Show Mobile Navigation
Crime |

10 Crazy and Creepy Crimes People Said They Were Addicted To

by Kieran Torbuck
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Addiction is a word people like to throw around in daily life, often in relation to things that they like. Their favorite candy is “addictive,” or they are totally “addicted” to a recent TV series. They do get some sort of psychological reward from doing these things, and they might feel guilty afterward, but they can usually resist the urge when they really have to.

Others, however, feel compelled to keep doing certain things even though there could be significant negative consequences. They cannot say no even if it will land them in trouble with the law. They might not be clinically recognized as addictions, but all sorts of bizarre behaviors can become compulsive and lead people down dark paths. Here are ten of the strangest that ended with arrests or worse.

Related: Top 10 Real-Life Crimes Inspired by the Hit Show Breaking Bad

10 Collecting Bird Eggs

Man obsessed with collecting over 5,000 rare birds eggs is jailed – 5 News

What sort of man is described as a “one-man machine for devastation” or a “one-man crime wave”? Surprisingly, it is not a street thug but a 65-year-old British man, and he is more likely to be found lurking around his local nature reserve than down a dark alley. Despite how harmless these details make him sound, this regular jailbird was handed his third prison sentence in April 2024 for his crimes against, well, birds.

The man, Daniel Lingham, had been caught on camera the previous summer stealing eggs from protected birds on a nature reserve. Both of his prior convictions had also been related to bird eggs. But the bizarre thing is that he did not keep putting himself at risk of prison because there was a lucrative black market where he could sell them. He just wanted them for his private collection of more than 5,000 eggs, many of which came from endangered species.

Lingham admitted to his crimes but said that he could not help himself because he was addicted to collecting the eggs. The judge suspended his 2024 sentence but ordered him to get treatment.[1]

9 Carnivorous Plant Collecting

David Attenborough Explains: World’s Craziest Plants

It is not only bird egg collectors who will stop at nothing to get their hands on rare items. Another strange case of a collection turning into a harmful addiction happened to an American nepenthes collector named Mat Orchard. Nepenthes are a genus of tropical ‘pitcher’ plants, so-called because of the pitcher-shaped insect traps that grow from their leaves. Nepenthes are popular with collectors, but the young plants take years to grow and are often expensive.

For Mat, whose nepenthes obsession started in college, discovering sellers in Southeast Asia who could ship him mature plants at cheap prices was a revelation. However, some of those suppliers were illegally raiding rainforests for the plants. Mat learned this and even knew one of his packages had been intercepted by the authorities, but by then, he just could not stop buying them. He would order as many as 35 at a time.

Eventually, another local collector turned out to be an undercover officer investigating plant smuggling. Mat’s apartment in Portland was raided, and around 380 plants were taken away. He took a plea deal and was given three years probation.[2]

8 Baseball Card Collecting

1914 & 1915 Cracker Jack Baseball Card Treasure Found w/ Shoeless Joe Jackson

Collecting baseball cards is a timeless and usually harmless hobby. However, when it comes to collecting, there are always people whose desire for rare items is so strong that they cannot stop themselves from doing something wrong to get them. In 2008, a self-described “borderline addicted” baseball card collector was charged with theft and accused of a serious breach of trust when he used his job as a city postal worker in Maine to intercept a rare Cracker Jack baseball card.

The card dated from 1915 had been sold on eBay for over $1,000. It was being shipped to the buyer when it was stolen. The mail handler pleaded guilty and narrowly avoided jail, as his six-month sentence was suspended for two years. Still, he was fired from his job, fined, and given a community service order. His attorney told the court that he had been receiving treatment for “obsessive-compulsive behavior surrounding baseball cards.”[3]

7 Hacking Webcams

How to Protect Yourself From Webcam Hackers

Collecting baseball cards and carnivorous plants are perfectly acceptable hobbies that can be enjoyed without any illegality. Other hobbies, like spying on unsuspecting people through their webcams, cannot. But they can be just as addictive, according to Stefan Rigo from Leeds, UK.

In 2015, Rigo was found guilty of voyeurism and hacking offenses after using software to take control of other people’s computers. Once he had control, he would watch them through their webcams, and he spent five to twelve hours per day doing this for over three years. Rigo described himself as “being addicted to monitoring people via their computers,” and even the spokesperson for the UK’s National Crime Agency seemed surprised.

They described his case as “one of the more extreme examples” based on the amount of time he spent watching people. He had saved screenshots on his computer of the people he had watched, some of which were explicit. Rigo had been trying to snoop on cybersex. He was ordered to do voluntary work and give up his computer, and he was given a suspended jail sentence.[4]

6 Graffiti

Inside New Zealand’s Most Notorious Graffiti Gang

A less serious—though no less illegal in many countries—antisocial hobby is graffiti. And yes, tagging really is like an addiction for some people. One psychotherapist from New Zealand explained that although it could not technically be diagnosed, people did get “a kick out of” tagging, and it can become a compulsive behavior that needs treatment to stop. He was responding to the news that a prolific tagger in the city of Auckland in New Zealand had been convicted of tagging one of the country’s top art galleries.

The tagger, who went by the name Xan, claimed that he was addicted to graffiti. According to some organizations, such as the Street Art Council, that could really be the case. They run a street art addiction helpline and publish some of the calls they receive on their website and YouTube. Some people have not been able to stop, even inside their own houses.[5]

5 Stock Market Trading

The Wild $50M Ride of the Flash Crash Trader

Most people know that gambling can be addictive. Although it is usually associated with sports and games, it is easy to see how something similar could occur in financial markets. They offer the same sort of thrilling, uncertain payoff. Uncertain, that is, for most people, but not for the self-confessed trading addict Navinder Sarao. From a bedroom in his parents’ house in London, he traded his way to an estimated $70 million fortune in the early 2000s.

Unfortunately for him, he made some poor choices on his road to riches, like placing fake trades. He was extradited to the U.S. on fraud charges and accused of helping to cause the 2010 “flash crash,” which saw U.S. stocks dive off a cliff and then recover all within half an hour.

Sarao was sentenced to one year of home incarceration. How did he get off so lightly? It seems like one of the reasons was that he really was addicted to trading and not actually interested in money. Even U.S. prosecutors admitted that he “was not motivated by any greed whatsoever.” The only reasonably expensive thing he ever bought with his profits was a £5,000 car.[6]

4 Making Hoax Emergency Calls

999 Misuse EXPOSED: What NOT To Do! (Police Edition)

Amassing a vast fortune was the extremely unlikely side effect of Sarao’s addiction, but most compulsive behaviors offer no such reward. Some could even endanger other people. One case which was widely publicized in the UK in the 1990s and 2000s was that of Thelma Dennis. She had been prosecuted 60 times over 24 years, all for the same crime—making hoax emergency calls.

Despite multiple stretches in prison, she found it impossible to stop making the calls, in which she would often tell police that a bomb had been planted somewhere. Between 1996 and 2003, she reported around 2,000 fake emergencies, which is more than five per week. Following her release from prison at the end of 2003, Dennis vowed to stop the calls and sought professional help.

Her treatment included electrode therapy, which caused her to cry out in pain whenever she dialed the emergency number. But even this extreme measure was not enough. It resulted in a four-year period in which she did not make any hoax calls, but in 2008, she was convicted again. She avoided jail, and there are no reports of her offending again since.[7]

3 Impersonation

Pilot impersonator removed from cockpit

Every now and then, there are stories in the news about people caught impersonating professionals like pilots and doctors. In 2013, for example, a Frenchman named Phillipe Jernnard managed to get into the cockpit of a US Airways flight by dressing up as a pilot. There was no visible reward for his bold ruse, and as he was not actually a trained pilot and was wearing a “very bad fake badge,” it was inevitable that he was going to be arrested.

The same is true in many similar cases. So why do people do such things? According to psychiatry professor Charles V. Ford, they get a thrill from fooling others, which he likens to “a hit of cocaine.” This, he explains, is why people see con artists repeating the same kinds of tricks like they are addicted.

Another example is Matthew Scheidt, an 18-year-old from Florida who was convicted in 2012 for pretending to be a physician assistant at a hospital. Just four months after he was arrested, he was caught again, this time impersonating a police officer. A forensic psychiatrist commented that some impostors really believe their lies.[8]

2 Vampirism

Renfield’s Syndrome

Of course, there are cases of compulsive behavior that are much more disturbing than any discussed so far. One, which ended fairly happily with the individual’s grim habit going into remission, happened in Turkey in 2013. A 23-year-old man had reportedly become addicted to drinking human blood after cutting himself and drinking his own.

His next step was convincing his father to get him bags of blood from local blood banks, but this only served to make his addiction stronger. The man said his compulsion to drink blood was “as urgent as breathing,” and soon, he could not wait any longer for blood to be brought to him. Urged on by an imaginary companion, the man made multiple attempts to stab people so that he could drink their blood before he was taken to a hospital.

The man was given the rare diagnosis of clinical vampirism, a condition that involves compulsive blood drinking and uncertain identity. Six weeks after treatment, the man’s cravings for blood were clearing up, and the blood he drank did not cause him any harm.[9]

1 Extreme Body Modification

The Vile Case Of The Eunuch Maker

In 2024, seven men in the UK were convicted of crimes related to a shared hobby that their ringleader’s lawyer argued had become an addiction. It centered around a website called “eunuch maker,” and, well, that is what they had been doing. And according to the prosecutor, they had been doing it on an unprecedented scale.

There were 13 victims, but the men had also been doing surgery on themselves. Ringleader Marius Gustavson had his penis and a leg cut off, while one of the other defendants was caught with testicles in his freezer, which were said to be his own. Gustavson had been diagnosed with body integrity dysphoria, a rare condition that makes people want to have their healthy limbs removed.

His lawyer argued that his interest in extreme body modification started as a way to feel empowered after his marriage of 11 years ended. However, he and the others did not stop at themselves. Through Gustavson’s website, they mutilated and encouraged others. All pleaded guilty.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen