#2. Gao Jianli, Lutenist for Hire
If you asked someone which Chinese ruler was the most unpopular, they'd say one of two things: "Excuse me? Listen, buddy: My coffee isn't going to get itself," or far less likely, "Qin Shi Huang."
Not to imply that Chinese people can't also be snooty to wait staff.
Many people were upset with Huang over his various personal scandals and brusque personality, or maybe it was that time he took over all of China. After a previous attempt on his life, Huang issued orders to hunt down all known accomplices of the assassin, one of which was Gao Jianli, who was forced to change his name and go underground. He got a job in a wine shop and took up the lute, and it turned out he was really, really good at playing it (we're mentioning this for a reason, by the way).
Though our friends at the Renaissance Faire do tell us there's nothing like a blistering lute solo.
So good, in fact, that word spread all about town and even made it to Emperor Huang himself, who wanted to hear this incredible musician . Jianli was summoned to the palace to play, where somebody recognized him and alerted the emperor. Huang would have had Jianli killed right then and there, but he was so moved by the incredible performance that he pardoned Jianli on the spot--after putting out both of his eyes (pardons were a double-edged sword back then).
Huang kept soliciting Jianli's services as an entertainer and, as time passed, the emperor grew more fond and more trusting of him, to the point where the lutenist could come in and perform without being guarded, even sitting close to the emperor when he played. Having earned the acclaim and trust of the most important man in the Chinese empire, Gao Jianli finally decided to take his lute and use it to ... try to kill Qin Shi Huang.
A strategy The Who would later rediscover to the amazement of audiences everywhere.
Let's recap quick: First off, his weapon of choice is basically a small guitar, a weapon that only ever worked for El Kabong. Second: He was blind. Luckily, Jianli's lack of deductive skills was more than compensated for by his unshakable self-confidence, so he went ahead with the plan. He tied a heavy piece of lead to the instrument to give it more weight and swung the lute at where he guessed the emperor's head was.
To nobody's surprise, he missed, and was quickly executed by order of the emperor, who learned a rather important lesson: Forgiveness and compassion are important qualities to have, but maybe you shouldn't hire the guy whose eyes you just gouged out to perform at your parties.
#1. Fidel Castro is Invincible
The United States was desperate to eradicate any traces of communism from the Western side of the Iron Curtain, and the Americans' myriad attempts on Fidel Castro's life were noted in a British Channel 4 documentary, 638 Ways to Kill Castro.
No, we're not forgetting a decimal point: By the estimate of Castro's bodyguard, he's survived more than 600 attempts on his life. That means somebody has tried to kill Fidel Castro about once a month, every month, for the past 53 years straight. After the first dozen or so, you pretty much have to get creative, if only to stave off the boredom:
"Well, the prototype works..."
One famous plan, apparently put forth by Lieutenant Groucho Marx, had somebody slipping Castro an exploding cigar: In 1966, a CIA agent tried to get the police inspector of New York City to help slip the deadly prop into Castro's stash while he was visiting the United Nations. Whether the cigar ever made it into his stash is unclear, along with whether the agent was hit in the face with a pie for his failure, so we're forced to assume both are completely true.
The CIA knew that Castro was a big fan of scuba diving and tried to rig up a couple of surprises for him. Send somebody to cut his lines, perhaps? Attack him with a speargun? You're not thinking comical enough! One plan involved giving Castro a "gift" of a scuba-diving wetsuit, with the inside coated in a deadly fungus. Another involved the CIA purchasing a large number of mussels ... and loading them up with explosives to blow Castro up on one of his dives.
This was around the same time the CIA was doing all those experiments with LSD. We're just saying ...
Other plans involved a ballpoint pen with a concealed hypodermic needle filled with poison, and a handkerchief covered in dangerous bacteria. Eventually, they gave up trying to kill him altogether and settled for making him look stupid instead; one plan had them trying to make the man's beard fall out, apparently believing it to be the source of his power, like an upside-down Samson.
It didn't work.
All intelligence reports indicate that his beard is still alive and mighty today.
Obviously, Fidel Castro is still alive today, mocking our great country with his continued existence, the way Bugs Bunny humiliates Elmer Fudd with his stupid rabbit face. The United States, meanwhile, seems to have shut down the Cartoon division of the CIA. Or at least that's what they want you to think -- and then BAM! Operation Drop an Anvil on Kim Jong-Il swings into effect.
For more failed assassinations, check out The 6 Most Utterly Insane Attempts to Kill a US President. Or learn about some clothing that killed more folks than most these people ever did, in The 6 Most Utterly Insane Attempts to Kill a U.S. President.
And stop by Linkstorm to see which columnist is trying to kill Jack O'Brien.
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