History’s Most Lunatic Events and People

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People

Khalid Elhassan - August 21, 2020

Throughout history, many a lunatic has risen to a position of power, from which he played an outsized role in shaping events. Take the lunatic general who destroyed Napoleon, despite being deluded that he was pregnant with a baby elephant. Or the pope who took vindictiveness to lunatic levels by digging up and trying the corpse of a predecessor. Or the Caliph who adopted some, let us say, “unusual” consumer protection measures. Following are forty things about some of history’s most lunatic events and people.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Von Blucher. Read Tiger

40. The Lunatic Who Spiked Napoleon’s Career

At the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the Duke of Wellington conducted a tenacious defense against attacks by Napoleon’s forces. As the day wore on, the pressure steadily mounted on Wellington’s army, as the intensity of French onslaughts increased. By that day’s afternoon, notwithstanding the stoicism and courage of his men, Wellington knew that his enemy was slowly gaining the upper hand. He was saved from possible defeat by the arrival of an allied Prussian army in the nick of time.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The decisive Prussian intervention at the Battle of Waterloo. Lessing Photo

The Prussians fell upon the French right flank, and turned the tide of the battle. Their relentless pursuit of the defeated foe afterward turned the French retreat into a rout, and spiked Napoleon’s career for good. The timely Prussian intervention was commanded by Field Marshall Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher. Nicknamed Marshal Vorwarts (“Forward”) for his aggressive style, Blucher was a capable battlefield general despite being an out-and-out lunatic, prone to delusions. Among them was the then-72-year-old Blucher’s belief that he had been impregnated by a Frenchman, and that he was about to give birth to a baby elephant.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Prussian cavalry at the Battle of Leuthen, during the Seven Years War. Pintrest

39. Born In One State, Fighting For Another, and Switching to a Third

Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742 – 1819) was born in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in northern Germany into a noble family with aristocratic roots going back to the thirteenth century. At age sixteen, he went off to soldier, and became a hussar in the Swedish Army. Sweden fought against Prussia in the Seven Years War (1756 – 1763), and in a 1760 skirmish, Blucher was captured by the Prussians.

Luckily for him, the colonel of the Prussian regiment that took him prisoner was a distant relative. Impressed by Blucher, he invited the young man to join his regiment. Blucher accepted the offer, switched teams, and fought the rest of the war on the Prussian side. He remained in Prussian service – with one long spell of forced retirement between duty stints, caused by his being a lunatic – for the rest of his life.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Prussian hussars. Art Station

38. A Head Case From Early On

Blucher gained significant experience as a cavalry officer during the Seven Years War. He had an abundance of wild courage and an aggressive way about him, that made him a great fighting officer. However, while that kind of high-strung and hard-charging temperament was an asset during wartime, it was a decided liability during peacetime. That became clear in 1772, when then-Captain Blucher subjected an unruly priest to a mock execution.

Even by eighteenth-century standards, mock executing priests was frowned upon – the behavior of a lunatic, not that of a professional officer in the army of a civilized state. As a result, Blucher was passed over for promotion to major in 1773. Never known for being able to keep his temper in check, Blucher submitted an angry letter of resignation from the Prussian Army. An incensed King Frederick the Great responded: “Captain Blucher can take himself to the devil!

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Frederick the Great. Imgur

37. From Soldier to Farmer to Soldier

Blucher retired to the countryside and took up farming. He was good enough at it to gain financial independence. However, after the heated passion of the lunatic moment that led him to resign from the Prussian Army had passed, Blucher had second thoughts about what he had done. He pined for his days as a soldier, and sought to rejoin his regiment.

Unfortunately for him, King Frederick the Great had a long memory, and knew how to hold a grudge. The Prussian monarch did not forget Blucher’s rude resignation, and did not forgive. He blocked Blucher from rejoining his military – a ban that remained in place for the next fifteen years. It was only a year after Frederick the Great died in 1786, that Blucher was allowed to rejoin his regiment, the Red Hussars, as a major.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The Pour le Merite. Wikimedia

36. A Lunatic Ascends the Ranks

Blucher was a head case – a clear-cut lunatic – and everybody knew it. However, he was still a great fighting officer for all that, so his superiors put up with the crazy and kept on promoting him up the ranks. After fighting in the Netherlands in 1787, he was a made a lieutenant colonel the following year. The year after that, he was awarded the Pour le Merite, Prussia’s then-highest military award.

In the early 1790s, he distinguished himself as a cavalry officer in fighting against the armies of Revolutionary France, and by 1794, he was colonel of his regiment, the Red Hussars. That same year he made another jump up the ranks to major general, and in 1801, he was promoted to lieutenant general.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
What Blucher believed he was about to give birth to. Travel Leisure India

35. Lunatic Delusions

Among Blucher’s more lunatic delusions, which came and went over the years, was his belief that a Frenchman had impregnated him. As a result, for some time, Blucher went about convinced that he was about to give birth to a baby elephant at any moment.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Blucher. Wikimedia

Another lunatic conviction was Blucher’s paranoia that his servants, bribed by France, had heated the floor of his room to lava levels, in order to scorch his feet. So when seated in a chair, Blucher would keep his feet raised from the floor. If he had to get up, he would skip around swiftly, hopping gingerly on tiptoe.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Blucher. Tumblr

34. At Least He Was Self Aware

Another of Blucher’s lunatic episodes occurred when the house was roused by the sounds of a ferocious struggle coming from the general’s bedroom. When servants and aides rushed in, they discovered that Blucher was fighting thin air. He claimed that he was in a life and death struggle with the vindictive ghost of a dead officer, whom Blucher had dismissed from the Prussian Army.

To his credit, Blucher realized during his stretches of lucidity that there was something wrong with his head. However, the problem according to him was that his head was made of stone. He did not mean that as a figure of speech: he literally thought his noggin was made of stone, and routinely asked people to smite him in the head with a hammer.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The Prussians rallying from defeat and preparing to march to Waterloo. The Waterloo Association

33. “He Must Lead Even If He Has a Hundred Elephants Inside Him

Blucher’s lunatic spells did not keep him from being an effective fighting general. Indeed, he proved himself to be Prussia’s best general of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He bounced back from setback after setback, and in 1813, played a pivotal role at the head of the Prussian-Russian army in defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig – the biggest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. Two years later, on June 16th, 1815, he bounced back from a serious battlefield loss at Ligny, from which he miraculously escaped with his life, and shaped history.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Blucher, left, meeting Wellington at Waterloo. Wikimedia

Instead of retreating, Blucher led his defeated but still game army on a forced march to link up with Wellington at Waterloo. He arrived two days later, on the 18th, in the nick of time to fall upon Napoleon’s flank and crush him. That fighting spirit and determination are why the Prussians hung on to Blucher, despite all his lunatic and manic episodes. As his chief of staff, Scharnhorst, wrote him on one occasion: “You are our leader and our hero“, insisting that he head the Prussian Army “even if you have to be carried before or behind us on a litter“. On another occasion, he put it even more succinctly: “He must lead even if he has a hundred elephants inside him“.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Pope Stephen VI. All That Is Interesting

32. The Catholic Church’s Most Lunatic Trial

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, plenty of popes has known how to hold a grudge. There is no dearth of pontiffs who plotted and schemed against their predecessors, or even straight-up murdered them. Nor does history have a shortage of popes who were quite vindictive towards the very memory of their predecessors.

However, no Holy Father in the nearly two millennia-long history of the pontificate ever came close to the lunatic levels of vindictiveness exhibited by Pope Stephen VI. He was the only pope so vindictive towards a predecessor that he had his corpse exhumed and put on trial, so he could finally tell him to his (dead) face just what he thought of him.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
An attack on Rome during the Dark Ages. Fall of Rome

31. When the Papacy Was a Plaything for Italian Rustics

Stephen VI’s time as Holy Father lasted for little more than a year between his election in May, 896, and his death in August, 897. However, that was enough time to secure his place in the books, with one of the most lunatic and controversial episodes in a papal history that has no shortage of controversy. It took place during a period, from roughly the middle of the ninth century to the middle of the tenth, that was marked by severe political instability in the Italian Peninsula.

Theoretically, the pope was supreme over not only the Catholic Church, but over all of Christendom. In reality, popes back then were appointed and dethroned in rapid succession, based on the obscure machinations and intrigues of provincial Italian and Roman aristocratic families. Those rustics did not view the papacy with the kind of reverence it gained in a later ear. Instead, to them, the Holy See was simply another tool to be used in furthering their parochial ambitions, and in thwarting their rivals. Historical sources are relatively scarce as to the details of just what those rivalries revolved around, but the gist of them covered the basics: wealth, power, and prestige.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Pope Formosus. Vintage News

30. The Dead Defendant

The defendant in what came to be known as the Cadaver Synod was, Formosus. Born in Rome in 816, he rose within the Catholic Church’s hierarchy to Cardinal Bishop of Porto, Rome’s port city and main harbor, in 864. Two years later, Pope Nicholas I appointed him papal legate and missionary to the pagan Bulgar tribes. He was so successful at it, that the converted Bulgarians clamored to have him appointed as their bishop. However, technicalities in the Catholic Church’s laws forbade that. In years to come, Formosus’s enemies used that success in converting the Bulgars, and his popularity with them, against him. They asserted that he had corrupted the minds of the Bulgarians “so that as long as he was alive, they would not accept any other bishop from the apostolic see“.

Formosus was also accused of conspiring with others to usurp the authority of Pope John VIII, and of plundering church property. Between those charges and the Bulgar-related allegations, he was excommunicated. He was restored to the Church’s good graces after John VIII’s death in 882. He resumed his bishopric of Porto, and held it until he was elected pope in 891.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Medieval Rome. Quora

29. The Dead Defendant’s Prosecutor

The deceased Formosus’ prosecutor, or lunatic persecutor, Pope Stephen VI, was born into the ruling family of Spoleto, an independent duchy in central Italy. In 891, an earlier Pope Stephen V had reluctantly crowned Guy III, Duke of Spoleto, as Holy Roman Emperor. However, his preference had actually been for the East Frankish King Arnulf of Carinthia. When Formosus became pope, he was lukewarm at best towards the Spoletan Emperor Guy, and like Stephen V before him, he also preferred Arnulf.

In 892, Guy and the Spoletans forced Pope Formosus, against his will, to crown Guy’s underage son Lambert as co-emperor. While at it, the Spoletans also forced him to make their relative, Stephen, the future pope and persecutor of Formosus’s corpse, a bishop. Resenting such ham-handedness, Formosus persuaded Arnulf to invade Italy and liberate it from the Spoletans. When Stephen VI became Pope, he would not let that slide.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
King Arnulf of Carinthia. iStock Photos

28. An Unforgivable Offense Against the New Pope’s Family

In 894, King Arnulf invaded and occupied northern Italy. The Spoletan Emperor Guy III died later that year, leaving his son Lambert in the care of his mother. Mother and child proved no match for Arnulf, who defeated their forces, and seized Rome in 895. Formosus promptly ditched the Spoletans, and crowned Arnulf Holy Roman Emperor in Saint Peter’s basilica. The new emperor then set out to mop up the Spoletans, only to suffer a stroke, which paralyzed him and forced him to end the campaign.

Formosus himself died a few months later, in 896. He was succeeded by Boniface VI, who lasted only 15 days as Pope, before dying of gout. He was followed by the Spoletan Stephen VI, who was hopping mad at Formosus for what he perceived as an unforgivable offense against, and betrayal of, his family.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Pope Stephen VI trying the corpse of Pope Formosus. Wikimedia

27. Trying a Corpse

Pope Formosus was dead, but that would not stop the new Spoletan Pope Stephen VI from giving him a piece of his mind. Stephen VI ordered the rotting corpse of Formosus exhumed, and had it hauled to the papal throne. There, in one of the papacy’s most lunatic episodes, the remains were subjected to an ecclesiastical trial before the Roman clergy, that came to be known as the “Cadaver Synod”. With Formosus’ reeking corpse propped on the throne, Stephen VI conducted the prosecution, while a teenage deacon, hiding behind the dead pope, conducted the defense.

Stephen’s list of charges against Formosus was long. They included perjury; serving as bishop while actually a layman; transmigration of sees in violation of canon law; and generally having been unworthy of the pontificate. The proceedings were just as ghoulishly farcical and macabre as one might imagine. The unhinged Stephen would scream the accusations against Formosus’ cadaver, then the deacon hiding behind the dead pope, imitating Formosus’ voice, would deny the charges.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Punishing Pope Formosus’ corpse. Alamy

26. Lunatic Vindictiveness

Formosus’s corpse put up a poor defense, handicapped in no small part by the fact that it was a corpse. It lost the case and was found guilty. An ancient Roman penalty, damnatio memoriae, meaning “condemnation of the memory” and typically decreed by the Senate against those who brought dishonor upon the state, was applied. Stephen VI then had the papal vestments stripped from Formosus’ corpse, to be replaced with rags. Next, he ordered the amputation of three fingers from Formosus’ right hand, which he had used in consecrations. Then he had the body dumped in a pauper’s grave.

However, even that failed to satisfy Stephen and sate his lunatic vindictiveness for long. Soon thereafter, still raging at the insult to the Spoleto family, he again had Formosus’ corpse dug up, then ordered it loaded down with stones, and tossed into the Tiber River. The man was clearly insane, and his bizarre behavior led to widespread rioting that finally ended with his ouster. The rioters laid their hands on Stephen VI, stripped him of his papal vestments, and imprisoned him in a cell, where he was strangled to death.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Aleister Crowley. Golden Dawn

25. The Lunatic Twentieth Century Warlock

English occultist and writer Aleister Crowley (1875 – 1947) claimed to be a magician. Not the stage tricks kind of magician, but the warlock, spells and sorcery type. An L. Ron Hubbard type before there was an L. Ron Hubbard, Crowley also founded a religion in the early twentieth century, Thelema, whose prophet he asserted himself to be, entrusted with guiding mankind to the “Aeon of Horus”.

A fundamental principal of Thelema was that the twentieth century would usher in the Aeon of Horus, which would overthrow all existing codes of morality and ethics. In the new age, people’s “True Will”, which they would discover via magic, would be all that matters. Crowley summarized the Horus era’s ethics as: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law“.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Aleister Crowley conducting the Rite of Saturn in 1910. Pintrest

24. “Sexual Magic”

Crowley’s magic religion included lots of sex with his followers. He called it “Sexual Magic”, whereby orgasms and bodily secretions were used as components of magic spells. The main precept of Sexual Magic was that all adherents should be completely open and uninhibited about sex, without social limitations or restraints. Followers should also expose their children to sex from infancy, and accustom them to witness all kinds of sexual activity.

In 1920, Crowley and his followers established a religious commune in Sicily, the Abbey of Thelema. It was not long before the perverse and lunatic goings-on there led to controversy, scandals, and denunciations, that became regular fodder for the British and Italian press. Responding to the outcry, the Italian government finally shut down the commune and evicted everybody in 1923. Crowley then hit the road, and split the remaining two decades of his life traveling between Britain, France, and Germany, to promote his faith.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Sigmund Freud. Very Well Mind

23. The Father of Modern Psychiatry Was a Lunatic in His Own Right

Sigmund Freud is widely acknowledged as the father of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. We have him to thank for the psychiatrist couch and paying somebody hundreds of dollars an hour to nod his head while doodling in a notepad as he listens to us drone on about our lives, before prescribing us happy pills. Freud basically said that we are all perverts, and that deep down, all guys want to murder their fathers as a prelude to sexing their own mothers.

Ironically, the figure he chose to name that complex after was probably the least Oedipal person ever. In Greek mythology, Oedipus went to extreme lengths to avoid a prophecy that predicted he would murder his father and marry his mother. He only ended up doing so unwittingly, after a series of extraordinary flukes. Freud, by contrast, was pretty Oedipal himself, openly acknowledging that he had the hots for his mother. That paled in comparison to Freud’s theory that the root cause of child molestation was not adults preying upon children, but children lusting after their parents.

Also Read: Captivating Life of Sigmund Freud.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Coin from the reign of al-Hakim. V Coins

22. The Lunatic Caliph

Fatimid Caliph Abu Ali Mansur (985 – 1021) would probably be a serious contender in any contest for the most lunatic medieval ruler. Better known by his regnal title Al-Hakim bi Amr Allah (“Ruler by God’s Command”), and better yet known by the nickname “The Mad Caliph”, he was one seriously strange figure.

Among other things, the Mad Caliph was afflicted with megalomania that led him to declare himself an incarnation of God. While other rulers who declared themselves gods ended up with universal scorn, the Mad Caliph actually ended up with some adherents. And not just ones who adhered out of fear, but sincere ones who continued their reverence for Al-Hakim long after his death. Indeed, to this day he is still viewed as a divine incarnation by the Druze sect in the Middle East, and as a religiously important figure by some Shi’a Muslims.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Al Hakim, the Mad Caliph. Wikimedia

21. Going to Extremes to Demonstrate Religious Cred

The Mad Caliph was the son of the Fatimid Caliph Abu Mansur and a Christian consort named Al Azizah. He became Caliph at age eleven, following his father’s death. Having a Christian mother opened him to allegations that he was an insufficiently zealous Muslim, and that he was soft on Christianity.

Those accusations bothered him. So he went out of his way and adopted lunatic measures to prove his Muslim chops, and demonstrate that he was no Christian puppet. As in way, way, out of his way: he launched an unprecedented wave of persecutions against Christians in his empire, and ordered the destruction of Christian churches and monuments.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The Fatimid Caliphate. About History

20. Persecuting Others Is One Way to Demonstrate Zeal

The Mad Caliph was desperate to demonstrate that being born to a Christian mother did not make him a soft Muslim. So he departed from the tolerance hitherto displayed by Muslim rulers to Christians and Jews. He went on a religious persecution bender, destroying synagogues and churches. His targets included the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem – the one housing the cave where Jesus is thought to have lain before his resurrection.

The lunatic Fatimid ruler also banned pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He added to that by ordering Christians and Jews to wear distinguishing clothing to identify them. Jews were further singled out by Al-Hakim, who ordered that they wear bells, so they could be identified by sound as well as sight.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Khan al Khalili, Cairo’s historic market. Medium

19. Taking Consumer Protection to Lunatic Extremes

Mad Caliph Al Hakim’s lunatic conduct went beyond religious persecutions. It included one of history’s most bizarre consumer protection practices, ever. He reportedly used to walk through the markets of Cairo, looking for deceptive merchants, while accompanied by a giant African slave named Masoud.

Whenever he came across a merchant cheating buyers, the Mad Caliph would order Masoud to publicly sodomize the crook, right then and there. To this day, when people in Cairo encounter a merchant whom they suspect is trying to cheat them, they threaten to “bring Masoud”.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Prewar Japan. Mizuta Museum of Art

18. The Lunatic League of Blood

Japan’s seemingly crazy conduct during World War II was rooted in decades of lunatic movements that shook and sometimes dominated the country in the years before the conflict. In those days, Japan was caught in a vice between an urge to preserve its heritage, and the need to modernize lest it succumbs to Western imperialism, as most of Asia had already done.

A volatile mix of nationalism and militarism took an already touchy situation and made it worse, ultimately leading to the decision to attack Pearl Harbor. En route, there was plenty of craziness, such as “The League of Blood” – a violent ultranationalist organization, resembling HYDRA from the GI-Joe fictional universe, that sought to change Japan via murder.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Nissho Inoue. Aeon

17. A Lunatic Organization’s Lunatic Leader

Japan’s League of Blood was headed by a lunatic Buddhist preacher named Nissho Inoue, who had experienced some mystical visions in the 1920s while wandering around China. The visions convinced him that he had been chosen as Japan’s savior, and that the country needed a spiritual rebirth.

So Inoue returned to Japan, opened a school, and taught an agrarian philosophy that advocated the superiority of farmers over workers, and rural life over urban. Inoue slowly began radicalizing his students. Within a few years, his school had morphed into a training center for ultranationalists pining to make Japan great again, by returning to the traditions of past centuries. In 1932, Inoue preached that Japan should be reformed with an assassination campaign.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Prime Minister Inukaye Tsuyhoshi. Wikimedia

16. Lunatics Impose Their Will On Japan

The ultimate aim of Nissho Inoue’s targeted assassinations was to dismantle Japan’s secular government, and restore supreme power to the emperor. So he and his disciples drew up a list of twenty leading liberal politicians and rich industrialists – pro-Western types whom they viewed as evil obstacles, standing in the way of Japan’s nationalist rebirth. Then, with the slogan “one person, one kill“, the League of Blood’s killers fanned out to remake Japan.

In February, 1932, they killed a former Finance Minister, and a wealthy industrialist the following month. Inoue turned himself in to the police, who treated him with respect as a “patriot”. In May 1932, Japanese Navy officers associated with the League of Blood assassinated the Prime Minister, Inukaye Tsuyoshi. Indicative of Japan’s weakening democracy, many sympathized with the killers, and all got off with light sentences. Inoue was sentenced to prison in 1934, but was amnestied in 1940, and spent the rest of his life a free man until his death in 1967.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Equatorial Guinea. On the World Map

15. The Lunatic Ruler Who Depopulated His Country

Few countries have been cursed with as lunatic a ruler as Equatorial Guinea was with Francisco Macias Nguema (1924-1979). Equatorial Guinea is a small African country with a population of about a million people. It had significantly fewer during the events described here. For such a tiny country, Equatorial Guinea has endured more than its share of national suffering.

As lunatic a ruler as ever existed, Nguema had few equals in sheer murderous craziness. An admirer of both Hitler (he seems not to have fully grasped Nazi nuance about race or how Hitler viewed Africans) and Marx, Nguema described himself and his political philosophy as “Hitlerian Marxist”. He visited upon his people a genocide that killed or exiled up to 60% of the population. To put that in perspective, although the better known Cambodian Genocide claimed more total victims, Pol Pot had a bigger population base to victimize. Pol Pot also killed “only” about 25% of his people.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
West African witch doctor. Shutter Stock

14. The Roots of a Lunatic

Francisco Macias Nguema’s villain background story is as lunatic as it gets. He was born into a poor peasant family in the then-Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea, the son of a witch doctor from neighboring Gabon. Nguema’s father had fled his native land after his dark practices – which included human sacrifice and cannibalism – made him unpopular. He was dedicated to his craft, however – so dedicated that he sacrificed one of his own children, a brother of Nguema, an event that left the future tyrant scarred for life.

Nguema’s witch doctor dad gathered a cult following in Equatorial Guinea. However, he got into a dispute with the Spanish colonial authorities when they demanded that Africans toil on Spanish-owned plantations for slave wages. A request for higher pay got him beaten to death. His wife, bereft at the loss, committed suicide a week later, leaving an orphaned Nguema and ten siblings to fend for themselves.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea in 1910. Wikimedia

13. Rise of a Lunatic

When Macias Nguema was orphaned, he was taken in by some wealthy Spaniards, who saw to his education in a Catholic school. He muddled his through to graduation, but was no brainiac – after completing his education, Nguema failed a civil service examination three times. However, Nguema had political talents, and got himself elected mayor of a town under the Spanish colonial administration.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The Spanish colony of Equatorial Guinea in 1910. Wikimedia

When Equatorial Guinea began a transition phase to independence in the 1960s, Nguema served as a member of the territorial parliament. When the country gained independence in 1968, he was elected president. That 1968 election has been the sole free election held in Equatorial Guinea to date: Nguema, and his family after him, have held the country in an iron grip ever since. Early in his rule, Nguema made clear what he thought about elections by executing his defeated electoral opponent.

Read More: Monstrous Dictators You’ve Never Heard Of.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Macias Nguema banknotes. Roberts World Money

12. Abolishing the Currency and Adopting a Barter Economy

Equatorial Guinea’s population was about 350,000 when Macias Nguema was elected in 1968. By the time his rule came to an end in 1979, over half had been killed or had fled into exile to escape his lunatic rule. He began in 1969 by forcing the country’s entire Spanish population to leave – and to leave their assets behind.

On the one hand, the Spaniards were a reminder of the hated colonial rule, and their accumulated wealth had been forcibly and unfairly robbed from the natives during colonialism. On the other hand, the Spanish settlers included a majority of the professionals, technocrats, and experienced civil servants necessary for the smooth functioning of the former colony’s economy and government. Both the economy and government crashed. Nguema responded with the lunatic expedient of abolishing the currency, and switching the country to a barter economy.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Francisco Macias Nguema. Pintrest

11. “There Is No God Other Than Macias Nguema

Mao, Stalin, and the Kims of North Korea, are notorious for creating personality cults. None of them went to the lunatic extremes of Nguema. He banned religious meetings, but not before forcing priests to preach that: “God created Equatorial Guinea, thanks to Papa Macias“, and “There is no other God than Macias Nguema“. He made the latter the country’s official motto.

Nguema ingested copious amounts of hallucinogens, which drove him insane. He abandoned the country’s capital to live in his native village, taking the entire national treasury with him, and burying the gold reserves under his bed. When the Central Bank’s director objected, he was murdered. Nguema also accumulated a huge collection of human skulls outside his house, and beat people with them. He also held regular meetings with “ghosts”. The capital’s main power station was closed, as Nguema declared he could meet the energy needs using magic.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Macias Nguema. Getty Images

10. There is Anti-Intellectual, and Then There is Nguema Level Anti-Intellectual

Macias Nguema was shrewd, but he had never been what you would call smart – especially not book smart. That left him with an inferiority complex when it came to those better educated than himself. So he declared war on them. Formal education was abolished, all libraries were closed, and the word “intellectual” was banned. All teachers he could get his hands on, and every current and former education minister, were murdered.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Macias Nguema stamp. Colnect

All forms of media, from newspapers to radio to TV, were banned. Western medicine was prohibited as being anti-African, and witch doctors were used instead to treat the sick. Nguema’s lunatic anti-intellectual measures extended to killing people who wore eyeglasses because wearing eyeglasses was associated with intellectuals. Even shoes were eventually associated with intellectuals, and banned. At the end of Nguema’s rule, only 6 intellectuals were still alive in Equatorial Guinea: 2 doctors, and 4 technical school graduates.

Read More: African Dictators Who Ruined Their Countries.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
The capture of Macias Nguema after his overthrow. Pintrest

9. The Berlin Wall Paled in Comparison to Nguema’s Lunatic Measures to Keep His People From Fleeing

Macias Nguema was murderous in both his public and private lives. The thought of other men having known his women sexually so displeased him, that he killed all his mistresses’ former lovers. Dissent was brutally crushed. Troublesome journalists were hacked to pieces, the bits thrown into the ocean to feed the sharks. In one particularly lunatic episode, 150 opponents were executed in a soccer stadium by soldiers dressed up as Santa Claus, while loudspeakers blared Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days“.

News that displeased Nguema was “fake news”. When his statistics director presented figures he disliked, Nguema killed him. Nguema took a relatively prosperous Equatorial Guinea, and reduced it to a hellhole. The economy got so bad that 90% of the GDP eventually consisted of foreign aid. To keep people from fleeing, he destroyed boats, the railways, and mined the roads out of the country. He was eventually overthrown by his own family, when his insanity threatened them. In 1979, Nguema was arrested, tried by a military court, sentenced to death, and executed.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Macias Nguema during his trial. Executed Today

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Atomic mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. Time Magazine

8. The Lunatic Japanese-Brazilian Cult

As seen with the League of Blood, above, Japan and Japanese society were vulnerable to fanatical lunatic movements in the years leading up to WWII. That vulnerability persisted both during the war and in its immediate aftermath. During WWII, Japan put up a fanatical fight. The conflict still ended in abject Japanese defeat, with the country forced to throw in the towel and surrender in 1945. The shock sent many Japanese into paroxysms of grief, and quite a few around the bend and into denialism. For them – especially those outside the country who did not get to see with their own eyes enemy troops occupying Japan – news of the surrender was “fake news”.

Most eventually came to their senses and accepted reality, but many persisted in resisting facts. Thus, thousands of Japanese soldiers in isolated locales around the former Japanese empire kept on fighting, for months, years, or even decades. In Brazil, which hosted a sizeable Japanese immigrant community, a lunatic group sprang up to terrorize people into denying that Japan had surrendered. As seen below, things got pretty weird.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Japanese immigrants working in a coffee plantation in Brazil. Museum of Japanese Immigration

7. Brazil’s Japanese Immigrants

The largest Japanese population outside of Japan is located in Brazil, with over 1.5 million nationals or naturals of Japanese ancestry living there. Significant numbers of Japanese began arriving in Brazil early in the twentieth century. By 1940, the country had about a quarter-million Japanese immigrants and their descendants, most of them concentrated in the coffee plantation region in the state of Sao Paulo.

Assimilation was difficult. Brazil was a completely different country with a different language, religion, customs, climate, and food. So quite a few immigrants reacted by becoming lunatic in their hyper-Japanese, embracing their birth country’s traditions, mores, and nationalism, with a fervor exceeding that of those actually living in Japan. In the 1930s, Brazil’s government embarked on a course of forced assimilation, which effectively banned Japanese language media. Since many Japanese could not speak local Portuguese, they were effectively cut off from news beyond their immediate immigrant community.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
A Japanese poster advocating immigration to Brazil. Museum of the Japanese

6. Cut Off From the Outside World

Brazil joined the Allies in 1942, which further deepened the isolation of the country’s Japanese immigrants. All communications with Japan were severed, and no new Japanese were admitted. The immigrants’ radio sets were confiscated. Those living in the more urban coastal areas, where access to news was easy, were expelled and relocated to the more rural interior, where access to news was quite limited.

Cut off from the outside world and reliable news, Brazil’s Japanese immigrant community became ripe for, and ready recipients of, unreliable news. As a result, many were hurled headfirst into a world of alternative facts – one in which Japan was winning WWII. By the time the war ended in 1945, many Japanese-Brazilians sincerely held the lunatic belief that Japan had triumphed. Those who disagreed or said any different were in for rough – at times lethally rough – treatment.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Shindo Renmei members. Estandarte

5. The Lunatic Shindo Renmei

Violent clashes erupted in 1942 between native Brazilians in rural Sao Paulo and the Japanese immigrants in the vicinity. So a former Japanese Army colonel named Junji Kikawa founded Shindo Renmei (“League of the Way of Emperors’ Subjects”), as a self-defense organization for Japanese immigrants.

Kikawa urged the immigrants to protest their mistreatment with steps such as ceasing the production of peppermint, which included ingredients used in making explosives, and silk, a vital wartime material for making parachutes. He also advocated more direct steps, such as acts of sabotage. By 1945, Shindo Renmei had a headquarters in Sao Paulo, and 64 branches in Brazilian localities with Japanese immigrant communities.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Colonel Junki Kikawa. Doc Player

4. The Lunatic Belief That Japan Had Won WWII

During the war, Shindo Renmei became more and more lunatic, as it took a turn towards ultra-nationalism. With most Japanese-Brazilians cut off from reliable news, Colonel Kikawa and his followers stepped in and filled the information vacuum with “news” that amounted to little more than wishful thinking. As Japan reeled from defeat after defeat, Shindo Renmei told the Japanese immigrants that Japan was marching from triumph to triumph.

The claims included a decisive Japanese victory in Okinawa, where America lost 400 warships. The victory was helped by a Japanese super weapon, the “High Frequency Bomb”, which wiped out Americans by the hundreds of thousands and forced the Allies’ unconditional surrender. Many believed those claims, while those who did not know better than to open their mouths and say so. If for no other reason than that Shindo Renmei also took it upon itself to punish “defeatists” in the Japanese immigrant community. Those who voiced doubts about how well the war was going for Japan were shunned, boycotted, and sometimes violently attacked.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Japan’s foreign minister signing surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in 1945. Wikimedia

3. Japan’s Defeat in WWII Was “Fake News”

Shindo Renmei dismissed Japan’s surrender as “fake news” and American propaganda, and redoubled its efforts to punish those who said otherwise. According to the group’s leader Colonel Kikawa and his lunatic followers, Japanese immigrants were divided into two camps: good guys, and bad guys.

As Shindo Renmei saw it, the good guys were the Kachigumi (“Victorious”), who knew that Japan had won the war. They were mostly the poor and poorly educated. The bad guys were the vile Makegumi (“Defeatists”), also pejoratively labeled “dirty hearts”, who bought the fake news about Japan’s defeat. They tended to be the better off and better-educated immigrants, who had better access to information and could differentiate between reliable and unreliable news.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Shindo Renmei members. BBC

2. A Japanese-Brazilian Version of Q-Anon

Shindo Renmei had about 50,000 followers by the time WWII ended. They went on a buying spree that emptied local shops of red and white cloth to make Japanese flags, intended to welcome Brazil’s new overlords. The situation was further complicated by the circulation of fake Japanese newspapers and magazines peddled by charlatans, with astonishing lunatic claims.

The fake media included articles about Japan’s “great victory”; the arrival of Japanese occupation troops in America; doctored photographs of President Truman bowing to Emperor Hirohito; and coverage of the trial of General Douglas MacArthur for war crimes. The charlatans did not do it just for kicks and giggles: they made a bundle selling the duped Japanese immigrants’ land in the “conquered territories”.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Shindo Renmei’s first victim, Ikuta Mizobe. Discover Nikkei

1. Violent Lunatics Imposed Their Will on Brazil’s Government

Questioning Shindo Renmei’s lunatic claims was dangerous. Those who dared doubt the assertions of Japan’s victory were beaten up or murdered. By the time it was over, dozens had been assassinated. In 1946, Japan’s new government prepared documents for distribution in Brazil, outlining reality and declaring that Japan had surrendered. Shindo Renmei dismissed that as fake news, and beat up or murdered Japanese immigrants caught reading or distributing the documents.

History’s Most Lunatic Events and People
Colonel Junji Kikawa. Pintrest

To reduce the violence, Brazil’s government prohibited newspapers from publishing news of Japan’s defeat. It also ordered the term “unconditional surrender” removed from official communications. Things then gradually simmered down. A last lunatic gasp occurred in 1950, when Japan’s Olympic swimming team visited Brazil. When its members expressed shock at the idea that Japan had won the war, diehards claimed that the athletes were actually Koreans masquerading as Japanese. That was so ludicrous, that it eroded Shindo Renmei’s last remaining support, and the organization soon vanished into history’s dustbin.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Asian Conference on Asian Studies – Buddhist Terrorism?

Atlas Obscura – The Cadaver Synod: When a Pope’s Corpse Was Put on Trial

Cooper, Alan D. – The Geography of Genocide (2008)

Cracked – 5 Unknown People Who Shaped History (While Being Lunatics)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Aleister Crowley

Encyclopedia Britannica – Al Hakim, Fatimid Caliph

Henderson, Ernest F. – Blucher and the Uprising of Prussia Against Napoleon, 1806-1815 (2018)

Hofschroer, Peter – 1815: The Waterloo Campaign (1999)

Huffman, James L., Editor – Modern Japan: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism (1997)

Leggiere, Michael V. – Napoleon and Berlin: The Franco-Prussian War in North Germany, 1813 (2015)

Lesser, Jeffrey – Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil (1999)

Llewellyn, Peter – Rome in the Dark Ages (1970)

Medievalists – The Cadaver Synod: Low Point in the History of the Papacy

Medium – 7 Disturbing Facts About Sigmund Freud

Parkinson, Roger – The Hussar General: The Life of Blucher, Man of Waterloo (1975)

Vintage News – The Pope Who Exhumed the Body of His Predecessor, Dressed It, and Put it On Trial

Wikipedia – League of Blood Incident

Wikipedia (Spanish) – Francisco Macias Nguema

Wikipedia – Shindo Renmei