5 Real People More Terrifying Than Any Movie Villain
Comic books are popular specifically because they're much more outrageous than anything you can find in real life. For example, Batman is about a rich kid who witnesses his parents' murder and grows up to be a costumed vigilante, instead of a trust fund kid with a huge therapy bill. But there are plenty of real-life supervillains whose origin stories match anything that comic writers could come up with. Such as ...
Shoko Asahara Came Terrifyingly Close To Conquering The World
The Japanese "Aum Shinrikyo" gave cults a bad name. While most death cults are happy enough just to talk their members into suicide, Aum Shinrikyo had far greater ambitions -- to conquer the world. And it was all thanks to its terrifyingly charismatic leader, Shoko Asahara, who was basically the real-life equivalent of Iron Man's nemesis the Mandarin (and no, not just because he's Asian).
Or because the physical resemblance to Ben Kingsley is uncanny.
Asahara was born into poverty and blind in one eye. His religion, Aum Shinrikyo, was a strange multicultural fusion of Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, and yoga, and it was popular enough to spread beyond Japan into other countries like Russia and Australia. At its height, it boasted around 50,000 members. And those members weren't just a bunch of crazy people, either. Among Asahara's flock were hundreds of top scientists, who fell for his charm despite the fact that he had started claiming he was literally Jesus, which is generally considered a scientifically invalid hypothesis.
Asahara claimed that he could read minds, levitate, and that his urine could cure diseases, to the point where he made a healthy business out of selling his magical piss to gullible cult members. But the most important dogma was that Armageddon was coming soon, and it was up to Aum Shinrikyo to bring it about.
"The sooner the better; I won't go through another flu-season chugging this." - Every Cult Member
In 1995, Asahara put his apocalyptic vision into action when five cult members attacked the Tokyo subway system with bags of deadly sarin gas. The attacks remain the largest terrorist attack ever committed in Japan, killing 13 people and injuring 6,300. Luckily, law enforcement was able to pin the attack on Aum Shinrikyo, and the cult's leadership, including Asahara himself, were arrested. And that's when everyone discovered just how terrifyingly close Asahara actually came to total world domination.
Evidently, Aum Shinrikyo's science division had been busy manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. They had developed biological weapons such as anthrax and Ebola, owned a factory making AK-47s, possessed at least one attack helicopter, and were close to developing a goddamn nuclear bomb.
"I was six months away from unleashing our homemade Godzilla's fury on you all."
If Asahara hadn't blown his load early with the subway attacks, what few survivors were left would be living under the thumb of the malicious Mandarin, and the closest thing we have to Iron Man is that creepy Big Dog thing.
Charles Peace: The One-Legged Cat Burglar Of 1800s London
The Industrial Revolution wasn't kind to the Peace family. Englishman John Peace lost the use of his leg in a factory accident but later found his calling as a one-legged animal tamer to support his family, including his son, Charles Peace, who grew up to work in a steel rolling mill ... where he lost the use of his leg in a factory accident.
"That settles it. The Peace family will no longer train our boys to work the leg chopper."
But whereas his father had found a legitimate workaround for his new one-legged reality, Charles made his lemons into a different kind of lemonade -- embarking upon a life of crime. Peace was a skilled acrobat despite his disability, as well as a violin player and a celebrated Shakespearean entertainer. His day persona of a highly regarded performer at local fairs and pubs was an effective cover for his nightly activities as a notorious cat burglar.
He was such a prolific thief that police initially attributed his one-man crime spree to an entire gang of thieves. On top of that, he was apparently so good at changing his facial appearance at will that he made Jim Carrey look like Keanu Reeves -- the wanted posters put his age at anywhere between 40 and 70.
"Here is his portrait ... Maybe ... Shit."
Peace was able to continue his crime spree for years, since nobody expects the kindly violin player who walks with a cane as the guy who backflips across rooftops at night. Eventually he was caught while robbing a house in Blackheath in London. We've already set our research teams on investigating the man who caught him for our next article "5 Victorian Batmen And Their Greatest Feats of Justice."
Griselda Blanco: The Scarface Of Lingerie.
Colombian drug lord (drug lady?) Griselda Blanco was displaying classic signs of evil as soon as she burst out of the womb. Blanco's reign of terror began at the age of just 11, when legend has it, she abducted the infant child of some rich neighbors and killed him when they refused to pay ransom.
A baby. She murdered a baby.
She spent much of her youth dabbling in the 3 Ps of amateur crime, pickpocketing, prostituting, and pot-dealing, before she finally gathered her pennies together and achieved her dream of starting her own business, a lingerie store. But don't think of this as a feel-good story -- Blanco's store was basically Victoria's Secret for drug lords. See, Blanco manufactured lingerie with hidden compartments specifically for the smuggling of cocaine, kind of like the villain equivalent of the costume designer from The Incredibles. Thanks to Blanco's army of sexy smugglers padding their unmentionables with coke, she made a big name for herself in the drug business.
Eventually, she moved her operations to Miami and basically became Lady Scarface. According to law enforcement, Blanco's drug empire was largely responsible for Miami becoming the cocaine capital of the world in the 1980s. But she wasn't just a crooked underwear salesman; she was a legitimately terrifying crime kingpin (queenpin?) who, depending on who you ask, ordered somewhere between 40 and 250 assassinations. Oh, and she named her son Michael Corleone (seriously). On top of all that, Blanco is credited for the idea of motorcycle assassins, which became a staple of every cheesy ninja movie of the 1980s.
It was your typical Victoria's Secret Angel/Hell's Angel career pathway.
Eventually she was arrested and convicted for the only three murders they could prove, but got off on a light sentence because one of the key witnesses started having phone sex with a bunch of court secretaries. After a few years in prison, Blanco got out, only to be gunned down ... by a motorcycle assassin. We have to assume Michael Corleone vowed revenge on the rival ninja army responsible.
Lothar Neethling: South Africa's "Poisoner In Chief"
After World War II, it suddenly became somewhat unpopular to be a Nazi in Germany. Thankfully, white supremacy was still the fashion in apartheid South Africa, where a bunch of Nazis relocated to live among like-minded assholes. Among them was Lothar Neethling, who, although only 13 at the time, was already keen to further the ideals of the Third Reich. History will never know whether his atrocities could have been cured by getting way into Pokemon.
With a name like "Lothar Neethling," he could have been a Pokemon.
Growing up in Cape Town, Neethling was an academic prodigy, earning two doctorates in forensics and going on to found the South African Police forensics unit. It sounds like a heartwarming story of redemption if you stop reading right now. But Neethling used his authority and scientific expertise to become renowned as South Africa's own Dr. Mengele; he was colloquially known as the country's "Poisoner in Chief."
When the term "poisoner" is in your job title, you're pretty much guaranteed first-class accommodations in hell.
Neethling developed a substance known as "Lothar's Potion," which was commonly administered as a cure for the disease of being alive and not racist; Lothar's Potion was a custom poison designed to simulate heart attacks in its victims, mostly anti-apartheid activists. Neethling was the mentor of South African surgeon general Wouter Basson, and together they were working on an even wider chemical warfare campaign against blacks -- until 1989, when a media whistleblower pulled the plug on the project. Neethling eventually died from cancer, and although Basson is still alive, you'll be happy to know that he's been thoroughly punished ... by which we mean he's banned from practicing medicine.
Alexander Solonik: The "Superkiller" Of The Russian Mafia
Russian mob assassin Alexander Solonik started his career as a cop in the final years of the Soviet Union, but the authorities noticed that there was something uncomfortably murderous about him, so they fired him, after which he got a job as a grave digger until he was arrested for rape in 1987. Jesus, dude, pick an evil origin story and stick to it, would you?
Every time you'd ask how he got those scars, he'd mention a different Batman villain's background story.
The court sentenced Solonik to eight years in prison, but upon hearing the sentence, he escaped through a window and disappeared for several months until he was arrested again. Once in prison, he began to establish his reputation as the real-life version of Dolph Lundgren's character in Rocky IV. On one occasion he was jumped by 12 other prisoners who decided to make an example of him, except that Solonik won. After that, the other inmates wisely decided to let him keep to himself.
Solonik disappeared from prison two years later. After his escape, he joined a gang, where he earned the nickname "Superkiller." It wasn't one of those ironic nicknames, either, like calling the biggest guy in your gang "Tiny." His gang, the Kurgan society, rose among the ranks of Russian organized crime due to Solonik's unique ability to assassinate rival gang leaders. He personally murdered the influential kingpins Kalina, Globus, Bobon, and Mammoth, because criminal nicknames in '90s Russia were pulled straight out of Double Dragon.
And during all the murdering he somehow found time to marry Miss Russia.
Solonik was eventually captured, but he lived up to his nickname to the very end -- during questioning, the Superkiller broke out of his restraints and killed five police officers and two security guards in the police station. Let that be a lesson: If you capture a guy named Superkiller, just bury him in concrete and sink him in the sea. Even then, he's probably coming back for the sequel.
Billy Higgins Peery likes sharks with lasers, homosexuality, and totally not being a terrorist. He is currently publishing a supervillain Web serial set in South Florida, A Bad Idea.
It turns out you can see comic book scenes playing out everywhere if you pay enough attention. See what we mean in 5 Real Vehicles That Only Fictional Superheroes Should Drive. Or see what happens when a real-life supervillain chooses a bulldozer as his weapon of choice in 5 Real World Criminals Who Were Certified Supervillains.
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