4 Neighbors So Bad, the Government Had to Get Involved

If a neighbor asks you to hold on to a mysterious box for them, just say no
4 Neighbors So Bad, the Government Had to Get Involved

Many people fantasize about the post-apocalypse, reasoning that such a setting will let each of us live free from neighbors. You’ll surround your home with high walls, and if anyone comes by, you can just kill them — and that’s officially allowed, because they’re a zombie. 

For now, though, we’re stuck with neighbors. We’re also stuck with a functioning society, which is just as well, because you sometimes have to appeal to wider society to come save you from these terrible neighbors. Neighbors such as…

The Owner of the Smelly Box

In 2019, Maria Merino gave her neighbor a mysterious box for safekeeping. We know what you’re thinking — we’ve seen Se7en, too — clearly this box held a severed head. But keep in mind that a severed head is not the only dubious item a box can contain. Merino confided to her neighbor that this box held her collection of sex toys, and she needed someone to hold them for her to keep the cops from seeing them. 

cardboard box

Christopher Bill

“I need help attending to my box. I also need to store this cardboard container.” 

Merino’s live-in boyfriend, Jesus Baranda, had abandoned her recently after seven years together, she told the neighbor. This explained why she needed a whole box of vibrators, and it was also why the police were coming around to interview her. Vibrators weren’t illegal or anything, but they were too embarrassing to have around where the cops could joke about them. They were also perhaps a bit embarrassing to store for a friend, but the neighbor accepted the request. 

The summer went by, and the box started to smell. Despite not relishing the thought of examining contents that could smell so bad, the neighbor finally did open the box. It contained a man’s severed head. Whoops — turns out your Se7eny instincts were right, and we were wrong to ever doubt you. 

Se7en box

New Line Cinema 

Technically, the movie doesn’t show inside the box. It could be full of sex toys.  

The head was Baranda’s. Merino had killed him for his money. Her neighbor, of course, now called the police, and when they confronted Merino, she made up a story (contradicting her earlier account of the man’s disappearance), saying someone had left the head on her doorstep, and she’d kept it as a memento. This did not hold up, and she wound up sentenced to 15 years for murder. 

We aren’t entirely sure why she hadn’t disposed of the head the same way the did the rest of the body. Perhaps she was telling the truth when she said she kept it as a memento. We just hope she wasn’t also telling the truth when she said that was her sex toy collection. 

The Vegan Who Kept Complaining About Cowbell

Nancy Holten came to Switzerland from the Netherlands when she was eight. Still, she never quite embraced her adopted nation’s values. When she became an adult, she campaigned against the local practices of raising pigs and hunting, as she was a vegan. She also complained about cowbells. Not the musical instrument, which everyone enjoys, but the actual bells that cows wear around their necks. 

Swiss mountain cow with cowbell

Maria Feofilova

It’s like the jingle of an ice cream van, for people who like their milk unfrozen.

It was an animal welfare issue, said Holten. She may have been right, as reports say this bell ringing can disturb or even deafen cows. Neighbors were more inclined to say she was resistant to local customs. Or, maybe she just didn’t like the sound of bells, which was why she also campaigned against loud church bells.

In Switzerland, when an immigrant wants citizenship, locals can vote on whether to approve or reject them. Holten’s neighbors successfully blocked her application. She had a “big mouth,” said one spokesperson, adding, “We do not want to give her this gift if she bores us and does not respect our traditions.”

They killed her application in 2015 and again in 2016. Though, if you’re from one of those countries where you embrace immigration and don’t punish people for expressing themselves, you’ll consider the voters to be the evil neighbors in this tale. Higher Swiss authorities overruled the decision and granted her citizenship in 2017. 

The House Demolisher

In 2013, a wrecking crew came to a neighborhood outside Detroit, with instructions to knock down the condemned building at 398 Edison Street. Instead, they knocked down the building at 404 Edison Street. This sounds like a blunder for which the crew themselves were wholly responsible, except for the small fact that the building at 404 had a house number on it marking it as “398.” 

Myrick-Palmer House Pontiac

Andrew Jameson

Here’s an unrelated house in the same town. The place has some nice buildings. 

The theory put forward by police is the owner of 398 switched the house numbers to confuse the crew. His own house now bore the number 390, suggesting this was a three-way swap, to throw us off the scent. 

Anyway, no one investigated the matter too closely. The last we heard, the accused neighbor was later arguing about some separate property matter in front of the local government, having never been charged for the demolition. Other homeowners on the street reasoned that the demolished house was an eyesore, and the people living in there had been squatters, so screw them. The city chalked this one to a case of “404: not found” and moved on. 

The Meteorite Thief

A giant 16-ton meteorite used to lie in the ground in Oregon. We don’t know when it first landed on Earth, but it had to have been sitting in that field for around 13,000 years. Random opportunist Ellis Hughes stumbled on this mostly buried hunk of iron in 1902, and he decided he wanted it. 

Willamette meteorite

American Museum of Natural History

He could live in it. Have you seen Portland real estate prices lately?

Hughes owned the land adjoining this property, and he tried to buy this land as well. He figured the land wasn’t worth much, but this previously undiscovered meteorite had to be worth a fortune, and the land’s owner didn’t know what he had. The owner rejected his bid. So, Hughes embarked on a three-month quest to move the meteorite over to his own property. This involved hauling the massive rock onto a cart and dragging it 4,000 feet, with help from his wife and son.

With the meteorite on his own land, it now belonged to him, reasoned Hughes. Before he could figure out how to make real money from the meteorite, he charged people admission to come look at it, and he must have divulged how he’d got the rock because word of its movement reached the land’s owner.

That owner happened to be the Oregon Iron and Steel Company. They took the matter to court and regained ownership of the meteorite. They didn’t now melt it down for its metal, though, since 16 tons isn’t that much iron, when you’re a company who owns actual iron mines. Why, a typical coal miner would load 16 tons every single day. No, the Willamette Meteorite instead ended up going to a museum.

Dante Alighieri/Wiki Commons

It's due to hatch any day now. 

It’s a good thing the two sides didn’t carve it up and turn it into nails. Because in the 1990s, the Confederate Tribes of Oregon came forward to say, hey, the Iron and Steel Company had had no greater claim to the meteorite than Hughes did. Actually, tribes had known about the meteorite for thousands of years and even had a name for it: Tomanowos. 

A court now ruled that, sure, tribes can have partial ownership over the meteorite and can hold whatever ceremonies they want around it. But the rock stays in the museum. We don’t know how to move it again. Only Hughes knew how, and he is long gone now. 

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