The Top 5 Most Famous Kidnappings

One of the worst aspects of one of society’s worst crimes, kidnapping, is how often incidents fail to achieve significant recognition in the public eye. We seem more concerned with a celebrity’s divorce or a politician’s philandering than we do with the actual drama of a family’s missing child or an adult’s sudden disappearance. Who outside of Cleveland knew of the plight of those three women missing for all those years until after their dramatic escape, for example? And when kidnapping cases do capture the public eye, too often they are sensationalized rather than studied. Just consider these five famous cases.

5 Ariel Castro, the Cleveland Kidnapper

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Fortunately for society at large, Ariel Castro is going to be spending the rest of his life in prison. He was also sentenced to an additional 1,000 years, just for good measure. That punishment is far from overly harsh for this monster, a man who kept three women imprisoned in his home for over a decade. The victims, Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, all escaped alive and are committed to moving on from their harrowing ordeal, but one can only imagine the permanent psychic damage this kidnapping rapist inflicted on these innocent people.

4 Little Charley Ross

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Charley Ross disappeared on July 1st, 1874, never to be seen again, but to briefly hold the hearts and minds of people all across America and even beyond. His kidnapping was the first widely sensationalized abduction in modern history. Charley and his brother were lured into a carriage by men promising candy and other treats. The brother eventually hopped down from the carriage, but little Charley was whisked away. Soon ransom notes began arriving at the Ross home, demanding $20,000, a fortune at the time. Mr. Ross went to the police and the story soon leaked to the press, becoming a national story. Two men were killed during a burglary the next year and are considered the likely culprits, but Charley was never found and the case never really concluded.

3 Jaycee Lee Dugard

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Jaycee Dugard spent most of her the prisoner of Phillip and Nancy Garrido, two monsters now thankfully rotting in jail. Phillip Garrido snatched an 11-year-old Jaycee off the streets of Lake Tahoe, CA, in 1991. She was not seen again until 2009. During that time, Jaycee gave birth to two children fathered by her captor. The Garrido’s story before Jaycee’s kidnapping bears mentioning: Phillip was a man with multiple convictions for both sexual and drug crimes. Nancy met and subsequently married him while he was incarcerated at Leavenworth Penitentiary.

2 Elizabeth Smart

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Of all the remarkable details surrounding Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping, the most amazing is that she seems to have been able to truly move on from her ordeal and blossom into a balanced, happy human being. Smart was kidnapped at the age of 14 and held for nearly a year by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee (how do these people keep finding each other?). Smart’s kidnapping ended when an alert viewer of the show America’s Most Wanted spotted her suspected captors—and Elizabeth herself, forced to wear a strange disguise—and alerted the police.

1 The Lindbergh Baby

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The kidnapping of famous aviator Charles Lindbergh’s child captivated America in a way that few stories before it ever had. Charles Lindbergh Jr. was just shy of two years old when he went missing from the Lindbergh home in March of 1932. A note was left behind demanding $50,000 and saying more instructions would follow. Word soon spread about the case and everyone from politicians to known mobsters chimed in with advice and tips. Sadly, when Charles Jr. turned up two months later, he had already been dead for some time. A German ex-pat named Bruno Hauptmann was eventually charged with the kidnapping and murder, and was executed in 1936, still claiming to be innocent of the crimes.

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