5 Shockingly Powerful Kids Who Make You Look Like a Coward
Cracked's opinion about persons of the juvenile persuasion usually ranges from bafflement to outright terror. The kids on this list, however, demand not just our respect but, in some cases, blood oaths of loyalty.
While we spent our childhoods using our boogers to glue our other boogers into super boogers, these youngsters spent theirs rocking the universe with their flagrant--and often chilling--displays of power.
Johnny and Luther Htoo: Wonder Twins (of Terrorism)
The adorable chain-smoking tykes up there are the Htoo twins. They were born in the late '80s in Burma, but not the regular Burma you know and cherish. They were actually Karens, an ethnic group that has been waging guerrilla war against the Burmese state since 1949.
At one time they were just regular boys who lived in a jungle camp of rebels. When the Burmese army attacked the place to clear the way for a gas line, the armed branch of the Karen National Union ran away screaming, leaving the village defenseless. Except for the AK-47s they had stashed some place, which these nine-year-old kids used to fend off the invading Burmese Army. Successfully. And that, boys and girls, was how God's Army got its start.
These are serious mofos, is what we're trying to tell you.
So How Powerful Were These Kids, Exactly?
Rather than chalking it up to beginners luck, the Htoo twins leveraged their precocious display of Rambo-sized balls to command an army of followers who were convinced the boys were magically invincible.
They actually had about 150 followers who carried weapons and obeyed their commands and literally believed in the magical powers of the Htoo twins. How could you not follow someone when you think he's impervious to bullets? Or mines? And that he commands 250,000 invisible soldiers? And his brother commands 150,000? Sure it sounds ridiculous, but if two pre-pubescent kids walked into your office right now chain smoking Marlboro Reds, tossed you an AK and told you it was time to take down the man, you'd have to think long and hard about declining the offer.
High five for invincibility!
They really got everyone's attention when soldiers of their army (the visible ones) held a whole hospital hostage for 24 hours in demand for medical treatment for God's Army's wounded. They didn't get it, and in fact everyone involved was shot dead by Thai security forces (the Htoo twins weren't there).
So, like all hopeless causes led by tiny, messianic fraternal twins wielding automatic weapons, this one couldn't last. In 2001, the 13-year-old boys and 20 of their followers turned themselves in to Thai soldiers, admitting that no, they weren't mystic zombie commanders, and yes, they did have a smoking problem.
Samantha Smith R-O-C-K-S in the U-S-S-R
American kids who grew up in the 80s knew only two things for sure:
1. Care Bears and G.I. Joes were sexually incompatible unless you were into the freaky stuff.
2. The Soviet Union was Satan's playground. Beelzebub himself spent the 80s in the Kremlin, wearing one of those stupid furry hats, just double dog daring the United States to challenge him to a game of nuclear kickball that would leave the entire Earth a charred ruin.
Just like Los Angeles.
Relations between the U.S. and the USSR were so tense that we boycotted the 1980 Olympics just because they were in Moscow. Carter even stopped talking to the Soviets and Ronald Reagan totally labeled the USSR an "evil empire." And he didn't use air quotes to show he was just messing with them. The whole freakin' country shut down to watch a crappy made for TV movie about the after effects of a nuclear holocaust like it was the Super Bowl.
So when 10-year-old Samantha Smith wrote a letter to the head Soviet Yuri Andropov asking him if "he was going to vote to have a war or not," it was the kind of meaningless gesture you expect from innocent little kids. We're talking about a letter to Darth Vader himself here.
But then he wrote back.
It wasn't just a crude drawing of himself pooping on an American flag, either. Andropov responded thoughtfully and kindly, and the rest of the U.S. discovered that people in the Soviet Union were actually people people, not hybrid Cthulhu/humans (or cthumans as we used to say back in the day).
Whatever gave us that idea?
So How Powerful Was This Kid, Exactly?
Samantha generated publicity for her letter like a miniature P.T. Barnum. Of course, it was just a letter. Probably took her 10 minutes. It's not like she climbed aboard a plane and flew right into the heart of the Soviet Union to sit down face to face with the guy Jimmy Carter wouldn't even speak to on the pho-
Oh, wait. She did just that. Samantha spent two weeks as Darth Vader's personal guest.
"They're just like us!" she exclaimed during a press conference in Moscow, the 10-year-old sitting happily in the heart of the Evil Empire itself. And just like that, the Cold War thawed ever so slightly.
It's all about mutual respect, you see.
Partly because of Andropov's response (which some scholars think was actually penned by one Mikhail Gorbachev) and partly because Samantha returned from her trip with pictures and anecdotes of a country full of jes' folks, the whole act of citizen diplomacy sort of broke the spell of mutual hatred between the U.S. and the USSR. Things snowballed from there. Andropov died, and Gorbachev took over with a friendlier attitude than his predecessors. And Samantha Smith showed kids across America what it might look like if a G.I. Joe did mate with a Care Bear.
Kid Blink Stops Spreading the News
There was once a time when people were so lazy that they couldn't bother walking their fat cat bodies to a newsstand to purchase their daily papers. It was like their legs didn't even work or something. Fortunately for these slothful bastards there were small, homeless children who bought the papers, then sold them at an infinitesimal profit on every street corner, which also happened to double as the closest these kids had to a home. Those children were called "newsies."
Unfortunately for the ragamuffins doing the selling, the only thing standing between their typical near-starvation and actual bloated-stomach-it's-time-to-die-starvation was how sensational the headlines were reading, and how greedy the soulless richies at the top were feeling. Because at the end of the day, the newsies had to eat their unsold papers (literally, if they were hungry enough).
Finally in 1899, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst got just hoggish enough to stoke some newsboy wrath. They raised the prices of the papers during the Spanish-American War, but unlike their competitors, didn't lower them once the war was over. That means more costs for the newsies, and bigger losses when the papers didn't sell. At that point 5,000 newsies of New York City let out a collective, "AW HELL NAW' and got organized.
Which brings us to Kid Blink.
According to several accounts, Kid Blink was the charismatic, one-eyed kid in charge. Journalists guessed he was about 13 or 14, and they quoted him directly when he spit out tweet-worthy gold like this:
"Friens and feller workers. Dis is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we'se got to stick together like glue.... We know wot we wants and we'll git it even if we is blind."
So How Powerful Was This Kid, Exactly?
Kid Blink shut down the news to all of New York City.
Blink and his thousands of guttersnipe buddies went on strike, which meant that the two major newspapers in one of the world's biggest cities lost their distributors. And we're talking about 1899, a time when the newspaper was the ONLY media. Period. So knocking out the two biggest sources of information in the city would be like taking out New York's Internet, radio and TV access, then just leaving residents with smoke signals and tin can phones in their place.
Not that Verizon subscribers would notice. Oh snap!
He wasn't done.
Not only did the newsie strike put a serious dent in the dissemination of information in NYC, Kid Blink also brought the city to a literal standstill by staging several rallies on the Brooklyn Bridge. And he organized it with resources available to homeless kids, so we're guessing twine and gumption. No rapid texting of meet-up times for these boys. Just the old fashioned telephone game, except without telephones, because they didn't really have access to those.
Of course, Hearst and Pulitzer were titans of industry, and weren't going to back down from a bunch of ragamuffins. They sent thugs to harass the strikers and prove that they couldn't be bullied around by a bunch of smelly children. Only, the children stood their ground. In the end, the titans backed down and finally agreed to buy back their damned unsold newspapers.
Marjoe Gortner: Baby Preacher
Seven out of 10 Americans agree that the one thing we're missing in this country is a pint-sized Pentecostal preacher who is capable of twirling batons while condemning our souls to an eternity of raging hellfire. But mid-century Americans were blessed, because along with the constant fear of nuclear annihilation, they had Marjoe, the world's youngest ordained minister.
Born to a third generation preacher and his psychotic wife, Marjoe was named after Mary and Joseph, so right away you knew something was going to be up with this family.
Marjoesus would have just sounded silly.
Marjoe's parents immediately realized he wasn't just any run of the mill toddler. For one thing, he had a gift for mimicry. So, after presumably nixing the first idea that comes to mind with that combination of talents...
Claiming to be the reincarnated president.
...they went with the next best thing: pumping him full of memorized sermons and choreographed gestures and turning him into a four-year-old preacher. Then the family spent his childhood blasting the Bible Belt with the evangelical stylings of Marjoe Gortner.
So How Powerful Was This Kid, Exactly?
Powerful enough to bamboozle about three million dollars out of thousands of grown-ass adults, with the sheer force of his personality.
At a time when the average salary was $3,319, this tyke was capable of using his own charisma and cojones to raise thousands of dollar a night. And here's the kicker: Even as a kid he didn't believe any of the stuff he was selling. So he was also a terrifyingly good actor.
And it wasn't just about the novelty of watching a kid preach either, because he successfully revived his career as an adult. Only this time he recorded his chicanery in an Academy Award winning documentary.
Iqbal Masih Makes You Look Like the Devil
Every now and then a person comes along who just makes you look bad. No matter who you are, or what you do... you could be a doctor who corrects cleft palates on Third World babies for free, it doesn't matter. Pakistani Iqbal Masih was that kind of person... by the age of 10.
Indentured at the age of five to a carpet factory, Iqbal was chained to his loom and forced to work 12 hours a day. And when he tried to escape, he was beaten. And because the carpet bosses didn't feed him well enough, he never grew. And he shuffled when he walked, no doubt because he spent his childhood on his feet and chained to a freaking loom. Life was hard for Iqbal.
Yet, at the age of 10, the pint-sized Cool Hand Luke escaped and joined the Bonded Labor Liberation Front of Pakistan, a group that was dedicated to freeing child slaves.
So How Powerful Was This Kid, Exactly?
In two years, Iqbal liberated 3,000 kids from slavery.
Iqbal didn't just join the BLLF, he pretty much became their spokesman. Which is a pretty audacious thing to do, when you think about it. While most of us would have just sauntered back home and caught up on eating and Wii, this kid actually went back into trenches, even disguising himself and sneaking into factories to interview kids about their working conditions.
In fact, Iqbal was so effective in his crusading that Pakistani carpet exports actually dropped by over $200,000,000 during the years he worked for the BLLF. Sadly, it also made him a high profile target of the alleged "carpet mafia" and the boy was murdered at the age of 13 in 1995. Which means that he helped liberate all those kids in just two short years of work.
Two years work in America can get you out of the mail room and into a cubicle.
We told you he'd make you look bad.
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If you want your kid to be the next Wunderkind then be sure to avoid doing the things listed in 7 Things "Good Parents" Do (That Screw Kids Up for Life). Or if you really want to screw them up, take a cue from the celebrities in The 20 Most Bizarre Celebrity Baby Names.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 4.19.10) to see which of our columnists was actually going places when he was a kid.