4. Guy Plays Elaborate, Expensive, Months-Long Practical Joke on Minister for No Reason
In the winter of 1880, Trinity Church’s pastor was plagued by a series of criminal pranks that may have been the first instances of spam mail ever. You know the old trick of signing some jerk up for a bunch of “bill me later” magazine subscriptions? This is the vintage version: one morning, the Reverend Morgan Dix received mailings from companies across the United States. Soon he was receiving hundreds of them, in addition to people of practically every trade and tradition showing up at his door from dawn to dusk: locksmiths, physicians, horse salesmen, dance instructors, toupee makers, tattoo artists, pawnbrokers, divorce attorneys, girls’ school representatives… all carrying with them letters on the reverend’s stationery, asking for them to visit. Soon, other members of the clergy started receiving rude notes, also allegedly from the reverend, and eventually, the pastor's tormentor tried to extort him.
As they noted over at Strange Company, the endless pestering completely derailed the minister’s life. When they finally tracked down the man behind the madness, who had been calling himself “Gentleman Joe” in teasing letters he sent the minister, his motive was as opaque as the scheme had been elaborate: "I really do not know why I did it," he told a reporter from the New York Sun. "I have a soft spot in that direction. It's a mania. When I get a pen in my hand I have to write."