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17 of the Most Bizarre Things Thieves Have Ever Stolen

Apparently cash, jewelry, and gadgets aren't the only valuables.

Human brain in a jar (real specimen)Asmus Koefoed/Shutterstock

Einstein’s brain

There’s something compelling about preserving one of the greatest brains in history, so keeping Albert Einstein’s would be understandable enough—if he’d given permission. Einstein asked to be cremated, with the ashes scattered secretly so no one would consider the site special. But Thomas Harvey, the doctor on call when Einstein died in 1955, removed the brain without the family’s permission so he could do scientific research on the brain of a genius. He kept the jar with the organ in a beer cooler for more than two decades, until a reporter called him out.

Ski Lift and Ski Resort Winter Season alozar/Shutterstock

Ski lift

In spring 2012, Czech police were called to a resort to investigate a ski lift that had gone missing. The thieves had no small task getting the goods—the job involved three steel columns and the structures supporting them, plus more than half a mile of steel cable.

Owner cleaning up after the dog with plastic bagMonika Wisniewska/Shutterstock

Dog poop

A Des Moines driver reported that someone had broken into their truck in an apparent attempt to steal the vehicle in 2015. When the hot-wiring proved unsuccessful, the suspect allegedly grabbed a plastic bag of doggie doo-doo instead. Perhaps strangest of all, the missing goods were valued at $1. Don’t miss these other 38 dumbest criminals of all time.

beach sand for backgroundPowerUp/Shutterstock

Beach

Stolen sand sounds like the least of any beach’s problems, but things got serious for Jamaica’s Coral Spring resort. Thieves made off with about 500 truckloads worth of sand in 2008, likely to sell to competing hotels.

Log Cabin Window at the Zebulon Vance BirthplaceGingo Scott/Shutterstock

Cabin

Chris Hempel feared a burglary when she saw the gate of her lake property had been cut open in 2015, but she didn’t know how right she was. A crook had nabbed her family’s entire 10-by-20-foot prefabricated building from its foundation. Officials later found the missing cabin less than ten miles away. Learn the hiding spots where typical criminals check for valuables.

CHICKEN FAJITASCKP1001/Shutterstock

Fajitas

A Cameron County, Texas, Juvenile Justice Department employee was confused when 800 pounds of fajitas were delivered in 2017 because the kitchen never cooked that dish. Turned out another employee had cooked up a scheme and stolen $2.3 million worth of fajitas over the past nine years. After he was fired, investigators found packets of fajitas in his fridge, though he’d sold most of the goods.

Steel bridge constructionJan Havlicek/Shutterstock

Bridges

In 2011, crafty thieves used a torch to tear apart a little-used 50-foot bridge from North Beaver Township, Pennsylvania, removing $100,000 worth of steel. Weirdly, it isn’t the first time a bridge has gone missing. A 36-foot steel bridge in Ukraine was stolen for scrap metal in 2004, leaving several villages without their main route across the river.

Steam locomotive wheelsDmytro Surkov/Shutterstock

Train

Ukrainian metal thieves won’t stop there. Just a week after the bridge was stolen, a historic train went missing from an open-air museum. It later showed up in a scrap metal yard. Investigators guessed the thieves faked documents giving them permission to move the locomotive, then used a train to transport it.

OCTOBER 2016 - BERLIN: a waxwork of the "ET - the Extraterrestrial" character of the Steven Spielberg movie, Berlin.360b/Shutterstock

E.T.

It was bad enough that thieves took jewelry and an iron during a break-in of Margaret Wells’ home in England in 2011, but one of the biggest shocks was that the life-size statue her daughter had made of E.T., the extraterrestrial, had been taken. Thankfully, E.T. did phone home eventually. Emergency responders were called to rescue a body floating in a river, only to discover it was the missing alien. Learn the best tricks for outsmarting criminals.

 The juvenile stage of Chiloscyllium punctatum,Bamboo Shark,Brown-spotted Cat Shark,Brown-banded Catshark. Juveniles have the bands and occasionlly spots. Family Hemiscylliidae. Arunee Rodloy/Shutterstock

Shark

Stealing a dog is one thing, but a pet shark is another. In 2008, a British aquatics shop owner noticed the door was open to the converted garage where he kept a pair of rare Australian marbled catsharks and their babies. Peeking inside, he found out someone had managed to catch the live mama shark from the five-foot-tall aquarium and carry her away.

 photo of the shedAlexey Smolyanyy/Shutterstock

Shed

No one was living in Maurice Byrne’s childhood home in Wales in 2015 when he got a call from a neighbor: Someone had stolen the backyard shed. They didn’t make off with everything though; they left all the tools and furniture from inside in the yard.

Rocket engine.Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

Rocket engine

NASA recovered a RL-10 rocket engine in 2011 worth $20,000, which an employee had stolen. The giveaway to its whereabouts: It was being sold on an Internet auction. Apparently covering crime tracks is tougher than rocket science. Read the stories of more dumb criminals with the worst luck ever.

Close-up image of fresh spring green grassWorldWide/Shutterstock

Lawn

Canadian mom Denise Thompson had spent the weekend away with her four kids but came home to a disconcerting sight: Someone had taken all the grass from her front yard, leaving nothing but dirt behind. A sheepish landscaper left a note the next day, confessing his team had gotten the wrong house and offering to replace the grass.

Group of ice cream scoops on a rectangular white plateTobik/Shutterstock

Sweets

We all know the pain of finding out that someone ate the treat we were looking forward to, but one sweet-toothed burglar took it to the next level—and left a breadcrumb trail. In 2017, Yasuhiro “Sugar” Wakashima confessed he’d caused almost $50,000 in a string of at least 40 dessert thefts across Tokyo in which he gobbled down ice cream, chocolate, and other sweets. The DNA evidence from leftovers and crumbs sold him out. Check out these other dumb criminals who left major evidence behind.

GLOUCESTER, VA - April 5, 2014: 28th annual Daffodil parade, The Chic Fillet eat more Chicken cows in the parade, The Daffodil fest and Parade is a regular event held each springBarry Blackburn/Shutterstock

Cow costumes

One California Chick-fil-A has beef against a certain thief who stole three cow costumes from its storage shed in 2017. Security camera footage revealed the thieves passed over more valuable objects inside and went straight for the mascot suits. Police hoped the cows to come back home on their own, as they’d be hard to sell or wear in public after all the media attention. Here are 13 more of the craziest things drive-through workers have seen on the job.

Views and building seen in lovely Orvieto Italy-boar's head on wall along streetGrandtraveler/Shutterstock

Boar’s head

A drunk guest at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham, England, took it upon himself to try lifting a stuffed boar’s head from the billiard room. He was caught before escaping with the loot, but his friends asked the hotel weeks later if they could buy it for him as a wedding gift. The hotel agreed and donated the money to charity.

X-ray of a human break hip coxal jointdrohn/Shutterstock

X-rays

In 2013, a former warehouse employee and an accomplice were caught smuggling a Detroit hospital’s pre-2005 x-rays out of storage but managed to escape with the loot. The images might not seem that valuable, but x-ray thefts are actually fairly common because the film has silver inside. But thieves might not bargain for the fact that the process of extracting the silver is actually pretty expensive. Check out these other 21 things a burglar won’t tell you.

Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.