Kidnapping seems pretty straightforward: Grab some folk, send a ransom letter, collect the money, then eventually burn in whatever hell there is reserved for people like you. But in practice, kidnappings can get complicated in a hurry. And that's when we get clusterfucks like these ...
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There are two things you need to know about J. Paul Getty: He was an oil magnate with enough wealth for a Scrooge-McDuck-style gold hoard, and he'd never dream of having one because it would mean having to pay a janitor to keep it clean. See, Getty was the kind of guy who gleefully set up a pay phone in his mansion for guests.
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Getty's deadbeat grandson, John Paul Getty III, was kidnapped in Rome by Calabrese bandits on July 10, 1973. They demanded a ransom of $17 million. Naturally, the elderly Getty began negotiations ... on the amount. They say you can't put a price on family, but apparently you can, and that one was too much. After a few months of highly-publicized stalemate, the kidnappers got fed up, cut off Getty III's right ear, and mailed it to a newspaper. Accompanying the grisly gift was a threat-filled letter that nevertheless dropped the ransom to around $3 million.
Getty's reaction to the threat: more haggling. He wasn't willing to go a penny higher than $2.2 million. Maybe it would've been 2.5, but now that his grandson was no longer in mint condition ...
Just kidding! There was an entirely more horrible reason for that oddly specific sum: Getty's accountants had informed him that $2.2 million was the maximum tax-deductible amount in the situation.
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In the end, Getty ended up producing the tax-deductible $2.2 million. Then he loaned the rest of the ransom money to his son, John Paul Getty II ... at 4 percent interest.
What? That's a solid interest rate on a human life!
After six months of captivity, a traumatized, one-eared John Paul Getty III was released, and promptly became a drug addict who ended up paralyzed after an overdose-induced stroke. Nine kidnappers were arrested, and although the situation likely did no favors to the atmosphere at the Gettys' thanksgiving dinner, we're betting that was the last time anybody tried to kidnap any of them.
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In December 1975, six terrorists led by the infamous Carlos the Jackal shot their way into OPEC headquarters in Vienna during a major summit. They burst into the conference room and kidnapped 60 politicians of more than a dozen nationalities. Wisely timing his assault so that Bruce Lee was busy spin-kicking halfway across the globe at the time, Carlos managed to get the place on lockdown, and threatened to blow it up unless his demands were met. And they were. A reading of their manifesto on the radio? Sure. A jet for transportation? Absolutely -- whatever could go wrong?
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The officials wheeled Carlos' crew and dozens of handpicked hostages to an airport, where a fully-fueled passenger jet was waiting. At this point, Austria started feeling a little uneasy about the whole "letting a bunch of terrorists flee the country with a whole bunch of important people" aspect of the situation. So they asked the terrorists to make the hostages sign forced statements saying that they were accompanying Carlos voluntarily.
Austria watched the plane take off and breathed a sigh of relief. They were no longer technically accountable! As for Carlos, he and his posse headed off to Algeria and Libya, eventually releasing their captives for a rumored 50 million dollars of ransom money.
However, the universe rarely passes on an opportunity for some solid irony. Twenty years later, the Jackal himself was kidnapped by his own bodyguards in Sudan and secretly flown to Paris to be held accountable for his crimes. Hopefully, the Sudanese had him sign a waiver first.
Canadians enjoy a reputation as some of the nicest people in the world, despite the fact that anyone who's seen a hockey match knows they're capable of unspeakable atrocities. A Canadian would be difficult to hold guilty even if he were, say, caught kidnapping a billionaire in an attempt to sabotage a powerful country's political structure.
We know this because that exact thing happened in 1989.
It was the morning of Brazil's first free presidential election in 25 years. Billionaire supermarket mogul Abilio Diniz was on his way to work when he was dragged out of his Mercedes by kidnappers. The kidnappers issued a ransom of $5 million to Diniz's family, and started breaking his will by the CIA-approved technique of blasting loud music.
But instead of cracking under the weight of the 1980s Brazilian equivalent of Nickelback, Diniz devised a plan. He dared the kidnappers to crank the volume up to 11. They obliged. The neighbors started getting disturbed by the noise, and complained to the authorities. It appears they take noise complaints very seriously in Brazil, as the cops stormed the place, arrested the kidnappers, and rescued Diniz.
The kidnapping operation turned out to be a multinational one. Among the arrested were one Brazilian, five Chileans, two Argentinians ... and two middle-class Canadian college students. The Canadians, David Spencer and Christine Lamont, claimed total innocence despite being caught red-handed.
And Canada totally bought it. Their media portrayed Spencer and Lamont as hostages unjustly held in an impoverished, backwater banana republic, and relentlessly crusaded for their release. Having its nuts caught in a vice grip by one of the most democratic countries in the world was not an optimal situation for Brazil, a nation struggling to establish democracy itself. In 1998, their government finally gave in, and the duo was released to Canadian authorities.
Of course, Spencer and Lamont were completely guilty. In 1993, documents found in a Nicaraguan terrorist hideout revealed they were members of multiple terrorist organizations who had been involved in a political kidnapping ring. In 1998, the two finally admitted to kidnapping Diniz, which did nothing to stop Canada from paroling them in 2000. It was the polite thing to do.
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It's no secret that politicians are more prone to kidnappings than most people, but at least you'd expect that they'd catch a break when they die. In 1876, Big Jim Kennally, leader of a Chicago-based counterfeiting gang, proved this assumption wrong when his head engraver was unexpectedly imprisoned. Unable to literally make money, he decided to move to the next most logical thing: kidnapping the dead body of Abraham Lincoln and ransoming it for $200,000 and a pardon for his engraving guy.
Kennally went on to recruit saloon owner and nickel counterfeiter Jack Hughes as his partner in crime, as well as some random dude who was suspiciously into dead presidents. Unsurprisingly, said dude turned out to be an informant for the Secret Service anti-counterfeiting agency.
And so, thoroughly screwed from the start, the robbers headed off to Springfield and Lincoln's grave. First, they found out that none of them could pick the lock to the mausoleum, and had to painstakingly file through it. In the burial chamber, they were utterly unable to lift the 500-pound casket. It was like a Three Stooges period piece -- and even the Secret Service messed up their end. Informed by their, uh, informant, they laid in wait for the grave robbers. Until one of the agents' guns accidentally went off and alerted Kennally and Hughes, who immediately escaped. Because at this point everyone was determined to be as stupid as they can, they ran directly to Hughes' saloon, were promptly apprehended, and sentenced to the harsh maximum sentence of ... one year in prison. (Illinois had never thought of making grave-robbing a serious crime before this.)
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Meanwhile, the corpse was successfully stolen by a different guy.
The caretaker of the tomb, John Power, was horrified that someone had almost pinched Abe. To make sure this would never happen again, he and some friends carried Lincoln into the tomb's labyrinthine basement and secretly buried him in a shallow, unmarked grave. Over time, the group came to see themselves as the secret protectors of Lincoln's remains, hiding it from other wannabe grave robbers and Weekend At Bernies-ing it to new locations on the grounds whenever necessary. The president's son, Robert Todd Lincoln, eventually decided that enough was enough. In 1901, he arranged for his dad's corpse to be lowered into a 10-foot vault, in a steel cage, encased in tons of concrete.
In March 23, 2015, masked gunmen broke into the house of Denise Huskins, tied her up, and threw her in the trunk of their car. Her boyfriend was drugged and left on the couch with a note demanding a $15,000 ransom. The police showed up, only to call a cartload of bullshit after Huskins was found alive and free two days later. The police chief was angry enough to call the kidnapping a blatant hoax in front of the media, which attracted protest from Huskins, her boyfriend, and ... uh, the kidnappers?
It seems that Denise Huskins is, like, the coolest. Instead of succumbing to Stockholm syndrome (in which the kidnapped comes to identify with the kidnapper), she almost immediately infected her kidnappers with it instead. In a couple of days, they realized Denise was super-the-best, and decided that they were being total assholes, so they released her without bothering with a ransom. When the kidnappers saw their ex-captive getting harshly railroaded in the media, they chose to take this attitude up a notch. They sent a three-and-a-half-page email to the San Francisco Chronicle, criticizing how the police were treating their victim, even using the term "Reverse Stockholm Syndrome" to explain what had happened. They followed this two days later with a 20-page email that provided details only the kidnappers could have known to prove that they were the real deal, and demanded that the police apologize to Huskins (which they eventually did).
A quote from the email:
We cannot stand to see two good people thrown under the bus by the police and media, when Ms. Victim F and Mr. Victim M should have received only support and sympathy.
Cool as this was on the criminals part, it wasn't all that smart. Their effort to clear Huskins' name provided the police with enough clues to track them down. Just goes to show that no good deed done immediately after a really bad deed goes unpunished.
Zachary Frey has never kidnapped anyone for ransom because he is too busy writing his other fantastic articles.
That's not the only way to escape your kidnappers. Get more survival tips in 5 Insane True Stories of Hostages Outsmarting Their Captors and 6 Brilliant Ways Hostages Outwitted Their Captors.
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