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Thursday, July 28, 2011

10 monsters that inspire dread


#10 - Cockatrice


The Cockatrice can cause death with a single glance. Reports indicate that anything catching sight of the lethal bird’s eyes is turned instantly to stone. Just as deadly is their poisonous saliva, which can fell even an elephant. Also known as a Basilisk, a Cockatrice has the head and feet of a cockerel and the tail of a serpent. The Cockatrice is believed to be the product of a seven-year-old cockerel’s egg, laid during a full moon, and then hatched for nine years by a serpent or toad. There are a few ways to protect oneself from a Cockatrice. One is to carry something reflective – like a mirror – and turn the creature’s gaze back on it. Another is to keep either a weasel or a cockerel nearby. The weasel is said to be the mortal enemy of the Cockatrice, While the crowing of the cockerel is even more effective as it causes the Cockatrice to have fatal fits and ultimately thrash itself to death.

#9 - Manticore


The manticore is a legendary creature similar to the Egyptian sphinx. It has the body of a red lion, a human head with three rows of sharp teeth (like a shark), and a trumpet-like voice. Other aspects of the creature vary from story to story. It may be horned, winged or both. The tail is that of either a dragon or a scorpion, and it may shoot poisonous spines to either paralyze or kill its victims. It devours its prey whole. It leaves no clothes, bones or possessions of the prey behind. The creature’s feet may be those of a dragon, but are most often described as the paws of a lion. Its size ranges from the size of a lion to the size of a horse. It is also mistaken as a bearded man when seen from a distance – a deception which makes it easy to fall victim to the creature.

#8 - Kelpie


The kelpie is a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore, that is believed to haunt the rivers and lochs of Scotland and Ireland. The horse’s appearance is strong, powerful and breathtaking. Its hide was supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white), and it will appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its skin is like that of a seal, smooth, but is as cold as death when touched. Water horses are known to transform into beautiful women to lure men into their traps. The water horse is a common form of the kelpie, said to lure humans, especially children, into the water to drown and eat them. It performs this act by encouraging children to ride on its back. Once its victims fall into its trap, the kelpie’s skin becomes adhesive and it bears them into the river, dragging them to the bottom of the water and devouring them—except the heart or liver.

#7 - Soucouyant


Not only is the soucouyant scary – it is probably the most bizarre entry here. The soucouyant in Dominica, Trinidadian and Guadeloupean folklore, is a kind of vampire. The Soucouyant lives by day as an old woman at the end of the village. By night, however, she strips off her wrinkled skin, puts it in a mortar, and flies in the shape of a fireball through the darkness, looking for a victim. Still in the shape of a fireball, the soucouyant enters the home of her victim through the keyhole, or any crack or crevice. Soucouyants suck the blood of people from their arms, legs and other soft parts, while they sleep. If the soucouyant draws out too much blood from her victim, it is believed that the victim will die and become a soucouyant herself, or else perish entirely, leaving her killer to assume her skin. The soucouyant practices witchcraft, voodoo and black magic. Soucouyants trade the blood of their victims for evil powers with Bazil, the demon who resides in the silk cotton tree.

#6 - Umibōzu


Umibōzu is a spirit in Japanese folklore. The Umibōzu is said to live in the ocean and capsize the ship of anyone who dares speak to it. This spirit’s name, which combines the character for “sea” with the character of “Buddhist monk,” is possibly related to the fact that the Umibōzu is said to have a large, round head, resembling the shaven heads of Buddhist monks. Alternatively, they are enormous Yōkai (spectres) that appear to shipwreck victims and fishermen. They are believed to be drowned priests, exhibit the shaven head and typically appears to be praying. It is usually reported as having a grey, cloud-like torso and serpentine limbs. As you can see from the image above, this is not a creature you want to bump into in the middle of the night.


#5 - Hidebehind


A hidebehind is a nocturnal fearsome critter from American folklore that preys upon humans that wander the woods, and was credited for the disappearances of early colonial loggers when they failed to return to camp. As its name suggests, the hidebehind is noted for its ability to conceal itself. When an observer attempts to look directly at it, the creature hides again behind an object or the observer, and therefore can’t be directly seen; a feat it accomplishes by sucking in its stomach to a point where it is so slender that it can easily cover itself behind the trunk of any tree. The hidebehind uses this ability to stalk human prey without being observed, and to attack without warning. Their victims, including lumberjacks who frequent the forests, are dragged back to the creature’s lair to be devoured. The creature subsists chiefly upon the intestines of its victim. Tasty.

#4 - Bakeneko


Cats are meant to be furry and cute – but not when it is five feet high and shoots fireballs! A bakeneko (“monster-cat”) is, in Japanese folklore, a cat with supernatural abilities akin to those of the fox or raccoon dog. A cat may become a bakeneko in a number of ways: it may reach a certain age, be kept for a certain number of years, grow to a certain size, or be allowed to keep a long tail. A bakeneko is a cat that gains paranormal powers after certain circumstances. They also have the ability to eat (bigger or smaller) anything in its way, no matter what it is. Poison is its main food. A bakeneko will haunt any household it is kept in, creating ghostly fireballs, menacing sleepers, walking on its hind legs, changing its shape into that of a human, and even devouring its own mistress in order to shapeshift and take her place. When it is finally killed, its body may be as much as five feet in length. It also poses a danger if allowed into a room with a fresh corpse; a cat is believed to be capable of reanimating a body by jumping over it.

#3 - Draugr


A draugr is an undead creature from Norse mythology. Draugar were believed to live in the graves of dead Vikings, being the body of the dead. As the graves of important men often contained a good amount of wealth, the draugr jealously guards his treasures, even after death. Draugar possess superhuman strength, can increase their size at will, and carry the unmistakable stench of decay. The draugr’s ability to increase its size also increased its weight, and the body of the draugr was described as being extremely heavy. Thorolf of Eyrbyggja Saga was “uncorrupted, and with an ugly look about him… swollen to the size of an ox,” and his body was so heavy that it could not be raised without levers. In folklore the draugar slay their victims through various methods including crushing them with their enlarged forms, devouring their flesh, devouring them whole in their enlarged forms, indirectly killing them by driving them mad, and drinking their blood. Animals feeding near the grave of a draugr may be driven mad by the creature’s influence.

#2 - Monstrous Races


Pliny (in his Natural History, 77AD) gives us the first accounts of monstrous races in his attempt to describe the various unknown peoples of foreign lands. Some of the races he describes are hairy choromandae, which make a terrifying gnashing noise, half-beasts and half men created by the gods to terrify men for their amusement, and perhaps most horrifyingly a race of creatures who feed exclusively on the milk of dog-headed men (cynocephalae). In medieval history we find men with chests in their heads, and gigantic men who roam about on one leg, but prefer to lie on their back using their giant foot to protect them from the sun (sciapods). Pictured above is a weird mix of a man with a head in his chest, mixed with a bird.

#1 - Tiamat


We are all familiar with dragons from various historical tales and myths, but Tiamat really takes the cake for inspiring terror. Tiamat comes to us from Babylonian mythology. She is often wrongly described as being a sea-serpent or dragon, but it is far worse than that. First, here is a description: “[Tiamat had] a tail, a thigh, “lower parts” (which shake together), a belly, an udder, ribs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes, nostrils, a mouth, and lips. She has insides (possibly “entrails”), a heart, arteries, and blood.” She was made up of such a jumble of things that she truly was a creature of chaos. But it gets worse. Tiamat was so horrifying, so monstrous, and so dread-inspiring because, from her bizarre pseudo-human cum cryptozoological body, she gave birth to dragons, scorpion-men, merpeople (yes, that is a real word), and countless other horrifying things. The Tiamat myth says that she was eventually killed by the god Marduk, who then split her body in two forming heaven and earth.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Top 10 Military Field Tacticians


#10 - Genghis Khan


The entire Mongol Empire, at its peak, covered some 12.7 million square miles, which is 22% of all the land area on Earth. The tactics that enabled such conquests can be traced primarily to Genghis, the empire’s founder and first Khan. His birth name was Borjigin Temujin, and he devised a versatile attacking style, that of missile cavalries: his best archers were not trained merely to shoot, but to shoot accurately while riding horses at full gallop. They could even shoot accurately directly behind the horse at full gallop. No infantry force in the world at that time could have withstood such soldiers, and all the nations the Mongols invaded were overwhelmed very quickly.

Genghis’s legacy has been cemented by his conquest of Khwarezmia, which is most of modern Iran, along with parts of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Genghis originally respected the leader, Ala ad-Din Muhammad II, as another conqueror, but when Genghis sent emissaries to strike up commerce with Ala ad-Din, the latter killed the diplomats and sent the rest back with shaved heads as an insult. First rule of Genghis Khan: don’t insult Genghis Khan.

He invaded Khwarezmia with 200,000 men, as many as half of these mounted archers, and split his army into smaller forces designed to conquer more territory faster. In military schools, this is always advised against, but Genghis’s scouts indicated that Ala ad-din was waiting with stronghold defenses, which suited Genghis’s desire for maneuvering room. His armies surrounded the walled cities of Samarkand, Urgench and Bukhara, and utterly destroyed them, one after another. On the third day of siege at Burkhara, the Turkish generals inside decided that they did not have the food and water to outlast Genghis, and so sallied a force of 20,000 cavalrymen and infantrymen, who attacked in the open steppe outside the city. Genghis’s army slaughtered them, to the last man.

Then he finished the siege within another 2 weeks, killed the Turkish soldiers who survived, sent the rest of the population’s youth into slavery, and executed everyone else, men and women deemed inefficient for labor. Seeing that the Turkish attempt to free itself from siege failed so well, Genghis next besieged Samarkand, whose garrison sent 50,000 veteran troops against Genghis’s army when it pretended to withdraw piecemeal. This was a simple plot that worked magnificently. His men retaliated, flanked on both sides, enveloped, and shot the Turks down in a massive pile of human and horse carcasses. He saw no need to preserve their horses since his did not seem to be at risk. Ala ad-Din arrived with a relief force of several tens of thousands, but could not approach because of Genghis’s mounted archers. The other 50,000 or so defenders of the city were executed to the last man, as was every single civilian, whose heads were arranged into a giant pyramid outside the walls.

Urgench was not so easy to attack, since it was built on swamp land around Amu Darya River. Genghis sent his men in without fear, and they lost significantly more men than usual due to the urban street fighting. The high end estimate of Turkish deaths, both civilian and military, in Urgench is 1,200,000, but much more plausible is 250,000 to 500,000. The rest were enslaved. This was one of the bloodiest genocides in history.

#9 -  Julius Caesar


The politics involved in the opening of hostilities between Caesar’s legions and Vercingetorix’s armies are very complicated, and Rome and Gaul are both to blame. But Caesar considered and announced that Gaul had become a serious threat to Roman safety by 58 BC, and so he invaded with the intent to destroy and annex the entire territory. What happened next is famously recorded by Caesar himself, in his own hand, in his Commentarii de Bello Gallico. Assuming he told the truth, and he was remarkably honest and respectful of fine opponents, Vercingetorix, the primary leader of Gaul, has been given a well-deserved honorable mention below.

He beat Caesar fair and square at the siege of Gergovia, and the stage was set, after some 7 years of pitched battles, long marches and sieges, for the Battle of Alesia, in 52 BC. Caesar besieged the Gauls there with 12 legions, plus cavalry: at least 60,000 men. The Gauls had a garrison of 80,000, supplemented in a timely manner by at least 100,000 more troops under Commius, Vercingetorix’s ablest ally. He may have arrived with 250,000. Caesar had intended to starve the garrison into submission by building a circumvallation around the entire fort, but Vercingetorix managed to send a cavalry detachment through a gap in the wall as it was being constructed. Once it got away, Caesar anticipated a relief force arriving, and thus had a second wall built, called a contravallation, around the first, trapping themselves inside for protection. Now the besiegers were besieged and Caesar was in quite dire straits.

The weakest part of his wall was over a natural break in the northwestern area of the mountainous ground, and Vercingetorix desperately attacked in all directions from the inside, especially here, timing his action with an attempt by the relief force on the other side of the fort. Caesar’s army was flagging badly against both inner and outer assaults, and he inspired his men to redouble their efforts by personally leading a 6,000-horse cavalry charge around the Gallic relief force’s flank into its rear, and there was no mistaking the one and only great, crimson cape visible for miles on the battlefield. He had picked up a spear and shield, and was killing Gauls himself. Everyone on both sides knew to whom the cape belonged, and his men “burst frenzious with the joy of war,” as he wrote, and finally routed the relief army.

Once they began retreating in disarray, they were cut down by the thousands. Vercingetorix witnessed all this and surrendered the next morning.

#8  - George S. Patton


He is now famous for using the Nazis’ own patented tactic against them: blitzkrieg. A “lightning war” is generally thought of as one which concentrates all available men and material into the enemy lines, breaking them, then pressing forward without first defending one’s flanks. To defend one’s flanks gives the enemy valuable time to bring up reserves or prepare its own defenses.

Germany most infamously used this tactic to great effect in France and Russia. The idea was proposed by the next entry, who can be considered the author of the Battle of France. Patton understood blitzkrieg warfare, the fast mobilization of armor to overwhelm the enemy to be successful in almost all cases. It relied on air supremacy but, after 1940, the Allies permanently had this in Europe. Patton first rose to prominence in North Africa, outmaneuvering the German tanks at El Guettar, and winning a fine victory over #5, though #5 was not present.

After North Africa fell to the Allies, Patton was transferred to Sicily and always pressed forward with every available man, using the very same style of fighting against the Germans for which the latter had become legendary. After the Allied conquest of Italy, Patton was given command of the U. S. Third Army, and bashed right through the German lines in France. He was the only Allied general whose army was referred to by the Germans by name, rather than number. When he was on the move, the Wehrmacht did not report that the Third Army was coming, but, “Patton’s Army is coming.”

He only stopped once, near Metz, France, when his entire army ran out of gas. He had intended to conquer Germany on his own. Once resupplied, he relieved the Americans in Bastogne and joined in the Battle of the Bulge. This logistical achievement is particularly impressive and well studied in military schools today. Patton was not in position to relieve Bastogne, but when asked, he immediately accepted the task. His men did not particularly like the freezing cold march, but Bastogne’s defenders were saved.

#7 - Erich von Manstein


Manstein makes the list largely for his masterful defense of Kharkov, the third battle for this city, in modern Ukraine. The Soviets were fresh off a monumental victory at Stalingrad, and the Germans had lost the initiative. Manstein very nearly got it back by holding the Soviet advance to a standstill around Kharkov, though faced with 350,000 men against his 70,000. His task was to cut off and destroy the Soviet armored spearheads, which had advanced too far from their own lines. Then he would have to recapture Kharkov and hold the Soviets back. He succeeded with both objectives.

The Soviets attacked as expected, and were held to a draw in the center, and beaten back on both flanks, whereupon the Soviet center had to withdraw or be surrounded. Manstein had his men storm into Kharkov in pursuit, and the battle became one of street fighting and house-to-house close combat. This should have favored the Soviets, who had more men, many of whom were fresh from the very same fighting in Stalingrad. But the city had not been bombed into rubble as at Stalingrad, and Manstein’s tanks were consequently able to maneuver without much difficulty, taking the city in about a week. Manstein then arranged a defensive line on the eastern side of the city to prevent its recapture. He had killed or captured 52 Soviet divisions, of about 80,000 men, losing only about 10,000 himself.

Hitler, in a feat of mental brilliance, fired Manstein in 1944, for persistently arguing with Hitler on military objectives, tactics, strategy, etc. Manstein’s theory was of mobile defense along the entire Eastern Front, allowing the Soviets to take ground here and there, then cut them off and chew them up. This would probably have worked, given the bloodlust the Soviets had for taking Germany.

#6 - Scipio Africanus


Scipio’s proper name is Publius Cornelius Scipio. He achieved the nickname “Africanus” after defeating #3 on the plains of Zama in Carthage (modern North Africa). He managed this victory against a substantial numerical superiority: 43,000 Romans versus 64,000 Carthaginians (and allies) supplemented by 80 war elephants. #3 ordered the elephants to charge first, then intended his infantry to follow them into the holes they trampled in the Roman lines.

Scipio countered this by arranging his infantry in vertical lines, instead of the usual horizontal, which is to say vertical perpendicular to the Carthaginians. The elephants charged headlong into clever traps of javelins, spears, bows and arrows, etc., which caused them to panic and trample back into their own lines. Meanwhile, Scipio’s cavalries charged on both flanks against the enemy cavalries, managed to rout them, then doubled back and smashed into the rear of the Carthaginian infantry. Shades of #3′s finest hour. But Scipio’s finest hour was at Ilipa, in Hispania (Spain). It would take too long to describe here, but Wikipedia has a fine article on it. Scipio was outnumbered here as well, by 43,000 to some 70,000, but he outmanouevered the 3 enemy generals every step of the way (#3 was not there). A sudden rainstorm was all that spared the Carthaginians from annihilation.

#5 - Erwin Rommel


Rommel is remembered today as the man who nearly stopped the Allied offensive in its fledgling tracks in North Africa. He was up against Bernard Montgomery of Great Britain, and later, General Patton. After showing himself magnificently in the Axis push through Belgium and France, he was promoted to Generall der Panzertruppe, commander of the 5th Light Division, which became the 21st Panzer Division, and transferred to North Africa. His orders were to hold the Nazi foothold in the Saharan Desert until Hitler had conquered Britain or, despairing of this, conquered Russia, whereupon Hitler would certainly have transferred all the necessary manpower and machinery to Rommel, and prepared an all-out offensive against Britain and across the Atlantic against the United States of America (or sued for peace depending on his nerve).

Rommel very nearly lasted as long as this would have taken. Hitler lost the air battle for Britain, after which Rommel was never going to get the material he needed, and he only lost the Nazis’ foothold in Africa because he ran out of fuel. Hitler refused to transfer any more to him because he considered it more necessary for the Eastern Front. Not only did Hitler repeatedly refuse Rommel’s pleas for material, but after Montgomery repeatedly threw in reserves after reserves until Rommel had run out of tanks and fuel, Hitler refused to allow Rommel to retreat. Hitler later changed his mind as Rommel had 20 tanks facing an onslaught of 500 tanks from Montgomery, but by then, there weren’t many Germans left to retreat.

In the interim, however, Rommel showed himself to be a master for the ages, inflicting massive defeat upon defeat against the British and Americans. Because of bad intelligence, he could not break the fortifications of Tobruk, Libya, and would not have bothered trying had he known they were so staunch. When a British relief force en masse arrived through Egypt, codenamed Operation Crusader, Rommel turned his army from the siege to open battle and, though outnumbered, surrounded the British tank army and destroyed or captured two-thirds of it in the open desert. He pursued them to the Battle of Gazala, on May 26, 1942, and for the next month, one of the largest armored engagements in history to that date played out. Both sides suffered terrible losses, but Rommel won in the end, taking the ground, losing 114 tanks, destroying 540, and all while suffering a numerical inferiority of 80,000 to 175,000, with 560 tanks to 843.

After flanking the entire British army and driving it to the coast, he surrounded and took Tobruk. He had no intention of resting on his laurels, but advanced into Egypt to take as much ground from the retreating Allies as he could, and met them at El Alamein. This was a stalemate which halted Rommel’s drive through Egypt, and both sides dug in. During the summer, while they rested, the British received steady supplies and Montgomery as their new Field Marshal. He renewed the attack on Rommel at El Alamein, and Rommel was finally defeated because he had no supplies coming from Europe. Hitler deemed them more critical for the push into Russia. Rommel had only half the material, and 116,000 men to 195,000, and he still managed to hold Monty to a tactical draw, refusing to be outflanked and giving no ground until Monty received even more material.

#4 - Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson


The greatest general of American military history (a long history) only lost one battle in his career, at Kernstown, VA, on March 23, 1862. This loss has been attributed to bad intelligence: Jackson was told that there was only about one regiment of Union soldiers in the area, but encountered a full division of 8,500 men, confronting his 3,800. He attempted to turn the Union right flank, but was beaten back, and the North held the field. The result, however, proved more complex.

The North discovered that its intent to reinforce its armies marching on Richmond would be fought by Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, the only feasible route the North could take to its army quickly. This valley is some 150 miles long by about 50 miles wide, and comprises the northwestern border of Virginia with West Virginia. To combat Jackson’s army of 17,000 men, President Lincoln dispatched no less than three separate armies, totaling 52,000 men, led primarily by Gens. Fremont, Banks, Schenck and Shields.

After his first defeat, Jackson never lost again, and defeated the combined Union offensive in no less than 5 battles throughout May to early June of 1862. These battles ranged all over the Shenandoah Valley, as the Union pressed as hard as it could to break through and reinforce the assault on Richmond. Jackson forced his men to march some 650 miles in 48 days, and whenever the armies met, Jackson’s flanks could not be turned from their anchor points on steep ridges before Jackson sent in reserves. At Front Royal, Jackson had 3,000 men to Kenly’s 1,000, and broke his lines with hard cavalry charges. Jackson’s method was to anticipate his enemy’s movements based on the terrain (the path of least resistance, usually), and attack one army at a time, never all three at once.

He made a fairly poor showing at the Seven Days’ Battles around Richmond, but cemented his legacy at Chancellorsville, on May 2, 1863, two months before Gettysburg. Gen. R. E. Lee risked splitting his army in two, giving Jackson the left to turn the right flank of Hooker’s army. Jackson succeeded in doing so, routing Hooker’s entire right flank into utter disorder, forcing it onto a permanent defensive, and enabling Lee to split the enemy army in two, and arrange a pincer movement around this larger section of it.

Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men that night while scouting the lines, and had to have his left arm amputated. He then contracted pneumonia and died 8 days later. Many historians like to say that if there is a God, he must be opposed to slavery because he took General “Stonewall” Jackson away to enable its eradication.

#3 - Hannibal Barca


Hannibal oversaw the most truculent devastation in a single battle in the history of ancient warfare. It is cemented in history as the Battle of Cannae, in southeast Italy, just above the heel of the boot. Hannibal’s intent was utter conquest of the Roman Empire, and he came closer than anyone else in history to pulling it off. He had already defeated the Romans twice at Trebia and Lake Trasimene, inflicting tens of thousands of casualties and, in response, Rome gave dictatorial power to Fabius Maximus, who waged attrition warfare against him, refusing to fight him, and denying his army access to farmlands and food.

At Cannae, the Roman public demanded a victory, and the generals assigned to deliver it were Gaius Terentius Varro and Lucius Aemilius Paulus. They fearlessly and foolishly assailed Hannibal’s center, where they saw his troops to be weakest. Hannibal intended this as deception, and they fell for the trap: the center engaged in a very organized retreat in the face of superior numbers of Roman phalanges. This phalanx formation adopted from the Ancient Greeks and employed almost exclusively ever since, was thought unbreakable. This is true if the enemy attacks it from the front. But Hannibal saw its severe Achilles’s Heel: once in phalanx formation, the entire Roman mass of soldiers could not maneuver to protect itself from cavalry flanking or encirclement.

Hannibal allowed the Romans to advance and push his men back, whereupon he ordered his flanks, where all his very best soldiers waited, to close in from the sides. Meanwhile, he ordered his cavalry to outflank the Roman cavalry on the extreme right, then circle round behind the Romans, shut them in and lay waste to them entirely. And it worked. Paulus was killed in the atrocious carnage, and by the end of the day the Carthaginians were so exhausted from slaughtering every single man they could swing their swords and thrust their spears at that their hands seized to their weapons and they could not discard them. The Romans could not flank the Carthaginians’ left flank because of the Aufidus River.

Near nightfall, with the dust so badly obscuring everyone’s vision, about 14,000 Romans, including Varro, finally cut through a weak section of the lines and escaped to Canusium. Some 600 Roman soldiers were cut to pieces every minute for the better part of the day. Thousands of them dug little pits and buried their faces in them, suffocating rather than face the oncoming butchery. This may have been history’s first use of the pincer maneuver. The entire Roman army was obliterated.

#2 - Napoleon Bonaparte


Napoleon did something which, at the time, no one on Earth thought possible: he conquered almost all of Europe. He was quite full of himself, and that may have had something to do with his 5’2″ height, or his 1″ penis (look it up). But what he lacked in physicality, he more than made up for in daring and brilliance. When it became evident that he wanted Europe to be entirely French, all of Europe banded together against him. This coalition was comprised of The United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Sweden and a host of others.

Napoleon singlehandedly led his Grande Armee to victory after victory, his most impressive occurring at Austerlitz and Ulm, among many others. His victory at Austerlitz is still regarded with awe in military universities around the world. Napoleon was outnumbered 72,000 to 92,000, but he knew that the Russian-Austrian coalition (the third coalition) was eager to attack and crush him, and he furthered their desire by feigning a weak appearance in his soldiers while on the field the day before the battle began. Then he deliberately thinned out his right flank to weaken it, and the coalition took the bait, attacking there the next morning. In doing so, the coalition depleted the forces in its center, and this is where Napoleon intended to strike at the right time. It worked.

There was more to it than that, of course, but Napoleon owed a large part of his success to his modernization of artillery tactics: the cannon had been used for centuries as simple supporting fire for the infantry. Napoleon used them as their own, mobile attack units, striking in small groups of 10 to 20, firing for up to 30 minutes, then displacing to another position on the field. He loses points, of course, for invading Russia. He fell victim to one of the classic blunders: never get involved in a land war in Asia. The Russians had lost enough battles to him, and simply retreated deeper and deeper into Russia, praying for Generals January and February, which arrived as timely as ever, and froze Napoleon in his tracks. The Russians burned absolutely everything in his path, including Moscow, and an army of some 600,000 men (maybe 690,000) needs a lot of food, especially for its horses. Only 180,000 made it back to France. Hitler deserves lowest mention on a list of the worst military strategists for attempting the very same invasion 200 years later.

Many experts believe that Napoleon had lost his edge by his return to Europe in 1815. He raised another army and fought the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. Napoleon may have waited too long in the morning for the ground to dry out before commencing. This gave Wellington’s badly needed reinforcements, 50,000 men under Field Marshal Blucher, the time to get there and save the day. Napoleon nearly broke through the lines.


#1 - Alexander III of Macedon


The Greeks call him “Μέγας Ἀλέξανδρος,” that is, “Alexander the Great,” and he truly remains so, because he fought a total of 17 major battles, and won every single one of them. He was severely outnumbered in most of them, but by his generalship his men never lost more than 16% of their army in any one battle. That 16% death rate occurred only once, at Issus, in 333 BC, at which battle Alexander lost 6500 to 7000 men out of 40,000. His enemy, Darius III of Persia, lost 20,000 to 30,000 dead.

At Gaugamela, two years after Issus, he lost only 2.5% of his army, or about 1,100 men dead out of 47,000. He defeated the Persians spectacularly and his men killed at least 40,000, and as many as 90,000. The Persian army was comprised of at least 100,000 men, and may have had as many as 1,000,000. Darius was finally able to use his entire army at once without terrain restrictions, since at Issus Alexander fought him in a fairly narrow mountain pass.

Alexander surveyed the Persian army the night before, and decided to shift his army to the Persian left. Darius could not force his entire army to displace because the logistics were impossible. He did not want to present Alexander with his left flank, so he lengthened his lines, covering more ground with the same men, thus thinning their lines considerably. This had the effect Alexander wanted: his breakthrough on the Persian left was easier to achieve, and with his extraordinarily well trained cavalry (the Companions), he flanked the Persians, nearly speared Darius himself, and caused the Persians to panic and flee.

This was his typical strategy on the field, and it required his own left flank to be unbelievably tough, since the enemy army charged full force into it and attempted to flank it. Unfortunately for his enemies, you simply cannot break a Greek phalanx in the front. It is designed to withstand such assaults, and Alexander’s primary captain, Parmenion, deserves a lot of the glory for maintaining the army’s formation throughout all Alexander’s battles. Horses are very intelligent animals and will not charge into a line of spear points, however vehemently they are made to run.

Darius solved this problem by blindfolding his horses and harnessing them to chariots with sword blades attached to the wheel hubs. These would cut men’s legs off at the shins. Alexander solved this problem by training his men to separate their phalanges to half their depth, allow the horses and chariots into a three-sided pocket, kneel with their shields to the ground, and then swarm onto the charioteers. The scythed wheels rattled harmlessly across the shields. Today this tactic is called “Alexander’s Mousetrap.”


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

7 Ways To Indulge In the Seven Deadly Sins


Disclaimer: This list is just for fun and not of a religious nature. We all indulge in guilty pleasures from time to time, and we all find ways to not feel guilty about them. Here is a list of ways to heavily indulge in the 7 guiltiest of pleasures: the Seven Deadly Sins.

#1 - Wrath

Destroy a Car


Who doesn’t like taking their anger out on inanimate objects from time to time? There was a “Smash for Cash” fundraising event held recently, where people donated a few dollars to do as much damage to an automobile as possible in 30 seconds. A few cars had been donated from salvage yards, as well as a few donated from people. Those who paid the $2 were given goggles, gloves, a sledgehammer or baseball bat, and 30 seconds on the clock. Participants then proceeded to relieve their stress by demolishing the car with the bludgeon of their choice. If the sin of Wrath can be described as anger or hate expressed through violence, then this fundraiser can be described as an indulgence in Wrath. In this case though, unleashing your Wrath is acceptable because the money raised by committing the sin is going to charity — and Charity is the virtue opposite Greed.


#2 - Gluttony

Eat at the Heart Attack Grill


The Heart Attack Grill in Arizona is a perfect example of moth-to-a-flame Gluttony. This unashamed establishment is known for their “Double Bypass” burgers and “Flatliner Fries”, that are deep fried in pure fat. A combo includes a large Jolt Cola and a pack of no filter cigarettes. Seriously. While you feast on the enormous 4-patty “Quadruple Bypass Burger,” the waitresses (who are dressed up like nurses) dab the sweat from your brow with napkins, and should you finish the whole thing, the girls will wheel you out to your car in a wheelchair. If that wasn’t enough of an slap in the face to the American Heart Association, anyone who weighs over 350lbs. eats for free. There is not much to justify eating at the H.A.G., but the extreme levels of Gluttony (and the Sloth that is sure to follow the meal) are far overshadowed by the Wrath towards unhealthy Americans displayed by the owners of the restaurant.


#3 - Greed

Start a Ponzi Scheme


In 1920, Charles Ponzi became a millionaire in about six months by giving in to Greed, and creating a dishonest money making system. His scheme promised substantial returns on investments that were seldom paid to the investors. Because of the apparent money making potential, investors would usually reinvest their “profit” back into the system, being content with simply receiving statements showing what they had supposedly earned. It’s a simple scheme: tell people that if they pay you $100, you will give them $150 next week. Anyone who wants their $150 at the end of the week would be paid from the $100 of the next victim, while anyone who reinvests their profit just receive a statement showing they made money. The people who were actually paid the $150 are likely to reinvest after they’ve seen how easy it is to make money. The system doesn’t begin to collapse until the majority demand their payout, which is usually when the con man disappears. The odd thing about this list item is that not only the con man is indulging in Greed, but the investors who are hoping to be paid for nothing seem to be as well.


#4 - Lust

Book an Exotic Adult Vacation


To fully immerse yourself in the sin of Lust, look no further than experiencing the ultimate in sleazebaggery: an Adult Vacation. Companies like Affordable Adult Vacations offer excursions similar to a normal tropical Caribbean resort vacation, except for one thing: prostitutes (or “escorts” as resort literature lovingly refers to them). You can book a week-long retreat at a secluded island resort with food, drink, and “companionship”, for singles or couples, included in the price. Just pay for your flight and hotel, and you’ll have someone with whom you can jet-ski, snorkel, and enjoy the beaches and high thread count sheets for an entire week. On one day of your trip, you may choose a second escort to accompany the first while you go fishing, swimming, or …whatever.


#5 - Sloth

Drive the Toyota i-REAL


Toyota has recently unveiled the i-REAL, a “personal mobility vehicle” that is basically just a futuristic motorized wheelchair for non-disabled people, and an excellent way to indulge in the laziness known as Sloth. The i-REAL’s utilizes a small wheelbase, keeping you at approximate eye-level with pedestrians and enabling you to move around “naturally” in a social setting. However, the difference between this and a normal wheelchair doesn’t end at it’s size and mobility. With the push of a button, the wheelbase widens, the chair sinks and leans back, which lowers the center of gravity and enables the high-speed mode. In high-speed mode, the i-REAL can reach speeds of 18mph and will actually lean into turns to prevent tipping. So in a wonderful display of Sloth, Toyota has now made it possible to remain seated all day long.


#6 - Envy

Buy MTV Cribs on DVD


For those unaware, MTV Cribs is a modern version of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous that shows off the extravagant homes of music artists and athletes. Few things can spark the sin of Envy like watching a 24 year old watch fish, that cost more than your car, swim in the 480-gallon aquarium installed in his foyer, or seeing a former crack dealer show off his fleet of Ferarris and rare Oriental rugs. Of course, footage of exactly those things is available for you to own and watch again and again in the comfort of your significantly smaller home. The only thing crazier than MTV Cribs being available on DVD is that people actually buy it. Then again, the Envy felt by watching people blow ridiculous sums of money is probably outweighed by the Pride shown by those who blow it.


#7 - Pride

Freeze Yourself


Pride is arguably the worst of the deadly sins, and nothing seems more narcissistic than cryogenically freezing yourself to be “resurrected” at a later time. Not only is this assuming the technology to reanimate you will be available someday, but it also assumes you are important enough that future scientists will spend their time and money on thawing out an elderly caveman for the sole purpose of letting you continue your life normally (or as normal as you can as a formerly dead person in the distant future). So, for a modest fee of $150,000, companies like the Alcor Life Extension Foundation will preserve you in ice despite the extremely high risk that the process won’t even work.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

10 Great Scam Baiting Operations


If you’ve checked your email anytime in the last twenty years, you’ve likely been subjected to appeals from mysterious foreign nationals promising you money for nothing. Or, more accurately, a whole lot of money for only a little of yours — wired internationally to someone you don’t know. Most of these scams involve you supplying seed money, or disclosing confidential data used to deplete your savings account. While these cons are usually recognizable and safely ignored, enough suckers are fooled to make the effort profitable for the criminals who have no fear of legal retribution. Fortunately, a new breed of counterspy, the scam baiter, has risen to our defense. Aware they can’t stop the legions of online con men, these brave souls do their best to waste as much of the scammer’s time and resources as is humanly possible. The results are often hilarious. Submitted for your approval are 10 clever and involved scam baiting operations. Be sure to follow the source links if you can, because the transcripts are too lengthy to publish in this format.


#10 - Maryam Abacha Letters


Included because the online documentation of this full-on runaround is so user-friendly it’s a great introduction to scam baiting. Seriously, this guy could have taken notes in law school. Fully color coded email entries and annotated notes detail the plan of, and correspondence with, Maryam Abacha, wife of the late military head of State for Nigeria. According to her unsolicited email to a total stranger, she has $30 million in cash and needs to get it out of the country but doesn’t trust her family. She even includes hyperlinks from to bolster her credibility. However, our scam baiter, Mr. “Dick Heyd” feigns interest and begins “the game”, as he calls it. Heyd proceeds to complicate a deal for a transfer of $20,000 from him in exchange for ‘the consignment’ (presumably the money), and he claims to have already sent $7500 to a Mr. Mbeki at Global Security in Amsterdam, who he believes is in the employ of Ms. Abacha. (Ms. Abacha has no idea who Mbeki is — Heyd made it up). The preferred drop site is London (where Abacha obviously has contacts), so Heyd fixates on Amsterdam and won’t budge. Finally they relent, but Mr. Heyd has security concerns. Appearing spooked in emails and using a fellow scam baiter in Amsterdam, he feigns travel to Amsterdam and concocts a last minute cancellation of the exchange, citing security protocols for him as the CEO of Bovine Excreta Custom Manufacturing. Via the fellow scam baiter in Amsterdam, he is able to describe the very people sent to fetch him from the hotel, since they were casing the lobby at the prescribed time and making ‘massive amounts of phone calls’. Heyd then plays Mbeki and Ms. Abacha against one another and swears to never work with Mbeki again or the deal’s off. The annotated notes indicate the scammers are now VERY confused, and they propose a new dropsite in China with new contact John Kuma. Heyd agrees but secretly emails Kuma with an offer of a 50/50 split and a Green Card for US citizenship. To top things off, he also fakes an email from Mbeki threatening Abacha, telling her to stop ruining his scam. Ms. Abacha (and I’m sure her whole scam gang) is now totally flummoxed, so Heyd slips her Kuma’s incriminating email response to the offer of US citizenship. Then he lets her know that Kuhn is trying to have her bumped off, with an itemized payment schedule for the assassins. After that, there haven’t been any more emails from Ms. Abacha. I’m worried for her…aren’t you?


#9 - To Catch a Con Man


This scam baiting operation is unique in its scale—backed by an American network news budget, full camera team, and travel expense account, investigative reporter Chris Hansen decides he wants to follow a 419 scam all the way through, and expose the criminals in this ‘faceless’ crime. To do this, his team answers a lot of scam emails and send seed money early in the conversations. The scams are simple— the victim is promised millions of dollars for helping someone supposedly in need, but first the victim must pay thousands in processing fees (and of course the millions never arrive). Again, because Hansen sent money early in his communications, several separate scammers offer to do something they rarely do— agree to meet him in person. So Hansen and his team fly to London to meet their defrauders in public places, local bars, and even hotel suites, filming the confrontations in a fashion similar to his groundbreaking “To Catch a Predator” series.



#8 - Painted Breast


“Prince” Joe Eboh, the purported chairman of the “Nigerian Delta Development Commission (NDDC)” promised millions to anyone who could help him siphon off excess revenues from the late head of state, General San Abacha (does he know Abacha’s wife is trying to do the same thing?). Using a familiar “church” theme, scam baiter “Father Hector Barnett” responded to the email, since he was looking to provide financial assistance for new converts. Barnett spun a story of how the ministry was founded in 1774 by Betsy Carrington, who spent years spreading the holy gospel to the Masai. In fact, they even initiated her into “The Order of The Red Breast” via a ceremony where she had to mark the top half of her nude body with red paint as a gesture of faith. As a result, she was immediately accepted, and remained one of the most trusted westerners known at that time. As a qualification to enter the Holy Church of The Order of The Red Breast, Barnett told Prince Eboh that all converts must also complete the initiation that Miss Carrington did. Barnett even included a photograph of four young men going through the procedure. Eboh predictably jumped at the chance and supplied a photo of himself with a spray painted ‘9’ around his nipple, and even sent $80 in processing fees for the promised $18,000 (which has never been sent). The $80 received (most likely stolen) was later sent to a children’s charity in the north of England. The email correspondence goes on to this day, even through the traumatic death of Father Barnett’s good friend Minny Mowse, his doomed plans to spend church money exporting snow to Siberia, and failed dreams of joining the circus. Since then, Prince Joe Eboh rockin’ his ‘9’ has become an icon in the scam baiting community.


#7 - Carve This


The primary goal of scam-baiting is to distract the scammer so he can’t rip off anyone else. And that’s what happened when scammer “F. Williams Smith” from the “Special Committee for Budget and Planning of the Ministry of Petroleum” contacted scam baiter “Derek Trotter”. Smith offered 25% of $10.5 million in exchange for an “account in which the funds will be transferred.” What he got instead was a carpentry assignment from Mr. Trotter, who posed as an arts dealer. Through clever emails and the promise of $100,000, Trotter lured Mr. Smith into creating elaborate wood carvings–some of which were pretty good, and obviously took time to construct. In the end, after weeks of paperwork, disagreements over shipping fees, and the untimely “death” of Derek Trotter, the deal fell apart, and everyone parted ways. Later, scammer “John Boko” also fell for the Derek Trotter treatment and also submitted a wooden replica of the sample figure. But due to “shipping shrinkage” Trotter claimed the piece didn’t meet the agreed-upon specifications and the submission was refused. So Boko was given a second chance, only this time he had to carve a replica of a Commodore 64. Which he did.



#6 - Handwritten Harry


After offering millions of dollars for a few thousands in advance, alleged attorney for “the late President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, Barrister Mussa Issah, fell deep into the clutches of mastermind “Arthur Dent.” Dent claimed that his company was conducting a research project on “Advanced Handwriting Recognition and Graphology systems”, and offered Mr. Issah $100 per handwritten page of any text. Dent demanded a strict minimum of 100 pages, and anything less would be rejected outright. Issah fell hard, and transcribed all 293 pages of “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, each page meticulously handwritten. Sadly, the deal fell through for some reason.


#5 - Skeleton Coast


From July to August 2006, scam baiter “Troy McClure” weaves a story of ready cash at the NASA compound he cleans in Namibia. However, if the money were to go missing, Troy would be the first suspect. He needs a partner like Steven Okama–the scammer–to come and get it. A month of emails, Internet phone calls, and visits to a fake web page keep Mr. Okama breathlessly engaged, until the two decide to stash the money in a watertight GPS-enabled cashbox on a deserted beach. Okama’s brother-in-law, Tony, agrees to pick up the money using online GPS coordinates (from Troy’s fake website), and the pickup will be confirmed when the online location of the cashbox changes. Then Okama will deposit the money in a South African bank account for dispersal. Tony dutifully heads out to the beach and is horrified when he discovers that the box is not there. Okama is livid. Fortunately, Troy convinces them that the box was swept out to sea and he’s tracking its movement up the Namibian coast. Okama keeps asking for money to hire a boat, and begins complaining of medical problems that prevent him from retrieving the box. Eventually, the baiting loses steam as “Troy” plans to get the money himself now that the box is out of Namibia. And since Steven won’t spring for a boat, he’s cut out of the heist.


#4 - Mikel Bolton Loan Scam


This elaborate bait is as complete as it is lengthy, and I confess to getting lost in places— which is why it probably worked so well. The scam baiter pretended to be “Calvin Huckle”, a naïve scam victim just ready for the taking. The original goal was to just run up a scammer’s long distance fees. But then Huckle (and many of his other online identities) came into contact with British banker “Mikel Bolton”, who was willing to lend him up to $150,000 without ever meeting him. Posing as a fellow scam artist making a good living sending fake checks, Huckle co-opted the scammer(s) into contacting former 419 victims. Unbeknownst to them, Huckle had the real victim’s permission to assume their online identity for the duration of the sting. Hollywood thrillers have nothing on this: the counterscam involved a boggling 11 separate storylines and several times Huckle contacted other scam baiters by accident, but they agreed to corroborate one another’s stories to the real criminals. Luckily, during the operation, our hero obtained a list of 86 intended victims, and he notified each of the plans to defraud them. Of course, some believed him, and others thought he was running a scam (which is progress, I think).


#3 - Mark of Respect


Scammer Ahmed Sadiq first contacts scam baiter “Lance Myboyle” for airfare money to Mecca. However, Ahmed’s lie of attending Weister City University in London quickly fails — mainly because it doesn’t exist– and British citizen Lance tells him so in no uncertain terms. Oddly, Ahmed is unfazed and continues to ask for money. Their discussions ferret out that Ahmed lives, not in London, but Nigeria, and if he really needs money, he should contact Father Bruce Corbin, of the Church of the Tattooed Saint. Email exchanges with Father Corbin inform the scammer that a donation can only be made if Ahmed converts to the church and gets a tattoo of the Order somewhere on his body. I think you know where this is going. After many emails, Ahmed gets a BIG tattoo “Baited by Shiver” on his left leg (other scammers have used their arms). Tragedy then strikes, as Father Corbin passes away from a Tribble infection, and Ahmed is passed between a jive-talking pastor and a disgruntled ex-con volunteer. However, Ahmed’s demands for money continue unabated, even when he’s passed on to an “Inspector Morse”, who is investigating embezzlement by employees of the Church of the Tattooed Saint. Ahmed even sends a laughably fake passport to the Inspector, who insists on releasing the “owed” funds only after proper identification is presented. The baiting ends when the gullible Ahmed suspects the Western Union email receipt from Frank Sinatra of 221B Baker Street looks a little “iffy”. Realizing he’s totally busted, Ahmed first gets belligerent and then tries to play on sympathy. But make no mistake– this playa got played for four straight months, and even has a sweet “tat” to show for it.


#2 - Gold Scam


Who needs Chris Hansen and his NBC budget? Scam-baiter “Jack Ophten” doesn’t— he got the scammer to come to him! Ophten and his pals at 419hell love “being jerks to those who deserve it”, and no one deserved it more that Frank Owusu, who was using email spams to sell phony gold dust. Ophten was able to convince the scammer that he was a scammer, too, and needed help defrauding his aged father-in-law. In emails and phone calls, Ophten played the parts of fellow scammer and scam victim for Owusu and his partners in crime. Unbelievably, Ophten even convinced Owusu to pay for his own travel from Ghana to St. Louis, USA, to defraud Ophten’s father-in-law. When finally confronted in the lobby of the St. Louis Crown Plaza Hotel, Owusu bolted like a spooked racehorse. Too bad he was in such a hurry: he left his bag of real gold dust behind (appraised value: $200). Ophten documented the entire operation on both audio and videotape, and did everything he could to include cybercrime law enforcement. However, despite email death threats from someone he’s met in person, the Missouri state attorney’s office, the local sheriff, and the FBI politely refused to get involved at any point of the operation.


#1 - Anus Laptops


The mother of all scam baiting operations has to go to scam baiter “The Failure”, who may or may not work in a New York computer shop. Too bad scammer “Cole” didn’t know his intended victim was a regular at What happens over the next several weeks was documented day-by-day online, and even involved many of the website’s readers. It all started when “Martin Cole” sent a fake check to buy some laptops for shipment overseas. Failure’s alias “Warren Turnbuckle” protested he could not ship overseas without all freight fees paid, in cash, up front. Since he was paying with a fake check anyway, Cole sends the cash, but cunningly overpays the $4000 bill with a $4500 check, and asks Turnbuckle to refund him the $500 overpayment within 45 minutes of receiving the check. Turnbuckle responds that he can’t cash the check for 5-10 days, but will sell the laptops anyway if Cole sends a shipping courier to pick them up. Turnbuckle also promises to refund the shipping costs once the check finally clears. Cole bites, and agrees to pay for freight for several “Anus” brand computers, arranging for UPS to pick up them the very next day (far ahead of the check bouncing). So Failure packed 7 large boxes with garbage, dead CD ROM drives, and two trashed laptops with “ANUS” scratched on the screen. Estimated shipping charges totaled $3,186.67. UPS was in on the sting, and agreed to not deliver until Cole paid them for shipment. readers wanted in on the joke as well, and when the shipment was suspiciously diverted to Manchester, UK, a reader posed as city worker offering to fix Cole’s house as part of an urban renewal project. Cole then proceeded to show the “damages” he did to his own house after receiving ‘a bunch of rubbish in the post”. Photos, audio recordings, shipping labels, and hilariously incoherent death threats from the ‘governor’ and the dreaded ‘Clique Mob’ can be found on a now-classic thread that spans 80+ pages. NSFW, but worth an hour’s reading all the same.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Top 10 Bizarre Birth Defects


This list looks at birth defects – the dread of every expectant parent. Some are fairly well know while others are, thankfully, extremely rare. Warning: some images on this list may disturb.


#10 - Siamese Twins


We are all familiar with the tales of Siamese twins (named for the country of birth of the first known conjoined twins). It is, of course, a rare disorder in which twins are born joined together at one or more parts of their bodies. In the most rare cases, children can be born joined at the top of their head. Sometimes Siamese twins can be separated, allowing both to live full lives, but more frequently, this is not possible.


#9 - Ambras Syndrome


Ambras Syndrome is a disorder that causes someone to be born with excessive hair over the face and body. This is fortunately a very rare disease; in fact, there are only 40 humans in the world with it at present. The disease is extremely debilitating for children, as they are often rejected by their peers.


#8 - Fused Limbs


Fused limbs are two limbs which are joined together. This can happen in some cases with toes or fingers, but in a recent case in Peru, a young girl was born with her legs completely fused, giving her the appearance of a mermaid. One in every 70,000 babies has this disorder.









#7 - Cyclopia


Cyclopia is named for the famous mythical creature the Cyclops. Children born with cyclopia have one eye in the middle of their head. It is believed that the cause may be related to certain cancer treatment drugs taken by pregnant women.









#6 - Craniopagus parasiticus


Craniopagus parasiticus is a condition in which a child is born with a parasitic extra head from their unborn twin. There have only been ten cases of it in documented history, with only three surviving birth. In one bizarre case, the second head was able to smile, blink, cry, and suckle.



#5 - Foetus in Foetu


Foetus in foetu is when a child is born with his twin inside him, giving the appearance of pregnancy. Both twins are usually formed from one egg, but during the pregnancy, one is absorbed by the other and it begins to live off it like a parasite. Surgery can usually remove the undeveloped twin from the stronger one with no ill effects.





#4 - Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva


Children who are born with this disease grow bone in areas that are hurt. Where a child is injured and would normally scar or have their skin grow back, the child suffering from fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva develops bone in sufficiently large quantities that it can become debilitating, with the excess bone fusing joints. The bone cannot be removed in surgery because it would cause more bone to grow in the surgery wounds.





#3 - Progeria


Progeria occurs in one in eight million births. It causes a child to look aged well beyond their years. Children with progeria lose their hair, develop wrinkles, and take on the facial characteristics of the very old. Severe arterial damage caused by the disease means that most sufferers die by the time they hit adolescence.








#2 - Vestigial Tail


Vestigial tail is when a child is born with a semi-functional tail, complete with muscles, nerves, skin, and blood vessels. It is believed to be caused by a mutation of the genes that exist in infants to cause the cellular death of body parts that are not needed.





#1 - Anencephaly


Anencephaly is the absence of a brain and spinal chord. There is no cure and most anencephalic babies die during childbirth. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “a baby born with anencephaly is usually blind, deaf, unconscious, and unable to feel pain. Although some individuals with anencephaly may be born with a main brain stem, the lack of a functioning cerebrum permanently rules out the possibility of ever gaining consciousness. Reflex actions such as breathing and responses to sound or touch occur.”


Top 10 Worst Theological or Mythological Demons


Whether you are religious or not, demons have played a large part in mythology, books, movies, and even music. Films, such as “Paranormal Activity”, “The Exorcist”, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Fallen”, and–more recently–”The Last Exorcism”, have made demons something to fear. Movies, however, rarely scratch the surface of just how evil these former, corrupt servants of God (or many gods) can be. Here, in no particular order, are the 10 worst–and/or weirdest–demons in theological and mythological history.


#10 - Abyzou


Origin: Jewish mythology
Also known as: Abizou, Obizu, Obizuth, Obyzouth, and Byzou

This female demon was believed to be responsible for miscarriages, still-births, and infant mortality. Abyzou is believed to have been infertile, so these heinous acts were/are most likely out of jealousy. She is often depicted having snake- and/or fish-like attributes.







#9 - Agares


Origin: Christian demonology
Also known as: Agreas

This male demon makes “those who run stand still”, a terrible thing to be a victim of during, say, a tornado. He is also said to be one of the demons that controls earthquakes. Agares also teaches many languages, focusing on the profanities and ethnic slurs. He is also believed to be the ruler of the eastern zone of Hell, and he is said to have 31 legions of demons at his command. He is also one of the–if not the–strangest looking demon on this list. He is often portrayed as a pale elderly man riding a crocodile, with a hawk either attached to or on his fist. No joke!


#8 - Aka Manah


Origin: Zoroastrian mythology
Also known as: Akem Manah, Akoman, Akvan

His name means “manah made evil”; in this case, the word “manah” represents “the mind”. Many refer to him as the demon of “evil intention”, “evil mind”, “evil purpose”, or “evil thinking”. His job: To prevent people from fulfilling their moral duties (.i.e.: being a good parent, saving a life, etc.).






#7 - Ala


Origin: Pre-Slovic and Slovic mythology, and Christian demonology
Also known as: plural: Ale

Ale are some of the few demons on this list who does evil deeds, but can be persuaded to do good deeds, and can even help you! They particularly like creating bad weather (most notably, hail- and thunder-storms) over farms, orchards, and vineyards, in order to destroy crops. They also are said to like eating children. Ale are so hungry, that they are said to be able to “eat the sun and/or moon”, creating eclipses. They can pose a great threat to a persons’ mental and physical life; they can even possess you. However, if you approach an Ala with trust and respect, she and the other Ale will save your life whenever necessary, and make you rich! Ale are also very afraid of eagles…just in case you don’t want to become friends with one. What they look like changes with each account; some say they look like ravens, others like clouds or dark winds; many say snakes or female dragons. They are believed to live in lakes, springs, clouds, unreachable mountains, forests, caves, or gigantic trees.


#6 - Asag


Origin: Sumerian mythology

Asag is one of many demons that causes sickness. “But what,”, you say, “separates him from other demons that cause sickness?”. Well, for one, he had sex with all the mountains in the world, and had a litter of “rock-demon” offspring that defends him in any battle. He is also believed to be so grotesquely, unbelievably ugly, that his very presence causes fish to be boiled alive in rivers and/or lakes within viewing-distance!






#5 - Belphegor


Origin: Christian demonology and Kabbalic mythology

Belphegor is absolutely unbelievable. He got his start in Assyria, many, many years ago. He was first called Baal-Peor, and he was associated with orgies, and other types of lewdness. The Israelites worshiped him, in the form of a phallic (penis-shaped) idol. Later on, in Kabbalic mythology, he was a demon who made people paranoid of each other, and who would seduce them with money and overall wealth. Needless to say, it was hard to summon Baal-Peor, because he required the sacrifice of human excrement! In the 16th Century, he changed his name to Belphegor, and changed his strategy (somewhat). He pretty much threw away the idea of causing mutual mistrust in people, and instead…focused on inventions. He would “suggest” crazy (yet plausible) inventions to people, and then use their greed to his (and their) advantage when they became successful. According to legend, Belphegor was sent to Earth from Hell to either justify of disprove the rumors that marriage can result in happiness. Finding no evidence that happiness is possible in a marriage (now, there’s a surprise), he chose to stay on Earth. He is notable for two bizarre attributes: He is believed to be physically, mentally, and strategically strongest in the month of April, and he either was or is Hell’s/Satan’s ambassador to France. Belphegor also played an role in Milton’s book, “Paradise Lost”. He is either depicted as a hideous, bearded demon with horns and claws, or a beautiful young woman.


#4 - Jikininki


Origin: Japanese Buddhist mythology

Jikininki are the spirits of selfish, greedy, or ungodly people who have passed on. They are said to be cursed to eat the flesh of human corpses. It is also said that they take valuables from the corpses, in order to bribe local law-enforcement officials to leave them alone. Unlike most demons, they actually hate what they are, and are in a constant state of self-disgust and self-loathing. Some accounts state that they are so terrifying to look at, that seeing one would make you paralyzed with fear. Other accounts indicate that Jikininki can take the form of normal human beings, and can even lead seemingly normal lives by day. They are notable in that–unlike other gaki or rakshasa (“hungry ghosts”), and ghosts in general–they are an endangered species, if one can use such a term in this context.


#3 - Pontianak


Origin: Indonesian mythology
Also known as: Kuntilanak, Matianak, or Boentianak

The Pontianak are the spirits of ladies who died during child-birth, and became undead. Pontianak are said to scare people (mostly men), and then rip out their internal organs for feeding with their claws. In the case of men that the Pontianak knew when they were alive (who abused, or otherwise betrayed them), they are said to remove the man’s genitalia with their bare hands (Ouch!!). They are much like vampires; however, they do what they do more out of vengeance, rather then necessity or sustenance. It’s also hard to judge just how far away from you they are; usually, a loud cry means the Pontianak is far away, whereas a soft cry signifies that the Pontianak is nearby. It is also said that a faint floral fragrance is detected upon first seeing it, however, the fragrance changes to something rotten after a short period of time. Pontianak are believed to live in banana trees, a possible phallic-/fertility-reference.


#2 - Lady Midday


Origin: Slavic mythology
Also known as: Pscipolnista, Poludnica, Polednice

“Lady Midday” is certainly a unique female demon. She is said to pose tough questions and make conversation with laborers working in the fields during the hottest part of the day in summertime. Any incorrect answer or unprompted subject change results in a beheading, either with a scythe, or a pair of shears. “Lady” is also the personification of heat-stroke, and can also give people insanity or heat-sickness, in lieu of decapitation. Her description varies between a 12 year old girl, an old woman, or a generally beautiful woman.


#1 - Lamashtu


Origin: Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology
Also known as: Dimme

Lamashtu is a heinous, terrifying, demoness. She is said to menace women throughout and after the end of their pregnancies. She is routinely said to kidnap infants while they’re breastfeeding; she would suck their blood, and chew on their bones. Add to that the fact that her other hobbies included: Infesting rivers and lakes, killing crops and other plants, sucking the blood of men, creating sleep-disturbances, spreading diseases and illnesses, and bringing nightmares. And, unlike most demons from Mesopotamian mythology, she didn’t answer to anyone; not any god, or man, or any part of any divine hierarchy. So evil was Lamashtu, that pregnant women and their loved ones would routinely summon the demon, Pazuzu, to protect them. For the uninitiated, Pazuzu was the demon made famous by the, “The Exorcist” movies! Allegedly, Pazuzu and Lamashtu were fierce rivals, who would attack each other at any chance. While Pazuzu was known for bringing famines and droughts, soon-to-be-mothers were so afraid of Lamashtu, that they were willing to take the risk! That means that, yes, Linda Blair’s performance in “The Exorcist” was nothing compared to the wrath of Lamashtu! Lamashtu is usually described as a “mythological hybrid”, with the head of a lioness, the teeth and ears of a donkey, the feet of a bird (complete with sharp talons), as well as a hairy body, and long, sharp fingers and fingernails. She is usually depicted nursing a dog and a pig and holding snakes, while standing or kneeling on a donkey! Subtle, isn’t it?