5 Weapons Only Intended to Scare People

Oh, you look tough right now. But let’s see you when a flaming camel runs at your elephants
5 Weapons Only Intended to Scare People

There are two reasons for you to wield a weapon. Maybe you want to vanquish a foe, or maybe you merely want to scare them into fleeing. Often, the second option is better. You don’t have to clean up any blood afterward, authorities have fewer questions and there’s always the chance of the two of you meeting up later on and having a good laugh over the whole thing.

So, if you have to choose between carrying a small, lethal pistol or leading a terrifying dragon on a leash, we recommend the dragon. Of course, the dragon encounter might also leave your opponent dead in addition to merely scaring them, which is also a possibility with several of the following fearsome weapons. 

Burning Camels

Stories tell of how the Chinese used gunpowder as a weapon long before they figured out actual guns. Back in the 12th century, they’d use the gunpowder for fireworks, and along with the powder, they’d stuff a live rat into the bamboo tube. The flaming rat, once expelled, would run among the enemy troops, scaring the hell out of them.

That rat story sounds unlikely. It might result from someone misinterpreting an account that merely said firecrackers shot across the ground “like rats.” But don’t despair: If you like animals on fire, consider the alternate story about the time the Sultan of Delhi set fire to a bunch of these:


Megan Schultz/Unsplash

Camels and fire are natural allies. Neither need water. 

This was December 1398, when Delhi was facing down an attack from the conqueror Timur. The Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Tughluq had 125 armored elephants, which aren’t great at targeting enemies but are great at sending horses into disarray. Timur countered by sending the elephants into disarray, by sending out camels loaded with bales of hay and setting the hay on fire. The elephants turned around and ran randomly, trampling whoever was closest, which just happened to be Delhi troops.

It's like an alternate version of Lord of the Rings where the ghost army merely scare the giant elephant thingies into fleeing — which is a fair bit closer to what happens in the books, actually. 

The Aztec Death Whistle

While excavating a temple to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl, archaeologists found a whistle, which they dubbed the ehecachichtli. When small, such a whistle lets out a sound like the wind. When larger, it emits something more like an anguished human scream. It appears to have been used during the Festival of Toxcatl, which featured human sacrifice. 

You might question the value of a wind instrument that sounds like a human scream. Given that you need to blow into it to produce this noise, you could instead scream for real and cut out the extra step. Before you judge, consider listening to what the whistle sounds like:

We’re not saying this would definitely scare us into willingly walking to the sacrificial altar, but it would remind us that the crowd preventing our escape is just as scary. Here’s another video of someone blowing on a whistle reconstruction:

That guy looks pretty intimidating even without the death whistle, but we looked him up, and most of his other stuff is about puppies, so don’t worry. 

A Stick Carved to Look Like a Gun

When a European in America in the 16th century would point a gun at some indigenous person who had no gun of their own, you could guess who had the advantage in that encounter. As a result, once everyone got to know just how scary muskets are, Northern Plains tribes adopted a new weapon. We call it the gunstock club, because it’s a club shaped like a long gun.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Also “shaped like a deer leg,” but mostly shaped like a gun.

That one above comes from the Pawnee. The one below comes from the Iowa:

Iowa tribal gunstock war club,

Uyvsdi/Wiki Commons

The arrowhead-looking part is just to be extra kinky.

The whole goal here was to imitate European guns (though, a conflicting point-of-view claims the resemblance was pure coincidence). If someone sees you with one of these, and they have some idea what a gun is, but they aren’t totally clear on what a gun is, they might think you have a gun. And if they don’t think you have a gun, you’re not exactly screwed. You still have a club, and you can bop them on the head with it. 

A 15,000-Pound Bomb

The BLU-82 — a bomb nicknamed the “Daisy Cutter” — isn’t just a psychological weapon. It blows stuff up and is great at clearing minefields. But it also produces a really loud noise and a really big cloud, which give the impression unlimited power.

On February 6, 1991, the U.S. Air Force dropped a bunch of leaflets on an Iraqi battalion. This is what they said: “Tomorrow if you don’t surrender we’re going to drop on you the largest conventional weapon in the world.” The next day, in the desert near the battalion, they dropped this:

BLU-82 bomb

U.S. Air Force

First the pen, then the sword.

Elsewhere in that desert, unbeknownst to the Americans, a British team was on a secret mission. Don’t worry, the bomb didn’t get them. But the sight of it did lead the British to send a message to their own headquarters, saying, “Sir, the blokes have just nuked Kuwait!” 

The Air Force dropped a new leaflet next. This one read: “You have just been hit with the largest conventional bomb in the world. More are on the way.” The battalion now surrendered, very quickly. 

A Decapitating Sword

In the fifth century, the Kingdom of Wu was at war with the Kingdom of Yue. This sounds like a Dr. Seuss story about how both sides were secretly the same and should have reconciled, but at the time, these two ancient Chinese kingdoms took their rivalry very seriously. 

Leading the Yue was King Goujian. Other than his war with the Wu, Goujian was most famous for his ancient sword. It was already centuries old when he had it, and when we dug it out of a tomb in 1965, it was still sharp

sword of Goujian

Windmemories/Wiki Commons

They say it cut the archeologist’s finger, which was really his own fault.

During one battle, Goujian manned the frontlines with a bunch of convicted criminals. As the opposing armies drew closer to each other, these criminals now took out their swords and cut their own throats, killing themselves. We have to imagine they’d been coerced into doing this, on penalty of suffering something worse than death. Maybe Goujian threatened to kill their families, or maybe he scared them with an Aztec death whistle.

Some sources go further, saying that these men sawed fully through their necks, decapitating themselves. We have to reject that account, on the technicality that it’s “not physically possible.” A full spine severing also wasn’t necessary. Mere mutilation was enough to thoroughly discombobulate the Wu, letting other Yu forces easily attack them from another direction. 

You could try the throat trick yourself, to get out of a parking ticket perhaps, or if you don’t want to pay for fries. Keep in mind, however: You can only try this once. 

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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