Before the Internet came along, one of humanity's favorite methods of letting others know we disapproved of them was by assassinating their asses. This, of course, isn't easy when your target is a world leader: The men and women who have changed the course of history through assassination tend to rely on meticulous planning and simple, time-tested methods.
Others, however, kind of just drunkenly bumble into success. These are the men who made history with a combination of merciless brutality and hilarious incompetence.
Swiss preacher turned political powerhouse Jorg Jenatsch was pretty much the template for the kind of guy who gets assassinated: a ruthless 17th century bigwig who enjoyed fame as a traitor. So when assassins actually came for him, no one was particularly surprised.
Yeah, that looks like a guy who could use some assassinationing.
How they came for him, now ... that's entirely another matter.
They say death has a different face for everyone. For Jorg Jenatsch, it came wearing a bear costume.
It was during a carnival, an epic fest of good old-fashioned revelry and drunkenness. Everyone was wearing masks and acting like complete idiots. In other words, it was the perfect time for a guy like Jorg "the man with all the enemies" Jenatsch to be especially wary of any and everyone he met. But he had temporarily forgotten about his "most hated" status and decided to let his hair down. Jenatsch and his cohorts were celebrating the carnival in a private room at a tavern when a group of strangers approached his party. All of them were masked, save for one man who was decked out in a full bear suit.
"We, uh ... heard there were Jell-O shots."
No reason to regard that as suspicious, really. Well, there was a bulge in the bear costume that looked an awful lot like a concealed pistol. And an additional hint that they might not be coming in peace was the fact that many of the men were carrying weapons. The bear himself was lugging a big ass axe.
The group proceeded to ask if they could join the festivities. Jenatsch looked at the team of masked strangers featuring an axe-carrying bear ... and somehow managed to reach the conclusion that they were cool. So he invited them in.
"You've got blow? Hell yeah we're buying!"
Once they were in the room, the bear saluted Jenatsch and went to shake his hand. The second Jenatsch grabbed his paw, Bear Dude fired his Obvious Hidden Pistol, hitting him in the gut. The masked men unveiled their weapons and charged forward, while the wounded Jenatsch awesomely went into swashbuckling mode, grabbed a giant candlestick and fought back. After a short, no doubt immaculately choreographed fight scene, he became the first and only person in history to meet his end at the hands of an axe-swinging bear.
As one of the main architects of the Holocaust and the kind of guy Hitler admiringly called "the man with the iron heart," Nazi extraordinaire Reinhard Heydrich distinguished himself in a sea of bastards by being the bastardest of them all.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1969-054-16 / CC-BY-SA
What a reichtard.
In 1942, British intelligence teamed up with the Czech resistance in order to take Heydrich out of the equation. The task fell upon Jan Kubis and Jozef Gabcik, two brave (if previously rather unremarkable) soldiers. They had just one major flaw: Fate had marked them as a slapstick comedy duo.
Gabcik (left) and Kubis (right), proof that you can be a hero and still cock up 90 percent of the things you try.
Gabcik and Kubis assembled their Sten machine gun and positioned themselves at a slow turn of a country road that Heydrich regularly took. They laid in wait until Heydrich's car came into view. As it slowed to take the turn, Gabcik took aim and squeezed the trigger.
That was when he realized that his machine gun was actually a tube of caulk.
The gun was completely clogged up with plants that Gabcik had picked up for his pet rabbits on their way there. For some reason he had just stuffed the greens in the same pocket as the disassembled weapon, and completely failed to notice all the bits of greenery when assembling said gun.
So the soldiers were now stuck with a rabbit-food-jammed weapon, and their target, one of the biggest, baddest villains in recorded history, was staring directly at them. This is not an ideal situation for hopeful assassins.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-5243 / CC-BY-SA
As a general rule, people on walkin'-around terms with Hitler are best avoided.
Luckily for them, their target loved a good game of idiot ball. Instead of ordering his driver to speed up and send troops to get Gabcik and Kubis, Heydrich gave a stop command. Then, the Nazi commander pulled out his pistol and personally opened fire at his would-be assassins.
Well, tried to. Too bad his gun was empty.
With both Gabcik and Heydrich stuck pointing useless guns and making "pew pew" noises at each other, Kubis seized the moment to lob a bomb at the car. Of course, he mistimed the throw. The explosion failed to finish off Heydrich and his driver, merely injuring them ... and Kubis himself.
Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1972-039-44 / CC-BY-SA
His car spent six weeks in physical therapy.
The badly wounded Heydrich and his driver saw this incompetence and further raised the bets, climbing out of the car and chasing after Kubis while still armed with nothing but that empty handgun. Kubis, in an attempt to make the scene even more absurd, responded by summoning a bicycle and pedaling away, leaving the Nazis behind.
That's when Heydrich finally realized the absurdity of the situation. So he did the sensible thing and ordered his driver to get him the hell out of there.
"I have a puppy-murdering date with Himmler tonight!"
Just kidding! He gave the driver an order to chase Gabcik, who was still battling with his greenery-tainted Sten. The driver complied and went for the man ... which is when Gabcik remembered that he was also, in fact, carrying a pistol. So he shot the driver in the leg with that and promptly fled the scene. We don't know why he didn't finish the helpless Heydrich off. Maybe he really needed to feed his rabbits.
Wait, but didn't we say this assassination was successful? Well, it was, eventually. The wounds Heydrich received in the attack might not have been enough to finish him off ... had he received help in time. However, it turns out that a bloody guy in a high ranking SS officer's uniform isn't the most popular hitchhiker in a country invaded by Nazis. Passing policemen had some serious difficulties in finding a car that was willing to get him to the hospital, where he ultimately perished. Mission accomplished!
Buyenlarge / Getty
John Wilkes Booth, the man who shot Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in 1865, was a Confederate compatriot and, strangely, a famous actor. And while his assassination attempt on Lincoln was (SPOILER) successful, it was also ridiculous, with every step of the plan turning into Mr. Bean-level misadventure.
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Incredibly, that wasn't the mustache of a master assassin.
First, remember that originally, three men were supposed to die on the night Lincoln was killed. One member of Booth's group was tasked with killing Secretary of State William Seward, but met too much resistance. Yet another conspirator, George Atzerodt, entirely failed to assassinate Vice President Andrew Johnson because he was too busy getting drunk.
Someone should have given this man's bartender a medal.
So it all came down to Booth. His original plan was to kidnap Lincoln and (presumably) tie him on the train tracks while twirling his mustache, Snidely Whiplash style. When this proved inconvenient, Booth turned to assassination, fully intending to get away with the crime after the fact -- he wasn't in it to be a martyr.
The first part of the plan worked, of course -- he successfully walked up to Lincoln and shot him. Immediately afterward, the drawbacks of executing the crime with a crappy one-shot Derringer became apparent to Booth. Now armed with only a knife, he found himself wrestling with the understandably pissed-off Major Rathbone, Lincoln's guest for the evening. Booth managed to overpower Rathbone and looked to escape the scene. Bafflingly, he concluded that his best route was straight down.
So he jumped awkwardly off the balcony, got his spurs caught on the box's bunting, landed flat on his face and broke his leg.
John Wilkes Booth, remembering he can't fly.
Apparently unsatisfied with the fact that only 99.99 percent of the audience were now staring slack-jawedly at the famous actor guy who had just flopped down from the president's box, Booth struck a dramatic pose and gave them a hearty "Sic Semper Tyrannis" before embarrassedly hobbling away.
Aided by sheer luck and a particularly stupid bridge sentry, Booth managed to escape and avoid capture for a full 12 days. He passed the time by doing his level best to defeat himself: On his way across the Potomac River, the assassin and his accomplice managed to get lost and end up on the same side they started from.
Smartphone navigation apps were much more primitive back then.
This gave Booth's pursuers valuable time to find him and shoot his president-murdering ass.