Recently, we here at TheRichest published an article regarding the harrowing and ultimately persevering tale of Jaycee Lee Dugard. Dugard was abducted at just the tender age of eleven near her California home in 1991. It wasn’t until over 18 years later that she was freed. 18 years of captivity, r*pe, and abuse. Phillip Craig Garrido and his wife Nancy, were charged with and eventually pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual assault. Dugard has seemingly recovered as best as a human being can from this type of unimaginable torture, even writing a book detailing her experiences, A Stolen Life: A Memoir.
Sadly, however, Dugard’s story is not at all unique. Human history is littered with abduction stories from the possibly mythical Helen of Troy to the almost certainly mythical stories from hillbillies who claim they were brought aboard flying saucers by little green men. This article will focus on 15 all-too-true stories of abduction. Some are tragic, some are terrifying, but all of them are fascinating. And the reasons for abduction vary greatly, as well. Motives as diverse as greed, sexual perversion, and even justice are present in this list. Political figures, the progeny of celebrities, and entirely innocent children have all suffered through these ordeals. Due to the sad and violent nature of some of these stories, be forewarned that they may not be suitable for all readers. But if you’re up for it, here are 15 chilling tales of abduction.
15. Adolf Eichmann
Unlike every other person on this list, you need not feel any sympathy for Adolf Eichmann. The former Nazi war criminal was living a quaint, tranquil life in Argentina until 1960 when he was sensationally abducted by Mossad agents, the Israeli secret service. Eichmann was not the only high-ranking Nazi to escape to South America, and the Israeli government had been well aware of his presence there for a while. But convincing the Argentine government to acknowledge his presence there, let alone extradite him, was proving exceedingly difficult. Thus, the Israeli government sent in the Mossad to abduct Eichmann and bring him to Israel. Eichmann was prosecuted in a sensational trial and was convicted for committing war crimes. He was hanged in 1962. While the evidence clearly points to Eichmann’s guilt, his abduction from a sovereign nation and trial for crimes committed in an entirely different country (Germany) was a controversial move diplomatically and exists somewhere in an international law grey area.
14. Katie Beers
Katie Beers’ case is similar to that of Dugard’s. While Beers’ unlawful confinement lasted nowhere near is long, her seventeen days in captivity sound absolutely nightmarish. Beers was only two days shy of ten years old when a family friend, John Esposito, lured her to his home with the promise of birthday gifts on December 28, 1992. Any man who abducts a child is a monster, but to lure her away by telling her she’ll receive birthday presents somehow makes it even more appalling. Esposito forcibly confined Beers in a concrete bunker under his garage for seventeen days, during which time he r*ped the young girl. On January 13, 1993, police officers discovered Esposito’s bunker and rescued the traumatized girl. Esposito was sentenced to 15 years to life imprisonment and died in prison in 2013. Beers would grow up to write a book about her ordeal, Buried Memories.
13. Elizabeth Smart
On June 5 2002, at the age of just 14, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home. Brian David Mitchell kidnapped Smart at knife point and brought her back to his camp where he and his wife, Wanda Barzee, confined Smart. Mitchell repeatedly r*ped Smart, sometimes multiple times a day. Smart had to endure this hell for nine months. At that time, a passing biker saw Mitchell, Barzee, and Smart together and thought it looked suspicious as he had seen Smart’s story broadcast on America’s Most Wanted along with a police sketch of Mitchell. So he called the police. Upon investigating, the police discovered the girl was indeed Elizabeth Smart and arrested Mitchell and Barzee. Mitchell was sentenced to life in prison. Smart has written a book about those harrowing nine months, Bringing Elizabeth Home.
12. President Chiang Kai Shek
Abduction is not something that just happens to helpless children. Even the mighty and powerful can be kidnapped. For proof of this, look no further than President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai Shek. Chiang’s presidency is a complicated one. Chiang was the Nationalist leader of all of China before the Communist Revolution expelled Chiang and his forces to modern-day Taiwan. All in all, Chiang was leader of China for 21 years and Taiwan for 26. In addition to fighting the Communists for years, Chiang also had to fight Japanese forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War/World War II. With so many enemies, it’s not surprising that Chiang was kidnapped. What is surprising is that he was kidnapped by his own generals, who wanted Chiang to make peace with the Communists in order to team together against the invading Japanese. And the generals got what they wanted, that’s exactly what Chiang did… although, once they released Chiang, he immediately put the ringleader, Zhang Xuelinang, under house arrest and executed the others. A mixed outcome, I suppose.
11. Steven Stayner and Timothy White
On December 4 1972 in Merced California, seven-year-old Steven Stayner was approached on his way home by Ervin Edward Murphy. Murphy was an acquaintance of convicted child rapist Kenneth Parnell. The naive Murphy was duped by Parnell who told him he was an aspiring Minister. Once Parnell got his hands on Stayner, he confined him for seven long years. Long enough for Stayner to enter puberty, a problem for the pedophile, Parnell. In order to satiate his perverted lust, Parnell later abducted five-year-old Timothy White on February 14, 1980. To see the traumas he suffered inflicted on another young boy was too much for Stayner, who managed to escape on March 1, 1980, rescuing the young White along with him. Stayner sought sanctuary at a police station and officers arrested Parnell. Parnell was convicted and sentenced to a meager seven years imprisonment. This caused the California legislature to alter its laws to allow “consecutive prison terms for similar abduction cases”.
10. Mary Jemison
Back in the bad old days, abduction and kidnapping were common military practices especially among the First Nations of North America and their colonial adversaries/allies. Perhaps the most famous case of a white person being abducted by a First Nations tribe is that of Mary Jemison. Jemison was abducted in 1752 at the age of 12 by Seneca warriors. First Nations tribes would frequently abduct women and children and hold them for ransom to deal with their often shiftless European neighbors. Jemison’s case is a little different. In an awful way, Jemison was lucky, as she was the only one of her family not massacred by the Seneca. What’s more, Jemison was never ransomed off, she actually lived the rest of her life with the Seneca. Whether or not Stockholm Syndrome played a role (which we’ll get to more in-depth later), Jemison seemed to assimilate into the Seneca tribe and was accepted by them, a fact that baffled any white colonialists that would later encounter Jemison and the Seneca.
9. John Paul Getty III
John Paul Getty III was another minor who was abducted, but his story is a bit different than others we have seen. For starters, Getty was a bit older, at seventeen. Second, Getty happened to be the grandson of perhaps the richest man in the world at the time, oil tycoon John Paul Getty. Getty III was abducted in 1973 and the kidnappers demanded a ransom of $17 million. Getty I initially refused to negotiate, until the kidnappers went the gruesome route of cutting off the kid’s ear and delivering it to a newspaper office. The kidnappers were negotiated down to $2.9 million and Getty III was returned without further harm upon payment. Unfortunately for the kidnappers, extorting a multi-million dollar ransom from the world’s richest man is going to garner you attention, and they were eventually caught and imprisoned. Sadly, for Getty III, a life of hard drinking and pill abuse led to a severe stroke in 1981 which rendered him nearly blind and a quadriplegic. Although he managed to recover slightly, he died in 2011. His brother, Mark, co-founded Getty Images in 1997.
8. Colleen Stan
You know how your mom told you never to hitchhike? This is why. 20-year old Colleen Stan was hitchhiking to a friend’s birthday party in May 19, 1977. She was picked up by Cameroon Hooker in an event that would begin a seven year nightmare for Stan. Stan was repeatedly tortured and sexually abused by Hooker. Hooker also tried to brainwash Stan, telling her a massive organization known as “The Company” and would harm Stan’s family should she attempt an escape. Initially complicit in husband’s despicable behavior, Janice Hooker began to have second thoughts when she suspected Cameron wanted to abduct additional sex slaves. Janice told Stan there was no such “Company”. Janice eventually turned her husband into the police and Stan finally escaped in 1984. Despite her unfathomably nightmarish ordeal, Stan went on to live a seemingly productive life, becoming an accountant, marrying, having a daughter and joining an organization to help abused women. Cameron Hooker was sentenced to 104 years in prison.
7. Frank Sinatra Jr.
Everybody knows who Frank Sinatra is, but not everybody knows that he and his son were the victims of one of the most infamous kidnappings of all time. Frank Sinatra Jr. was 19-years old when he was kidnapped from his hotel room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino in 1963. Jr.’s abduction lasted only two days, however, after Frank Sr. promptly paid the $240,000 ransom. Alas, in further proof that kidnapping is not a good financial strategy, the three kidnappers were later caught and arrested. However, they were released from prison early, with the ringleader being found to be mentally insane at the time of the kidnapping. Allegations that the kidnapping was staged for publicity have never been substantiated. As for Frank Sr., he forever carried a role of dimes with him after the ordeal because he ran out of change on a payphone during one of the ransom calls.
6. Natascha Maria Kampusch
On March 2, 1998, 10-year old Natascha Maria Kampusch was abducted by Wolfgang Priklopil. The next 8-years of Kampusch’s life would be a living hell. Priklopil confined her in a secret cellar behind a cupboard. The small cellar had a concrete door and was reinforced with steel. Priklopil could have trapped a rhinoceros, let a lone a small girl. Kampusch only managed to escape on August 23, 2006, after Priklopil temporarily “freed” her to clean his BMW. Nice guy. Kampusch seized the opportunity to run to a neighbor’s house for help. The police were notified and Priklopil gave chase. The whole ordeal finally ended when Priklopil committed suicide by stepping in front of a train near Vienna Northern Station. The case shocked the whole country of Austria. Kampusch has made the best of her post-kidnapped life by writing a book, 3,096 Days, becoming the face of the Austrian PETA branch in 2009, and even getting her own TV talk show.
5. Party Hearst
Patty Hearst’s abduction is one of the most famous of all time. Hearst was the heiress to the great Hearst newspaper empire. In 1974, at the age of 19, she was abducted by the Symbionese Liberation Army. The small leftist revolutionary group at least had a (seemingly) noble cause, even if a preposterous one: they demanded Hearst’s father give $70 to every single needy Californian. Hearst actually did pay a whopping $6 million towards feeding California’s poor, though to meet the SLA’s demands, he would have had to pay a whopping $400 million. In a staggering twist, Patty Hearst became the poster child for Stockholm Syndrome, in which a kidnapped person begins to identify with her captors. Two months after her kidnapping, Hearst announced she was now to be known as “Tania” and actually participated in bank-robberies with the SLA. Seven months after her abduction she was captured and charged for her crimes. She was convicted, despite claiming she had been brainwashed. Though much of the American public was unsympathetic to Patty Hearst, President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence after two years.
4. Adam Walsh
Warning: Adam Walsh’s case is perhaps the saddest and most disturbing of all. In 1981, Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears parking lot in Hollywood, Florida, while his mother was momentarily distracted. Two weeks later, Walsh’s murdered body was discovered, decapitated. He was only six years old. Convicted criminal and serial killer, Otis Toole, confessed to the crime, but later withdrew his confession. He was never tried due to a lack of evidence. However, local police consider Toole to be guilty and have closed the case. The case received massive media attention and was the subject of a made-for-TV-movie in 1983, Adam. Many of you may know John Walsh, Adam’s father, who after his son’s death dedicated his life to the victim’s of violent crimes. He hosted the television show America’s Most Wanted, which ran for 23 years and helped to capture over 1200 criminals.
3. Prime Minister Aldo Moro
In 1978, Aldo Moro was a successful Italian politician and former Prime Minister of the country. This made him a target of the Red Brigades, a left-wing paramilitary organization. The Red Brigades abducted Moro and demanded that the Italian government release 16 of their fellow revolutionaries. Despite the pleas of Moro’s family, the Italian government refused to negotiate with the Red Brigades, who they considered terrorists. Pope Paul IV even offered to take the place of the kidnapped Moro. The whole ordeal dragged on for 55 days until the exasperated and infuriated Red Brigades threw Moro in the trunk of a car and shot him ten times. Antonio Negri, the presumed leader of the Red Brigades, and several other members, were tried for the assassination but were ultimately found not guilty and the whole case is surrounded by speculation and conspiracy theories to this day.
2. The Lindbergh Baby
Perhaps the highest profile child abduction case ever occurred in 1932. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to every fly across the Atlantic Ocean and as such was an international celebrity and American hero. Unfortunately, this made him and his family a target. Lindbergh’s baby boy, Charles Jr. was kidnapped from their New Jersey home. Despite the payment of $250,000 to the alleged kidnapper, Charles Jr. was never returned. The child was found dead in May of 1932. It was not until September of 1934 that Bruno Hauptman was arrested after he was caught spending the ransom money. Despite always claiming innocence never revealing any of this accomplices, Hauptmann was convicted and executed in 1935. His guilt is questioned by some historians and journalists to this day. The Lindbergh Baby case caused a national media frenzy and led to a change in the law making kidnapping a federal offense.
1. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight
In 2002, 21-year old Michelle Knight disappeared in Cleveland. A year later, 16-year old Amanda Berry vanished. In 2004, Gina DeJesus disappeared at the tender age of 14. None of them were seen again until May 2013. In the intervening 10-or-so years the three young women were r*ped, abused, and tortured by their abductor, Ariel Castro. Castro forced the girls to have miscarriages and even killed a victim’s puppy to punish her. Despite his brutal attempts, one of the victims, Amanda Berry, did give birth to a child. The women were held in captivity by ropes and chains. One day after Castro left the house, Berry began screaming for help. Two neighbors, Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey heard her screams and kicked a hole through a storm door and rescued Berry and her child. They then called the police who came and rescued Knight and DeJesus and arrested Castro. Castro pleaded guilty to over 900 charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment. It turned out to be a short sentence, as Castro hanged himself shortly after his trial.