Kleptomania, which is the compulsion to steal for no reason, has always been a problem for some. The term was used in psychiatric journals as far back as 1816. The exact cause remains unknown. This affliction still manifests today, in people who are financially stable, or even affluent. These historic Virginia thieves truly put the “mania” in kleptomania.
Charles Johnson had a nearly debilitating infatuation with horse bridles. The unnatural affection caused him to break into every area farm in search of them. He sold a few for pennies in Abingdon, but most were kept for personal reasons of a bizarre nature. The illicit love would be his downfall. He broke into Robert and Kemper Wilhelm’s property, in March 1902. The brothers arrested him for stealing their bridles. The reporters stated Johnson was then given a bridle of his own, a straightjacket. He was indicted, fined $50, and sentenced to five months in the county jail.
Weeks was a bizarre, but accomplished thief, in 1904. Authorities stated his actions stemmed from a mania or “derangement” because of their peculiar nature. He simply took things with no need, and for no known reason. Prior to his arrest, his lengthy record of thefts included: canned goods, blind bridles, lanterns, hogs, plows, dump carts, hoes, locks, and a diverse list of other goods, most of which were pointless and had no real value. Weeks didn’t own land or deal in livestock. His thievery didn’t stop when he was jailed in Blountville, Tennessee. He amazed authorities when he fearlessly stole $20 from the convicted murderer incarcerated with him. He was sent to Brushy Mountain, but several years later, was crushed in a cave-in. His injuries were so extensive he was pardoned.