5 Shady Moves Pulled in the Dead of Night
Nighttime is the domain of vampires, werewolves and owls. It is not for people. Even if you consider yourself a night owl (or a night werewolf/night vampire), you’re spending those hours working. Or reading this article. Or drinking. But either way, you’re missing plenty of what goes on in the world around you.
When someone wants to sneak something past you, night is the time for it. Then the morning comes. You walk out and see their handiwork. Your jaw drops, and you say, “What. The. What.”
Chicago’s Mayor Quietly Bulldozed an Airport
Until a couple decades ago, Chicago had a little airport they’d built on Lake Michigan. If you were flying Delta into the city, you’d land at O’Hare or at Midway, but if you were riding in your own private Gulfstream, you might land at Meigs Field Airport. Having an airport so close to downtown was also useful in case you were getting some fresh kidneys shipped in, and you needed to quickly get them to a hospital — or to the meatpacking district.
In 1994, Chicago announced plans to get rid of Meigs Field and replace it with a park. Building a park isn’t so easy, however; you could create a whole TV series about the process. Between all the natural roadblocks written into the law and the further objections raised by anyone with an interest in the matter, a decade went by without any progress. Then on March 30, 2003, without any authorization from anyone, Mayor Richard M. Daley sped things up by just sending in bulldozers in the middle of the night.
The bulldozers didn’t raze the whole place, which would a big job, even for an airport with just one runway. But they bulldozed giant X’s into the runway, rendering it unusable and putting the airport out of operation. A firetruck shone a spotlight at a webcam trained on the airport, to stop it from recording what was happening. More than a dozen planes were in the airport at the time. They now had no way to leave.
The move was illegal, and the FAA issued a fine, but they naturally fined the city, not Daley personally. Also, they didn’t fine it very much, and they afterward changed the rules so they can fine more if anyone else tries the same thing.
Daley justified his decision by saying it saved everyone from more years of court battles, and also by employing a foolproof argument: 9/11. If they left Meigs Field in place, terrorists could use it and attack downtown Chicago, he argued. This made so little sense that no one bought it, not even in 2003. Meigs’ proximity to downtown made a difference when you were coming and going on the ground, but it’s no easier fly a plane in a Chicago skyscraper from Meigs Field than from O’Hare. The 9/11 flights didn’t even take off from New York.
The bulldozing had some added significance because the terminal at Meigs Field had been dedicated by Daley’s father, Mayor Richard J. Daley, who had fought off attempts to close the airport while he ran the city. And so, Daley closing Meigs Field was like killing his father. Next on his bucket list is having sex at the Chicago Public Library, which had been saved from closure by his mother.
Wall Street’s Bull Statue Was Erected Illegally
New York City’s Charging Bull statue is a symbol of Wall Street and a big photo spot for anyone wandering the financial district. Everyone wants to pose with the sculpture, and also to rub his massive balls. Always, you must take two photos: one at the head and one at the balls. The balls are so polished from years of caresses that they’re now the shiniest part of the statue.
You might assume this is an installation officially commissioned by the city, but that’s a whole lot of bull. In reality, it’s a sculpture made by two guys and originally plunked down without permission. Artist Arturo Di Modica had the idea for it in 1987, the year of the big Wall Street crash. Clearly, life was precarious, observed Di Modica, but America had been pretty good, as far as his own observations went. He’d arrived in New York in 1970 as a random immigrant and had become rich making art. He now wanted to tell everyone else to stay strong.
He spent the next two years on the sculpture. Normally, you don’t have individuals making 3-ton bronze statues without someone commissioning them to, but Di Modica paid for the $350,000 of metal himself. Like we said, he was rich. A second artist, Domenico Ranieri, helped him finish the piece. Then on December 14, 1989, with the aid of 40 friends and a crane, they transported it from Brooklyn and left it in front of the Stock Exchange building in the middle of the night. Di Modica had previously cased the area and noticed that police patrolled every 10 minutes or so even at that hour, so they had to time the drop carefully to avoid being caught.
When the city awoke the next morning and saw the bull, cops carted the statue away with great difficulty. Only a little bit after that did everyone realize no one had any objections to the statue. The city then returned it to what would be its permanent resting place, though at the time, everyone assumed it was temporary. The move was authorized by the Parks and Recreation Department — a department that, we should mention again, really is full of wacky shenanigans.
The Liberation of the Minks
A mink coat is made from minks, which are furry little animals, kind of like ferrets. Minks are not to be confused with a minx, which is a flirty woman. We mention this because many people who are perfectly aware of what a minx is still think it’s a reference to some animal named a minx, so let’s clear the matter up. There is no such animal as a “minx.” No one knows the etymological origin of “minx,” but it has nothing to do with minks.
Some people look at photos like the one above and think, “Hey, a cute animal like that shouldn’t be killed to make coats.” Such people may find themselves part of the animal liberation movement, sneaking into farms and breaking beasts out of captivity. California dudes Tyler Lang and Kevin Johnson approached an Illinois mink farm in 2013 late one night. They opened the cages with bolt cutters and set 2,000 minks free.
A few days later, police caught the pair, now scoping out a fox farm. The cops were a little suspicious of these men wearing masks and bearing burglars’ tools. A search of their car uncovered books titled Thinking Like a Terrorist and Unconventional Warfare Devices and Techniques, along with bomb-making ingredients.
Both men went to jail, a place their lawyer noted totally failed to cater to their requests for vegan food. A court also sentenced them to pay the mink farmer $200,000 for his lost livestock. The activists hadn’t meant any harm, they later insisted. They’d even spray-painted “liberation is love” on a barn, to show they were motivated totally by love.
And what happened to all the freed minks? More than 500 died running through the town. Cars ran over many of them. Others succumbed to dehydration. The farm managed to retrieve the rest but could no longer use their fur thanks to all of them getting mixed up and no longer being properly labeled. We can assume these minks were all put to death — but if you really, really hate fur, the very fact that they never became gloves must sound like a victory.
Milk on the Mountain
In August 1947, two guys decided to climb Mount Hood in Oregon. One was George Padon, who’d fought in World War II. The other was Gary Snyder, a high schooler at the time and a future Pulitzer Prize winner. They left early in the morning, each carrying a 50-pound pack. They spent the night at the summit, eating corned beef hash, soup and Jell-O, a menu immortalized by Snyder’s notes on the trek.
They had the entire mountain to themselves, as far as they could tell. But at the summit, they saw something strange. There was a glass bottle of milk, placed there just like it was being delivered to someone’s home. And there was a newspaper. The really weird thing was, it was that day’s newspaper, reporting on the latest happenings of the Greek Civil War.
Someone had climbed the mountain that previous night (making excellent time) and had left both those items to mess with them. The newspaper, though dated that day, had been printed the previous evening. That’s how The Oregonian handled their Sunday editions in those days. The nighttime climber was Ross Petrie, which might not mean anything to you, but the crazy part was that his identity remained a mystery until The Oregonian revealed it 55 years later. Petrie had climbed the mountain from a base in Mount Hood’s Timberline Lodge, a location you might know from the exterior shots in The Shining.
Petrie had had to stay at the Timberline as part of his job with the U.S. Forest Service, which is sadly a completely different department from the National Parks Service. He died in 2012, just six months after he was unmasked as the milkman. With the truth known, his quest was complete. They scattered his ashes on Mount Hood.
The Baltimore Colts’ Owner Moved the Team to Indiana Under Cover of Night
The Colts used to be from Baltimore before they moved to Indianapolis. You’ll know that already if you’re familiar with NFL history or familiar with Baltimore’s long history with horses. By the end of the 1960s, however, Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom’s eyes started wandering. He wasn’t a fan of the Baltimore stadium where the Colts had to play. Memorial Stadium had some bleachers where seats were supposed to be, blocked a bunch of people’s views with pillars and had just one locker room for both the home and visiting teams. Plus, it served the Orioles as well, so it had to function as both a football field and a baseball diamond.
Some owners might demand a city build a new stadium, at the taxpayers’ expense. Rosenbloom was up for that, but he also tried building a stadium of his own — if Baltimore would just agree to demolish Memorial Stadium as well. Baltimore did not agree to this. Rosenbloom gave up and palmed the Colts off on a new owner, Robert Irsay, in exchange for the Los Angeles Rams.
Irsay had even less affection for Memorial Stadium than Rosenbloom, and he didn’t have much affection for Baltimore either, since he lived in L.A. Over the next decade, he kept demanding the city build a new stadium, and when all plans to do so fell through, he started talking about moving the team elsewhere. The NFL gave their blessing, but the city of Baltimore wasn’t a fan of the idea. So one day, the Maryland Senate gave themselves permission to seize ownership of the team from Irsay.
Figuring the government might exercise that option and grab the team by eminent domain, Irsay moved the team to Indianapolis one night in March 1984. We don’t mean he signed some papers to change their city affiliation. We mean he moved them, physically. He brought 15 trucks to the training facility that held all the team’s stuff. These trucks loaded up and then all took different routes to avoid anyone capturing the whole convoy. Once they reached Indiana, state police escorted them, no doubt willing to engage in a firefight with any Maryland staties who interfered.
It might not sound immediately obvious why the location of team equipment and memorabilia is key to defining where the team is based. Nevertheless, Irsay’s scheme worked, and courts dismissed all the resulting lawsuits against him. The newly christened Indianapolis Colts were welcomed by their new city. They then went on to an absolutely stellar first season, in which they were arguably the worst-performing team in the entire NFL.