25 Unbelievable Kidnapping Stories

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

We are all familiar with heart-wrenching accounts of kidnappings being reported on television or in print media, and they are invariably horrific. However, the most tragic of such incidents are those involving the abduction of children. Brace yourself, because from the record-breaking longest abduction to the most startling kidnappings ever reported, here are 25 Astonishing Kidnapping Stories That You May Find Hard To Believe Are Real.


Jaycee Lee Dugard

Phillip Garrido and Nancy GarridoSource: news.com.au, image: wikimedia commons (public domain; text added)

While an 11 year old Jaycee was on her way to school, Phillip Garrido kidnapped her and held her captive for 18 years. She had 2 children during her 2 decade ordeal. Jaycee was only found after she visited the UC Berkely campus in 2009 with Phillip. Their behavior raised some red flags and led to an investigation.


Fusako Sano

baseball diamondSource: bbc, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Known in Japan as the Niigata girl confinement incident, Sano was kidnapped by a mentally disturbed man at a baseball game when she was 9. For the next 9 years, he kept her locked in his upstairs apartment. She was found when the kidnapper’s mother reported his strange behavior.


Cynthia Ann Parker

Cynthia Ann ParkerSource: history.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

In 1836, at the age of 10, Cynthia was taken away by a band of Comanches who had murdered her entire family. She lived among the tribe for the next 24 years and even married a war chief, Peta Nocona. She had three kids, one of which was the last great war chief of the Comanche, Quanah Parker.


Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.

Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr.Source: fbi.gov, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

The son of Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator, was taken from his crib, and after failed ransom negotiations, the boy’s body was found by a truck driver. It was labeled the “Crime of the Century” and led to the “The Federal Kidnapping Act of 1932,” which lets federal agents pursue kidnappers across state lines.


Brooke Hart

Golden Gate BridgeSource: oac.cdlib.org, Image: www.pexels.com (public domain)

At 22 years old, Brooke was kidnapped and his body was discovered in San Francisco Bay several days later. Because he was so well liked in the community, the kidnappers were publicly lynched in what has been labeled “the last lynching in California.”


Elizabeth Fritzl

basementSource: independent.co.uk

In a case that shocked Austria, Elizabeth’s father had kept her locked in his basement for 24 years. He fathered seven children with her and kept 3 of them locked up in the basement while bringing the other three to live upstairs with his family. (He told his wife that he found the kids.)


Steven Stayner

Cary StaynerSource: latimes.com, Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org (public domain; text added)

At 7 years old, Steven was kidnapped on his way back from school. Kenneth Parnell held him captive for the next 7 years until he kidnapped another boy. The two of them then managed to escape. In a sad twist of fate, Steven’s brother Cary had felt neglected by their grieving parents and grew up to be the Yosemite Serial Killer. Steven’s abduction was the longest known kidnapping in the US that ended with a safe return.


Patty Hearst

Patty HearstSource: fbi.gov, Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

The 19 year old granddaughter of American businessman William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped from her college campus by a radical left wing group in 1974. Shortly afterwards, Patty became a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. She started carrying out burglaries and other crimes with the group. She was eventually caught and served a short jail sentence. She was pardoned by President Bill Clinton in 2001.


Carlina White

hospitalSource: nytimes.com, Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

Abducted as an infant from a hospital in New York, Carlina had suspected that her “mother” wasn’t actually her mother because they looked nothing alike. Her suspicions were confirmed when her “mother” was unable to provide her with a birth certificate. Carlina notified the authorities and managed to solve her own kidnapping. She was reunited with her biological parents and her “mother” received a jail sentence of 12 years. This was the longest non-parental abduction to ever be resolved.


Zephany Nurse

Cape Town, South AfricaSource: bbc, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Zephany was kidnapped as a baby and raised with her kidnapper’s family in Cape Town, South Africa. She was finally discovered when she began attending the same school as her biological sister, and classmates noticed striking similarities between the two.


Wait until you see number 3; the family’s reaction is really crazy!


Leszli Kálli

airplaneSource: elespectador.com, Image: www.pexels.com (public domain)

Along with her father and other passengers, Leszli’s plane was hijacked and captured by leftist Colombian guerrillas. They were held for a little over a year before being released. Leszli kept a diary during the ordeal and released it as a book not long after.


Erica Pratt

broken windowSource: telegraph.co.uk, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

At 7 years old, Erica was abducted on a Philadelphia street corner. She escaped from the kidnappers’ basement the next day by gnawing through the duct tape and smashing out a window.


Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Georgina "Gina" DeJesus

Ariel Castro's houseSource: biography.com

All three of these girls were kidnapped by Ariel Castro between 2002 and 2013. The crazy thing is that the they were found years later in the same exact Cleveland, Ohio neighborhood where they had disappeared just blocks down the street. Castro committed suicide shortly after going to prison.


Shannon Louise Matthews

Dewsbury, EnglandSource: thesun.co.uk

Abducted from Dewsbury, England, 9 year old Shannon was held captive for about a month by the uncle of her mom’s boyfriend. The crazy part? Her mom was found to be in on it. Her mom and the uncle were going to split the reward money after the uncle “found” her a while later. The strangest part? The mom’s boyfriend had nothing to do with the kidnapping, but to top things off, he was charged for child pornography that was found on his computer during the investigation.


Ethan Gilman

school busSource: dailymail.co.uk

Jimmy Lee Dykes, a Vietnam War Veteran, boarded a school bus in Alabama, killed the driver, and took 5 year old Ethan hostage. Ethan was rescued several days later after a shootout with police at Dykes’ bunker.


Mary Jemison

Mary JemisonSource: swarthmore.edu, Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

Taken from her family in Pennsylvania by Seneca warriors in 1758, Mary grew up with the tribe. Although her family had been killed by the tribe years earlier, she decided to live the rest of her life with them.


Colleen Stan

Colleen StanSource: mirror.co.uk, Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

Kidnapped by Cameron Hooker while hitchhiking, Colleen was abused and tortured for 7 years until Hooker’s wife helped her escape.


Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth SmartSource: nbcnews.com

14 year old Elizabeth was kidnapped from her Utah bedroom in the middle of the night. Her sister Mary Katherine was sleeping in the other bed and witnessed Brian David Mitchell take Elizabeth. For several months, there were no leads until Mary Katherine recognized the voice of the kidnapper to be Brian, a family acquaintance.


Anne Sluti

parking lotSource: nebraska.tv, Image: www.pexels.com (public domain)

At 17 years old, Anne was kidnapped from a mall parking lot in Nebraska. Fortunately, she was rescued a week later when her kidnapper turned himself in.


Claudia Melchers

AmsterdamSource: panorama.nl, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Head of a Dutch cooking company and daughter of a wealthy businessman, three men broke into Claudia’s home in Amsterdam, shoved her into a plastic crate, and left her two children. When the case started getting lots of media attention, her captors dropped her off at a train station without giving a reason.


Veruska Ramírez

crownSource: salon.com, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Former Miss Venezuela, Veruska was kidnapped in 2003 and released 3 hours later after signing 15 autographs for her kidnappers.


Victor Li Tzar-kuoi

Hong KongSource: scmp.com

A Hong Kong businessman, Victor was kidnapped by the notorious gangster, Cheung Tze-keung. He was released after a sum of $134,000,000 was paid in ransom. At the time, it was thought that this amount could merit an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records.


John Paul Getty III

moneySource: vanityfair.com

The grandson of an American oil tycoon, John grew up in Italy. He lived a bohemian life of drugs and parties and joked about how he would stage his own kidnapping to extract money from his grandfather. One day, his grandfather received a ransom note for $17 million. People thought it might be a joke, and his grandfather didn’t want to pay it anyway because then his other grandchildren might get kidnapped. Finally, the kidnappers sent John’s ear to the family along with a demand for $3.2 million. The grandfather relented and offered to pay $2.2 million (that was the maximum that he could deduct from taxes) and loaned the rest to his son (who had to pay it back at 4% interest). John Paul Getty eventually had reconstructive surgery on his ear.


Judy Bowe

knifeSource: abcnews.go.com, Image: pixabay.com (public domain)

Judy was kidnapped along with her children by her own husband, boxer Riddick Bowe (who somehow thought it would reconcile their marriage). He went to her home in North Carolina and threatened her with a knife, handcuffs, tape, and pepper spray. He then forced her and the children into his car and drove them to his home in Maryland. On the way, he stabbed his wife in the chest. Judy and the kids made it out of the ordeal, and Riddick was arrested.


Cindy Birdsong

Cindy BirdsongSource: raresoul.com, Image: commons.wikimedia.org (public domain)

A member of The Supremes (a Motown group), Cindy was kidnapped at knife point from her Hollywood apartment. She escaped two hours later by jumping out of the car at a freeway exit. The handyman at her apartment, Charles Collier, was later arrested.


There’s a reason many celebrities need bodyguards. Wonder who the best bodyguards in history have been? Take a look at 25 Most Effective Bodyguard Units In History.