"We thought 'Jean-Claude Man Jamme' was just his Xbox name."
For every billionaire playboy who secretly spends his nights fighting crime using the power of his bottomless bank account, there's a friendly veterinarian who secretly spends his nights soundproofing his basement against the high-pitched wails of all the adorable neighborhood pets he's stabbing down there. Because as we've discussed before, someone's daily persona can stand in complete, paradoxical defiance of the face they show when they think no one else is watching. For instance ...
Probably the shared nightmare of the agents at any intelligence organization charged with rooting out Islamic terrorism is to discover that said organization has been infiltrated by a card-carrying Islamic terrorist. And that's precisely what happened in late 2016 at Germany's Federal Office For The Protection Of The Constitution (or Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, or, thankfully, BfV), when German intelligence agents discovered that their unnamed coworker -- whom we'll refer to as "Hans," because that's just playing the odds -- had been bragging to internet chat rooms about his life as a secret Islamic terrorist spy.
And then shit got just plain weird.
The Absurd Double Life:
In 2014, Hans, a German citizen of Spanish descent, secretly converted to a radical sect of Islam and joined up with the BfV with the objective of warning "his religious brothers" when Cologne's Finest were about to rappel through their windows.
Then one day in 2016, German counter-terrorism agents were hanging out in a terrorist chatroom looking for some terrorism to counter, when they happened upon a user claiming to be a German secret agent. After luring him into a private chat and goading him into spilling literally every single detail about his job that was capable of being spilled, the agents were nearly certain they were speaking to their co-worker Hans. Just to be sure, though, they googled his screen name.
And that's when they discovered that Hans -- married father of four, radical Islamist, wannabe terrorist -- was openly using an alias that matched yet another of his personas: the stage name he used when starring in gay pornographic films. That's right -- the man who was a secret terrorist posing as a counter terrorist operative was using his porn name. Obviously this was a huge oversight on Hans' part, but it also doesn't cast the BfV in the best light considering it took them two years to catch on.
In his role as chief arson investigator for the Glendale, California Fire Department, John Leonard Orr was unrivaled among his peers, due to his nigh-mystical ability to arrive first at the scene of a suspicious fire before proceeding to adeptly track down its cause like some kind of accelerant-sniffing human bloodhound.
Of course, the reason Orr was so good at his job was mostly because he had started all the fires himself, before stepping outside to distractedly hammer his wang as he watched greater Glendale smolder (more on that later, we promise).
The Absurd Double Life:
Between 1984 and 1991, Orr set an estimated 2,000 fires in the Los Angeles area, racking up a damage toll amounting to tens of millions of dollars. Not all of the damages can be assigned a dollar value, however: In 1984, Orr murdered four people -- including 50-year-old Ada Deal and her two-year-old grandson -- when he burned down a Pasadena hardware store. In 1990, Orr masterminded a firestorm that damaged or outright destroyed 67 Glendale homes.
So why did he do it? Well, while it's never advisable to dig too deep into the mind of a monster, in Orr's case we barely have to scrape the surface to discover his motive: This man just plain liked fire. Hell, he didn't like fire -- he loved it. He wanted to fuck fire, cuddle it, cook it a lavish breakfast, then write a steamy romance novel about it while waiting for his skin grafts to set in.
Ultimately, it's this obsession that would do him in. Twisted as it was, Orr's M.O. was undeniably ingenious: He'd set a fire in the foothills. Then, while firefighters were distracted there, he'd hit a far more devastating target, such as the aforementioned hardware store. Finally, he'd sweep into the smoking rubble with his fellow investigators to aid in the chase for the so-called Pillow Pyro (so named for his tendency to use polyurethane bedding as kindling) and give a hearty shrug when it came time to pinpoint a culprit.
Two things brought his long-running streak to an end: a single fingerprint on a failed incendiary device, and Points Of Origin: Playing With Fire, a novel manuscript discovered in Orr's home that "fictionally" described his firebug escapades in painstaking, boner-stroking detail. According to Orr biographer Joseph Wambaugh, Orr's novel contains "more erections than the Playboy Mansion."
A jury swiftly slapped his shitty book with a one-star review before slapping Orr himself with the justice system's equivalent of the same: a lifetime sentence without possibility of parole.
It goes without saying that Father Andrea Contin, a parish priest in the northern Italian city of Padua, was by all outward appearances an extreme sexual conservative (despite the fact that his chosen profession required the daily wearing of a dog collar). But when he wasn't busy railing against the evils of pornography and adultery, Father Contin was busy railing his parishioners in an entirely different way.
The Absurd Double Life:
In January of 2017, Contin found himself in a bit of a pickle when it came to light that not only was he hosting massive orgies on church property, but -- just to add insult to groin-stretching injury -- he was also videotaping said orgies and concealing the resulting homemade porn in covers bearing the names of former popes. To Father Contin's credit, it's safe to say that, under his watch, the frequenters of San Lazzaro church invoked the Lord's name more than ever before.
Yes, Father Contin was, by all accounts, a sex maniac. He listed many of his 30-or-so partners on wife-swapping websites, and even vacationed at a swingers resort in France. Contin fathered at least one child with a woman in his parish, which was ironic considering Contin got his post after the previous priest was defrocked for fathering a child with a woman in his parish. According to one of his partners, Contin even encouraged her to "have sexual relations with a horse" and, on multiple occasions, "beat her in the rectory," which is not a euphemism.
Scummiest of all, Contin was never without his "briefcase full of vibrators, sex toys, masks, and bondage equipment." Most notably, he took it along when counseling widows or women experiencing marital strife, in hopes of "counseling" them back onto the path of holiness (the counseling was done with his dick).
After flipping through their holy rulebook and determining that Father Contin had definitely violated some of them, the higher-ups in the Catholic Church immediately commenced with his vigorous defrocking, which is also not a euphemism, and consequently not something that Father Contin enjoyed.
To his common-law wife, Norm Hamilton was a rare coins and collectibles dealer who provided them with a comfortably extravagant lifestyle. To his wealthy neighbors in their upscale Washington, D.C. suburb, he was a sociable professional who kept his Mercedes suitably shiny, his bank account sufficiently bulging, and his proficiency in the stock market amply windfall-producing. Hell, Norm Hamilton was so normal that his name was Norm. Except it wasn't, and his fortune had come not from diddling the stock market, but from being one of the most prolific criminals who ever lived.
The Absurd Double Life:
Before he stepped into the (undoubtedly stolen) shoes of Norm Hamilton, Norm was Bernard C. Welch, aka the Standard Time Burglar, aka the Ghost Burglar, which, if we're being honest, is a sick-ass burglar name. One of the most prolific burglars in modern history, Welch burglarized as many as 5,000 homes in the Washington metro area during the 1970s, pilfering $100 million in valuables from anyone who had anything at all worth stealing. His victims ranged from single women, to stuffy rich guys, to famed astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn, to ("allegedly") Welch's own next-door neighbor.
After being caught early on in his plundering career, Welch escaped from a New York prison and made his way to Northern Virginia, where he romanced Linda Hamilton (not the famous one), pairing her last name with the normalest first name he could think of. Each night, Welch would don a black ski mask and head out to burgle the world. Also, just in case you're starting to find his rouge-ish behavior appealing in a loveable scoundrel sort of way, he would pistol-whip and rape the occasional lone woman he encountered in so doing.
Then he'd return home with what we must assume was a magical, bottomless sack stolen from Felix The Cat, and pile all the loot in his basement man cave, which in this instance was less "a sad, rundown pool table beneath a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign" and more "a bona fide goddamn dragon's hoard."
In December of 1980, Welch, now a fugitive for eight years, broke into the home of noted cardiologist Michael Halberstam. The job turned sour: Dr. Halberstam confronted the would-be burglar, and Welch responded by shooting him twice ... with, we feel it's important to note, a gun he'd previously stolen from an FBI agent. As Welch fled, Halberstam pursued him by car and ran his ass down on the sidewalk. Sadly, his brazen badassery was not enough to save Halberstam from his wounds, but police were able to scoop a battered Welch up off of the sidewalk and throw the book at him, which he presumably discreetly pocketed.
Robert Townsend was a young merchant and loyal subject during the Revolutionary War. When not standing teary-eyed before portraits of His Majesty King George, Townsend was also a journalist who wrote for loyalist newspaper The Royal Gazette, where he praised the gallant British officers fighting to keep the citizens of the colony safe from the likes of George Washington. He was also known to frequent loyalist coffee shops and social events, where no one thought twice about discussing sensitive information within his earshot.
Strange how said sensitive information then found its way straight into the hands of the likes of George Washington.
The Absurd Double Life:
Robert Townsend, now better known by literally everyone as Culper Junior, ran what is unanimously considered the single most important spy ring of the Revolutionary War. Based in occupied New York City, Townsend used his merchant status to float among high society and schmooze information from the British elite, and his journalist status to schmooze information from British officers looking for a mention in the paper. Then he'd write it all up in invisible ink and ship it to George Washington via a series of secret couriers and dead drops.
Let's replay a couple of Culper Junior's greatest hits: First, Townsend discovered that the British were preparing to ambush the French army as it disembarked in Rhode Island. He got word to Washington, who feigned an attack on New York, thereby forcing the British to stay in the city, un-dooming the French-American alliance before it even began, and quite possibly preserving the entire concept of "America" as a thing. Second, information uncovered by Townsend was critical in uncovering General Benedict Arnold's conspiracy to defect and surrender West Point to the British, the very act that made Arnold's name synonymous with "traitorous dickbag."
And those are just the highlights -- Townsend also uncovered everything from tactical military information to a massive British counterfeiting plot. Even after the war, Townsend remained deep undercover, going back to his merchant ways and never again mentioning his spy work to anyone, including his friends and family. It wasn't until the 1930s -- nearly 150 years after the war and a century after Townsend's death -- that detailed handwriting analysis proved that Robert Townsend and Culper Junior were the same damn person.
From the time he came of age in the 1920s, Englishman Albert Pierrepoint was an unassuming drayman (that's a person who delivers groceries on horseback, which is a job that doesn't exist anymore but absolutely should.) Then, in 1946, his meager savings allowed him to buy Help The Poor Struggler, a pub in Lancashire. While tending pub, Pierrepoint earned a reputation as a friendly character who loved to sing and dance with his patrons. Not bad for a lowly grocery horse delivery man!
The Absurd Double Life:
Imagine the surprise of Pierrepoint's customers when they discovered that jovial Albert Pierrepoint bought their favorite pub with the execution fees he earned hanging hundreds of Nazi war criminals.
From 1932 to 1956, Pierrepoint was the Chief Executioner of the United Kingdom, introducing a good 450 convicted criminals to the long end of a rope. Since his execution orders only came by mail (by mail?) around once a month, and hangmen were expected to be exceptionally discreet, Pierrepoint simply kept his day job and never mentioned his part-time gig -- not even to his wife.
via Wiki Commons
That all changed with World War II, when Pierrepoint finally had to give the missus an honest explanation after being called away to execute a pair of spies in Gibraltar. And his forced truthfulness came just in the nick of time, because soon thereafter he was called on to execute the hundreds of Nazi war criminals being cranked out by the Nuremberg trials, a list which included Josef Kramer, the Beast Of Belsen, and Irma Grese, the Hyena Of Auschwitz. Since hangman was a pay-per-swing gig, Nuremberg was like winning some macabre lottery.
Eventually, the British Army leaked Pierrepoint's name to the press. Suddenly, good ol' Albert was a morbid tourist attraction, with busloads of people pouring into The Pub That Dead Nazis Built. Still, despite being outed, Pierrepoint stuck to his principals and refused to discuss his work with his patrons ... save for one, James Corbitt, a longtime patron and friend known as "Tish" to Pierrepoint's "Tosh." One night, after singing a rousing rendition of "Danny Boy" with Pierrepoint, Corbitt went straight home and murdered his girlfriend. Because Pierrepoint was arguably the man with the most unflappable work ethic in the history of the world, he absolutely carried out his friend Corbitt's execution.
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