Popular Culture

15 People Who Totally Went Postal


The brilliant Office Space showed us what can happen when we take work frustrations way too personally. In our era of the increasingly obnoxious workplace, sometimes it becomes just too much to be asked to keep it all bottled up until we get home. Here are some who found the task beyond them and went totally postal on the job.

Michael Richards

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It was a dark day for comedy and 90s sentimentalists everywhere when, while performing at the Laugh Factory in 2006, Michael Richards dampened the memory of the lovable Cosmo Kramer by proving to be a person of hideous secret values. The comic roundly abused two audience members of color with racial slurs and violent references to lynching with the defense that the pair was heckling him. Luckily, all was made (sort of?) right through Richards’ retrospective apologies to the Reverend Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. None of it changes the fact that we’ll never watch the Pez dispenser episode with quite the same lightheartedness as before.

Christian Bale

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While shooting a reputedly emotional scene of Terminator Salvation, Christian Bale was ripped out of character by the DP and had his say about it, setting the scene for one of the most parodied outbursts ever. As hard as it is to picture the face and form of Bruce Wayne cutting down a defenseless WB employee, it’s even harder to envision what scene in a Terminator film could be emotional enough to provoke it. Bale got his comeuppance with his new role in The Fighter where he has to look like absolute hell in his heroin addict makeup.

“Crazy Pat”

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Patrick Sherrill, the man who originated the term “going postal”, was a USPS employee until 1986 when he neglected his mail rounds in favor of gunning down 20 fellow employees. Only six survived, with Sherrill himself being killed. As the story goes, he had been rebuked the day before by his supervisors and largely ignored by the rest of the staff during the time he worked there. One has to wonder if the Milton drew his inspiration from him.

The Yale Murder

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In September 2009, an incident now known as the Yale murder was perpetrated against student Annie Le in a research building only five days before her wedding day. The death of the doctoral student, blamed on workplace violence rather than romantic intrigue, soured Yale’s reputation as the guarantee of a bright future for all graduates to come.

Dan White

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Whether it was the Roxie Hart motivation that some journalists attribute it to or the physical threat that 2008’s Milk makes it out to be, Dan White’s double murder of Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk in 1978 was definitely a case of over-stepping ex-workplace boundaries. It was certainly one of the most internal political assassinations, with White not even bothering to make it seem like an outside job. One would think he might have benefited from a ski mask of some kind.

The Manchester Rampage

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Another case of pent-up anger and workplace aggression caused the death of eight employees at Hartford Distributors in 2009. Two more were wounded. Omar S. Thornton was being taken into a meeting to be “disciplined” when he opened fire.

Mark O. Barton

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Journalists were quick to attach the lighthearted, though completely accurate description of “spree killer” to Mark O. Barton. Devastated by financial losses at the day trading firm where he worked, Barton took it out on 22 fellow employees in 1999. He fled the scene, leaving police to discover the previous murder of his wife and children at his home. They deduced from this that the issue probably went somewhat deeper than stocks and bonds.

Standard Gravure Shooting

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In 1989, journalist Joseph T. Wesbecker interrupted his mental illness hiatus for the express purpose of jumpstarting a massacre at his workplace, the Standard Gravure newspaper. He killed eight people, injured 12, then turned the gun on himself after a lifetime of manic depression and Prozac failure.

Naomi Campbell’s Cellphone

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In an example of a more characteristic case of work stress ballistics, Naomi Campell has been known to repeatedly used her cellphone as an instrument of revenge when her housekeeper (or personal assistant, as the case may be) gets too up in her grill. Of course, celebrity can be tough on anyone, especially people of model temperament, and what better, or more symbolic tool than a cellphone to perpetrate reactionary violence with?

Paula Abdul

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Everyone’s favorite 80s throwback enjoyed a brief return to fame when she was given the role of lenient host on American Idol. But through the years viewers have speculated as to Paula’s over-tolerant nature on the show. Was it simply a sympathetic device to shield candidates from the sharp edge of Simon’s cutting wit, or was Paula, in fact, hitting the sauce in between takes? Whatever the truth may be, Abdul’s bubbliness alone constitutes a solid example of workplace insanity — especially when the workplace is a sort of manifestation of Karaoke Gone Wild.

Richard Wade Farley

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Richard Farley might have been drawing inspiration from John Hinkley Jr. when in 1988 he thought he would impress his stalkee, Laura Black, by proving his “seriousness” towards her by gravely wounding her and killing seven of her co-employees at the Electromagnetic Systems Lab where he once worked. Black didn’t find it sexy, and Farley was sentenced to death row where he remains to this day.

William Desmond Taylor and Cast of Killers

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The incestuous cast of characters surrounding William Desmond Taylor’s death in 1922 leaves nothing to be desired. There is the ambitious rival, the ambiguous friend, and more than one candidate for the jealous woman. But with such names as Mary Pickford, Mabel Normand and King Vidor in the credits it’s no wonder this murder remains unsolved, and strengthens Hollywood’s reputation of being the land of cover-ups and convincing second-acts.

Brian Nichols

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You would think of all the places where one would least expect murder, a courthouse would rank on the top of the list. Not so with the case of Brian Nichols and the Fulton County Courthouse killings. The accused overpowered a female deputy and used her gun to take out the judge in 2005. Believe it or not, they did not have a difficult time getting a conviction.

Sweeney Todd

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Though nobody really knows if it’s fact or fiction, the legend of Sweeney Todd is a formidable one, and certainly the mother of all workplace murder stories. The man purportedly wasted no time with his victims, using his barber shop as a slaughter house and partnering with a pie shop run by his female accomplice to dispose of the evidence. The murders weren’t neat, but they certainly weren’t time consuming, and Todd gained lasting fame for his workplace aggression.

Janice Dickinson on Jonathan Ross

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Janice Dickinson has always led an outrageous life. But her appearance on Jonathan Ross in 2007 verged on the point of indecency. Flashing, dry-humping and vulgarity were all part of the package on Friday Night with Jonathan. Then again,with Janice, when aren’t they? She might actually be the craziest person on this list.


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