17 of the Most Bizarre Things Thieves Have Ever Stolen
Apparently cash, jewellery and gadgets aren’t the only valuables.
There’s something compelling about preserving one of the greatest brains in history, so keeping Albert Einstein’s would be understandable enough—if he’d given permission. Einstein asked to be cremated, with the ashes scattered secretly so no one would consider the site special. But Thomas Harvey, the doctor on call when Einstein died in 1955, removed the brain without the family’s permission so he could do scientific research on the brain of a genius. He kept the jar with the organ in a beer cooler for more than two decades, until a reporter called him out.
In spring 2012, Czech police were called to a resort to investigate a ski lift that had gone missing. The thieves had no small task getting the goods—the job involved three steel columns and the structures supporting them, plus almost a kilometre steel cable.
A Des Moines driver reported that someone had broken into their truck in an apparent attempt to steal the vehicle in 2015. When the hot-wiring proved unsuccessful, the suspect allegedly grabbed a plastic bag of doggie doo-doo instead. Perhaps strangest of all, the missing goods were valued at $1.
Stolen sand sounds like the least of any beach’s problems, but things got serious for Jamaica’s Coral Spring resort. Thieves made off with about 500 truckloads worth of sand in 2008, likely to sell to competing hotels.
Chris Hempel feared a burglary when she saw the gate of her lake property had been cut open in 2015, but she didn’t know how right she was. A crook had nabbed her family’s entire 10-by-20-foot prefabricated building from its foundation. Officials later found the missing cabin less than 16 kilometres away.
A Cameron County, Texas, Juvenile Justice Department employee was confused when 800 pounds of fajitas were delivered in 2017 because the kitchen never cooked that dish. Turned out another employee had cooked up a scheme and stolen $2.3 million worth of fajitas over the past nine years. After he was fired, investigators found packets of fajitas in his fridge, though he’d sold most of the goods.
In 2011, crafty thieves used a torch to tear apart a little-used 50-foot bridge from North Beaver Township, Pennsylvania, removing USD $100,000 worth of steel. Weirdly, it isn’t the first time a bridge has gone missing. A 36-foot steel bridge in Ukraine was stolen for scrap metal in 2004, leaving several villages without their main route across the river.
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Ukrainian metal thieves won’t stop there. Just a week after the bridge was stolen, a historic train went missing from an open-air museum. It later showed up in a scrap metal yard. Investigators guessed the thieves faked documents giving them permission to move the locomotive, then used a train to transport it.
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
It was bad enough that thieves took jewellery and an iron during a break-in of Margaret Wells’ home in England in 2011, but one of the biggest shocks was that the life-size statue her daughter had made of E.T., the extra-terrestrial, had been taken. Thankfully, E.T. did phone home eventually. Emergency responders were called to rescue a body floating in a river, only to discover it was the missing alien.
Stealing a dog is one thing, but a pet shark is another. In 2008, a British aquatics shop owner noticed the door was open to the converted garage where he kept a pair of rare Australian marbled catsharks and their babies. Peeking inside, he found out someone had managed to catch the live mama shark from the five-foot-tall aquarium and carry her away.
No one was living in Maurice Byrne’s childhood home in Wales in 2015 when he got a call from a neighbour: Someone had stolen the backyard shed. They didn’t make off with everything though; they left all the tools and furniture from inside in the yard.
NASA recovered a RL-10 rocket engine in 2011 worth $20,000, which an employee had stolen. The giveaway to its whereabouts: It was being sold on an Internet auction. Apparently covering crime tracks is tougher than rocket science.
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Canadian mom Denise Thompson had spent the weekend away with her four kids but came home to a disconcerting sight: Someone had taken all the grass from her front yard, leaving nothing but dirt behind. A sheepish landscaper left a note the next day, confessing his team had gotten the wrong house and offering to replace the grass.
We all know the pain of finding out that someone ate the treat we were looking forward to, but one sweet-toothed burglar took it to the next level—and left a breadcrumb trail. In 2017, Yasuhiro “Sugar” Wakashima confessed he’d caused almost $50,000 in a string of at least 40 dessert thefts across Tokyo in which he gobbled down ice cream, chocolate, and other sweets. The DNA evidence from leftovers and crumbs sold him out.
One California Chick-fil-A has beef against a certain thief who stole three cow costumes from its storage shed in 2017. Security camera footage revealed the thieves passed over more valuable objects inside and went straight for the mascot suits. Police hoped the cows to come back home on their own, as they’d be hard to sell or wear in public after all the media attention.
A drunk guest at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, England, took it upon himself to try lifting a stuffed boar’s head from the billiard room. He was caught before escaping with the loot, but his friends asked the hotel weeks later if they could buy it for him as a wedding gift. The hotel agreed and donated the money to charity.
In 2013, a former warehouse employee and an accomplice were caught smuggling a Detroit hospital’s pre-2005 x-rays out of storage but managed to escape with the loot. The images might not seem that valuable, but x-ray thefts are actually fairly common because the film has silver inside. But thieves might not bargain for the fact that the process of extracting the silver is actually pretty expensive.