at a storage facility, steals valuable products worth over $300,000, and disappears into the night, evading law enforcement to this very day. The difference is that the target here was 300 grand in fucking walnuts.
And it turns out that stealing a fortune in nuts isn't that hard, either. The guy drove up in a semi, said he was there to pick up the walnuts, and they were like, "Sure!" and loaded them up. Then he drove off. Boy, we bet the guys at the storage facility felt like fools when they realized they'd just fallen for the oldest trick in the nut-stealing book. Or not, because later the guy came back and did the same thing again. He had obtained the the proper purchase numbers somehow, so they handed them over.
"Where in the world are you going to get a counterfeit walnut shipping invoice?"
"I've got a guy."
And not only has the guy never been found, but neither were the nuts. No stores have confessed to buying stock off the guy, so either they're lying, or this guy is sitting in his office right now, surrounded by 80,000 pounds of goddamned walnuts, desperately searching through cookbook after cookbook for good recipes. That, or he just wanted to fill his house with nuts and go swimming naked through them. It's 40 tons of walnuts, what can't you do?
Related Reading: For more of the unsolved-est crimes in history, give this link a click. You'll learn the terrifying tale of all the severed feet washing up in British Columbia. For some unsolved mysteries with really obvious solutions, click this link and go to town. Follow up with ten more unsolved crimes explained by science, like the sailing stones of Death Valley that move of their own accord.