Given the oppressive fans, the creepy stalkers, and — all too often — the deranged death threats that the famous endure, abject anonymity has its charms. John Lennon may be the biggest celebrity to die at the hands of an obsessed fan, but dozens of stars have been the targets of elaborate extortion, kidnapping, and even murder plots — most of which are, thankfully, thwarted by police before they can be carried out. Here's a rundown of stars who have allegedly been the target of psychotic conspiracies.
New Mexico police revealed on Dec. 13 the grisly details behind an alleged plot to kidnap and murder Canadian teen star Justin Bieber. The plan was reportedly conceived behind bars by 45-year-old fan Dana Martin, who has a tattoo of Bieber on his leg and had grown embittered that his letters to the star went unanswered. Martin, who was convicted of the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl in Vermont in 2000, allegedly coerced Mark Staake, 41, who was released on parole in October, to be his hit man. Staake, with the help of his nephew, allegedly intended to capture Bieber and his bodyguard between Bieber's Nov. 28 and 29 Madison Square Garden concerts in New York City. They were then going to strangle the victims with a paisley tie — Martin's signature murder weapon — and then castrate the men with garden clippers. The elaborate plot, however, was foiled when the would-be assassins got lost in Vermont and were stopped by a U.S. border agent who arrested Staake due to his outstanding warrants in New Mexico.
In 2011, neighbors of British singer Joss Stone spotted a dubious-looking car driving around her English country estate's narrow lanes and reported it. Police found the car, which reportedly contained a selection of maps and aerial shots of the area as well as swords, rope, and a body bag. The two men connected with the car were apprehended and charged with conspiracy to rob and commit grievous bodily harm in a suspected plot against the 24-year-old singer.
Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson had a frighteningly close encounter with an obsessed fan in 2010. While the retired gymnast was practicing for her Dancing with the Stars stint on the ABC studio lot, 36-year-old Robert O'Ryan allegedly jumped a fence and broke into the building in an alleged attempt to kidnap Johnson. He was apprehended before making it to the star, but his car was found nearby loaded with a handgun, shotgun, and bulletproof vest. O'Ryan claimed that Johnson communicated with him telepathically during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and that he was just fulfilling her wish to be with him and bear his child. In June 2010, O'Ryan pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to felony stalking and burglary charges.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt
As one of Hollywood's wealthiest and most provocative celebrity couples, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are certainly vulnerable to public scrutiny and attacks. In 2007, the couple were allegedly the focus of a kidnapping attempt by a Los Angeles gang. Gang leaders had purportedly devised a plan to abduct the couple's newly adopted son Pax shortly after his arrival in the U.S. from his native Vietnam — and demand $100 million for his safe return. Luckily, no such plan played out. But the Pitt-Jolie family is still not breathing easily. In July of this year, Pitt's devout Christian mother, Jane, wrote her local paper in response to an opinion piece, conveying her support for Mitt Romney, and received aggressive death threats.
In 2001, Russell Crowe was coming off of what would be an Oscar-winning performance in Gladiator when he was reportedly threatened by al Qaeda. The FBI confirmed that it was investigating a serious threat to kidnap the New Zealand-born star and assigned a secret security detail to track him during all of his award-season appearances. Ironically, the Australian-born Crowe later told Australia's GQ magazine, the supposed plot was meant to take iconic Americans "out of the picture as sort of a cultural destabilization plot." No arrests were ever made.
In the early 2000s Victoria Beckham and her family were terrorized by a series of kidnapping and death threats that spurred the singer to hire some serious security. In 2000, Scotland Yards detectives were forced to move the former Spice Girl and her first child, Brooklyn, to a safe house after officials unearthed a plot to kidnap the two. (And a more dubious kidnapping threat was reported just two years later.) The scariest moment, however, reportedly came later in 2000, when a red, sniper-like dot appeared on Beckham's chest while she was rehearsing for her role in the Brit Awards. The star was rushed off stage, but no bullets were fired and no one was hurt.
In 1997, obsessed Spielberg fan Jonathan Norman was reportedly trespassing on the director's Malibu estate when he was apprehended by a guard — a good thing considering that the alleged kidnapper was found to have pictures of Spielberg and his family, as well as duct tape, curtain rods, handcuffs, and a utility knife in his possession. The paranoid schizophrenic was reportedly determined to kidnap and rape the acclaimed movie maker.