We all want somebody dead: that evil terrorist, our ex-lover's new spouse, that smug bastard mailman---whatever the case may be, there are many things stopping us. Logic, empathy, the court system or, in some cases, just complete insanity and hilarious incompetence.
Giuseppe Marco Fieschi really wanted King Louis Philippe of France dead as a doornail. It would be his revenge on society for unjustly sentencing him to 10 years in prison--well, unless you consider all that stealing and forging he did to be some sort of crime. But like all assassins, he knew he'd get only one shot. So he decided to make the most of that shot--by taking 20 guns and fusing them together into an "infernal machine," just like a supervillain ... who had failed Imagination Time in kindergarten. But hey, at least he was bound to hit something, right?
"If only all of these guns were attached somehow."
On July 28, 1835, he took his 20-barreled Death-o-Matic and aimed it down at the boulevard du Temple, where King Louis was about to cross the street accompanied by his sons and staff. As soon as they were in his various lines of fire, Fieschi set the machine off, exploding bullets all over the place. He somehow missed his intended target--Louis and his children were only grazed by the hail of bullets--but he did manage to hit a very large number of people, including himself (why he taped that one gun on backward, we'll never understand).
Fieschi ended up with severe injuries from the explosion, which prevented him from fleeing the scene while twirling his mustache and muttering "Blast!" But Louis, to Fieschi's surprise, made sure no expense was spared in saving the man's life. Fieschi decided to take advantage of this opportunity to finger every last one of his accomplices, confident that he would be pardoned, since the king had done so much to save him already. He ended up being even more surprised when he was sentenced to death by guillotine, for attempting to murder the king with something a 12-year-old would draw in his Five Star.
"Dammit, Louis, I thought you were cooool!"
If history were a high school prom, Hitler would be the kid sitting alone on the bleachers, trying not to cry when "Jessie's Girl" starts playing over the hi-fi. He wasn't a beloved figure, is what we're saying here--no matter how controversial that statement might be! Over the course of his life, he was the target of no less than 42 assassination attempts, and it's likely that surviving so many of them made Hitler believe he was invincible. Though if he had known the full details of some of them, perhaps he wouldn't have thought himself so special.
Somehow, the dude ended up with an ego.
In 1938, a man named Georg Elser started planning an assassination attempt, upset about the incredibly low wages and the impending war that everyone was talking about. He knew that Hitler visited the same pub in Munich every year, the Buergerbraukeller, on Nov. 8 and 9, to celebrate the anniversary of the Nazi putsch of 1923. When Hitler visited in November 1939, however, Elser would be sure there was a surprise waiting for him. A rather explosive surprise, which would start things off with a bang. Hitler's reaction would be incendia-It was a bomb. Did you get that?
Here, have this helpful visual aid.
Over the course of a year, Elser stole explosives from the factory and quarry near his home, until he had enough for a decent blast. Then, every night for three months before Hitler's visit, he would eat dinner at the Buergerbraukeller, and hide in a cupboard until the staff left. He would spend four hours hollowing out a pillar, leaving in the morning with the first customers, until everything was ready. He then put the bomb in place, hopefully making a killer pun as he did so, and waited for Hitler to arrive.
It was only after setting the bomb that Elser decided to open up a newspaper, where he discovered that Hitler had canceled his annual trip to the Buergerbraukeller. Realizing that the ingenious "exploding hollow pillar" ruse had failed, he tried to flee the country to Switzerland, but was detained on the grounds of "being suspicious." He looked even more suspicious when the bomb he left at the pub finally exploded, given that he was carrying a postcard of the pub with him at the time; we imagine that his documents labeled "How I Will Blow Up Hitler (Because He Is A Dick)" didn't help much either.
At least Tom Cruise managed to fuck up Hitler's bunker.
In the first century A.D., Rome was caught in a power struggle at the very top of the government. Nero had ascended the throne and become the emperor, but his mother, Agrippina, still held a lot of power in the state, including supreme authority over snacks and bedtime. Despite having been stripped of all honors and official power, she still held a lot of influence and was rather popular, and Nero eventually decided that she had to go. Nero really needed it to look like an accident but, being an ancient Roman and, well, Nero, he had an imagination that was more than a bit twisted. He eventually settled on a couple of plans that Rube Goldberg would be proud of.
And nobody else.
Especially not his mommy.
According to the ancient historian Suetonius, Nero rigged Agrippina's bed so that when she lay down in it, her weight would activate a mechanism that would cause the ceiling to collapse on top of her. The original plan, penned by a Mr. W. E. Coyote, had a pile of birdseed instead of the bed, but Nero was an improviser. The plan might have worked, despite (or possibly because of) spitting in the face of logic and sanity, except for one thing: Agrippina had a habit of using slaves to warm her bed before she lay in it, and it was the slave who was crushed to death. That's right: Agrippina's life was saved by a combination of slavery and hedonism. We'll say it again: Karma is bullshit.
Hedonism: the life-saving habit.
Shaking his fist, Nero went back to the drawing board and somehow came back with a self-sinking boat. He invited his mother onto the boat to celebrate the festival of Minerva, and Agrippina accepted. Partway through the cruise, a mechanism was triggered that made the ceiling collapse (Nero had a theme; you can't take that away from him), but when this once again failed to kill her, or even sink the boat, the crew decided to capsize it themselves. As the boat sunk to the depths below, Agrippina managed to outwit certain death by utilizing all of her tenacity and cunning: She swam to shore.
Finally abandoning pretense altogether, Nero sent three men to just stab Agrippina to death in her home. When news of her death spread, many Roman generals sent letters to Nero, congratulating him for finally murdering his mother, since they evidently knew how much of a headache it had been for him.
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.
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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