Throughout history, ransom letters have been used to extort cash, often from wealthy families, well-known entrepreneurs, celebrities, or political leaders. Most of these kidnapping notes were just the beginning of a series of events that would usually lead to the slaying of the abductee, and in some cases, the execution of the abductor. Kidnapping victims rarely make it away from their captors. Ransom notes can vary from long letters or postcards to the juxtaposed typography usually associated with the medium.
Criminals have been employing ransom notes dating back to the Middle Ages. Children are often the target, as they can be easier to abduct than adults. The first known American kidnapping accompanied with a ransom note took place in 1874, and kidnapping continues to be one of the most common offenses in the US.