March 1937: A tricked-out payroll satchel foiled would-be robbers. From Newsweek (Apr 3, 1937):
In Harrison, N.J., bandits last week held up a messenger and seized his satchel containing a $2,700 pay roll. They didn't notice their victim pull a wire in the bag's handle as he handed it over. Ten seconds later revolver blanks inside the satchel started exploding and clouds of sulphur smoke belched from holes in the bottom. In terror the gunmen dropped their loot and fled.
Quite ingenious, but seems like it would work only once, since after that everyone would know what the trick was. So how did they protect the payroll subsequently?
January 1973: Texas State Rep. Jim Kaster filed a bill that would have required criminals to give their victims twenty-four hours notice before they committed a crime. Argued Kaster, "Obviously the criminal is not going to do it, but this would be another punishment that could be added to the penalty." No surprise, the bill was defeated.
The strange case of Roberta and William Randall of Phoenix, Arizona. She shot him in the face while he was napping, then forgot she shot him. He didn't realize he had been shot. Apparently the hole in his cheek didn't make him suspicious. Nor did the note she had written for him, "Bill, you've been shot. Call 911."
Democrat and Chronicle - Feb 27, 1992
The Arizona Republic (Mar 17, 1991) offers a few more details about this mysterious case:
Companies do all kinds of things to boost staff morale. They hire motivational speakers, have team-building exercises, give employees gifts, etc.
But the industrial psychologist Lawrence Zeitlin, in an article published in June 1971 in Psychology Today ("A little larceny can do a lot for employee morale"), argued that the most effective way a business could boost morale was by allowing its employees to steal a little from the company.
He argued that theft added to a sense of "job enrichment" by making the job more interesting. It gave employees a sense of satisfaction at getting away with it. Also, workers "often looked upon theft as a condition of employment." Furthermore, he noted, allowing the theft could be cheaper than installing elaborate security precautions.
In her book Management and Ideology, business author Judith Merkle provides some background info on Zeitlin's article:
Before its publication in Psychology Today the Harvard Business Review had previously turned down the article. It was, after all, a classic application of amoral Scientific Management techniques, and it offended the HBR down to its puritan roots. The interesting point is, however, that the control practices recommended in this article bear a close family resemblance to the working practices of Stalinism. Allowing theft, while keeping the rules against theft, certainly makes theft more thrilling, but it also opens up the way to arbitrary and discriminatory uses of power through the selective application of dead-letter rules. This is, of course, the first step in the destruction of the rule of law, and, in the long run, leads to the introduction of de facto totalitarianism.
Another case of a serial thief with a strangely specific focus. Police in Columbus, Ohio are on the lookout for Sean Patrick Burk, who is suspected of multiple thefts of boxes of Crest White Strips. And only Crest White Strips. They're calling him the "Dental Hygiene Hoodlum."
Says the City Attorney, "Serial thieves generally target certain items but it is unusual for us to see such brand loyalty where an offender only steals large quantities of a single product, over and over again."
You are out at an Easter egg hunt and you see a police helicopter searching the area. Then you see two men running away, what do you do? These kids knew just what to do. They formed an arrow on the ground to point the police in the right direction. Yes, the cops got the criminals. Great job kids!
Parolee tries to escape police in a high speed chase while driving a replica of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. The real mystery here is how a 1994 Chrysler Town & Country got up above 100 MPH during the chase.
December 1989: In Des Plaines, Illinois, a man was reported to be showing up at the door of single women and telling them he was a male stripper hired as a gift by one of their friends. It's not known how often this ploy was successful, but if asked to go, he would leave.
The guy came to the attention of the police after one woman, who had invited him in to do his act, suspected he wasn't on the level because he was wearing "dingy" underwear. She noted, "They were supposed to be white, and in the back the band was torn."
Oddly, he only ever showed up at women's homes on Tuesdays.
Doesn't sound like the guy was caught, but I wonder if they could have charged him with anything. Is it illegal to impersonate a stripper?
Paul Di Filippo
Paul has been paid to put weird ideas into fictional form for over thirty years, in his career as a noted science fiction writer. He has recently begun blogging on many curious topics with three fellow writers at The Inferior 4+1.
Chuck is the purveyor of News of the Weird, the syndicated column which for decades has set the gold-standard for reporting on oddities and the bizarre.
Our banner was drawn by the legendary underground cartoonist Rick Altergott.