The Maddening Story Of The Kansas House Blamed For Everything

Thanks to a computer error, every crime that couldn't be pinpointed was traced to one farm.
The Maddening Story Of The Kansas House Blamed For Everything

Your IP address uniquely identifies your connection to the internet. It can also identify your physical location ... kind of. Companies, like one Massachusetts firm named MaxMind, offer a service that pinpoints exact real-world addresses based on IPs you send them. Sometimes, though, MaxMind has no info on an IP address. For years, when a client asked them about one of these addresses, MaxMind gave them a default location, one smack in the middle of the United States. 

That location was a farm in Kansas. The 360-acre property is part of the town of Potwin, but the nearest other person lives a mile away. In 2011, James and Theresa Arnold moved there. The farm was fairly close to a nursing home where Theresa's mother stayed, but like we said, it was otherwise very isolated. They didn't expect many visitors.

They received hundreds of visitors, mostly law enforcement. Sometimes it'd be about stolen vehicles supposedly traced to the farm. Sometimes, they'd accuse the farm as being the headquarters of a computer fraud operation. Other officers would bang at the door at night, having received reports that someone inside was attempting suicide.

Some visitors weren't police, and these were worse. Random vigilantes tried to break in, hearing that James and Theresa were imprisoning children. Activists online shared the couple's name and location, encouraging others to come by. One time, a toilet appeared in the driveway, dropped off as some kind of message—they never figured out what the deal was with that, but it was scary. 

After five years of this, a reporter named Kashmir Hill (now with the New York Times) figured out what was going on and let the Arnolds know. They got MaxMind to finally stop sending sleuths their way ... and also sued MaxMind for all those years of suffering. A court sided with the couple, and they settled, hopefully for three or four zillion dollars.  

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Top image: Josh Redd/Unsplash

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