The cold war was a perilous time for the superpowers-that-be. Just after World War II, the political and military tensions between the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the United States were at its peak. From 1947 up until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, both nations continually upped the ante in international espionage.
The International Spy Museum in Washington D.C. houses some of the most inventive spy devices secret agents from both sides used during this period. Some are ingeniously clever, others are simply weird and ridiculous. Most of them served a lethal purpose:
#1. Taking secret images with the snap of a “button.”
Circa 1970, this buttonhole camera, model F-21, was codenamed “Ajax.” Concealed in the average coat, it was widely used in the Soviet Union. The spy held the trigger with one hand inside the coat’s pocket and took photos of any suspicious activity.
#2. This very expensive piece of dog doo-doo.
Whoever thought of this at the CIA way back in the 1970s hoped no one would step on it. This piece of authentic-looking puppy poop transmitted radio signals to airstrike and reconnaissance coordination.
#3. Deadly eyeglasses.
If there ever was eyewear fit to kill, these CIA-issued spectacles are. One of its arms contained a fatal dose of cyanide that an agent could chew if captured or compromised. Better death over torture.
#4. A tube of lipstick to die for.
The KGB equipped its female spies with a seemingly-ordinary tube of lipstick that they could fire a single .177-caliber bullet from at close range.
#5. When even the trees have ears.
CIA operatives situated plenty of these innocuous-looking tree stumps near Soviet bases during the 1970s. These listening devices intercepted radio transmissions and relayed them to CIA ears via satellite.
#6. Hidden deep where the sun doesn’t shine.
In the 1960s, the CIA tried to ensure none of their agents got caught during pat downs. They issued a standard rectal tool kit containing all the requisite tools. These tools fit inside a metal spheroid that spies inserted up their butt.
#7. Feathered cameras.
These pigeon cameras were in use during World War I between 1916 to 1917 to spy on enemy positions. Homing pigeons were set free to fly over the battleground while the camera recorded everything they saw for use in combat strategies.
#8. Water canteen explosives.
Between 1942 to 1945, a number of US Army intelligence officials armed themselves with special canteens containing explosives tucked hidden in the container’s lower portion.
#9. Detonating charcoal.
World War II also saw the use of incendiary charcoal. These special lumps of coal created by the US OSS contained an explosive in its hollow center. It was issued with a camouflage kit to paint the lump the exact color of local coal.
#10. It lights the dark, and also shoots.
This double-duty flashlight gun was in use in the 1930s, serving as a flashlight and a firearm in one.
#11. “Fake” money.
When is a coin not a coin? When it has a hollow inside designed to store microdots and microfilm.
#12. Broadcasting footwear.
During the 1960s to 1970s, spies “borrowed” foreign dignitaries’ shoes and modified them to house a bugged hollow heel. The Romanian Secret Service stole this particular shoe from a US diplomat and installed a hidden microphone and transmitter to listen in on conversations.
#13. This Cold War “smartwatch.”
In 1949, West German agents carried a tiny camera on their wrist disguised as a wristwatch. Since the gadget didn’t come with a viewfinder, spies often had a difficult time positioning themselves to snap the eight shots the device was capable of, while trying to look as casual as possible.
#14. For nicotine-addicted spies.
The 1960s saw the rise of these fancy cigarette cases with hidden cameras. German Stasi secret agents would feign having a smoke while discretely snapping photos with their trendy cigarette boxes.
#15. These sneaky utilitarian gloves.
Just like fictional superheroes who shoot lasers/fireballs/spiderwebs/ultramagnetic waves out of their hands, the US Office of Naval Intelligence developed these special gloves. Used between 1942 to 1945, they contained a miniature hidden gun triggered by shoving the top plunger into the target’s body.
#16. This deadly pipe.
Back when it was quite usual to see people smoking pipes, the British Special forces came out with this special firearm between 1930 to 1945.
#17. A lockpicker’s delight.
This ordinary looking pen housed all the tools US intelligence considered necessary to pick a standard door lock during the 1970s.
#18. Chameleon boots.
British M19 pilots were especially vulnerable after having parachuted or were shot down in enemy territory. That’s why they were issued these ingenious boots allowing them to blend with the locals when they cut the tops off.
#19. Bio weapons hidden inside the local daily.
The KGB developed this gas assassination weapon hidden inside a rolled up newspaper. This one was used by Soviet agent, Bogdan Stashinsky to permanently “retire” two Ukrainian dissidents.
#20. The ultimate locksmith’s tool.
Before the digital age, back when just about everything could be opened with keys, CIA operatives in the 1960s carried a standard issue key casting kit to duplicate keys using putty to cast a mold.
#21. Exploding pencils, circa 1943 to 1945
How lethal can pencils get? A whole lot, apparently. These pencil pack developed by the US Office of Strategic Services during World War II had a time-delay incendiary explosive. It allowed the operative enough time to escape before the device detonated.
World’s Largest Freshwater Pearl Formerly Owned by Catherine the Great Sold At $374,000
The Sleeping Lion was one of the famed empress’ prized jewels.
A freshwater pearl once owned by Catherine the Great was sold for an astounding $374,000 on May 31, 2018. The auction was done by the Amsterdam Pearl Society and was held at The Hague.
Considered as the world's largest pearl, the "Sleeping Lion" (noting its unusual shape) weighs 5.4 ounces and is 2.75 inches in length. According to the Venduehuis auction house catalogue, it was sold below its estimated value, which was was between $397,000 and $630,000....
Why Is Iceland Green and Why Is Greenland Icy?
This is why I have trust issues…
Countries have interesting origin stories about how they get their names. Generally speaking, country names are either based on the land’s features, a tribe, a person, or even a directional description.
Bahrain, for example, literally means “Two Seas” while United States of America was named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. On the other hand, Norway, as its name implies, means “The Way North” or “The Northern Way” while Mauritania is based on the Mauris, the country’s largest ethnic group....
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Technically, it was a thankless job.
If you think you are unfortunate for having to hold on to a job that you think sucks, bear in mind that at one point in history, there were people who went the extent of risking their salvation just for money. For the so-called Sin Eaters then, it did not matter if they had to suffer eternal damnation in hell for as long they could eat and have some coins in their pockets.
While a Sin Eater is already a thing of the past, there is no questioning that it held the notion as being the worst job in England, Scotland, and Wales where it was practiced from the Middle Ages until the early 1900s. You see, a Sin Eater had to eat a piece of bread placed on the chest of a dying person, otherwise known as a sin-soaked bread, while the family of the would-be departing person watched, prayed, and drank a flagon of ale.
By eating the sin-soaked bread, it was believed then that a Sin Eater could absolve the dying person from his sins, and his chances of entering heaven would improve....