15 Twisted People Who Were Real-Life Supervillains
To date there have been no genuine, dishonest-to-badness, old fashioned supervillains. Maybe it’s the alarming underpotency of our nuclear disasters, or perhaps we’re not attracting enough kids into the exciting field of evil science. Either way, no weather machines are being constructed, and the bottom has fallen out of the Volcano lair real estate market. Stupid government cutbacks.
We live in a world that celebrates superheroes, kids are always running around the streets telling everyone they’re Batman (which seems to be contrary to the whole secret identity thing), and yet there seem to be so very few good role models for budding young despots to look up to. How are we going to encourage the next generation of evil, when we refuse to put serious capital into the industry?
Thankfully, over the years, there have been some individuals who have taken it upon themselves to go it alone, without any support. Those crazy, sick, twisted people who saw the world and decided they were just going to devour a part of it.
The people in this list have not quite reached the heady heights of full on, costumed, cackling genuine supervillainy, but at least they’ve made a start. An at times disturbing and just plain wrong start, but everyone has to start somewhere.
15. Velvalee Dickinson AKA The Doll Collector
Velvalee Dickinson lived something of a normal, quiet existence. Which, let’s face it, is usually the thing people say when they’re about to describe the sordid details of a murder. But Velvalee plodded along, owning her own doll store on Madison Avenue, providing luxury childlike effigies to rich weirdos who probably used them to put in baby carriages and pretend they weren’t barren. Or something.
Once her husband died of a heart attack, though, Velvalee started to undertake some interesting commissions from within her doll emporium. In 1942 the FBI intercepted a letter on its way to Buenos Aires that spoke of a “wonderful doll hospital” and “three old English dolls”. The FBI’s cryptographers went to work, and discovered that the letter was in fact code. The feds were thrown at first, as these letters were signed by various different women, but the signatures turned out to be forgeries by Mrs Dickinson.
The letters, as it turned out, were sending US military secrets to Japan. Some involved the locations of warships being repaired following Pearl Harbor, and would have been extremely valuable if delivered. Further investigations revealed that Velvalee had visited the Japanese Institute in New York, befriended the Consul General, and connected with a Japanese naval attache. Essentially, she had taken it upon herself to bring down the US military through the use of her doll shop.
The FBI arrested Dickinson, finding huge amounts of cash and instructions on the use of Japanese codes. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison, protesting her innocence the whole time. If you’re gonna be a Supervillain, you need to have the confidence of your conviction, lady!
14. Jonathan Idema AKA The Psychotic Patriot
Obviously villainy attracts a very specific kind of person. You know, likes long walks through nuclear fallout, has a collection of human taxidermy – all normal things. Its also a path that attracts people who may be a tad …mashuggah?
Jonathan Idema spent a little time in the US army as a radio operator, before opening up his own paintball business, which went belly-up, landing him in prison for 3 years for fraud. When released, he sort of just appeared in Kabul, spinning yarns about how he was the leader of a special forces team, and had Osama Bin Laden in his sights. His stories of super secret missions made him popular with Kabul locals, and they even named a drink after him.
However, in 2004, police raided his home, finding 8 prisoners in there – some in shackles, some hanging from the ceiling. In court, Idema claimed that he was operating officially, with the approval of both the US and Afghanistan. In fact, it was later revealed that idea tricked NATO operatives into helping him kidnap his victims.
Though the court found him guilty and sentenced him to 10 years, Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai pardoned him in 2007.
So was he supervillain-level crazy? Or did president Karzai know something we don’t?
13. Shoko Asahara AKA The Messiah
If there’s one place you’re gonna find attempted supervillainy, it’s pseudo-religious cults. Those places are just breeding grounds for people with huge egos who are desperate for world domination.
Shoko Asahara was leader of the Aum Shinriko cult, and he believed that he was the reincarnated form of the Hindu god, Shiva. The main selling point of his particular cult was he was destined to lead his followers to salvation when the apocalypse arrived. So, nothing insane and self-obsessed there, then.
Asahara lured in followers, claiming he could teach them how to levitate, and that they could develop telepathic skills. But the obvious clincher for people uncertain as to whether they wanted to follow a new Messiah was, he would allow them to drink his bathwater. Delicious.
The cult grew, drawing in influential and wealthy members, allowing Asahara to create a scientific division of his cult. The group went on to attack Tokyo first with a Sarin attack that killed 7 people in 1994, then again in 1995 when the group released the gas into the Tokyo underground – killing 12, injuring 50, and giving 5000 more temporary vision problems.
Asahara and 11 of his disciples were sentenced to death in 2004.
12. Joshua “Theo” Brady AKA um…Theo?
One of the most important skills for any burgeoning supervillain, is knowing how to delegate tasks. If it’s not directly involved with the stealing of moons or despatching of secret agents, you get someone else to do the dirty work. Which is what Joshua Brady did.
In 2013 Brady, calling himself “Theo”, convinced two 20-something Virginians that he was an operative for the CIA and that he had a national security mission of utmost importance that he needed them to undertake for him: Rob some banks.
Referring to the mission as “Operation Downstrike”, Brady seen the pair off on their errands. Which would have been a genius move except two men were clearly morons, and none of the banks handed over a single dollar.
When the cops caught up with the attempted robbers, “Theo” told the police that, “You can’t make people disappear, only I can do that”. Which you have to admit, is a line only a supervillain would attempt. But the ruse soon fell apart, and Brady was sentenced to 3 years home supervision.
11. Alexander Solovnik AKA Superkiller
Alexander Solonik wasn’t always a villain, no he started on the side of law and order…sort of. He got a job as a cop in Moscow, but was soon dismissed as his superiors discovered that he had a propensity toward…well, murder. Which is apparently a sackable offense now! He then spent some time as a gravedigger, which sort of seems like a perfectly natural progression through the origin story of a supervillain, doesn’t it?
After being sentenced to 8 years in prison for rape, Solonik started to forge himself a set of contacts with the Russian mafia, impressing them with his ability to take down 12 fellow inmates who jumped him.
He escaped from prison and joined a gang, the Kurgan Society, and gained a reputation and his nickname “Superkiller” due to his propensity toward killing rival gang leaders. Even when he was finally captured by the authorities, he killed 5 police officers after breaking out of his restraints.
10. Gerard Blanchard AKA The Paraburglar
Frankly, there aren’t enough Canadian supervillains. The world is much poorer for a lack of despots with a charming and pleasant disposition. And imagine how quickly they’d heal after battling their nemeses with access to all that free healthcare! Get on it, Canada.
Thankfully, Gerard Blanchard is something of a pioneer of Canadian villainy.
His first major foray was kind of epic. When he was on vacation in Austria, he saw the Koechert Diamond Pearl at the Schloss Schonnbrun palace. He casually unscrewed the security case with his key, and unlocked the windows. Under cover of darkness, he then parachuted onto the roof of the schloss, slipped in the window, and switched the Koechert Diamond Pearl with a replica from the gift shop. He even returned to the scene of his crime a day later to witness stupid tourists admiring the replica in the case. When the piece was eventually found by police, it was stashed away in his grandma’s basement.
He continued on his villainous path, robbing banks and stealing more than $2 million using fake credit cards. After his eventual arrest in 2007, he gave the police advice on how to improve bank security, and as a result was free and clear from prison in 2010.
9. Dr Francois Duvalier AKA Papa Doc
When people go around calling you Papa Doc, you basically have to forgo any possible denial that you’re some kind of voodoo supervillain. It’s out there, dude, better just grab yourself a top hat and ruin James Bond’s day.
Back in 1957, Francois Duvalier was elected president of Haiti. Now, we all know the work of government is dull, thankless work – and instead of doing all that boring shit, Duvalier decided he was going to revive the voodoo religion, and model himself on Baron Samedi. He even produced posters that depicted Jesus endorsing him as some kind of chosen one.
Now, along with kinda terrifying use of his secret police force, the Tonton Macoute (the creole word for “Boogeyman”, no less), he had a whale of a time touring Haiti, chopping people up with machetes and putting on a show of exorcising demons. You know, the kind of stuff that’s missing from modern politics.
By the time he died, it’s estimated that Duvalier and his Tonton Macoute stormtroopers murdered 30,000 innocent people.
8. Marvin Heemeyer AKA The Killdozer
If you want to be a supervillain, you’re going to have to learn to use some tools. Whether it’s for welding a laser cannon onto your amputated leg, or building a satellite that sends out zombie-making signals, you’re going to need some maker skills.
Particularly if you’re planning on building, say, a rolling harbinger of death.
Many things might drive a normal, stable human being to breaking point (and by breaking point, we obviously mean compete nutbar insanity). For Heemeyer, this was a dispicible concrete company that systematically screwed him over because he refused to sell his muffler repair store to them. The last straw came when the company convinced the local government to rezone Heemeyer’s property, and in the 6 months notice he was given to move on, he built himself a bulldozer of extreme destructive capability.
He took his brand new Killdozer, equipped with such essentials as gun turrets and an armored cabin, and gleefully took out his own shop, the concrete company’s plant, the mayor’s house, city hall, and a police car that had the temerity to try and stop him. Sadly, at the end of his episode of destruction, spotting SWAT officers in his vicinity, Heemeyer put a bullet in his own brain.
7. Richard Kuklinski AKA The Iceman
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to kill your expectations here. This guy does not have superpowers that allow him to squirt frozen matter from his fingertips. We’re going to have to wait for someone to have a serious industrial accident in a nuclear-powered liquid nitrogen plant for that one.
No, Kuklinski got his nickname from his formative killing years, where he experimented with freezing his victims’ corpses in an ice cream van in order to throw off forensic investigators…which didn’t work at all.
Kuklinski was a hitman for the mob, using all kinds of interesting and downright twisted methods to kill his victims, including feeding them to rats, sprinkling cyanide on their food, injecting them with cyanide, covering them with cyanide…basically, he’d give anything a shot, especially if it involved cyanide.
After he’d been caught by authorities, Kuklinski was convinced to testify against his mob employers, but died before he got to trial.
6. Vladimir Kozak AKA The Hypnoheister
Come on, we’ve all thought about it at one time or another: gaining the kind of hypnotic abilities that would allow us to make people bow to our every whim. But then you look into it a bit more, and all the experts tell you that people under hypnosis won’t do anything that they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do. Lame.
Except this didn’t appear to be the case for Vladimir Kozak. The man from Moldova apparently spent his 2005 waltzing into banks, putting the staff into a hypnotic state, and telling them to hand over large wads of cold hard cash.
Kozak was believed to have stolen tens of thousands of dollars from various banks. Just using some form of technique “involving eye contact” (frankly it’d be weird if he was a shy hypnotist that avoided eye contact), the bank employees were reportedly unable to resist Kozak’s powers.
There are no reports suggesting that Kozak has been apprehended, but the police advised all the nation’s bank tellers to refrain from making eye contact with any visitors…which is a customer service policy anybody who has worked with the public can get behind.
5. Joseph Konopka AKA Dr. Chaos
When you stand up and give yourself a name like Dr. Chaos, you’re giving yourself a lot to live up to. Seriously, your basically announcing to the world that you’re out to cause the kind of mayhem that makes society crumble. And to be fair, Joseph Konopka gave that a good shot.
For no clear reason – and even the investigators say they still don’t understand him – Konopka got up one morning and decided to quit is well paid computer admin job, and recruit young followers via the internet, calling them the Realm of Chaos. He and his villainous cadre then went out and committed various sabotage attacks on utility services, causing approximately $3 million of damage.
When the police caught up with him, he was stockpiling cyanide inn the tunnels of the Chicago subway system. Which, really, suggests Konopka had some big, scary plans in mind.
4. Adam Worth AKA The Napoleon of Crime
Does Professor Moriarty know that this guy stole his supervillain name? On the plus side, we can probably expect some kind of supervillain smackdown to determine the true holder of the title! What do you mean, one of them’s dead and the other’s fictional?
Nonetheless, Adam Worth earned the title not because he was a Frenchman with a height complex, but because he had a pretty prolific and weird criminal life. It began when he joined the Union Army during the civil war, and was mistakenly listed on paperwork as deceased. He used that error to then take a tour of different regiments, signing up to collect thee bounty, and then disappearing again. After the war ended, he headed to New York, where he led a gang of pickpockets – somehow without performing a musical number about it. In 1869, he rented a shop above a bank, putting on a front that he was selling healing tonics, all the while actually digging a tunnel into the bank vault below.
With huge amounts of stolen cash doubtlessly making his pockets bulge, he fled to London, where he set himself up as a gentleman – buying yachts and racehorses, all the while masterminding a criminal empire of bank robberies that stretched all around the globe. He even personally stole a portrait of the Duchess of Devonshire from a London gallery, just because he was obsessed with the Duchess, and often kept it under his mattress.
He was eventually caught and spent 5 years in prison, after which he sold the portrait back to the gallery he stole it from.
3. Victoriano Alvarez AKA The King of Clipperton
Clipperton Island was an island in the Pacific that, during the 18th and 19th centuries, everyone wanted to rule. Britain, France, Mexico, Italy…oh, and Victoriano Alvarez.
Alvarez was the lighthouse keeper on the island, and in around 1910 Mexico stopped sending vital supplies to Clipperton, as they were too distracted in stopping a burgeoning revolution from rising. As a result most of the inhabitants contracted scurvy and died, leaving Alvarez, a handful of soldiers, and 12 women and children.
After most of the soldiers drowned in an accident, Alvarez dashed out of his lighthouse, threw all but one of the stockpile of rifles into the sea, loaded his 1 remaining rifle and – like any sane person – declared himself king of the island.
Unfortunately, he then went on to murder anyone who disagreed with him, and raped and beat the women and children, before one of the women – Tirza Randon – picked up a hammer and went to town on his skull.
2. Edward Lansdale AKA The Vampire Master?
While you may not have heard of Lansdale himself, you’ve likely heard of some of his really odd missions as a US Air Force officer. Chief among those was Operation Mongoose, the plans to assassinate Fidel Castro with exploding cigars and other whacky gadgets.
But it’s his even more bat-shit insane villainous activities we’re interested in.
His first visit to the Philippines in the 1940s was as a government observer and participant in the torture of Japanese Major Kojima Kashii, and when he returned in the 1950s, it was for more death, destruction, and weirdness.
Given $5 million to fund CIA operations against communist Huk rebels, who had risen up against the Philippino government, Lansdale set to work using the rebels’ superstitions against them. Most notably, their fear of the Aswang – a kind of shapeshifting vampire witch (geez, pick ONE, Huk rebels!). Lansdale and his team spread rumors about the Aswang being spotted around the rebel camp, then snatched one of the rebels, put two suspiciously vampire-like holes in his neck…oh, and drained all his blood, too. When the rebels discovered the Aswang’s feasting, they packed their shit and fled faster than you can say “Team Edward”.
Lansdale then continued his odd career concocting plans that involved exploding seashells, poisoned pens, and thallium-contaminated shoes – you know, your basic villainous stuff of legends.
1. Ryan Cory AKA Rex Velvet
This list so far has been stuffed with the kind of twisted, despicable beings that really put the serious disturbance side into their villainy. This guy may not have murdered anyone or robbed any banks, but he’s the only one to fully commit to the supervillain sense of dastardly theatrics.
In 2011, when reports began surfacing in Washington of a genuine vigilante superhero going by the name of Phoenix Jones (seriously?) fighting crime on the streets, Cory took the only sensible course of action.
Calling himself Rex Velvet (which, yes, sounds like an adult entertainment star moniker), he donned his mustache and bowler hat, rented out a seriously kooky warehouse lair, and produced videos giving Phoenix Jones an ultimatum to cease his heroic activities.
He then went on something of a light terror spree throughout Seattle, including abducting the Seahawks mascot, Blitz, as part of a Make-a-Wish Foundation request. If you’re gonna be a villain, it doesn’t mean you can’t help some sick kids, too.
When Phoenix Jones disbanded his team of amateur superheroes, Velvet took the only course of action possible – he issued a press release inviting them to join us cadre of villainy. What a genius.
Sources: fbi.gov, independent.co.uk, bbc.co.uk, huffingtonpost.com, time.com
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