6 Real World Spy Gadgets Straight Out of the Movies

The Cold War was a terrifying time fraught with tension, murder and the ever-present threat of nuclear war. And in our darkest hour, our world leaders turned to their most esteemed geniuses, their brilliant scientists, their brightest engineers, and asked them one question, one question upon which hung the fate of the world:

"Hey, wouldn't it be cool to have like, a shoe-phone? Like that Get Smart guy? From the show?"

And the answer they received was: "Hell yes."

#6. Umbrella Dart Gun


Georgi Markov was a pair of freedom-loving bohemian testicles resting gently on the forehead of communist Bulgaria. His writing was winning all sorts of awards and stirring anti-communist movements all across Europe. Clearly, they had to get those balls off their face, and stat. So it was that one day, while Markov was walking to his car in London, he felt a sharp bite on his thigh. When he turned around he saw nothing, only a man who fumbled briefly with an umbrella before running off. The next day he became deathly ill, and died, as one is wont to do when becoming deathly ill. To this day no one has ever been tried for the murder.

"A man with an umbrella in London? That narrows it down to just half the city."

The suspected poison, ricin, was cutting edge at the time. It was a top-secret concoction yielded after decades of research in Soviet chemical warfare labs. Scotland Yard was so unfamiliar with this new super-poison that they had to test it on a hapless pig to confirm how it killed. The projectile itself was a modified 1.52 mm jeweler's bearing, normally only used in precision watchmaking. The bullet was relatively harmless to the body, no more damaging than a BB, but the pellet was coated with a special wax that would melt at body temperature, and inside was the new and deadly poison. In fact, the wax worked so covertly that it wasn't actually discovered until investigators found traces on a similar pellet pulled from the body of Bulgarian exile Vladimir Kostov, who suffered, but ultimately lived through the attack.

The Communists killed dissidents with tiny platinum Death Stars. And, somehow, they lost.

That's right: This wasn't an isolated incident. Multiple men have been attacked with a poison watch bearing fired by an umbrella, wielded by a certainly Bulgarian, possibly watch-themed super-assassin.

Batman writers, eat your hearts out. (Seriously, do it quick; it's a way nicer death than ricin poisoning, and the Watchman does not take kindly to copyright infringement.)

Running only amuses him.

#5. Poop

In the Vietnam War, it was common for U.S. soldiers to litter the Vietnamese countryside with mounds of fake tiger shit. Why? To demoralize the enemy? To attract other tigers to their position? Just because it was funny?

Fred Bauder
Correction: It was hilarious.

Nope: Because they had seismometers tucked inside the turds to track enemy troop movements.

It makes sense. If there's one thing you don't want to check, it's a pile of shit, and if there's one animal whose shit you don't want to mess with in particular, it's probably a tiger. Everybody knows the worst poops are the ones comprised of your friends and loved ones.

International Spy Museum
Honestly, tiger poops are much tidier than we'd have expected.

It was an elegantly simple way to make sure nobody investigated the suspect devices. The flip side, however, came when they started using faux turds for dead drops. These simulated dog poops were hollowed out to hide messages and information in -- again, because nobody wants to go around checking every pile of crap in the jungle. However, unlike the seismometers, which operated autonomously, the dog poop dead drops needed somebody to eventually find them, open them and read their contents. The Vietnamese probably got a pretty good laugh at all the American spies hesitantly attempting to "unscrew" piles of crap time and time again until they found the right one.

"First order of business: Americans are seriously gross."

#4. Martini Olive

Budding mad scientist Hal Lipset specialized in inserting audio devices into seriously inappropriate places. Everything about him was straight out of a Golden Age comic: He specialized in secret, high-tech gadgetry, almost always concealed as something mundane, and even operated out of a covert laboratory hidden behind a false storefront.

Not pictured: A backyard full of buried secret agents.

When he needed to demonstrate to a Senate Constitutional Rights Subcommittee just how easy it was to whip up these little listening devices, he presented them with dozens of bugs that he custom-built for the testimony. Then he revealed his piece de resistance: He'd actually sneakily placed bugs into the committee's own microphones before the hearings and played the proceedings back to them. He was attempting to prove that wiretapping technology should be employed more by the private citizen, since the government was doing it so rampantly anyway. But the plan backfired, and the subcommittee was so outraged about being recorded that they started cracking down on private use. Later, Hal would return with a series of cuter, more approachable wiretaps, apparently hoping to take the Hello Kitty route to espionage. The belle of the privacy infringement ball was this little guy:

We have a sudden, powerful urge to watch Mad Men.

The Martini Olive Bug was so darling and appealing that, when Hal tried to move on to other, smaller, more effective technology, reporters and senators alike would steer him again and again back to the martini. His plan was working perfectly, and all the anger at his previous stunts was melting away. Truly, Hal was a technological genius light years ahead of hi-

What's that? It didn't work with alcohol in the glass, because it would cause a short?

This thing is bullshit.

If Sean Connery taught us anything, it's that "espionage" and "sobriety" don't belong in the same sentence.

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