Top Ten Ransom Letters of Note
- “Remember that this is your only chance to recover your son.”
In this chilling case of upper-crust sociopathic killers who wanted to commit the “perfect murder,” Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were affluent teenage students. Inflamed with study of Nietzsche’s concept of the “superman” who was not subject to the normal laws of society, they decided to murder a fourteen-year-old boy. They selected Bobby Franks, whom Loeb knew and played tennis with. On May 21, 1924, they lured him into a car and Loeb stabbed him from the backseat with a chisel. The crime included the added cruel fillip of sending this ransom letter to the victim’s father, which they had typed in advance of his son’s death.
- “Mr Ros, be not uneasy, you son charley bruster be all writ we is got him and no powers on earth can deliver out of our hand.”
The case of Charley Ross was the first documented kidnapping in the United States. Charley and his brother were seized on July 1, 1874, and though his little brother was released almost immediately, Charley was never seen alive again. Five months later, two men were shot while robbing a house, and the mortally wounded survivor confessed that the pair had taken Charley, but he died before he could describe the little boy’s fate.
- “Your daughter’s life hangs by a thread and I have a Gillette ready and able to handle the situation.”
Little could be more chilling than the abduction of Marion Parker on December 15th, 1927, by William Edward Hickman, a petty crook and disgruntled employee of her father. Though her father paid the ransom, Hickman heartlessly threw her dismembered dead body out of the car, her eyes held open with wires and her body stuffed with rags. One of those rags was a towel from his apartment block that led police to him.
- “Exactly one month has passed since we grabbed Aimee McPherson and now is the time for action.”
A polarizing and spectacular figure, charismatic preacher Sister Aimee, wrapped in her white nurse’s uniform and military cape, came to Los Angeles to share the Gospel and by 1923, her massive church in LA opened to roaring business. In May 1926, she disappeared while swimming and was subsequently mourned by her vast congregation. A ransom note arrived but was discounted as a fake, but five weeks later, Sister Aimee reappeared in a desert in Mexico, claiming to have escaped her kidnappers. Cynics suggested she had decamped on a tryst with her married radio operator.
- “Dear Joe Kno doubt you view with very much concern the loss of the world cup… To me it is only so much scrap gold.”
Fifteen thousands pounds was demanded for the return of the Jules Rimet World Cup trophy, which had been stolen by Edward Betchley from an exhibition in London in 1966 just before the World Cup. The trophy was discovered in a hedge by a dog named Pickles in time to be presented to England upon winning the series.
- “We warn you for making anyding(sic) public or for notify the Police.”
On March 1, 1932, the tragic case that would be described as the Crime of the Century began when Charles Lindbergh Jr., a year-old-baby taken from his room. He was murdered almost immediately but found five weeks later with a massive skull fracture. This didn’t stop the murderer from demanding a ransom, and Bruno Hauptmann, a German immigrant, was arrested and executed for his murder.
- “burn her eyes out”
Dorothy Ann Distelhurst, a five-year-old girl kidnapped in 1934, was the subject of multiple ransom notes. One of the most sinister of these threatened to burn the little girl’s eyes out with acid if they didn’t receive $175,000. Dorothy’s body was recovered by maintenance workers in a hospital flower bed weeks later. Her skull had been crushed and horrifyingly, her face mutilated with acid, probably to prevent discovery of her identity.
- “Now or never. XYZ. OBEY.”
June Robles was kidnapped on April 25, 1934, by a “dirty and emaciated” man who lured her unwillingly into his car. She was discovered chained in an iron box half-buried in the desert nineteen days later, in such good health that the notion was raised that it was an inside job. Eighteen months later, after an anonymous deathbed confession, the FBI declared the case closed.
- “Query not that I have the Goya … The picture is not, will not be for sale … it is for ransom – £140,000 – to be given to charity.”
In 1961, Goya’s famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington went missing on the evening of August 21. Increasingly, the ransom demands were scaled down as the kidnapper became more anxious over the years to return the painting, which was eventually left in a luggage office in New Street rail station in Birmingham, England, in 1965. The thief, 61-year-old Kempton Bunton, gave himself up months later.
- “I hate to do this to you, but I am in great trouble. Don’t notify the police. I am not asking for a lot of money, only for what I need, and I am very serious about this.”
Angelo DeMarco was one of the first kidnappers caught wholly by handwriting analysis of his ransom notes. In 1956, he kidnapped baby Peter Weinberger from an unremarkable middle-class home, demanding $2000. Tragically, Peter died when DeMarco, spooked after a botched ransom drop, abandoned the baby alive in a bramble patch where he asphyxiated. DeMarco was executed in 1958.