Wordle foils naked kidnapper

Wordle being played on a phone.
(Image credit: Nurphoto via Getty)

No-one saw Wordle coming, and the daily word-guessing game has been such a viral success that the New York Times ended up paying a "seven figure" sum to add it to its puzzle offering. Attention on this scale has led, of course, to the usual array of copycats, tributes, and odd stories about the game—but this is something else.

CBS reports that 80 year-old grandmother Denyse Holt was rescued following a 17-hour hostage ordeal. Police were alerted by Ms Holt's daughter, who was disturbed when her mum had not, as was her habit, sent over her solution to the daily Wordle challenge.

Ms Holt was asleep at home in Chicago, Illinois when a man entered the house by smashing a window. Ms Holt awoke to a naked and bleeding individual (he'd cut himself on the glass) pointing a pair of scissors at her, who subsequently climbed into her bed while saying he wouldn't harm her. The suspect then forced her around the house, disconnecting phones and taking knives from the kitchen, before forcing Ms Holt to take a warm bath with him.

After this he locked Ms Holt in a basement bathroom, where she was held for 17 hours.

"I didn't think I was going to live," Ms Holt told CBS. "I was in shock. I was trying to survive."

Ms Holt's daughter Meredith Holt-Caldwell lives in Seattle, and was perturbed that her mother wasn't responding to texts, and hadn't sent over her daily Wordle which, apparently, she'd never missed since starting. Ms Holt-Caldwell eventually contacted police and asked them to make a well-being check on her mother's house, the day after the break-in.

Police arrived at the property and a stand-off ensued with the suspect, which ended when a SWAT team got involved and used a stun gun to take him into custody. Ms Holt was rescued from the basement room and was unharmed.

"I'm across the country and I noticed this," said Ms Holt-Caldwell. "I never thought in a million years that this is what was happening, but it was."

"I didn't send my older daughter a Wordle in the morning and this was disconcerting to her," added Ms Holt.

The suspect was later named as 32-year-old James H. Davis III, who now faces various felony charges: home invasion with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping, and assault against a peace officer. Police believe him to be mentally ill.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."