The Most Bizarre Assassination Attempts In History

Throughout history there have been many bizarre tales of failed assassins, individual plots almost as crazy some of the weirdest WWII plans, or as unlikely and improbable as these amazing World War II secret missions. These bizarre assassination attempts seem to continue to occur regardless of the security or the popularity of the ruler or public figure.

Usually, the lack of success of these WTF historical assassination fails are attributable to luck or circumstance, proving that crazy assassination attempts are no less dangerous or inconsequential. If things had gone just a little differently, these crazy attempted assassinations might have been successful.    


  • Lewis Powell Fought Everyone He Saw While Trying To Kill Lincoln's Secretary Of State
    Photo: Alexander Gardner / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Lewis Powell Fought Everyone He Saw While Trying To Kill Lincoln's Secretary Of State

    John Wilkes Booth's assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865 was only one part of a coordinated attack on the political leadership of the American government. As Booth entered the President's box at Ford's theater, Lewis Powell approached the Washington, DC residence of William Seward, the Secretary of State and an outspoken abolitionist. 

    The Secretary of State had suffered a serious injury in a carriage accident on April 5, breaking several bones including his jaw. Powell claimed to Seward's butler that he was delivering medicine prescribed by a doctor. The servant was suspicious and told Powell to wait. The physically imposing Powell ignored him and ascended the stairs to the second floor and the home's bedrooms.

    After knocking out Seward's son, Frederick, and stabbing an Army sergeant, Powell jumped on the Secretary of State's bed and began stabbing Seward in the face. Seward was wearing a metal brace to help mend his jaw, and this device neutralized most of Powell's efforts. One thrust, however, cut Seward's throat eliciting a great deal of blood. Because it was difficult to see in the darkened room, Powell concluded that he must have killed the politician and began fighting with Seward's other son, Augustus, who stormed into the room.

    Powell stabbed Augustus and fled. On the stairway, he was confronted by a State Department messenger who had walked in the open front door. Powell stabbed him as well and then ran into the street. He eluded capture for three days but was eventually imprisoned, tried, and convicted of conspiracy to murder government officials. He was sentenced to death. Although Seward was seriously injured, he and the other victims of Powell survived the incident.

  • Margaret Thatcher Was Nearly Blown Up By A Bomb In A VCR
    Photo: The National Archives / Wikimedia Commons / OGL 3

    Margaret Thatcher Was Nearly Blown Up By A Bomb In A VCR

    In 1984, following the death of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands, the IRA became determined to strike at the very heart of the English government by attempting to assassinate Margaret Thatcher herself. Aware that Thatcher would attend the Annual Conservative Party Conference, the IRA began to plan.

    Three weeks before the event, an IRA bomb maker named Jerry Magee checked into the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, under an assumed name and placed a bomb in Room 629. Using electronic parts from a VCR, he set the bomb to explode more than three weeks later, October 11, at 2:53 AM on the morning of the last day of the conference.

    See, the party leader gives a speech on the final day of the event, so the IRA was reasonably assured that Thatcher would be present. The explosive was supposed to be strong enough to collapse the whole building, killing everyone inside. The bomb did blow up on schedule, but it only killed five people and injured thirty others. Thatcher herself narrowly avoided a collapsing chimney column only a few feet away from her room. 

    Magee's fingerprints were still on his check-in card and he was arrested. Given eight life sentences and a minimum of 35 years in jail, he was released as a result of the Good Friday Agreement prisoner exchange in 1999. 

  • Two Pistols Misfired When Pulled On Andrew Jackson
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Two Pistols Misfired When Pulled On Andrew Jackson

    On January 30, 1835, an unemployed house painter named Richard Lawrence became the first person to attempt to assassinate the President of the United States. Andrew Jackson was leaving the US Capitol building after attending a funeral for a House member, when Lawrence confronted him, pulling the trigger on a pistol.

    Although the percussion cap ignited, the gun misfired. Lawrence then took another pistol out of his pocket (reloading was pretty cumbersome) and shot at Jackson again. That gun, astoundingly, also misfired. Some accounts maintain that Jackson attempted to beat Lawrence with his cane, but most likely the President was rushed from the scene quickly.

    The utterly delusional assassin believed himself the King of England. Whether or not Lawrence's mind was damaged by habitual exposure to the chemicals in the paint that he used is not clear, but a jury was quite clear on his sanity. They declared him criminally insane after five minutes and sent him to a mental institution where he died in 1861. When both pistols were tested a hundred years later by the Smithsonian, they both fired on the first attempt. Jackson himself chose to believe that it was divine intervention.

  • Harry Truman Slept Through Most Of An Attack By Puerto Rican Nationalists
    Photo: Frank Gatteri, United States Army Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Harry Truman Slept Through Most Of An Attack By Puerto Rican Nationalists

    When it was decided during Harry Truman's administration that the White House would be renovated, Truman moved to a temporary residence at Blair House, then the official home of the Vice President. Accompanied only by a couple of Secret Servicemen and even pausing for red lights, Truman used to walk a half-block on a public street to work at his executive office.

    On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalist gunmen attempted to shoot their way into Blair House in an attempt on Truman's life. Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo, both native-born Puerto Ricans, were coordinating their attack with uprisings occurring on their home island. While Truman was taking a post-lunch nap in a second-story bedroom, the gunmen approached the steps of the building and began firing at White House Police officers and Secret Servicemen.

    Collazo got as far as the front steps before being seriously wounded. Torresola wounded several members of law enforcement before the (already mortally wounded) police officer Leslie Coffelt emerged from his guard shack in the front of the building and shot Torresola in the head, killing him instantly. Coffelt would die in the hospital four hours later.

    Hearing the commotion, President Truman actually opened the second-floor window directly over the entrance, only to be warned by the Secret Service to get back as Torresola was reloading his weapon. Collazo would be sentenced to death, and Truman would later commute the sentence to life in prison. Jimmy Carter commuted Collazo's sentence in 1979 and he returned to Puerto Rico.