Not long ago, a suburban Minneapolis man, Barry Ardolf, decided to get back at his new neighbors, the Kostolniks, because they had told police he’d kissed their 4-year-old son on the lips.
Ardolf secretly released wave after menacing wave of abuse against the family by hacking into their Wi-Fi network, stealing their identities and creating new email accounts in their names, which he used to frame them for child porn, sexually harass co-workers and send death threats to Vice President Joe Biden.
This went on for almost two years until experts were able to help the terrorized Kostolniks discover the identity of their tormentor.
Ardolf, whom prosecutors called a “depraved criminal,” pleaded guilty to numerous charges and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in July 2011.
Fortunately, this is a rare extreme version of a neighborhood feud, but many social scientists say that neighbor disputes are on the rise.
For example, in a 2007 survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research, 19 percent of respondents reported that they had been in a “war” with their homeowners association over rules and regulations. Just this past September, a Kentucky man allegedly killed his HOA president and another man because of a battle about a fence.
Read on for more horror stories.
Green with envy?
Terry Hanrahan, who lives in Orange County, CA, considers himself lucky to live on a quiet cul-de-sac where neighbors still socialize regularly. The dads get together for poker once a month; the moms have monthly Bunko games, and everyone gets together for a big Fourth of July celebration.
That kind of camaraderie, however, provided no immunity from next-door nastiness. One of the poker-playing dads, who worked for a chemical company, raised his hackles for unknown reasons when a neighbor announced that he was installing an in-ground pool, Hanrahan said. “The neighbor balked at permit signings, harassed inspectors and inconvenienced contractors to keep the pool from going in and then being signed off,” he said. Nevertheless, the pool prevailed.
“Within a week of the pool being filled, the entire thing turned a ghastly, toxic-looking bright green color that had to be drained,” Hanrahan said. “During the draining process, a small leather pouch containing several ‘rocks’ of a certain chemical was found.”
The green stained the pool so badly that the city had to power wash it to restore the walls to their near-white color.
The offending neighbor moved away a year later without admitting anything, but the incident is still neighborhood lore. The lesson Hanrahan learned: “It pays to be nice to your neighbors. They’re the ones watching your home when you’re away.”
That dam neighbor
In some parts of the U.S., water is a valuable commodity. In the Texas Hill Country, it’s the prime factor in determining real estate prices, according to artist and designer Pablo Solomon. “In fact, in the western half of Texas, the saying is that you sue people over oil rights but shoot them over water,” he said.
Solomon lives on a historic ranch built by a famous Texas Ranger in 1856. “He chose this spot because [it has] this beautiful spring,” Solomon said.
He says his former neighbor was always jealous of the spring. “He was always trying to say the property boundaries were wrong,” according to Solomon. “Of course, when I offered to have the property lines re-surveyed at his expense and specified that he would have to cede any land of his that should go my way — that ended that nonsense.”
A few years ago, the area suffered a terrible drought, and for the first time in 80 years the spring on Solomon’s property went almost dry. That caused a drop in the water level of his creek. “To our surprise and anger, we found out that between the time that the last owners of our property left and we bought it — more than a year — our neighbor built a dam on our side of the spring to push the water back his way,” Solomon says.
By the time Solomon discovered what was going on, his neighbor had died. “But I found some guys who actually built the dam for him. Needless to say, we had a bulldozer remove the dam.”
Song vs. ‘sin’
This past September, a man who lives in the tiny central California town of Twain Harte got so steamed by the gospel music his neighbors constantly blasted that he retaliated — with pornography.
Mr. Payback, who didn’t want to give his name to a local television station, moved his big-screen TV to his back deck, put on an X-rated flick and turned up the volume as high as it would go, CBS Sacramento reported.
“It was just to kind of give them a taste of offensive play there, just a little payback,” he told the TV station. “One day it [the gospel music] went on for 12 hours, and my dog was howling and it was bad.”
The TV station says that the gospel lovers called county sheriff’s deputies to complain. The neighbor hasn’t faced any charges so far, and he says he won’t be living in the neighborhood much longer anyway.
Can you top these stories? Share your own experiences in the comments below.