12 Big Cases of Revenge

By: Josh Clark, Alia Hoyt & Patrick J. Kiger  | 
Notorious revenge victim John Wayne Bobbitt leaves a nightclub with friends, Sept. 30, 1994. Bobbitt's wife Lorena cut off his penis with a knife June 23, 1993. She claimed revenge for years of abuse. Shutterstock

The concept of revenge is as old as history. Almost since the dawn of recorded history, humans have had the desire to exact vengeance on others who have wronged us. For example, The Code of Hammurabi, the code of law from the sixth king of Babylon, was implemented about 1760 C.E., making it the oldest recorded set of laws in human history. The code is rooted firmly in the belief in an eye for an eye; in fact, that's almost exactly how the concept was phrased.

The Code of Hammurabi marked the official beginning of standardized revenge. It informs our way of thinking today. Indeed, our modern legal system is based on society's ability to carry out revenge against those who break its laws.


Yet our thirst for vengeance goes far beyond the social contract. The desire to see harm befall those who wrong us begins on a very personal level, within the brain of the victim. Neuroscientists have found that the dorsal striatum, a part of the brain responsible for reward, also governs revenge.

What follows, in no particular order, are 12 examples of people where someone's dorsal striatum kicked into overdrive, leading to some of the biggest cases of revenge in human history.

12: Akku Yadav

Students protest the rising violence against women in India in 2012. The violent response to Akku Yadav eight year earlier, in 2004, by the women he was charged with assaulting, was ample testament to this growing collective anger. Wikimedia Commons (CC By SA 3.0)

Bharat Kakicharan, aka Akku Yadav, was a notorious Indian gang leader who reportedly committed more than 40 sexual assaults, and used sexual violence to terrorize residents of an impoverished neighborhood. In August 2004, Yadav was scheduled to appear at a bail hearing in court in the Indian city of Nagpur. After word got around that the court might release him, local women decided to take matters into their own hands. Hundreds of them marched to the courthouse, and sat in the courtroom. After the defendant reportedly mocked a woman he had raped, another woman struck him on the head with a sandal. Others threw chili powder in his face and pelted him with stones. The female vigilantes pulled out knives, and stabbed him at least 70 times. One of his alleged victims hacked off his penis in retribution. His police guards, who had chili powder thrown in their faces as well, were unable to stop crowd. It reportedly took Yadav 15 minutes to die [source: Sengar].

That evening, the women returned to their neighborhood, where a celebration with dancing in the streets ensued [source: Sengar]. A dozen women and children were among those arrested in connection with the killing [source: Ahmed]. But the case went nowhere, and a decade after Yadav's death, a judge acquitted all the remaining defendants for lack of evidence [source: Press Trust of India].


11: Montgomery Meigs

Arlington National Cemetery became what it is in part because of a revenge plot by Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, a Union officer during the Civil War, against Gen. Robert E. Lee. Wikimedia Commons (CC By SA 3.0)

Brig. Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, a Union officer during the Civil War, had once served under Robert E. Lee in the engineer corps. But after Lee joined the Confederate side, Meigs considered him a traitor. In 1864, Meigs, who served as quartermaster general for the Union army, got his chance to exact revenge. Meigs proposed to President Lincoln's Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that a portion of Lee's estate in Arlington, Virginia, which had been seized by Union forces earlier in the conflict, be appropriated and converted into a permanent national military cemetery. In addition, he pushed for some Union soldiers who already had been buried on the grounds to be disinterred and moved closer to Lee's hilltop home. "The grounds about the Mansion are admirably adapted to such a use," he wrote to Stanton, who approved Meigs' request [source: Poole].

Meigs had another purpose for burying war dead on Lee's former property — he wanted to make it impossible for the estate to be returned to the Confederate general after the war. To further that objective, Meigs created a mass grave in the garden of Lee's wife Mary, and buried more than 2,000 identified war dead there, and built a sarcophagus to honor them. He knew that it would be politically impossible after the war to move their remains [source: Poole].


As Meigs had anticipated, after the Confederacy's surrender, Lee and his wife tried to regain the property, with Mary Lee even proposing that the federal government move the union graves. But they were unsuccessful. After their deaths, their son George Washington Custis Lee pursued the matter in court, and eventually negotiated a $150,000 payment from the government for the property [source: Poole].

10: Alan Ralsky

Ralsky's spam operation netted him hundreds of pounds of real junk mail a day. ITU Pictures/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In 2003, enough people had access to the internet that spam email had become a problem worthy of national attention. At the heart of the controversy was a Michigan entrepreneur named Alan Ralsky, who became known as the "spam king," for sending millions of bulk email come-ons for a variety of businesses. As a result, some critics of his business model called Ralsky "vermin" and "scum."

When an article in a local paper spotlighted Ralsky's lavish lifestyle, including his 8,000-square-foot (743-square-meter) home, some of those critics managed to find the spam king's physical address. In a bid for revenge for all of the spam email they'd received through his business, the naysayers signed Ralsky's address up for junk mail on a number of sites around the internet. Eventually, thousands of Internet trolls propagated the address across the web. At the peak of the revenge scheme, Ralsky's home received hundreds of pounds of junk mail each day.


In 2009, Ralsky pleaded guilty in federal court to fraud for a penny stock manipulation scheme. He received a 51-month prison sentence [source: Kurth].

9: The 47 Ronin

The 47 ronin held many of their secret meetings in this temple. Wikimedia Commons (CC By SA 2.0)

What has become a lasting legend of Japanese loyalty and revenge — and the basis for a number of films and books — is rooted in historic fact.

In the Edo period of Japan, samurai served largely as military advisers, landowners and bodyguards for wealthy noblemen. The samurai's oath of loyalty included an agreement between a samurai and his daimyo (nobleman) to avenge his master's death. The 47 samurai sworn to protect their master, Asano Naganori, took this oath seriously.


During a 1701 visit to Tokyo (then known as Edo), Naganori slashed at another nobleman, Kira Yoshinaka, the result of an unknown dispute between the two. For his transgression, the ruling group decided that Naganori should commit seppuku, or ritual suicide, which he did later that day.

Naganori's men lied in wait and planned. Two years later, the 47 ronin (the term for a samurai who lacks a master) crept into the Yoshinaka's home and confronted him, telling him why they had come and offering him the chance to commit seppuku himself. When he didn't, the ronin removed his head, carried it to the castle where their master was buried and placed it in front of his tomb. They surrendered to authorities, who ordered the ronin to commit suicide. Forty-six of the 47 ronin committed seppuku. There are conflicting stories of the fate of the 47th ronin; he either died or was pardoned [sources: Smith, 47 Ronin].

8: St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre

August 1572 was a bad month for Protestants in France. duncan1890/Getty Images

When the Protestant Reformation created an entirely new branch of Christianity in the mid-16th century, the Catholic Church smarted from the break for some time. In addition to losing millennia-old face, the church risked losing land, power and funding, as formerly all-Catholic areas began to turn toward Protestantism.

This was the atmosphere under which Paris found itself in August 1572, when the city was filled with both Catholics and visiting Huguenots, or French Protestants. These two warring groups were in town for the marriage of a Catholic noblewoman to a Huguenot aristocrat. Almost as soon as the wedding ended, the Catholic French king, Charles IX, decided that the Huguenot military leader may as well be captured and killed for his trespasses against the church. To ensure that he needn't hear any complaints from the visiting Huguenots, he ordered all of the ones found in Paris killed as well. Over the course of just a few days, in what came to be called the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, between 1,000 and 4,000 French Protestants were murdered in Paris.


For good measure, King Charles carried the massacre into the countryside, ordering the revenge killings against all Huguenots found in France, leading to the murders of between 30,000 and 100,000 of them following the initial massacre. This is how the Huguenots came to live in England [source: Oberhofer].

7: Aaron Burr

Revenge, served right in the kisser. Aaron Burr, left, killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, July 11, 1804. Internet Archive Book Images/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

There are few stories of political rivalry in American history as legendary as that between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. And there are few cases of revenge as straightforward as their duel.

Burr and Hamilton both served in the revolutionary army under Washington. Both had political careers and aspirations for high office, which both achieved. And neither was above underhanded dealings to rise to power.


Hamilton is best known as the author of most of the Federalist Papers and as the first Treasury Secretary of the U.S., but he was also adept at influencing the political outcome of elections and nominations. In his 47 years, he managed to run afoul of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, mainly due to his backroom deals with underlings who could undermine their power.

But it was Burr whose line Hamilton would ultimately cross. After he lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson by a decision Hamilton helped engineer in the House of Representatives, Burr accepted his fate and served as Vice President. He went onto run for governor of New York, only to find Hamilton working against him there as well. Burr had had enough; he challenged Hamilton to a duel and mortally wounded him July 11, 1804 [source: History.com].

6: Dave Carroll

United Airlines was the target of Dave Carroll's "United Breaks Guitars" revenge scheme. Wikimedia Commons (CC By SA 2.0)

When the Canadian folk-pop group Sons of Maxwell began their tour of Nebraska in 2008, they were disheartened to see from their seats in the rear of the United Airlines flight that baggage handlers were heavily tossing their guitars onto the plane. Upon landing and traveling to a hotel in Omaha, the band found that while the bass was intact, a $3,500 Taylor guitar had been broken.

The guitar's owner, guitarist Dave Carroll, began what would be a long journey toward reimbursement for his instrument. After nine months of calling customer service and following their suggestions in filing a claim, as well as spending $1,200 to repair the guitar, Carroll's claim was finally denied by United, based on several points, including that he hadn't shown the guitar to officials in Omaha [source: Carroll].


So Carroll decided that he would exact revenge by recording a series of songs, which came to be called the "United Breaks Guitars" trilogy. He uploaded them onto YouTube, where they went viral and racked up more than 4 million views in less than a month. Carroll's revenge on United may have had an impact on the company's bottom line: Within four days of the first video's launch, United's stock dropped in value by $180 million, or 10 percent of its market cap [source: Carroll].

5: Dr. Hawley Crippen

Hawley Harvey Crippen, disguised in a white hat with his face covered in black, after his arrest. Wikimedia Commons

Revenge is sometimes best served confusingly and possibly from beyond the grave — and perhaps by someone else entirely, or possibly unfairly.

Such is the case with Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a homeopathic doctor living in London with his concert singer wife, Cora. Mrs. Crippen discovered her husband was having an affair and announced she was ready to move on with the couple's money, which was mostly hers. Shortly after, she went missing and was never seen again.


Dr. Crippen told friends that she'd fallen ill and died during a series of performances in Los Angeles. In short order, Dr. Crippen sold his wife's jewelry, gave his landlord three months' notice and set sail with his mistress for a new life in the U.S. Soon, however, Mrs. Crippen's friends alerted Scotland Yard they suspected foul play and Dr. Crippen's home was investigated. A body turned up in the cellar; Dr. Crippen was arrested and convicted of his wife's murder and hanged in 1910.

In 2007, forensic evidence proved the remains hadn't been Mrs. Crippen's. In fact, they belonged to a man. Some aficionados of the case suspect that Dr. Crippen successfully disposed of his wife's remains, but was hanged for her murder based on the remains of someone else. It's possible those remains belonged to another person Dr. Crippen had murdered. It's also possible that he was wrongly executed [source: The History Press].

4: Lorena Bobbitt

Lorena Bobbitt leaves the courthouse Jan. 11, 1994 after her trial in Manassas, Virginia. Shutterstock

Back in June 1993, Lorena Bobbitt made the headlines after she cut off her husband's penis with a carving knife as he slept [sources: Oprah.com, Chozick].

The former Mrs. Bobbitt alleges that her ex-husband victimized her, using physical violence and even marital rape as a means of maintaining control over her. In 1993, on the night she got her revenge, she says John Wayne Bobbitt came home intoxicated, then assaulted and raped her. After he fell asleep, she retrieved a carving knife from their kitchen and used it to remove his penis.


She left the house with the severed organ in her hand, and drove for 15 minutes, before tossing it out the driver's side window, and then fleeing to the nearby nail salon where she worked, as she recalled in a 2019 New York Times article. She later told police the location where she had discarded the penis. After searching in the roadside grass, the officers found the penis and put it on ice in a hot dog box from a convenience store, and rushed it to the hospital. In a nine-and-a-half-hour operation, the penis was surgically reattached to John Wayne Bobbitt [source: Chozick].

Lorena Bobbitt alleged that she had cut off her husband's penis after he had sexually assaulted her. Both ended being charged in relation to the incident. John Wayne Bobbitt was charged marital sexual assault, charges that his lawyer argued were untrue, and was acquitted by a jury in November 1993 [source: Labaton]. Lorena Bobbitt in turn was tried on charges that included malicious wounding, but a jury apparently bought her defense that she had snapped after being assaulted, and found her not guilty by reason of temporary insanity [sources: Margolick, Gearan]. The couple divorced in 1995 [source: Effron and Dooley].

3: Anthony Stockelman

Prison isn't a safe place for a child murderer, especially if it's the same one the victim's cousin is housed. Charles O'Rear/Getty Images

In 2006, an Indiana factory worker named Anthony Ray Stockelman, then 39, pled guilty to molesting and killing 10-year-old Katlyn "Katie" Collman, whose body had been found in a creek 15 miles from her home. Though DNA evidence linked Stockelman to the crime, the county prosecutor agreed to take the death penalty off the table, in order to spare the victim's family from years of further turmoil [source: Associated Press].

Stockelman was sent to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility to serve his sentence, where he soon was subjected to additional retribution for his crime. In September 2006, prison officials discovered that Stockman's forehead had been tattooed with the words "Katie's Revenge" [source: Associated Press].

The convicted killer and child molester got little sympathy from people in his victim's hometown of Crothersville, Indiana, according to one news account. One friend of the victim's family said that media interviews had made it appear that Stockelman had it too easy in prison. "I'd say he probably had a chance of heart about that now," explained the man, who believed the tattoo was intended as "weird justice" [source: Zambroski].

A relative of the victim, who also happened to be an inmate at the prison later was charged with battery in the attack, and had seven years added to his sentence as a result, according to an Associated Press report. (He claimed that the victim had voluntarily submitted to the tattoo, to avoid additional attacks by inmates.) Prison officials found a medical practitioner who agreed to remove the tattoo, free of charge [source: Associated Press].

2: Dachau Massacre

Dachau concentration camp in Bavaria. Gary Todd/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In late April 1945, in the waning days of World War II, members of the 45th Thunderbird Army Infantry Division were ordered to take the Bavarian concentration camp at Dachau.

The members of the division soon discovered what came to be called the "death train" — 39 rail cars filled with the corpses of 2,310 camp inmates lying stationary on the tracks just within the camp's fenced walls.

Some members of the division said this sight drove them to commit one of the worst atrocities done by American infantry troops in World War II. In an act of revenge for their crimes against the civilians found dead and dying in the camps, the American liberators of Dachau executed a number of unarmed SS officers who had come to the camp to surrender. The Americans lined up 75 German soldiers against a wall inside the camp and mowed them down by machine gun. In total, 17 were executed at the wall and another 11 were killed elsewhere in the camp the day it was captured.

Army officials covered up the war crime; it was only revealed in 2001 after World War II records were declassified [source: Connor].

1: James Annesley

colonial america
One good way to inherit family wealth was to send the rightful owner to colonial America for a dozen years of indentured servitude.
©Getty Images/Photos.com/ Thinkstock

James Annesley was born in Ireland in the early 18th century, to a vast amount of wealth and a noble title. His uncle Richard was determined to inherit James' wealth, and methodically dispensed of everything that stood between him and the family fortune, starting first with James' father — Richard's own brother, Arthur. Historians suspect that Richard poisoned his brother.

With Arthur Annesley out of the way, only James stood between Richard and the family entitlement. At the age of 12, James was kidnapped by men hired by his uncle and smuggled aboard a ship to America, where he was held as an indentured servant in Delaware for 12 years. At 25, he worked off his servitude, took a ship to Jamaica and eventually London, and set about restoring his identity and reclaiming his fortune from his uncle in the courts.

He died before he could, with his uncle still in control of the family wealth. Annesley had the last laugh, however. The decades of court cases dragged his uncle's reputation into the public sphere, where he was decried as a schemer, bigamist and scoundrel (source: NPR].

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Ahmed, Zubair. "Women bailed over court lynching." Bbc.co.uk. Aug. 18, 2004. (July 12, 2022) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3577018.stm
  • Associated Press. "Inmate: Convicted killer agreed to tattoo to avoid more attacks. "Dec. 8, 2006. (July 12, 2022) ttps://www.wave3.com/story/5788092/inmate-convicted-killer-agreed-to-tattoo-to-avoid-more-attacks/
  • Associated Press. "Inmate Has Victim's Name On Forehead." Cbsnews.com. Sept. 28, 2006. (July 12, 2022) https://www.cbsnews.com/news/inmate-has-victims-name-on-forehead/
  • Associated Press. "Stockelman Pleads Guilty To Molesting, Killing 10-Year-Old Crothersville Girl." Wave.3.com. Mar. 24, 2006. (July 12, 2022) https://www.wave3.com/story/4677433/stockelman-pleads-guilty-to-molesting-killing-10-year-old-crothersville-girl/
  • 47 Ronins.com "The death of Kira." (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20180212195055/http://www.47ronins.com/the-death-of-kira.html
  • Ayres, Chris. "Revenge is best served cold - on YouTube." Times UK. July 22, 2009 . (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20090802110812/http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/chris_ayres/article6722407.ece
  • Bioguide. "Burr, Aaron." U.S. Congress. (July 12, 2022) http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=b001133
  • Carroll, Dave. "Story." (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20100324192656/http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/ubg/story/
  • CBS News. "Lorena Bobbitt, 15 years later." June 25, 2008. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20100116190553/http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/06/25/earlyshow/leisure/celebspot/main4207517.shtml
  • Chozick, Amy. "You Know the Lorena Bobbitt Story. But Not All of It." New York Times. Jan. 30, 2019. (July 12, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/30/arts/television/lorena-bobbitt-documentary-jordan-peele.html
  • Ciarcia-Levy, Joy. "Revenge is sweet, and it's everywhere." ABC News. February 1, 2007. (July 12, 2022) http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2831618&page=1
  • Connor, Joseph. "Horrors Spawned More Horrors When American Troops Entered Dachau." Dec. 30, 2021 (July 12, 2022) https://www.historynet.com/horrors-spawned-more-horrors-when-american-troops-entered-dachau/
  • Effron, Lauren and Dooley, Sean. "John Bobbitt speaks out 25 years after wife infamously cut off his penis: 'I want people to understand... the whole story.'" Jan. 4, 2019. (July 12, 2022) https://abcnews.go.com/US/john-bobbitt-speaks-25-years-wife-infamously-cut/story?id=60023049
  • Farragher, Thomas. "Vengeance at Dachau." Boston Globe. July 2, 2001. (July 12, 2022) http://graphics.boston.com/globe/nation/packages/secret_history/index5.shtml
  • Gearan, Anne. "Lorena Bobbitt Found Innocent; Jury Cites Temporary Insanity : Law: Judge places her in custody to undergo psychiatric evaluation after she severed mate's penis. " Los Angeles Times. Jan. 23, 1994. (June 12, 2022) https://lat.ms/3uJZco5
  • Henley, Jon. "Stranger than fiction: the true story behind Kidnapped." The Guardian. February 18, 2010. (July 12, 2022) http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/18/kidnapped-stevenson-true-story-annesley
  • Historic Valley Forge. "Major General Alexander Hamilton." U.S. History.org.(July 12, 2022) . http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/hamilton.html
  • History.com. "Aaron Burr slays Alexander Hamilton in duel." (July 12, 2022) https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/burr-slays-hamilton-in-duel
  • Indiana Supreme Court. "Anthony R. Stockelman vs. State of Indiana." June 20, 2007. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20070625034952/http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/06200703rts.pdf
  • Jennings, Richi. "Ralsky spam gang guilty; 24 years jail, $2,135,000 fine." Computerworld. June 24, 2009. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20090627123627/http://blogs.computerworld.com/ralsky_spam_gang_guilty_24_years_jail_and_2_135_000_fine
  • Kurth, Joel. "Junk e-mail foes target spam king." Detroit News. August 4, 2002. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20021201080519/http://www.cmsconnect.com/News/CMSInPrint/DN-020804.htm
  • Labaton, Stephen. "Husband Acquitted of Assault in Mutilation Case." New York Times. Nov. 11, 1993. (July 12, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/11/us/husband-acquitted-of-assault-in-mutilation-case.html
  • Leyden, John. "How to automate a DoS attack using the post office." The Register. April 14, 2003. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20040817125353/http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/04/14/how_to_automate_a_dos/
  • Margolick, David. "Lorena Bobbitt Acquitted In Mutilation of Husband." New York Times. Jan 22, 1994. (July 12, 2022) https://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/22/us/lorena-bobbitt-acquitted-in-mutilation-of-husband.html
  • Michigan State University. "CSI: East Lansing - science shows innocent man hanged in famous murder case." October 16, 2007. (July 12, 2022) https://web.archive.org/web/20100126061011/http://news.msu.edu/story/758/
  • NPR. "'Birthright': The Astonishing Story Behind 'Kidnapped'." (July 12, 2022) https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123463730
  • Oberhofer, Tom. "Paris and the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre: August 24, 1572." Eckerd College. (July 12, 2022) . http://home.eckerd.edu/~oberhot/paris-siege-stbarth.htm
  • The Oprah Winfrey Show. "Lorena Bobbitt's infamous crime." April 23, 2009. (July 12, 2022) http://www.oprah.com/world/Lorena-Bobbitts-Unforgettable-Story/1
  • Poole, Robert M. "How Arlington National Cemetery Came to Be." Smithsonian. November 2009. (July 12, 2022) https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-arlington-national-cemetery-came-to-be-145147007/
  • Press Trust of India. "Nagpur goon lynching case: all including five women acquitted." Business-standard.com. Nov. 10, 2014. (July 12, 2022) https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/nagpur-goon-lynching-case-all-including-five-women-acquitted-114111001184_1.html
  • Sengar, Shweta. "17 Years Ago, 200 Women Lynched Serial Rapist Bharat Kalicharan In A Nagpur Courtroom." India Times. Dec. 1, 2021. (July 12, 2022) https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/serial-rapist-bharat-kalicharan-lynched-in-nagpur-courtroom-555675.html
  • Smith, Henry D. II. "Rethinking the story of the 47 Ronin." Columbia University. August 2003. (July 12, 2022) http://www.columbia.edu/~hds2/47ronin/47ronin_rev.htm
  • The History Press. "The notorious case of Dr Crippen." (July 12, 2022) https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/the-notorious-case-of-dr-crippen/
  • Times of India. "Women proud of lynching goon in court. Women proud of lynching goon in court. " Indiatimes.com. Aug. 15, 2004. (July 12, 2022) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/women-proud-of-lynching-goon-in-court/articleshow/815580.cms
  • Zambroski, James. "Officials investigating after 10-year-old's killer gets prison tattoo on forehead: 'Katie's Revenge'." WAVE 3 News. Sept. 27, 2006. (Julyi 12, 2022) http://www.wave3.com/story/5467204/officials-investigating-after-10-year-olds-killer-gets-prison-tattoo-on-forehead-katies-revenge?redirected=true