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13 Weirdest Things People Have Tried to Steal

Cars, computers, art, packages, and jewelry are often the target of robberies and thefts. But what about Nutella and, um, toes? From cheese to cadavers, and even a glacier (yes, really), here are the weirdest heists in history.

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Kyiv, Ukraine - September 27th, 2016: Jar of Nutella Hazelnut on a bokeh background. Nutella is the brand name of a chocolate hazelnut
Ivan Svyatkovsky/Shutterstock

Want more Nutella…now

In 2017, five tons of Nutella—that hazelnut spread with a cult following—were stolen from a parked truck trailer in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, a town more known for its spas and festivals than crimes. The Guardian reports the heist equaled roughly $18,000 or 6,875 jars.

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A metal bridge across a mountain river.
Ihor Matsiievskyi/Shutterstock

This bridge is in the way

Pro tip: if you want to steal something large, act like you’ve been hired to remove it. That’s exactly what a group of metal scrappers in the Czech Republic did to get away with dismantling a 10-ton bridge in Slavkov in 2012. One of the crooks had the bright idea to fake being an engineer and made up a story about a cycle route coming through, complete with forged documents. Locals bought it. Surprisingly, the bridge has never been recovered. Maybe because it was broken down into pieces and sold as scrap metal.

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Police coroner examining dead body corpse in morgue

Who needs toes anyway?

You’ve heard of the traveling Body Worlds exhibit? Well, did you hear about the New Zealand guy who decided to take home a little souvenir from the Auckland exhibit this past spring? He managed to swipe two dead toes off a cadaver. This set of dead toes, which have been returned to the exhibit, are valued at $5,500. Now that the hype over Body Worlds has, pardon the pun, died down, check out the weirdest museums you never knew existed.

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Iceberg near Jorge Montt Glacier, Patagonia Chile

Ice, ice, baby

A bucket-list trip for many are the glaciers in Patagonia. And we know they might be melting. But we’re pretty sure most people don’t yearn to steal them. Yet that’s exactly what this Chilean entrepreneur—armed with a refrigerated truck—did in 2012, with an eye on a small-business venture. He illegally took five tons of ice culled from Patagonia’s Jorge Montt inside Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, which he planned to sell as “designer” ice cubes to bars. Don’t miss the world’s dumbest criminals.

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Side view of a Black Angus bull with his herd, looking at camera. Scenic background
Vikki Hunt/Shutterstock

This is bull

In early 2016, three tanks of bull semen (yes, you read that right) was stolen from a truck parked in Turlock, California. And it wasn’t just any sperm, but sperm from the cream of the crop belonging to the top 1 percent (genetics wise) of the bull industry worldwide and worth an estimated $50,000.

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Cheese - stacks of cheese on a market in croatia
Hermann Danzmayr/Shutterstock

The cheesiest heist ever

Mmm…cheese. But how much does one really need? And who has enough cold storage to stock 20,000 pounds (worth $46,000), the amount stolen from a semi-trailer in 2017? Naturally, this happened in Cheesehead country, as the truck was traveling the 130-mile route from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the Milwaukee area. The driver pulled over to have his truck serviced, leaving the semitrailer in what he thought was a secure storage facility, The Post Crescent reports. Investigators believe this case is linked to other Wisconsin-cheese heists in recent years.

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Human brain model for education in laboratory.
Rattiya Thongdumhyu/Shutterstock

The most famous brain in history

Thomas Stoltz Harvey, the pathologist who performed Albert Einstein’s autopsy, took it upon himself to remove—and keep—the famed theoretical physicist’s brain, reports BBC. Though Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, was angry when he found out what Harvey had done, Harvey convinced Albert that he wanted it for scientific research. Harvey kept the brain for years in a Mason jar in a cooler. Today, the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia is one of two places where you can view pieces of Einstein’s brain.

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Beautiful Garden with a Freshly Mowed Lawn
1000 Words/Shutterstock

Did someone move my lawn?

It’s one thing to come home and find a strange object in your lawn. But what if the lawn itself is MIA? That’s exactly what happened when a woman in Alberta, Canada returned home after a vacation in 2011. Her previously grassy lawn was now a pile of dirt, shares the Calgary Herald. Eventually, the “thief” ‘fessed up. Turns out a hired landscaper had gone to the wrong address. Watch out for these 13 sneaky signs your home is being watched.

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Cast iron manhole cover or gully cover on a street
MR Foto/Shutterstock

Man, that’s weird!

In Los Angeles back in 1990, detectives were baffled when manholes started disappearing—and not just in one neighborhood or city. It was the entire L.A. area. As you can imagine, this made driving and bicycling extremely treacherous. Two young men were busted when they pulled into a scrap-metal yard intending to sell a fraction of those manholes…and police were waiting. Turns out they were looking to make some cold hard cash.

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A Single Cabin on a Still Lake in the Wilderness, An ideal getaway spot
Christopher Gardiner/Shutterstock

The whole house is…gone

A couple pulled up to their vacation cabin in Loon Lake, Washington, in the spring of 2015, intent on relaxing. Only stress crept in the minute they viewed the scene: Their house was missing. (Sure, it was a 10′-foot by 20-foot prefab structure, not a McMansion, but still) The criminals didn’t stop there. Also missing: all the furniture and camping gear inside, the deck, steps, and paving blocks. Looks like the thieves made off with all the goods to build their own vacation home, minus the land, of course.

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Fine beach sand in the summer sun

This beach is so beautiful I’m gonna keep it

Locals couldn’t help but notice the amount of sand shrinking on a Coral Spring beach in Jamaica. Police finally deduced that it was because people were taking it—to sell to hotels in pursuit of postcard-pretty beaches. According to The Guardian, the amount of sand stolen added up to 500 truck-loads.

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

Will somebody help me “Phone home?”

When Margaret Wells’ Portsmouth, England home was broken into, it wasn’t the stolen jewelry that she was most upset about, rather she lamented the loss of the life-size E.T. model her daughter had handmade for her. Bizarrely, one year later, E.T. was found floating off the coast and returned home.

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Napoleon at St. Helena, vintage engraved illustration. History of France 1885.
Morphart Creation/Shutterstock

Napoleon’s most private possession

If you think the theft of Einstein’s brain was weird, and still can’t wrap your head around the guy who took off with two toes from a cadaver, check out this one. According to TIME, Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis was lifted during his 1821 autopsy. The person who performed the autopsy later gave it to a Corsican priest. But the story doesn’t end there. The last known ownership was in 2007 when a daughter inherited her father’s most precious item…Napoleon’s, you know, which he’d bought for $3,000. She reportedly has had at least one offer of $100,000 from an interested buyer. Read on for 11 of the most expensive things that have ever been stolen.

Kristine Hansen
Based in Milwaukee, and a former Californian, Kristine Hansen is the author of Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State's Best Creameries (Globe Pequot Press) and writes about food/drink, travel and art/design for outlets that include--in addition to RD.com--ArchitecturalDigest.com, Fodors.com, TravelandLeisure.com and MarthaStewart.com. She earned a bachelor's degree in English, with a focus on writing, from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and enjoys yoga, reading, knitting and hiking.