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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Cat Burglar to the Stars: Blane Nordahl

Blane Nordahl is a notorious cat burglar who committed hundreds of burglaries across the U.S. He specialized in stealing hallmarked silver from the homes of some of the nation’s wealthiest people. Nordahl stole from sportscaster Curt Gowdy's house in Florida, Ivana Trump's home in Greenwich, Conn (May 1996), and numerous CEO's.

He removed panes of glass to break into houses, evaded alarms and at various times slipped past guard dogs and the occupants of his targeted homes. Nordahl is reportedly only 5-foot, 4-inches tall. However, he has a "gymnast's body: strong shoulders, skinny hips, muscular legs." Norhahl is thought to have stolen at least ten million dollars' worth of silver in more than fifteen states.

USA Today described Nordahl as "the rare criminal for whom the label 'cat burglar' seems apt. He is cagey, nimble and elusive. He is picky, too. He hit homes in the nicest neighborhoods, in places such as the New Jersey shore and Greenwich, Conn. And he turned up his nose at cash and antiques to concentrate on sterling silver."

The May 17, 2004 issue of New Yorker Magazine entitled: "The Silver Thief: The Story of a Burglar Who Was Too Good for His Own Good" by Stephen J. Dubner has an in depth profile of Nordahl and the tricks of the super skilled cat burglar. It also talks about the adrenaline high or "thrill effect" that a burglar gets before and after a home invasion.

One former girlfriend of Nordahl's told me that he was fixated on stealing every night. "He got high off it," she said. "He liked going into houses when people were sleeping. He said it's more exciting to go into a house when people are there and get away with it." Lonnie Mason also described Nordahl's behavior as an addiction: "This is what he exists for, and it's all about his infatuation with money." Mason argues that silver was particularly appealing to Nordahl because it connotes the sort of family that passes along precious things from one generation to the next-a family that was distinctly unlike Nordahl's own. As Mason sees it, Nordahl remained embittered by his parents' divorce; he resented his father and became extraordinarily close to his mother. (When Mason got hold of Nordahl's phone records, he was astonished by the number of calls between the two.) Nothing gave Nordahl greater pleasure, Mason believes, than stealing a rich man's silver and turning it into cash that he could shower on his mother-who, while unhappy about her son's calling, appreciated his devotion.

related links:
Cat burglar is far from purrfect [northeasttimes.com]
Police: Cat burglar nabbed again [CNN]
Rerun of perfect robberies leads to a gentleman thief [Telegraph UK]
Blane Nordahl [wikipedia.org]

update Dec. 25, 2004:
Blane Nordahl was sentenced on Wednesday, December 22, 2004 in a Poughkeepsie court to eight years in prison for burglaries at two estates in Dutchess County in late January 2002. Nordahl admitted in September that he broke into the Tarrytown estate of retired Wall Street financier Richard Jenrette and the Wilderstein Historic Site in Rhinecliff, former home of a distant cousin of Franklin D. Roosevelt, between Jan. 27 and 30, 2002.

Even in captivity Blane Nordahl is elusive. There does not seem to be a single decent photo of him available on the internet?

Notorious cat burglar tripped up by his reputation for precision [Boston.com, Dec. 25, 2005]
Perfect crimes betray burglar [Poughkeepsie Journal, Oct. 18, 2005]
High-end cat burglar gets eight-year sentence [USA Today, Dec. 23, 2005]

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