Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares

D.G. Hewitt - October 3, 2018

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
When the aviation legend’s baby son was kidnapped, America was gripped. Wikipedia.

14. Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr’s kidnapping was called the ‘crime of the century’, though this story did not have a happy ending

When Charles Lindbergh won the Orteig Prize by flying non-stop across the Atlantic in 1927, he became an instant global celebrity. The aviation accomplishment also earned him a fortune. Indeed, he became so wealthy that in 1932, kidnappers attempted to pull off what was described as ‘the crime of the century’. They took Lindbergh’s son, Charles Augustus Jr. and demanded $50,000 for his release. Tragically, there was no happy ending.

Charles, who was just 20 months old at the time, was taken from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey, on the evening of May 12 1932. The family’s nurse made the discovery and alerted the boy’s famous father. Lindbergh found a note on the windowsill. The writing was that of a child, the spelling and grammar atrocious. Nevertheless, the message was clear: the kidnapper wanted $50,000 or the parents would never see their baby boy again. Lindbergh called the police and soon had numerous detectives, as well as his own private investigators working the case. Even President Herbert Hoover got involved, ordering the Department of Justice to offer whatever help it could.

Within a few days, massive rewards had been put up for information that would lead to the safe return of Charles. The kidnapper sent several more notes and, using an intermediary, arranged for the money to be exchanged. Even though the ransom was paid, however, the body of baby Charles was found soon after. It was now a murder investigation. Police kept their eyes out for the gold certificates paid as part of the ransom. A few months later, they caught a break. Richard Hauptmann, a German immigrant with a record, was arrested. Police found $14,000 in his garage. Though he protested his innocence until the very end, he was executed by electric chair.

The case and the subsequent trial gripped the nation. It also led to the creation of Federal Kidnapping Act – sometimes known as ‘Lindbergh Law’. From now on, taking a kidnapping victim across state lines would be a federal crime.

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Richard the Lionheart was kidnapped and held for a year while the ransom was raised. Thoughco.

15. Richard the Lionheart was kidnapped and held for a king’s ransom while traveling back from the Crusades

The expression a ‘king’s ransom’ is now commonly used to describe demanding a huge sum of money. According to some historians, the phrase originated with the case of King Richard I, otherwise known as Richard the Lionheart. The English monarch was indeed held for ransom. And this was no trifling sum. In fact, the price paid for secure the king’s freedom may well have been the biggest ransom ever paid.

It was the year 1192 and Richard was traveling back to England from the Middle East. The Christian monarch had been fighting in the Third Crusade, but he had a kingdom to get back to. To get home, he needed to pass through modern-day Austria. Given the risks of kidnapping and banditry, Richard travelled in disguise. But Duke Leopold, wasn’t fooled. While passing through Vienna, the Englishman was snatched. Within a few days, he was handed over to the Henry VI, the powerful Holy Roman Empire. He then sent a note to England: he would only release Richard the Lionheart in exchange for 100,000 or maybe even 150,000 marks.

This was a huge sum of money, a literal king’s ransom. Some economic historians believe it was equivalent to twice the English GDP at the time. Understandably, then, the negotiations took a while. In fact, the English Crown needed more than a year to introduce new taxes and so get the money. They succeeded, however, and with Eleanor of Aquitaine serving as a go-between, Richard was eventually released.

Richard the Lionheart returned back to England. Once back, he was able to assert his authority and put those nobles who had tried to rule in his stead firmly in their place. Within a few years, however, the king was dead, killing while out campaigning in France.

Historic Kidnapping Cases that Inspire Nightmares
Was Theodore Roosevelt really prepared to start a war over the kidnapping of a playboy? Pinterest.

16. Ion Perdicaris was snatched by a Moroccan warlord and the case almost led President Theodore Roosevelt to start a war

Ion Pedicaris may be largely forgotten today, but back in 1904, he was of sufficient importance to be at the centre of an international diplomatic crisis. In fact, his kidnapping almost triggered an all-our war between the United States and Morocco. Fortunately for everyone involved the so-called ‘Perdicaris Incident’ had a happy ending, which is possibly why it’s not better known today.

Perdicaris was a Greek-American playboy who lived the good life spending his inherited fortune. In the early 1870s, he relocated to Tangiers, Morocco. He was fascinated by the culture and, alongside keeping on top of his international business concerns, he wrote prolifically on Moroccan life and culture. He also settled down with the wife of an English telecoms engineer and took in her two sons. One of them was also taken when Perdicaris was snatched by the tribal leader Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli one May morning. Raisuli took them to his tribal lands and demanded that the Sultan of Morocco pay $70,000 for their release.

When President Theodore Roosevelt found out an American citizen had been kidnapped, he was livid. He even dispatched several warships and dozens of marines to the coast of Morocco. Famously, he demanded “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!” But then the President was informed Perdicaris had actually renounced his American citizenship. No matter, Raisuli had already relented. He had even become friends with his prisoner and a few days later released him unharmed. Naturally, Roosevelt made the most of the incident, using it as proof of his tough stance against foreign enemies – in fact, he even adopted “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!” as an election slogan.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Mary Agnes Moroney” The Charley Project.

“Weinberger Kidnapping.” FBI.

“When Julius Caesar Was Kidnapped By Pirates, He Demanded They Increase His Ransom.” Mental Floss, November 2012.

“Mary Jemison, the Irishwoman who turned Native American.” The Irish Times, May 2017.

“Why a 150-year-old kidnapping case has Catholics arguing today.” Vox, January 2018.

“The Kidnapping of Mary McElroy.” Kansas City Public Library.

“Patricius: The True Story of St. Patrick.” CBN.com

“Bobby Dunbar’s disappearance caused a mystery that wasn’t solved for 92 years.” MARA BOVSUN, NY Daily News. February 2019.

“Taipei Journal: Kidnapper of Chiang Kai-shek Ends Long Silence.” New York Times, February 1991.

“Lindbergh Kidnapping.” FBI.

“Susannah Willard Johnson.” Wikipedia.

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