The story of the kidney heist is a well known urban legend. Starting sometime in the early 1990s, The Legend of the Kidney Heist, like so many other urban legends, varies greatly in its details with each telling. The main plot points of the story remain the same, however. One typical version is as follows.
A friend told me that a friend of his was in Chicago on business, and decided to go out to a Rush Street bar. He picked up a beautiful young woman, and they eventually retreated to a motel. The next morning the man woke up with a splitting headache, and there was blood all over the bed sheets. The woman was gone. It doesn’t take him long to discover a freshly stitched incision on his side, and by some means or other the man eventually reaches a local hospital where he finds that one of his kidneys has been removed. He is told by the hospital staff that the operation was performed very professionally, and that his kidney is probably headed for sale on the black market. (Brunvard)
Another popular version involves a pair of businessmen in a different city.
Two married men were out of town on business and shared a hotel room. On the evening before they were to return home, they went down to the hotel bar for a drink. There they met two women, and after a couple of hours one man left with one of the women. The remaining man said goodnight and went up to their room alone. The next morning his friend had not returned, and he waited and waited, fearing they would miss their plane home. Just as he was preparing to leave for the airport, his phone rang. It was his friend, moaning and barely able to talk, saying “Help me, help me; I’m all bloody!” His friend gave an address and the man rushed to his friend’s aid with the police and found him in a motel room in bed covered with blood. He was bleeding from a crudely cut and sutured incision from his chest to his abdomen, and it was discovered that one of his kidneys was missing. Apparently he had been duped by a gang of medically trained organ thieves who lure unsuspecting people to strange motel rooms where they drug them, then cut them open and steal organs to sell for transplants. (Brunvard)
|Victim sitting in tub of ice|
The Legend of the Kidney Heist, with all its variations, like many other urban legends has proven to be false. The story is generally a fourth- or fifth-hand account, and no evidence of actual occurrences in the U.S. has been found. The story endures in popularity, however, and has been portrayed in many forms of media, such as movies, television shows, and novels.
While the legend has proven false in the U.S., chilling tales of similar occurrences pop up from time to time in other countries.
Brunvard, Jan Harold. "“The Kidney Heist”." Encyclopedia of Urban Legends. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2001. Credo Reference. Web. 17 October 2012.
Emery, David. "The Kidney Thieves." About.com. About.com, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/horrors/a/kidney_thieves.htm>.
Mikkelson, Barbara, and David P. Mikkelson. "You've Got to Be Kidneying." Snopes.com: Kidney Theft. Snopes.com, 12 Mar. 2008. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://www.snopes.com/horrors/robbery/kidney.asp>.
Russo, Karen. "Indian Victims Relate Horror of Kidney Theft." ABC News. ABC News Network, 01 Feb. 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4224506>.
Vashtia. “The Kidney Heist”. Digital Art. Deviantart.com. 10 Aug 2007. 22 Oct. 2012. < http://vashtia.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=96#/d10wryl>
Links for further research:
About.com: Urban Legends
Information on the origin and development of the Kidney Heist myth.
Snopes.com: You’ve Got to Be Kidneying Me
Further information on the origin of the myth.
ABCNews.com: Indian Victims Relate Horror of Kidney Theft
Information on real life kidney thefts.