10 Unfortunate Fates of English Kings

Historically, the early English kings have a reputation for living high on the hog, and pleasing themselves at the expense of the people they ruled. It was not always so. In the middle ages many of them missed out on a trouble free reign culminating in a State Funeral. We know very little about the first several hundred years of the Anglo-Saxon era. The earliest written records were no more than inventive lists of rulers who established separate kingdoms. The Saxons settled in the west, the Anglos in the east and north, and the Jutes on the Isle of Wight and the opposite mainland. They probably thought of themselves as separate peoples, but they shared a common language and similar customs.

10
A King’s Power

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One of those customs was fighting everyone in sight. A king’s power depended on his ability to win battles and so gain land and treasure to give his supporters. He was obliged to keep fighting. If he didn’t he would find himself out of a job or deprived of his life; probably both. The power of any kingdom was only as solid as the strength of its king in battle.

To be able to cut down several enemies in quick succession, when in a tight spot, and to be a more efficient killer than one’s subordinates, was essential for a king living in a society which regarded warfare as the natural way of life. What was gained by the sword needed to be defended by the sword; of the eight kings who ruled Northumbria between 600 and 700, six died in battle.

One successful monarch was Aethelbald of Mercia, a kingdom that was an amalgamation of 30 different tribes. In a style that was typical of the era, he usurped the throne from his father Aethelwulf while the old man was visiting Rome. By 731 he controlled all England south of the Humber, and was styled ‘King not only of the Mercian’s but also of all the provinces which are called South English’. However, his supremacy was neither easily won nor stable and he had many enemies. St Boniface, Archbishop of Canterbury, for example, constantly reproached him for not taking a wife and instead fornicating with nuns.

Aethelbald did marry eventually. On his way back from Rome his father had married Judith, the thirteen-year-old daughter of the Frankish king Charles the Bald, and when his father died Aethelbald took her for his own wife. Even that didn’t satisfy the clergy, who castigated him for marrying his stepmother (she was by then an ancient 15 year-old). The marriage was annulled and the girl returned to France, where her own father, because her marriage had been deemed incestuous, sent her to a nunnery. In a rare breach of Anglo-Saxon fidelity (but not a unique one) Aethelbald was murdered by his bodyguard at Seckingham near Tamworth.

9
The Bayeux Tapestry

Hastings

The image of the last Anglo-Saxon King on the hill above Senlac, staggering back with an arrow in his eye, has come to epitomize the drama at the battle of Hastings. It is graphically illustrated on the Bayeux Tapestry – a piece of embroidery 70 meters long created by the women of Canterbury in the early 1070s (so it should really be called the Canterbury Tapestry), and then taken to France.

But this tapestry is not the reliable witness that it seems. The stitching we see today is not necessarily the original, and indeed some of it might be described as a stitch-up. In the years of its existence, two major tracings and a photographic record of the tapestry have been made, so we have three sets of images, dating from 1729, 1819 and 1872 – and there are some dramatic variations. Swords and stirrups appear and disappear, a griffin becomes an angel, and most significantly the depiction of Harold’s slaying are altered.

In 1729 the King has his arm raised and appears about to hurl a spear. In 1819 the shaft of the spear has sprouted a flight of feathers, to become an arrow pointed towards his forehead. Fifty-three years later the angle of the arrow has shifted downwards to point directly at his right eye, so it would seem that occasional restoration work coincided with trying to improve the story.

The truth may be less complicated. According to Guy, Bishop of Amiens, the crucial moment came when the Normans finally broke the Saxon shield-wall. With Harold and a few of his faithful retainers still holding out, William handpicked a hit squad to go and hack him down. Four knights overpowered Harold, one striking him in the breast, a second cutting off his head, while another disemboweled him. We are then told that the fourth knight cut off one of the Saxon kings legs, but the standard battlefield mutilation was full castration, so the bishop’s account was probably being polite.

8
The Bastard

William The Conqueror-1

During his lifetime William I was not known as the ‘Conqueror’, his nickname was ‘William the Bastard’, owing to the scandal of his birth when his father had an affair with a lowly tanner’s daughter. But since he was a ruler who thought nothing of having a man’s tongue ripped out and nailed to his front door, people didn’t call him that to his face.

There was oppression in England after the conquest, but this was a consequence of the new king’s need for security as much as anything. William subdued the south and east easily, but the year after Hastings his former ally, Count Eustace of Boulogne (brother-in-law to Edward the Confessor), tried an invasion of his own and was only stopped by the formidable nature of Dover castle.

Harold Godwinson’s sons tried a landing in 1068, and there were more attempts the following year. The most dangerous of these saw a Viking army joining up with the northern earls. They seized York and declared independence, while in answer William took his own army north and began killing everyone who lived there.

The ferocious ‘Harrying of the North’ in 1069 was designed to punish and deter, and it devastated the north of England in a broad swathe from York to Durham. Villages and crops were burnt and livestock slaughtered. Those who escaped a quick death at the hands of the royal army faced a slow one by starvation. During the winter of that year many people turned to cannibalism. The death toll has been estimated at 150,000, and the destruction left much of the area depopulated for generations.

From 1066 to 1204 most of the great Norman barons, including King William I, had estates on both sides of the Channel, and they frequently had to return to Normandy to put down rebellions. Whilst burning out the inhabitants of Mantes in 1087, the Conquerors horse shied at the flames and the pommel of his saddle inflicted a fatal rupture to an already sick man of sixty-one years.

The King had a very corpulent figure when he died, and his corpse swelled even larger during its transit to the abbey of St Stephen in Caen for burial. It became so bloated that it wouldn’t fit the coffin prepared for it, and heavy-handed attempts to force the issue resulted in bursting his belly. It follows that William the Conquerors funeral was less than a sweet-smelling affair.

7
Death in the Forest

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Robert, the Conqueror’s eldest son, was given the dukedom of Normandy. William Rufus, the second son became king of England. He was a dashing warrior, but he was cruel, he was a liar and he was greedy (he was also homosexual, which was a definite negative with the Church in those days).

Rufus treated the priesthood with contempt and seemed to glory in wickedness. The filling of a Bishopric was a lengthy business, and whilst it was vacant a trustee collected the revenues on behalf of the next bishop. Rufus liked this system. The revenues were directed straight into his own treasury, and at the time of his death Rufus was enjoying the incomes from twelve abbeys that he deliberately kept without an Abbot.

In an incident that will always remain a mystery, he died in 1100, killed by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest (Strangely, his favourite nephew was killed by an arrow in the same place three months previously). Evidently he was in the sole company of one William Tyrrell. Tyrrell wasn’t sure that his claim that he had nothing to do with the kings death would be believed, and he fled abroad, but even when feeling safe he denied anything to do with murder.

So was it a hunting accident or an assassination? No one really knows. People cared so little they never bothered to inquire too deeply as to what had happened. Disposal was left to a humble charcoal burner who, on the payment of a couple of coins, dumped the king’s body in his cart and took it to Winchester Cathedral. There, because Rufus had been king, he was buried under the floor, but there was no great ceremony. A year later the tower of the cathedral collapsed, destroying his tomb.

6
The First Henry

460Px-King Henry I

Henry, the Conquers youngest son, leapt onto the throne and he quickly went to war with his brother Robert and added Normandy to his cap. Poor Robert spent the next twenty-eight years shut up in Cardiff Castle as a captive. But we know from surviving accounts that considerable amounts of money was spent on his food and clothes, so he can’t have been treated too harshly, and he lived to the ripe old age of eighty.

Henry I was quite an effective king, and all over England there was peace and law. He had little interest in living large and lavish, and concentrated on advancing the nations administration. One of the ways he raised money was by selling charters to towns. Charters were a special privilege that allowed town walls to be built, and for those living inside them to elect their own local councils.

Also during his reign the Court of the Exchequer was formed to handle financial matters, taking its name from the checked cloth on which the accounts were calculated. He was the last king for four hundred years to leave no debts behind him when he died. He passed away in 1135, apparently from eating too many lampreys (a small parasitic eel-like fish that latches onto trout and salmon, considered a delicacy of cuisine at the time), which is a warning to everyone to go easy on the lampreys.

5
The Angevin Man

King Henry Ii England

Henry II was one of the greatest kings to sit on the English throne. He was an energetic, intelligent and determined operator who ruled for thirty-five years over a huge swathe of territory. He brought peace and order to a war-torn England, defeated rebels on all fronts, and set down the principles of English law. His father had developed a habit of wearing a sprig of bright yellow broom in his hat, from which came his nickname of ‘Plantagenet’, and Henry made the name his own.

Including his fathers estates, his kingdom not only encompassed England and Normandy, but Brittany and the duchies of Anjou, Touraine and Maine, in north eastern France, too. Henry’s marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine added to this her lands in south-western France, and their domain then stretched from the Scottish borders to the Pyrenees; a realm bigger in area than that ruled by the French king. This was embarrassing for the French, because William the Conqueror had been no more than a French duke, so the King of England was still technically a vassal of the French monarchy.

Later, when an aging man, Henry began to show favouritism to his youngest son John (nicknamed John Lackland because he had been promised no great inheritance).The elder sibling, Richard (later called the Lionheart), became fearful for his promised kingdom and allied with his fathers greatest rival, King Phillip of France, and invaded Anjou, the Plantagenet heartland. They overran Maine and Tours, and Henry made such a mess of clearing the ground before the citadel at Le Mans, he accidentally burnt down the town.

Defeated, weak, ill and deserted by almost everyone, Henry sent John off to safety in Normandy while he galloped off through the forest towards a stronghold at Chinon. Richard followed his father, blowing a hunting horn as if he were chasing an animal. Henry became too weak to resist, and at Chinon he surrendered to his son. As an agreed part of the terms he was shown a list of those nobles who favoured rebellion against him, and on the top of the list was John, the younger son whose interests he’d been trying to protect.

He gave up the fight against his sickness, saying: ‘Let things go as they will, I shall struggle no longer.’ A few hours later he was dead. Once he had been the greatest king in the west, now he was nothing. His servants at once ran off, after first stealing everything they could, including the clothes off his body. A handful of faithful knights arranged for his burial at a convent. They had to dress him in makeshift finery; a crown of gold lace from a woman’s dress, and a lead scepter taken from a statue.

4
Edward II

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Edward the Second is famous for being cuckolded by Mel Gibson and losing the Battle of Bannockburn. He was certainly a feckless playboy who shared a close relationship with one Piers Gaveston (Piers wasn’t thrown out of a window, he was only thrown out of the country). When Edward became king he recalled Gaveston and made him Earl of Cornwall. Being lower-class, foreign and gay, the kings boyfriend was always going to have to work on his popularity at court. But he didn’t bother. Instead, the chirpy Gaveston began a scornful teasing campaign at his success towards all the other noblemen, all of whom had short tempers and long memories.

A king was expected to marry, so the year after his father’s death Edward took as his wife Isabella, the beautiful 13-year-old daughter of the French king. The central issue of the ‘Braveheart’ movie, William Wallace’s sexual liaison with Queen Isabella is improbable. She would have been about 10-years-old and unmarried at the time of his execution.

Edward took the opportunity to give large numbers of wedding presents to Piers Gaveston, who proceeded to maliciously flaunt them in front of their donors. This was finally too much for the barons at the royal court. They later sought out the insolent young man at Scarborough Castle, dragged him off to a hillside and cut off his head.

Years passed. The times were desperate, drenched with famine and war. All looked to the king, for it was a kings duty to lead a nation in times of strife. Unfortunately Edward II had little inclination or expertise for it, and simply consoled himself in the company of a new friend named Hugh le Despenser. A despairing population increasingly looked to Edward’s estranged wife, Queen Isabella, to develop a movement against her listless husband.

Whilst on a trip to France with her twelve year old son (Edward III), she fell in love with a disenfranchised marcher lord named Roger Mortimer, and together they hatched a plot to place the younger Edward on the throne, with themselves serving as co-regents. In 1326 the Queen, who was niece to the Count of Hainault, was able to return with her paramour and a band of German mercenaries. The country rose in their support and Edward II fled from London.

After the popular accession of his young son, there was no place for a deposed monarch like Edward II and he was eventually confined in Berkeley castle. The chances are he would have given no more trouble, but one day, probably at the instigation of Mortimer, his gaolers murdered him. In the village of Berkeley tales were told of hideous screams emanating from the castle, but it was many years before the truth was known. Edward had been killed ‘with a hoot brooche (hot meat-roasting spit) putte thro the secret place posterialle’.

3
Richard II

King Richard Ii From Npg (2)

This king started out with great promise. At the age of fourteen he fearlessly rode out to meet thousands of disenchanted peasants who were in rebellion, and concluded the day by leading them out of London and sending them home. Facing down the rebels in 1381 was Richard’s one and only hour of glory. In adulthood he proved to be a bad tempered, dishonest and vain sovereign, and the first king to demand he be addressed as ‘your majesty’.

He married Anne of Bohemia, a sister to King Wenceslas the Good, whom he adored, but after her death, during a wave of plague in 1394, he became increasingly irrational. Two years later he wed the French King’s daughter, Isabella, but it wasn’t a hit, possibly because she was only six.

Richard was afraid of John of Gaunt, the last survivor of the days of the Black Prince. The immensely wealthy and influential John was the effective centre of power, and the key figure in the royal family tree in those days. His lineage would later be quoted by the Tudors in the Wars’ of the Roses, to back up their legitimate claim to the throne.

When the old man died in 1399, Richard was bold enough to confiscate his vast estates, which had been promised to John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke. In doing this he made one enemy too many. Henry was a tough character with many friends, and none of them felt safe if the great Duchy of Lancaster could be seized at the royal whim.

Since the English were a warlike race, Richard planned to go Ireland, where English settlers had been driven back to a small pale around Dublin. This could have been done, but in Ireland there was no worthwhile plunder for a rampaging army. When Richard made a visit there to assess things Henry Bolingbroke turned up with a force of mercenaries, and by the time the King reached Flint Castle in Wales on his return journey, he found himself opposed by 60,000 men.

Lacking enough loyal nobles to fight himself out of trouble, Richard was compelled to surrender to his cousin. Henry had started out with the intention of just reclaiming his inheritance, but the unpopularity of the King among the nobles of England was such that his arrival developed into a full blown takeover.

A short time later Richard abjectly handed over his crown and was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle. He probably knew he hadn’t long to live. The official version is that he went on hunger strike, and Henry displayed the dead corpse to prove he hadn’t been physically harmed. However, it’s likely he was purposely starved to death or poisoned. With the connivance of Parliament, now as strong as it had ever been, Henry Bolingbroke was then installed as King Henry IV. He addressed his Parliament in English, the first King to ever do so.

2
Uneasy Kingship

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Henry Bolingbroke, now Henry IV, had been talked into seizing the crown, and he didn’t particularly enjoy being King. He came to learn that anyone who seizes the crown is likely to face attempts by others to seize it from him. He was constantly troubled by rebellions, and was so nervous of assassination he sometimes slept in his armor when on campaign.

When he became older he began to suffer from poor health, and his son (later, Henry V) took more and more responsibility on himself, as his father slowly rotted with leprosy, or possibly syphilis. Either way, the poor man was pretty much falling to bits.

During his illness he had been comforted by the prophecy that he would die in Jerusalem, and he swore that when he felt well enough he would go the Holy Land. One day, in 1413, he passed out while praying in Westminster Abbey, and his courtiers carried him to the apartments of the Abbot. “Where am I?” he asked when he briefly revived. “In the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster,” came the reply.

1
King Oliver

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Oliver Cromwell – What! Hold on, Cromwell was not a king.

Strictly speaking that’s true, but his friends did suggest that, since he commanded 40,000 war hardened veterans, he could easily take the crown and give birth to a new dynasty. He refused, of course, and took the title Lord Protector, which was okay because it was just like having a king, anyway. Since the Puritan Parliament failed to find a way of governing the country sensibly, he dismissed it and ruled as an autocrat, just as the Stuart kings had done.

After much dour pondering, in 1547 Parliament had first ensured the Catholic sounding ‘mass’ was taken out of Christmas and changed the name to Christ-tide. It then quickly prohibited its observance altogether. It also abolished feasts at Easter and Whitsun, and ordered a monthly fast. When Parliament ordered a fast day, soldiers were authorized to enter private houses and confiscate any meat found in the kitchens.

Parliament would not allow dancing, not even around a Maypole on a village green, and they closed all the theaters in London. They were very strict about the observance of Sunday, too, and forbade the playing of sports and games on that day. Even sex was deemed sinful if it was enjoyed. Cromwell didn’t instigate any of these changes, but the rules were in force when he gained power and they remained unchanged until the restoration of the monarchy.

Oliver Cromwell died of malaria in 1658, a disease he probably contracted during his Irish campaign. His body was preserved, and after the Restoration it was ripped from its tomb and hung on public display from the gallows at Tyburn (present day Marble Arch). Later it was dismembered and the body thrown into a pit dug for the disposal of common criminals. The head was stuck on a stake, and for thirty years it decorated the front of Westminster Hall. Afterwards, it was passed around the town to be used as a conversation piece at high-society parties.

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10 People Who Give Atheism a Bad Name

Atheism has been around for thousands of years, and responsible for many philosophical and scientific developments. Like any movement, it has had its fair share of evil characters. As atheism has no moral precepts, outside of natural morality and ethics, it is hard to say how their atheism influenced their behavior or the particular political and similar movements they chose to follow. It seems that no matter what philosophy or religion people profess, people will always do wrong, whether or not in the name of their faith. This list is a follow-on from the Top 10 People Who Give Christianity A Bad Name.

10
Alfred Kinsey

Kinsey A 01

Alfred Kinsey was an infamous American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, who made groundbreaking research on human sexuality. Undoubtedly, he helped to progress social values – but, nevertheless, he took sadistic pleasure out of his research, and did some very weird stuff, including exploiting children for sex. Moreover, much of his research was fraud.

9
Napoleon Bonaparte

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Many people agree that Napoleon Bonaparte, heavily involved in the anti-clerical French Revolution, was atheist – he claimed that “all religions have been made by men”. He was one of the best ever military commanders, and conquered much of Europe. He staged a coup and declared himself Emperor. While he ended anarchy in post-Revolution France, many considered him a tyrant and usurper. He ignored treaties and conventions, seeking undisputed rule throughout Europe. He plundered conquered territories. His 17 years of rule resulted in the bankruptcy of France, loss of many of her territories, six million dead Europeans and economic setback in just one generation.

8
Than Shwe

Gen-Than-Shwe-Myanmar

Than Shwe is the 77 year old dictator of Myanmar/Burma, the head of the ruling military junta. He has overseen the formation of one of the most closed societies in the world. There is no notion of free press, and journalists who opposed his regime are detained. Aung Suu Kyi, the leader of the main opposition party, is kept in house detention by him. Civil servants are forbidden from resigning. Burma has the highest rate of child soldiers in the world, and uses forced labor on construction projects. As far as dictators go, Than Shwe keeps a relatively low, and even sullen, profile. Nevertheless, he reportedly leads an extravagant lifestyle, while his people continue to suffer a life of extreme poverty and natural disasters. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, he refused entry into the country for many foreign aid organizations.

7
Kim Jong Il

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Kim Jong-Il is the de facto leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and responsible for the deaths of four million of his fellow Koreans. He is also at the heart of a bizarre personality cult; apocryphal stories such as how “at the time of his birth there were flashes of lightening and thunder, the iceberg in the pond on Mt. Paektu emitted a mysterious sound as it broke, and bright double rainbows rose up” are abundant. Those caught stealing food in the famine-struck nation, or attempting to cross the borders, are subject to public execution. Kim is continuing his lavish lifestyle and military obsession in spite of the crumbling economy. In North Korea he and his father are deified, considered saviors of the whole universe. 250,000 dissidents are confined to “re-education camps”. He has waged a war on South Korea that involved assassinating South Korean leaders and blowing up South Korean planes. He presents a great threat to the world in terms of nuclear warfare, having persuaded the Soviet Union to award him a nuclear reactor in 1984.

6
Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer, an infamous serial killer and atheist sentenced to 900 years in prison, said “if a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?”. He brutally killed seventeen men and boys, dismembering them, storing their parts and indulging in cannibalism and necrophilia. In 1991, he was caught by the police after one of his would-be victims escaped. Despite pleading not guilty on the basis on insanity, the court found him sane and fully accountable. He later expressed remorse.

5
Jim Jones

Cm Cults-Jones Ho

Jim Jones drew people into atheism through the People’s Temple, largely based in California. He said that he “took the church and used the church to bring people to atheism”. In 1978, 909 people at the restricted communist “sanctuary” he presided over in Jonestown, Guyana, committed “revolutionary suicide” at his command. This occurred after the arrival of an American delegation, which he claimed was conspiring against the People’s Temple. Men, women and children took a vial of cyanide and died within five minutes. Only a few people escaped. This event was the largest single loss of American civilian life, in a non-natural disaster, up until 9/11. This entry has the unique status of being on both the atheism and Christianity list. The reason is that the majority of people considered Jones to be the leader of a type of Christian cult, but, as the quote above illustrates, it was really a ruse to attract people who would otherwise have steered well clear of him.

4
Benito Mussolini

Mpmus

Mussolini is notorious for his war crimes as a Fascist dictator during World War II. As a young man he openly declared his atheism, and in his early career as a politician was openly anti-clerical. He was the Italian leader of the National Fascist Party, became Prime Minister in 1922 and was eventually a dictator who severely restricted freedom of speech. Mussolini supported Hitler’s conquest of Austria. In 1935, he invaded Ethiopia, using poison gas, bombing Red Cross hospitals and concentration camps to kill civilians and destroy “inferior” cultures. He ordered the execution of prisoners without trial and the shooting of “witch-doctors”. Italian troops used public executions, hostage taking and burning of villages to crush the Slavic population of Yugoslavia. These acts are now widely considered an attempt at genocide. However, later he tried to associate Fascism with Catholicism in order to garner dwindling support (however his widow made it clear that he was still staunchly atheist). Mussolini was also deeply anti-Semitic.

3
Mao Zedong

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Mao Zedong led the Communist Party of China to victory in the Chinese Civil War, helping to establish the People’s Republic of China. He had ambitions for a strong China, but his programs largely failed altogether. He has been blamed for the death of between 20 and 67 million of his “comrades”. Under his insane rule there was a culture akin to anarchy, that killed the economy and industrial production. His “Great Leap Forward” triggered a catastrophic and massive famine. However, he is most notorious for the precepts of the “Cultural Revolution”, which led to perhaps the greatest era of cultural vandalism the world has ever known. Antiques, historical sites, artifacts, ancient documents, feng shui traditions, Chinese traditional dresses and monasteries were destroyed for being associated with the “old ways of thinking”. Many copies of the Qu’ran were burnt. Red Guard groups around the country destroyed political and educational stability, criticizing anyone who considered himself superior, destroying reputations and lives. Mao, privately, led a life of great deviancy and excess. He also exacted revenge on all those, mainly intellectuals and professionals, who had disgraced Mao in his earlier career. He also targeted anyone with links to the Chinese Nationalist Party as well as anyone who posed a threat to him. Five million were executed in death camps. 36 million were persecuted and tortured. There were even instances of cannibalism.

2
Pol Pot

Pol-Pot

Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge and Prime Minister of Cambodia from 1976 to 1979, having been de facto leader since mid-1975. During his time in power Pol Pot imposed an extreme version of agrarian communism, where all city dwellers were relocated to the countryside to work in collective farms and forced labour projects. The combined effect of slave labour, malnutrition, poor medical care and executions is estimated to have killed around 2 million Cambodians (approximately one third of the population). His regime achieved special notoriety by singling out all intellectuals, and other “bourgeois enemies”, for murder. The Khmer Rouge committed mass executions in sites known as the Killing Fields, and the executed were buried in mass graves. In order to save ammunition, executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks. His attempts to “cleanse” the country resulted in the deaths of 1.7 to 2.5 million people. He also had an intense dislike of anyone with the semblance of being intelligent, such as those who wore glasses or who spoke another language.

1
Joseph Stalin

Stalin-4

Stalin was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee, from 1922 until his death in 1953. Under Stalin’s leadership, the Ukraine suffered a famine (Holodomor) so great it is considered by many to be an act of genocide on the part of Stalin’s government. Estimates of the number of deaths range from 2.5 million to 10 million. The famine was caused by direct political and administrative decisions. In addition to the famine, Stalin ordered purges within the Soviet Union of any person deemed to be an enemy of the state (i.e. capitalists, theists). In total, estimates of the total number murdered under Stalin’s reign, range from 10 million to 60 million. His government promoted atheism with mass propaganda in school, and held a terror campaign against the religious. He crushed the Russian Orthodox Church, leveling thousands of churches and shooting more than 100,000 priests, monks and nuns between 1937 and 1938.

N.B. Adolf Hitler is left off this list because it is widely acknowledged that, while he abhorred organized religion, there is much evidence that he engaged in “nazi mysticism” or occultism.

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Top 10 Movie Recasts You Don’t Know

What if your favorite character had been portrayed by a completely different actor than the one you’re familiar with? Would you still feel the same way about the movie? Most movie productions go through a long casting process before they’re able to find the right person for the lead. In some cases, recasts take place just before, or sometimes during filming. Whether because of differences of opinion with the director, poor acting skills, or prior obligations, some actors just don’t work out. These are ten of the most surprising could-have-been stars of popular movies that you might not know about.

10
Lance Henriksen as The Terminator

Lance Henriksen

When James Cameron first wrote the script, he wanted a regular looking guy who didn’t stand out in a crowd. Henriksen, who was a long time friend of Cameron’s, was his first choice. When Schwarzenegger came in to read for the role of Kyle Reese, it was decided that he would be better suited in the lead role. Henriksen would eventually be cast as Detective Vukovich, a relatively small role. Afterwards he would also star in Cameron’s Aliens in the role of Bishop. O.J. Simpson had also been considered as the Terminator but Cameron felt he was “too nice” to play a killing machine.

9
Dougray Scott as Wolverine
X-Men

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Little known Scottish actor, Dougray Scott, had originally been cast in the role of Wolverine. Unfortunately for Scott, the filming of Mission Impossible 2 had been delayed for several weeks and caused him to miss out on the role of a life time. Director Bryan Singer had to make a last minute recast and chose, then unknown, Hugh Jackman; who has since reprised the role 3 more times with plans for yet another sequel. Jackman has gone on to have a highly successful career. Dougray Scott, on the other hand, went on to play some guy on Desperate Housewives.

8
Sylvester Stallone as Axel Foley
Beverly Hills Cop

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Jerry Bruckheimer originally wanted Mickey Rourke in the lead role, but when he pulled out, it was offered to Stallone. Stallone personally rewrote the script. He removed all the elements of humor and had plans on turning the film into an action packed blockbuster. Due to budgetary constraints, Stallone and the producers went their separate ways. Stallone took his ideas from his rewrite and made the film Cobra. After Eddie Murphy was cast, script rewrites were made to repair the damage done by Stallone. In Beverly Hills Cop 2, there is a brief scene in which Axel Foley is looking at a poster from Cobra while talking on the phone.

7
Leonardo DiCaprio as Patrick Bateman
American Psycho

Leonardo-Dicaprio

From the start, director Mary Harron had wanted Christian Bale to star, but when the production company offered the role to DiCaprio, she backed out. Oliver Stone was hired on to direct, with DiCaprio starring as Patrick Bateman. However, before filming started, several women’s rights activists, including Gloria Steinem, protested the film being made due to what they felt was misogynistic content, and how it would affect DiCaprio’s young female fanbase. DiCaprio left the project due to several issues with the script, Stone followed shortly after. Mary Harron and Bale returned. Coincidentally, Gloria Steinem married Christian Bale’s father, John, shortly afterwards.

6
Jean-Claude Van Damme as Predator

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Producers cast van Damme as the title role in the hopes that his martial arts abilities would make the predator seem agile, despite the costume; which, at the time, was a completely different design from the one seen in the movie. Van Damme found the suit uncomfortable and clumsy, about which he was quite vocal on set. He quit after two days of filming, allegedly because he was upset about playing an “uncredited special effect”. A new, more agile costume design and 7’2″ actor Kevin Peter Hall made for a much more imposing villain.

5
Stuart Townsend as Aragorn
the Lord of the Rings trilogy

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Irish actor Stuart Townsend spent two months rehearsing and training for the role of Aragorn, only to be fired the day before filming began. At the last minute, Peter Jackson decided that he needed someone older than Townsend, who was only 29 at the time. There were also rumors that the two did not get along well on set. Viggo Mortensen, who was 14 years older than Townsend, accepted the role after being convinced by his son, who was a fan of the novels. Townsend never received compensation for his time on set, yet he was apparently happy to be moving on.

4
Chris Farley as Shrek

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Chris Farley was originally signed on to voice the ogre, Shrek, and had recorded the majority of the dialogue for it. Tragically, Farley died from a heart attack, induced by a drug overdose, before he could finish. The script that Farley read from was vastly different from the version completed with Mike Myers. Originally, Shrek was written as a kind hearted, teenaged ogre who wanted to become a knight. After Farley’s death, Dreamwork’s decided to start fresh. As a tribute, Shrek is seen using finger quotes throughout the movie in reference to one of Farley’s famous SNL characters.

3
Harvey Keitel as Willard
Apocalypse Now

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Francis Ford Coppola’s epic film was plagued with problems from the start: Sets were destroyed by typhoons, Marlon Brando was uncooperative and overweight, and he was forced to settle on Harvey Keitel in the lead. Steve McQueen, Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and Al Pacino had all turned down the role. After a few days of shooting, Coppola reviewed some of his footage and decided that Keitel was not well suited for the role. Martin Sheen, who had impressed Coppola when he had read for the part of Michael Corleone in the Godfather, stepped in as Keitel’s replacement. A few months into shooting Sheen had a heart attack, delaying the film, yet again. What was to be a 5 month shoot ended up taking over a year to complete.

2
Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones

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Little known actor Tom Selleck auditioned for Indiana Jones as well as Magnum P.I. in the same year, and was cast in both roles. Unfortunately for Selleck, he had signed the contract for Magnum P.I. first and CBS wouldn’t let him out of it. Selleck had no choice but to turn down what could have been the biggest role of his career. Spielberg convinced Lucas to give Harrison Ford the part. Ford went on to become one of the highest paid actors in Hollywood, while Selleck is now starring in a series of TV movies. As it turned out, shooting for Magnum P.I. was delayed until after Raiders had commenced, which would have given Selleck time to do both.

1
Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly
Back to the Future

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Robert Zemeckis’s first choice for the part of Marty McFly, Michael J. Fox, was unavailable due to his contract with Family Ties. Zemeckis then settled on Eric Stoltz and began filming. According to some rumours, the entire film was shot before the casting change was made. Stoltz’s portrayal of McFly came off as “humorless and dramatic”, which wasn’t what producers had in mind. Zemeckis decided the film wasn’t going to turn out the way he had intended and, despite costing an extra three million dollars, he decided to sack Stoltz and start from scratch. Fortunately for Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox had since become available, and the Marty McFly we know and love was born.

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Top 10 Oddest Villains from Scooby Doo

We all remember Scooby Doo: the cartoonish jokes, the predictable plotlines, the laughable characters. But what the majority of people remember the most are the strange ‘monsters’ that seem to plague the Mystery, Inc. gang. Here I have compiled, in no particular order, some of the oddest villains from Scooby Doo. Please note that I am not including any ‘real monsters’ like the ones from the newer movies. Up front I must apologize for the quality of some images – unfortunately there isn’t a great archive of Scooby monsters around.

10
The Tar Monster

First appeared in The Tar Monster, 1978

I know that the Tar Monster appeared several times, but what the heck! He’s a monster made out of tar! The villain behind him in the original series was Mr. Stoner, who was trying to scare away the archaeologists from the Sanctum of Byzantium so that he could steal the temple’s ancient treasure.

9
The Pterodactyl Ghost

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First appeared in Hang in There Scooby Doo, 1977

This is another one of those monsters that makes you think, ‘wow, those Hanna-Barbera guys really ran out of ideas’. This guy was actually Jonathan Jacobo, who was terrorizing a local hang-gliding contest so that he could win with no competition. This is another one of the monsters that appeared in Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed.

8
The Ghost Animals of Africa

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First appeared in Safari, So Goodi!, 2002

This is a fairly strange scheme, so I thought I’d include it. The Hunsecker couple were trying to kidnap various African animals to sell as exotic pets back home. They did this by painting the wildlife in fluorescent paint, and then emitting a supersonic pitch from their boat. This made the animals go crazy, so everyone thought they were demons. However, they underestimated Shaggy’s love for Scooby when they kidnapped him, too!

7
The Wax Phantom

Wax

First appeared in Don’t Fool with a Phantom, 1970

I find this one to be fairly cool just because it looks so awesome. The Wax Phantom was the owner of a radio station who wanted to get away with embezzling a lot of money from his station by blaming it all on the crazy butler. However, the Gang manages to catch up to him and captures him with a wax shower. I find that interesting because they also got Scooby and Shaggy in the wax shower, which would have killed them instantly.

6
“It”

First appeared in Spooky Space Kook, 1969

Here’s another one that I picked just for looks. “It” was the creation of a farmer who wanted the military to move off his land. The looks and artsy flair that they added to “It” and his spaceship make this villain way cool. It was also interesting as the show started to probe into a dangerous area for TV of that time: the military being not-so-nice.

5
Ghost Clown

First appeared in Bedlam in the Big Top, 1969

Here’s one that I picked just because it was so creepy. I, personally, am very afraid of both clowns and hypnotists, so a hypnotist clown ghost is incredibly frightening. The culprit in this episode was the recently fired circus hypnotist, who creeps me out even when he’s out of costume.

4
The Ghost of Zen-Tuo

Zentuo

First appeared in Mystery Mask Mix-up, 1970

I thought I’d put this one up here just because it wowed me with its incredible racism. No Chinese voice-actors were used for this episode, so the American actors had to improvise with garish fake accents. Throughout the episode racial slurs are made, and the villains act very, very stupid. So that’s bad, and there are also a lot of animating goofs in this episode.

3
The Mystery Machine

First appeared in It’s Mean, It’s Green, It’s the Mystery Machine, 2002

This one was odd in a few ways. For one, the monster was actually THE MYSTERY MACHINE. For another, we get to hear a lot about the back-story of the Mystery Machine and Freddy. The villain here is a crazed soccer-mom bent on getting her kid’s band back together.

2
The Titanic Twist

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First appeared in Wrestle Maniacs, 2005

Here’s another weird one. Almost breaking the limits of violence and creepiness for Scooby-Doo, The Titanic Twist was a wrestling ghost who would go around beating people for no apparent reason. There was actually blood in this episode, and the portrayal of wrestling culture was more than a little creepy.

1
The Gold Monster

First appeared in Gold Paw, 2005

Okay, a monster made out of GOLD? How cool is that? And in addition to being made out of gold, he can melt through walls and turn other things into gold. A pretty epic monster, made even more epic when it’s actually a robot made out of cookie dough engineered by an old lady to break into Fort Knox. Tell me that’s not cool.

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10 Bizarre and Tragic Celebrity Suicides

10
Ruslana Korshunova
July 2, 1987 – June 28, 2008

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Ruslana Korshunova happened to be a Kazakh supermodel that had a Russian heritage. She had posed in Vogue and had represented designers such as Vera Wang and Nina Ricci. She was discovered in 2003 and was immediately distinguished by her long, knee-length, chestnut colored hair. Part of what made her suicide so bizarre was the method she chose. June 28, somewhere around 2:30 P.M., Ruslana “fell” out of her ninth-floor balcony, after having watched the movie “Ghost” with a former boyfriend in Manhattan. Friends have said that she was usually a cheerful person and had never shown any signs of distress or feelings of failure, although there were things written on some social networking sites that seemed to suggest otherwise. She at one time stated “Death is a celebration of life…there is hope” and “I’m so lost. Will I ever find myself?” Ruslana Korshunova’s death was ruled as a suicide because the police could find no other witnesses. However, something odd that was noticed at the time of her death was that her trademark hair was considerably shorter, and looked as if it had been cut in haste.

9
Mary Kay Bergman
June 5, 1961 – November 11, 1999

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I’m sure that everyone on this site is familiar with the popular hit “Southpark”, but maybe not so familiar with this leading lady who contributed to making this show so beloved. Mary Kay Bergman was born in Los Angeles, California, to Jewish parents and was a self-proclaimed nerd. Science fiction and fantasy were two main passions of hers, but she had always been an avid fan of Disney. She not only voiced the parts of Ms. Cartman and Wendy on “Southpark”, but she also was the voice of Timmy Turner in “The Fairly Oddparents” and was the official voice of Snow White for Disney. Bergman had been married for 9 years (a big accomplishment to some, including myself), seemed happy. Until her death, no one had known that she had suffered from chronic and acute depression for a multitude of years, despite having reached many of her goals and achieving a dream profession. Sadly though, on a Thursday night Mary Kay Bergman shot herself in the head. She was found an hour and 20 minutes later by her husband and friend, along with two suicide notes that have not yet been released.

8
Ryan Jenkins
February 8, 1977 – August 23, 2009

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I’m sure that on this one some may argue this person’s status as a celebrity because they only starred on reality television. Although it’s not nearly the same in status, I am absolutely addicted to reality television, so it’s enough for me. This awful event took place quite recently and although the reasons behind the act are difficult to hear, it was certainly bizarre and shocking enough to bear noting. Ryan Jenkins was a Canadian, born in British Columbia, who was also a self-made millionaire. He appeared on the popular VH1 show “Megan Wants a Millionaire” and went on later to star on “I Love Money”. He won the first place prize, along with $250,000 dollars. “Megan Wants a Millionaire” stopped airing after only a few episodes and “I Love Money” never aired, following the discovery on August 15, 2009 of the body of Jasmine Fiore. She was a former model who met Ryan in a Las Vegas casino, married him two days later and was brutally killed shortly thereafter. Fiore was found in a suitcase with no teeth and her fingers had been cut off. She had been strangled, and her body had been crushed, mutilated and beaten. Had she not had breast implants her identity might never have been discovered. Five days later, after an intense search had begun, Jenkins hanged himself with a belt in the room of a motel in Canada. The picture above is of Jenkins and Fiore in happier times.

7
Paula Goodspeed
1971 – 2008

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Any readers who watch “American Idol” are sure to be familiar with Paula Goodspeed. Paula was a devoted fan of “American Idol” and especially of Paula Abdul. She had auditioned to be on the show to meet her idol and in the hopes of becoming infamous. She achieved infamy, but sadly for the wrong reasons. It was said that because of her outlandish fashion and flat audition she was rejected, and that she was ridiculed for having braces. Five months later Goodspeed would write on a social networking website that auditioning may have been a mistake and that reading fans comments about her were hurtful. As a consequence of her very serious crush on Paula (Goodspeed identified as being gay), an audition gone wrong, rejection and cruel remarks from her peers, Paula Goodspeed was found outside the home of Paula Abdul having killed herself with an overdose on prescription pills.

6
Brynn Hartman
April 11, 1958 – May 22, 1998

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This was a widely publicized story that happened quite some time ago. Brynn Hartman was the third wife of famous actor and comedian Phil Hartman and the third time, in this case, was anything but a charm. Most of us will recognize Phil Hartman from the long running television show “Saturday Night Live”, where actors are known to improv a lot of their lines. Brynn was a former model who had a history of drug and alcohol abuse throughout their marriage, as well as behavioral problems. No-one knows if it was their two children, or Phil’s undying love for Brynn, but he was determined to make this marriage work. It ended up costing him his life. On the evening of May 27, Brynn and Phil had one of many arguments about her drug usage. Phil then went to sleep, and was later shot by a high and intoxicated Brynn. Brynn then confessed the murder to two people before she shooting herself in the head, taking her own life. Phil was shot twice in the head and once in the side and is believed to have died instantly. There was speculation that Andy Dick had provided Brynn Hartman with the cocaine she took that night, spawning her psychotic behavior, but he denies those claims to this day.

5
Elliott Smith
August 6, 1969 – October 21, 2003

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Elliott Smith was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and lived for a long time in Portland, Oregon. Elliott had a gift for creating music that took you to another place and his voice was totally unique. He was best known for having a large role in the creation of the soundtrack for “Good Will Hunting”, and for an Academy Award nomination for his song “Miss Misery”. Elliott had had suicidal tendencies before, having tried to jump off a cliff while drunk, only to have a tree break his fall. While in Portland he began to dabble in drugs. Following an argument with his girlfriend in late October, Smith was found in the kitchen with a knife in his chest after his girlfriend heard him scream. Elliott Smith died at 1:36 P.M.

4
Jonathan Brandis
April 13, 1976 – November 12, 2003

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Jonathan Brandis was born in Danbury, Connecticut, and began his film career at age 5. He starred in one of my favorite childhood films “The Neverending Story II: The Next Chapter”, as well as the film “Ladybugs”, with the late Rodney Dangerfield. Although those movies formed my biggest impression of him, it seems Brandis was most known for his role on “SeaQuest”, a television show created by Stephen Spielberg. It is in SeaQuest that he became a teen idol. Friends of the actor said he seemed to be depressed about his lack of a career, despite the fact that he was working on a film in his directorial debut, as well as other promising things in the works. Jonathan Brandis hanged himself on the evening of November 11th and died in the hospital the next day.

3
Andrew Koenig
August 17, 1968 – February 2010

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Andrew Koenig was best known as the character “Boner” on the sitcom hit “Growing Pains”, which was one of my favorites as a kid. He also played The Joker in a short film based on the “Batman” series, but otherwise didn’t have too much of an extensive resume. Koenig was said to mostly enjoy working behind the scenes and he was deeply involved in human rights. In February 2010 Koenig went to Canada to see the Olympics and never returned. He was later found hanged in Vancouver.

2
Dana Plato
November 7, 1963 – May 8, 1999

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Dana Plato was born in Moore, Oklahoma, and was best known for her role as Kimberley on “Diff’rent Strokes”. She was let go from the show because of an unplanned pregnancy. Not able to reach the status she wanted, she became involved in darker pastimes, and was arrested for armed robbery in 1991. She got breast implants and appeared in “Playboy” in the hopes of regaining stardom. She later moved in to films of a more erotic nature. She appeared on “The Howard Stern Show” the day before her death and claimed she had been sober for 10 years. Callers called to defend her and commend her on turning her life around, but Dana went on to overdose on pills the following day in a vehicle outside of her fiancĂ©’s mothers’ house. Sadly, Dana’s son also committed suicide last month (May, 2010).

1
Peg Entwistle
February 5, 1908 – September 16, 1932

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Peg Entwistle may be the oldest on the list but her story certainly isn’t the least interesting. Born in Port Talbot, Wales, UK, her dream, like so many others, was to become an actress. She started out on Broadway and went on to be known as a comedienne. Her last film was called “Thirteen Women” and, apparently, received very poor reviews. Upset by the comments of the critics, as well as the greatly reduced screen time featuring her, Peg walked up the hill featuring the famous Hollywood sign, climbed atop it and jumped off. Strangely enough, the following day a letter came in the mail for Entwistle offering her a role in a play about a woman who commits suicide.

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