CLOSE
Original image

5 Celebrity Kidnapping Plots

Original image

Every kidnapping is a tragedy, but most involve people unfamiliar to the public. Occasionally, though, there are celebrity kidnappings on par with the Lindbergh baby and Patricia Hearst. Here are a few such crimes.

1. Shergar

Famous people haven't been the only targets of high-profile kidnappings; well-known animals aren't safe, either. Shergar was a dominant racehorse that won European Horse of the Year in 1981, the same year in which he won the prestigious Epsom Derby by a jaw-dropping 10 lengths. After he retired from racing and went out to stud, though, things got a little weird.

One morning in February 1983, a car rolled up outside the stallion's stable in County Kildare, Ireland. Six masked men jumped out and stuck guns in Shergar's handlers' faces. The group of men, some toting submachine guns, forced Shergar into a horse trailer and drove off. Cleverly, the kidnappers carried out the horse heist on the biggest livestock-trading day in Ireland, so it didn't look at all unusual for them to be hauling a horse trailer around.

The kidnappers called in hefty ransom demands, which only made sense given Shergar's 80,000-pound stud fee. The horse's ownership group didn't want to pay, though, since they felt forking over a ransom would only encourage future horse-nappings. After four days, the kidnappers quit calling, and despite a massive door-to-door hunt throughout Ireland no one ever saw Shergar again. The kidnappers have also eluded the police, although most observers agree that the IRA likely stole the horse and hoped to spend a five-million-pound ransom on guns.

2. Ruben Omar Romano

Professional athletes and their families are particularly high-profile kidnapping targets in poorer areas of the world. Ruben Omar Romano found out the hard way. Romano, a gifted midfielder who later became an embattled journeyman coach, was coaching Cruz Azul in Mexico when kidnappers dragged him into a car outside of the team's practice facility in July 2005.

Romano remained hostage in a dingy house in a low-rent district of Mexico City until September, when Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency rescued him and captured the kidnappers. Romano, for his part, took the whole ordeal in stride, saying, "The treatment was not bad. I'm not complaining. I was not mistreated."

His team wasn't quite as humane as the kidnappers, though. When Cruz Azul struggled upon Romano's return, the team gave him a pink slip in December after just 11 matches.

3. John Paul Getty III

getty.jpgGetty, the grandson of American oil tycoon John Paul Getty, spent a lot of time in Italy, where his father looked after the Italian parts of the family's oil interests. In 1973, the 17-year-old Getty was kidnapped and held for ransom. The elder Getty balked at paying the kidnappers, so they borrowed a tactic from Calabrian bandits of days gone by: they cut off Getty III's ear and mailed it to a newspaper in Rome, then sent photos of the boy missing his ear.

At this point, even the tight-fisted Getty squad decided they would pay the ransom lest the kidnappers follow through on their promise to send the boy back in pieces. John Paul III's dad secured the ransom money from the boy's grandfather, but only as a loan that he would have to pay back at 4% interest. (This was a typically classy move by Grandpa; the patriarch also remarked, "I have 14 other grandchildren. If I pay a penny of ransom, I'll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren.") Once the kidnappers received the ransom, they released Getty, who was in fairly good shape with the exception of his missing ear. His son, actor Balthazar Getty, plays Tommy Walker on ABC's Brothers & Sisters, though it's been rumored that he may be dropped from the cast.

4. Adolph Coors III

Coors was the 45-year-old chairman of his family's brewing company when he disappeared on his way to his office in 1960. His hat and glasses were found near his abandoned still-running car outside of Denver, but there was no trace of Coors himself. The Coors family knew what it was like to be the focus of a kidnapping scheme; Adolph Coors II himself had been the intended target of kidnappers 27 years earlier. The family sat back and waited for the ransom demand to come in, as Coors II said, "They have something I want to buy "“ my son. The price is secondary."

Although the Coors family managed to stay calm, their story didn't have a happy ending. Seven months later Coors' body was discovered in the Rocky Mountain foothills, and police eventually caught his murderer, Joseph Corbett, Jr. Corbett, a former Fulbright scholar and escaped murderer from California, had spent two years planning to kidnap Coors and ransom him for $500,000. He ended up murdering Coors in the process, though, and when his typewriter and car were linked to the kidnapping and ransom notes, Corbett became one of the FBI's Most Wanted fugitives. He was finally apprehended in October 1960 in Vancouver.

5. Frank Sinatra, Jr.

sinatra-junior.jpgIn 1963, Sinatra, Jr. was working on following in his dad's footsteps, and he was actually having some success as a 19-year-old. He was traveling and playing shows with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra until kidnappers feigned a package delivery and abducted the young singer from his room at a Harrah's in Lake Tahoe.

The three-man gang of kidnappers wasn't going to win any awards for their brilliance, and the whole kidnapping was fairly farcical. The gang didn't have enough money for gas as they were ferreting Sinatra to their hideout in Burbank, California, so they had to borrow some cash from their hostage. Sinatra's father called a press conference and offered a million dollars for his son's return, but apparently the gang missed the message. When they called the elder Sinatra, they only asked for $240,000 in ransom.

Sinatra, Sr. paid them, and they released Sinatra, Jr. on the side of the road after two days of captivity. Once the boy got home, he was able to help investigators track the kidnappers by remembering what restaurants the food he'd been given came from and how many planes had flown over the safe house where he'd been held. Of course, the bumbling kidnappers didn't need any help getting caught. One of them, John Irwin, got so flustered that he confessed the whole thing to his brother, who talked Irwin into calling the police. Irwin then gave the police the scoop on his two accomplices, and all three spent time in jail.

Original image
DreamWorks
arrow
entertainment
15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
Original image
DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA
arrow
Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
Original image
Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios