The public persona:
Hal Turner is an ultra-right-wing radio talk show host and blogger. And we're not throwing out "ultra right wing" to mean "anyone to the right of Barack Obama" -- Hal Turner is so far to the fringe that he was actually banned from calling Sean Hannity's radio show for being too crazy. He eventually became a host himself but was so far out there that by the time his radio career ended, he was buying time on a shortwave radio station just to have a mic to yell into.
"The Jews control Wall Street. Over."
He also denies the Holocaust, and therefore is a favorite of white supremacists and similar all-around horrible human beings.
The secret identity:
To the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, however, Hal Turner was "Valhalla" -- a government spy tasked with gathering information on potential domestic terrorist threats, like the Aryan Nation or the KKK (aka, the bulk of Turner's audience). The FBI admitted that "Valhalla" provided vital information on multiple subversive organizations, helped with numerous arrests and prevented more than 10 planned acts of violence.
"Next on the show: 'Undermining the liberal government by sharing your secret terrorist plots on-air.' "
Turner was recruited in 2003, and his first assignment was to infiltrate the meetings and leadership conference of the National Alliance, a West Virginia white supremacist group. In 2005, aided by the FBI and other agencies, he even traveled to Brazil to meet up with a supporter of the NA willing to donate $1 million to the organization. Later, Turner also uncovered a plot by the Brazilian Arab Society to sell U.S. consumer goods to the Iraqi resistance.
"The name's Turner. Hal Turner. And incidentally, the Holocaust never happened."
In later years, Turner reported on the activities of other white supremacist groups, secure in the belief that as long as he enticed violence against minorities on his show, no one would suspect that he was a government informant.
In 2007, though, he finally went too far with the radio demagoguery, and the FBI cut ties with him. And that brings us to the strangest part of our story, which is the fact that it's not at all clear how much of his racist rants were real and how much were part of his cover.
It's like the Inception of racist talk shows.
To this day, Turner claims his radio antics were just an act, but the incident that made the FBI cut ties involved Turner making on-air threats toward federal judges. He also posted their photos and phone numbers and a map of the courthouse they worked at on his website, pointing out the "anti-truck bomb barriers" around the place. That's, uh, some fine acting there, Hal.
The line between a great undercover agent and dangerous nutcase is very thin.
The public persona:
Imagine finding out that Glenn Beck's last book was entirely ghostwritten by Barack Obama. And that there was in fact no Glenn Beck -- the whole operation was just the president trashing himself in public for some bizarre reason.
Well, for years, an anonymous source posted scathing articles in the London newspaper The Morning Post, commenting on, among other things, the political scene in Australia and what a dumbass the Australian prime minister was. This was back in the early 20th century, but just like now, people mainly read about politics so they could hear about how stupid politicians were. This source posted weekly for 11 years.
The secret identity:
The anonymous journalist dishing dirt on Australian politics was in fact the freaking prime minister of Australia.
The beard was a fake.
Alfred Deakin was the Australian prime minister from 1903 to 1910 and a Morning Post employee hired to basically write about himself. Shockingly, Deakin's editorials almost never included passages about the magnificent size and firmness of his penis, and they were often extremely critical about the decisions (and personal hygiene, we assume) of the Australian PM, aka himself. And you think people on the Internet know how to troll?
"Alfred Deakin is SO smelly even dogs won't sniff his crotch. Continues on Page 8."
For example, in 1905 he called himself "a bookish theorist recklessly pursuing impossible dreams." And in 1906, while on the PM campaign trail, he even accused himself of bullying his opponents.
It all started in 1899, while he was still just representing Australia at the U.K. Parliament. The owner of The Morning Post offered him a job as a foreign correspondent. He agreed and continued writing one long report a week for 11 years, seriously risking his political career but wanting to keep the British Empire updated with what was happening in Australia beyond the massive swarms of poisonous animals.
And the teeming hordes of bunny rabbits.
Incredibly, only a few people knew about this, including his editor, friends, family and ... the taxation official to whom Deakin declared every cent he made from ripping on his own policies. We guess he ... just needed the second paycheck?
The public persona:
Bill Leasure was a traffic cop in Los Angeles, one so unremarkable that he never got promoted out of what is basically the entry-level shit work of law enforcement. He worked nights, writing tickets and tedious accident reports (and he wasn't even very good at that). Day after day, year after year, working terrible hours for even worse pay.
After about six hours of this, the business end of a Taser starts to look pretty good.
He showed no real ambition to improve either in skills or status (he actually turned down promotions that would have given him more responsibility). He seemed like the kind of schlub who fell into the job and just resigned himself to grinding it out until he could retire, sit in the park and feed pigeons full time.
The secret identity:
He was a goddamned criminal mastermind.
The man broke laws that they probably hadn't even thought to write yet. We could use up the rest of your day going through all of his scams (from murder for hire to insurance fraud to car theft), but really, there's one crime that seems to sum Leasure up best:
Ask yourself, if you were a flamboyant Batman villain-style criminal, what's the biggest, most brazen and ridiculous thing you could steal?
Think smaller, but easier to sell.
How about freaking luxury yachts? Because that was just one branch of Leasure's criminal empire -- he and a partner stole million-dollar yachts, somehow got away with it and then resold them, somehow getting away with that part, too, for years. Seriously, how does that even work? How do you get them out of the water? Don't tell us. We're imagining him lifting them right out of the ocean using a giant zeppelin while he cackles and shouts taunts from a window.
It was also known in the criminal underworld that if you needed somebody dead, Leasure would make it happen for $50,000 (one job involved blowing up a guy's car). He ran a stolen-car ring (he had more than a dozen Corvettes at his house, which investigators are pretty sure he didn't buy off a lot). He claimed to have millions stashed in a secret bank account in the Caymans and boasted that he intended to buy his own island in Central America one day. We believe him.
"... And all the people will have to wear leasure suits."
Did we mention that he kept this up without his friends in the department knowing for 10 years?
Or that he was married to a city prosecutor and that not even she knew? Yeah, there's a whole book about this guy. He finally went to jail back in the early 90s, but to this day, every account you read shows that authorities still have no idea how far Leasure's criminal empire spread. They man was Keyser Soze. They probably imprisoned a lookalike, and the real Leasure is off on his island in Central America right now.
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a freelance online journalist and Japanese-English-Polish translator. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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For more amazing stories of hidden identities, check out The 6 Biggest Badasses Who Lived as the Opposite Sex. Or learn about some folks that failed miserably and this sort of stuff, in The 6 Most Impressive Cases of Identity Theft Ever Pulled Off.
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