Stories of unusual crimes can usually be found daily on some “odd news” site. It’s also well-known that both gangsters and “gangstas” try to promote themselves as larger-than-life figures, like something out of the movies. Well, as we show below, sometimes the movies just can’t compete with the ridiculousness of reality.
10. The London Mall Biker Gang
It’s been decades since biker gangs were a force that really threw a scare into the square community. These days it’s too widely known that they’re usually law-abiding and just like the look. Then events like the 2010 London Mall Robbery occur, where a biker gang actually drove up into a mall and looted the place. Being a mall, it was so hard to maneuver around, that you can see in stills the gang walking the bikes for a lot of it, like kids going up a steep hill. Unlike kids though, they had axes and blunt instruments with them, and so the decidedly unusual gang was able to hack store stands apart and net a surprising 3 million pounds.
9. The Octogenarian Armed Robber
1989 saw the takedown of history’s most determined thief. Jack Kelm had been an armed robber his entire life, and apparently the benefits of the profession are terrible because he was still at it by age 82 in Denver, Colorado, making getting over $25,000 a haul. What’s especially weird is that, despite his last one being his thousandth robbery, he still fell for the old “paint bomb in the bag” trick that banks were employing. Also, his only escape plan was to steal a ten-speed bicycle that he was in no condition to use, so he was tackled not far from the bank, heavily staining the clothes of the person that apprehended him, and possibly his own in the process.
8. History’s Easiest Heist
Movies like Entrapment insist that heists have to be the among the most rehearsed and planned-out endeavors in human history. The 1990 Gardner Museum Heist indicated that in real life, you can do it more like a goofy silent comedy. In March, two thieves dressed up as cops showed up, demanded entrance, cuffed and duct-taped the guards on duty, and then stole an estimated $500 million worth of art, including pieces by Rembrandt, Manet, and Degas. This was an eighty-one minute process, and they had the run of the place, unlike the clockwork precision and breakneck speed that heist movies like Ocean’s 11 insist is the case.
By the way: over 20 years later, there are still no leads in the case.
7. The Molasses Hat Gang
This one is less audacious than the previous entry, but in its own way just as humiliating for the victims. In New York City during the 1870’s, there was a gang of three hoodlums who went on a weird crime spree. They would go into shops, and ask the shop owner to fill a hat with molasses, explaining that they were drunks fulfilling a bet. When the hat was full enough, they would force it onto the shopkeeper’s head and then rob the place, which seems much more inconvenient for the thieves than just a conventional threat of violence. Inevitably, they were caught, but let off despite blatant theft on a charge of disorderly conduct. We’re guessing the cops were too busy laughing at them to properly punish them.
6. The Bangkok Dance/Shoot Off
West Side Story has constantly been parodied for its portrayal of gang toughs as people who would just break out in choreographed dance, as opposed to actually fighting. Well, in 2012, two gangs in Thailand actually tried to have a dance off to settle a grievance. Trouble was clearly imminent from the fact they decided to do Gangnam Style dancing, which is really only dancing in the absolute loosest sense of the word. The whole thing devolved into a shootout, but nobody was injured. They should have played it cool. Real cool.
5. The Coat Theft Fad
In the early 20th century, there was an Irish gang in New York called the Gophers. By far the most famous member was “One-Lung” Curran. A big part of his claim to fame was a weird, but seemingly casual exploit. One night, his girlfriend complained about his lack of a good coat. So Curran went out and mugged the handiest person who was wearing a smart coat. It happened to be a police officer in uniform, but hey, his girlfriend managed to refit it so that he looked right and proper in it. Shortly thereafter, the fashion of stealing police uniforms caught on, and pretty much the whole neighborhood patrol lost their coats over it.
4. Robert Toye: Unusual Bank Robber
Disabled people can do anything, including commit crimes apparently. Robert Toye was a legally blind bank robber who proved that walking into a bank and taking oddles of dough was well within his capabilities. In the course of seventeen robberies committed with the use of a cane, he would net as much as $17,000 a pop. And he would have to deal with obstacles, like other customers that would wander in front of him, plus the fact he didn’t even bring a gun to a lot of robberies. Not even a fake one! In case you think his heightened senses as a result of his blindness weren’t really an inhibition, bear in mind that one time during an attempted prison escape, he was foiled by running into a pine tree.
3. Firefighting = Gang Brawls
Up until the late 19th century, Philadelphia, like many cities, relied on volunteer firefighters. Problem was, multiple groups of volunteers sprang up, and when two groups showed up to fight a fire, they’d often start fighting each other for the right to fight the fire. One prominent Philadelphia gang, inventively called The Killers, allied with a volunteer firefighting group to join in the beatdowns, even setting fires to draw other volunteer firefighting groups in.
2. The Gang War With Planes and Tanks
In Tennessee in the mid-1920’s, a group of bootleggers took gang war in weird directions. There was Charles Birger with his gang, and Carl and Earl Shelton on the other side. At one point, the Shelton brothers took a crop duster and flew over Birger’s crime compound, dropping bombs on him. They failed to explode. On top of that, the two groups both built “tanks” to drive around town to intimidate locals. These tanks, by the by, were nothing but cars covered in plate armor.
1. The Most Bungled Robbery Ever
In October 1892, a group called the Dalton Gang decided to perform a crime where they would rob two banks in their hometown at once, for the publicity. As it happened, they hadn’t scouted the location, and it turned out there was road maintenance going on that forced them to hitch their horses away from the banks. Then, assuming that they might be recognized, they put on big fake beards, which only drew more attention to themselves. Inside the second bank, they fell for a lie that the vault had a time lock on it. Thus, by the time they went outside, there was a full impromptu posse waiting for them, resulting in the dead bank robber bodies you see above. Of the five-member gang, only one member survived, and he just barely got to the horses before surrendering. And thus, a mere publicity stunt devolved into the stuff of legend.
Dustin Koski also wrote Six Dances To End The World, available at such a great price it’s a ridiculous steal.