Kleptomania is the compulsion to steal items with no motive or reason. This affliction manifests even today in people who are financially stable, or even affluent. These historic Virginia thieves truly put the “mania” in kleptomania.


The Sundry Burglar

This skillful individual prowled Roanoke streets in 1893. The unabashed cat burglar apparently had only one thing on his mind, and that was protection from the elements. He crept through the front door of J.J. Jarman’s home. He grabbed all the hats and umbrellas kept by the door. Mrs. Jarman spotted his attempt and yelled at him. He fled without a single item. He was disappointed, but not deterred. He kept his chin up and crept to the front door of Mr. Hodgins, who lived down the block. The thief found his plunder waiting. He stole two umbrellas without detection.


Charles Johnson

Mr. Johnson was known to have a nearly debilitating infatuation with horse bridles. The unnatural affection and desire for more caused him to break into every area farm in 1902. 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 that March. The brothers arrested him for stealing their bridles. The reporters stated Johnson then was given a bridle of his own, a straightjacket. He was indicted, fined $50, and sentenced to five months in jail.


Richard Weeks

Weeks was a bizarre, but accomplished thief in 1904. He was arrested for the tenth time in July. 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 impressive record of theft included: pots, pans, canned goods, blind bridles, lanterns, hogs, plows, dump carts, hoes, locks, and a diverse list of other goods. He didn’t  own land or deal in livestock. His thievery didn’t stop behind bars when he was jailed in Blountville, Tennessee. He amazed authorities when he fearlessly stole $20 from suspected murderer Elbert Boyd. Weeks was convicted in September of 1904, and  sentenced to six years in the Brushy Mountain Penitentiary. Sadly, Weeks was crushed by a rockslide in 1907. He was paralyzed. The Board of Prison Commissioners pardoned him due to his injuries and his excellent behavior as a prisoner.


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Laura Wright is a writer and researcher of several decades. She is a multi-published author and writer. She has worked as a consultant for various media outlets, including the New York Times. Further information about Wright can be found under the "About Us," section.

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