The Most Utterly Insane Neighbor Disputes
Those of you who grew up with Mister Rogers learned that neighbors are people who hug your heart like a warm sweater. Unfortunately, these friendly heart-huggers exist primarily in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Most of your real neighbors only like you superficially. The rest view you with vitriol and will snap like rabid Rottweilers if you cross them. Strangely, Mister Rogers never mentioned that. Anyone hoping for a skit about Henrietta Pussycat mauling the red trolley is out of luck, but don’t worry. There are plenty of real community conflicts that defy the imagination.
If you’re like most people, you’ve entertained at least one revenge fantasy in your life. Maybe you wanted to suspend an enemy in Jell-O or scuff up their shoes something awful. Fortunately, most people don’t act on these impulses, lest society devolve into a gelatinous melee. But every so often a brazen oddball leaves the realm of mental malice and enters full-blown attack mode. Barry Swegle was one of those oddballs.
Swegle’s anger stemmed from a fence erected by Dan Davis, according to Peninsula Daily News in Washington state. Davis, who lived next door, had impeded Swegle’s ability to maneuver a pair of bulldozers and an excavator that he kept on his property. The latter showed his displeasure by repeatedly destroying Davis’s fence like an entitled madman. From there things escalated.
As ABC explained, Swegle’s fury festered for 10 years before culminating in a 10-minute demolition spree. With the help of his 45-ton bulldozer, he tore into Davis’ house. Davis’ wife, who was inside, had to make a hasty exit. Along the way, Swegle targeted several power lines, a boat, and multiple vehicles owned by his fence-friendly foe. At one point Swegle tried to mow Davis down directly. The human maelstrom only subsided after a sheriff’s deputy intervened. Swegle’s mechanized tantrum caused $300,000 in damages and completely decimated three houses. One of the places he struck belonged to his own grandfather. Understandably, he had to do jail time. Incomprehensibly, Swegle was sentenced to just 29 months.
You’re supposed to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well, sometimes they actually get too close, igniting a dumpster fire of trashy behavior. Few feuds show that dynamic more ludicrously than the quarter-century spat between Evan Wile and neighbors Jeffrey Horvitz and John Rattigan. According to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, the conflict began over oceanfront properties.
In 1991, Rattigan and Horvitz purchased the first property, which contained a ravishing home, a pool, lush lawns, and a pristine view of the beach. They also had designs on the vacant lot next door. However, Wile won it in a bidding war. He, too, wanted to chillax by the beach but needed to build his palace from scratch. Rattigan and Horvitz repeatedly blocked Wile in court, eventually leaving him with a lot of empty hopes.
Furious, Wile dished out industrial-grade pettiness. He stocked his lot with concrete slabs, pipe sections, and a rusty crane bucket to poison the view. He later added a giant red shipping container. In the summer, when Rattigan and Horvitz tried to throw wicked pool parties, Wile had people catcall the women and placed a legion of reeking porta johns nearby. Still unsatisfied, he installed helipads so he could use a chopper to fling debris at Horvitz and Rattigan’s home. The pair sued. In 2006, a judge ordered Wile to pay $337,200 in damages. He had nothing better to do with it, anyway.
Put up your dooks
Stereotypically speaking, Canadians are as nice as you can get without being a Ned Flanders clone. But even the sweetest populations have at least one sour Susan. In the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, that Susan was a farmer named Lee Murray. Murray didn’t always have his acrid disposition, but as he later explained to the press, that all changed with a tiff over junk mail.
For context, let’s travel back to the halcyon days of 2001. That year, Murray and his wife sold a tract of land to David and Joan Gallant, according to CBC News. Their households maintained a chummy dynamic until Mrs. Gallant got fed up with receiving the Murray’s junk mail and voiced her displeasure. According to Murray, this fateful decision sent the families’ friendship into a death spiral.
When Murray’s malice boiled over, he assailed the Gallants with steaming piles of poop. It wasn’t just a few dollops of dog doo, either. The agitated agrarian hopped on his tractor and dumped loads of moist manure on the Gallants’ grounds. By the time he was done, Murray had constructed a waste wall as tall as a three-car garage. It stood for 11 months. Determined to milk every chance at mischief, the Murrays also let 50 cows onto the Gallants’ property and blew small objects at their house. The Gallants played a different game and took their harasser to court, where a judge ordered Murray to pay them $17,689.12 in compensation.
Jingle all the wayward
Every child knows that to prevent a coal-black Christmas, you need to get on Santa’s Nice List. But every adult knows your inner Grinch can prove irresistible. That rings especially true when people pooh-pooh earnest attempts to spread holiday joy. Electrician Bill Ansell can certainly relate. After putting up merry Christmas displays that got criticized by neighbors, he lost his goodwill toward men. Determined to exact revenge, Ansell spent years trolling his detractors.
According to Trib Live, Ansell and his brother used to erect enormous Christmas light displays to help the local children’s hospital. Crowds numbering in the thousands would congregate at Ansell’s Pennsylvania home to admire his 80,000-watt creation. However, nearby residents resented the car-congested streets and disliked living by Santa’s version of the Bat-Signal. So Ansell killed the lights and let darkness fill his heart. Ansell expressed his indignation through a holiday horror show. As per ABC, the embittered electrician decked his yard with a headless choir, peeing Santa, and other unwholesome eyesores which he illuminated every night for at least six years. Ansell further accented this lunacy by posting profane messages about his township, loudly hammering at night, and aiming floodlights at people’s windows. And because he lived at the center of a circular street, in the doughnut hole, residents couldn’t really escape it.
Local officials fined Ansell repeatedly, which achieved exactly nothing. The government, meanwhile, blew $12,000 on legal fees. Good thing Ansell didn’t steal the town’s Christmas gifts because this Grinch played for keeps.
What a grass-hole
Unless you live in a vacuum (which would really suck), your actions inevitably affect others. And because people dread being dreaded, they tend to check their behavior. That’s why you hold in farts on crowded elevators. Even though they’re yours, everyone has to smell them. Similarly, when you alter your home in an annoying way, neighbors are bound to make a stink about it. Blaine and Cindy Zechenelly smelled that disapproval back in 2009.
Problems started when the Zechenellys spruced up their Sequim, Washington, property with a purple garage-apartment combo. According to press reports, the locals vehemently disapproved. One resident likened it to a “bruised thumb.” Another called it “the purple people eater,” ostensibly because it gnawed at everyone’s retinas. Convinced the architectural irritant had devalued their homes, community members even asked to have their property taxes lowered. Everyone involved was undoubtedly displeased, but the award for most peeved has to go to Brian Juel.
Eager to share his feelings with the world, Juel mowed a brief but barbed message into his lawn. It said “A Hole” with a gigantic arrow pointing at the Zechenellys’ house. It’s unknown how many people were privy at the time, but Google Earth certainly caught a lens-full. In 2017, the internet caught wind of the butt-themed aspersion after a Reddit user discovered it on Google. The image soon made headlines, drawing attention to the Zechenelleys’ purple pest. When asked to comment, Cindy Zechenelly reportedly replied, “I’d just as soon let it die.”
You don't know squatter
Hospitality services like Airbnb have given a new face and feel to travel accommodations. For instance, while hotels have pillows a thousand mouths have drooled on, Airbnb hosts offer pillows that only they have drooled on. There are also disadvantages, like the fact that Airbnb guests can legally hijack a host’s home in certain situations. Michelle Huang understands that all too well.
Huang’s occupant ordeal began with a not-so-neighborly feud. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in 2012 she and several other people purchased a six-unit building in San Francisco. One of her co-owners was future foe Sandeep Andre Hingorani. The two butted heads over money and maintenance. Things soured even more after Huang and her live-in boyfriend began renting out their pad on Airbnb. Hingorani bemoaned the resulting influx of people among other things. His biggest gripe: not living in Huang’s unit.
That became abundantly clear when he made a fake Airbnb profile to rent it. Hingorani adopted the alias Jim Tako and had an intermediary handle all in-person engagements. The shadowy “Tako” then moved himself, his mother, and a friend into Huang’s unit. While there, he tweaked his Airbnb agreement, cutting his monthly rent by more than $1,000. After about two months, Huang discovered the ruse, but by then Hingorani could claim tenant’s rights. Hingorani stayed another 10 months. But Huang eventually made tenancy untenable by shutting off the electricity and adjusting the rent. The squatters left, but these true Americans took their differences to court. No official verdict has been reported.
As British rock philosopher Mick Jagger once said, “You can’t always get what you want.” It’s a painful lesson that people repeatedly learn throughout their lives. Andrew Currie, for example, really wanted to have a residential parking area on his street. But he couldn’t get no satisfaction because of fellow resident Andrew Small, who successfully blocked the measure. Under normal circumstances, this would have been the point where Currie admitted defeat and called it a day. Instead, he tried to have Small arrested.
Since upsetting your neighbor isn’t a crime, Currie had to get creative. As the Evening Standard explained, he devised a plan to cast Small as a big bully and dangerous bigot. To pull it off, he scanned a picture of Small from a newspaper and used it to make a fraudulent Facebook account. Then Currie behaved like an inimical jerk-face. For four months he wrote offensive remarks and made attacks on himself while posing as Small. The posts included such sinister musings as, “mixed-race children should be a crime” and “KKK are needed in Croydon.” He also threatened to burn his own house down and murder his own pets. Currie used this contrived crime to press charges against Small.
Thankfully, Small filed a Freedom of Information request to see the charges against him. Officers noticed huge differences in how Small and his Facebook impostor communicated. They eventually traced the threats back to Currie, who received a 10-month jail sentence.
The prickly pair
Ownership is a relative concept. If you want to construct a house on your property, you have to get planning permission and nearby homeowners might make a fuss. But if your burn that same house down in protest, you still get hassled. That’s basically what Darren Wood went through while trying to build his home in 2005. Except instead of committing arson, he issued a sick burn.
As per USA Today, Wood purchased a plot of land with plans to build a home on it. But local naysayer Stan Torgersen wasn’t having it. Worried the endeavor would wreck his own house’s foundation, Torgersen and a fellow resident decided to gum up the works. He brought his concerns to government officials, who told Wood to have the soil tested. Wood asserted that the previous owner had already done this. Even so he coughed up $3,000 and probably lots of swear words to have it reassessed.
After four months of hassle, Wood resumed construction and met even more opposition. This time Torgersen claimed his house exceeded legal height limits. At some point, Wood vented his frustrations with an air vent cover. Specifically, he decorated it with what looks like a hand flipping the bird, though he called it a cactus. Whatever the case, Torgersen again tattled to authorities. Wood ultimately removed his inflammatory art, according to Deseret News. Not only did he lose a hilariously huge optical illusion, but also an estimated $25,000 in construction setbacks.
Let there be fight
Just about anything can spoil a person’s day. It could be something major like your favorite celebrity getting arrested or something minor like noticing fly wings on a stamp you just licked. For Manhattanite Suellen Epstein, it was Rich Miele. Miele rented a loft located across from her and, according to The Telegraph, enjoyed watching a 50-inch TV with his family. This beloved pastime sent light pouring through Epstein’s window, which gave her a case of the crankies.
Most normal people would solve that problem with a set of swanky curtains. But Epstein saw fit to confront Miele, requesting that he lower his blinds in the evening. Miele instead offered to buy her a set of high-tech blinds she could close. Evidently Epstein took this as a grave affront because what she did next reached cartoon levels of absurdity. Resolved to make Miele feel her pain, Epstein launched a campaign of ocular terrorism. With total disregard for Miele’s wife and children, she acquired Broadway spotlights, a strobe light, and a disco ball to shine at his apartment for hours into the night. So great was Epstein’s dedication that when she went on vacation, she rigged her lights to turn on automatically. Her electric bills had to be huge.
Miele sued Epstein for harassment. As per the New York Daily News, a New York judge ordered both parties to close their blinds like rational humans. Official hearings were informally set for summer 2017.
You've got hate mail
Isaac Perlmutter is a septuagenarian billionaire who heads the Marvel wing of Disney. Little is known about him except that his last public photo was in 1985 and that he might be a diabolical slanderer who holds irrational grudges. At least that’s what Harold Peerenboom wants you to think. The men share a gated community in Palm Beach, Florida. And according to Peerenboom, Perlmutter tried to run him out of town by flooding the neighborhood with literally thousands of anonymous letters that painted him as a child-molesting murderer.
As the New York Times reported, Perlmutter’s accuser claimed that the odious smear campaign occurred over a woman. To be clear, this isn’t a tale of wrinkly lust. Rather, Perlmutter allegedly hassled Peerenboom for accusing Karen Donnelly of illegal activity. Donnelly ran the local tennis program and had Perlmutter’s backing. He saw to it that she didn’t get punished and actually paid for Donnelly to sue Peerenboom for defamation. Soon thereafter the vicious letters appeared.
Peerenboom tried to sue Perlmutter’s pants off, claiming that DNA evidence linked the letters to the Marvel exec’s wife. Perlmutter claimed the evidence had been planted. He further tried to discredit Peerenboom’s case with supposed findings by the Department of Homeland Security. As the Hollywood Reporter explained, Perlmutter declared that the DHS uncovered a “hate mail kit” linked to one of Peerenboom’s former employees, whereupon the plot thickened to an amber-like consistency. As of this writing, no verdict has been issued.
The Scottish vie-lands
Since entering the White House, President Donald Trump has faced constant scrutiny over his ties to TheApprentice … or something. But while Americans know him best for firing people, the Scottish have an entirely different association: golf. Back in 2008, Trump received a greenlight from Scotland’s government to build two golf courses despite objections from local officials and environmentalists. Tensions intensified as Trump tried to remove residents to clear space. And according to the New York Times and The Telegraph, the resulting push-back provoked an outrageous showdown.
Stubborn residents became a thorn in Trump’s side. He claimed he owned part of their properties, but they refused to make room for his ball-and-grass baby. Legal threats failed to sway couples like David and Moira Milne, so Trump resorted to more drastic measures. In their case, he raised a fence around their garden and planted large trees in front of their home. To add injury to insult, Trump also disabled their electricity and water for a while and then sent the couple a $3,500 bill when he was done. Similarly, John and Susan Munro were treated to a 15-foot wall around part of their house after defying the president.
The Milnes shot back by raising a Mexican flag, noting Trump’s disdain for flags. A local quarryman put up a “Hillary for President” flag when Trump called him a “disgrace” for not selling his home. Like William Wallace before them, the besieged Scots had rebelled against a foreign ruler.
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