Picture an assassin on a mission to take out a prominent person. Perhaps you imagine the person in his oversized black coat, a fedora hat covering his face, lurking in the dark corners, and pulling out his gun with a silencer. You know, just like in the movies. Although, that could be pretty realistic since there were instances where that happened, like when Charles Guiteau assassinated President Garfield with his museum-worthy pistol.

In reality, hired killers could be pretty creative in eliminating whoever they are paid to destroy. A concoction of death? A seemingly innocent stylus? How about an ax-wielding bear? This might be the wrong way to use it, but as they say, “Your imagination is your only limit.”

Take a look at three of history’s most unusual assassinations.

Concoction of Death

Alexander Litvinenko was a former Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officer whose forte was in tackling organized crimes. Soon, he became a British-naturalized Russian defector known to be Vladimir Putin’s prominent critic.

In November 2006, the former FSB agent fell ill just a few hours after having tea in the Millennium Hotel’s Pine Bar while meeting two former agents. He was admitted to Barnet General Hospital in London and then moved to London’s University College Hospital, where the doctors determined that he was poisoned. Not long, his hair began to fall out, and his organs were shutting down, but the doctors could not do anything as they couldn’t identify the cause of his suffering.

Photograph of the grave of Alexander Litvinenko, Highgate Cemetery, London, United Kingdom
Photograph the grave of Alexander Litvinenko, Highgate Cemetery, London, United Kingdom. (JohnArmagh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

His widow said that while Litvinenko was on his death bed, he said that President Putin was responsible for  “everything that happened to him.”

To figure out what was going on, they had to get the help of Britain’s top-secret nuclear research site at Aldermaston, Berkshire. It was discovered that Litvinenko was poisoned with Polonium 210, a particle used in the first atomic bombs, and is toxic and deadly. They believed the chemical was administered to him in a cup of tea.

There was not much the doctors could do, and Litvinenko died on November 23.

A government inquiry conducted at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in January 2015 concluded that Putin “probably” approved Litvinenko’s murder.

Bear With an Ax

You would probably expect a sketchy-looking man to be a hired killer, but definitely, not a bear. Unfortunately, that was a mistake committed by Jörg Jenatsch. He was a preacher-turned-politician who became a leading figure during Switzerland’s 30 Years’ War in the early 17th century. Jenatsch took part in torturing a priest to death, and he was also there when Pompeius von Planta was murdered with an ax.

Georg Jenatsch. (upload by Adrian MichaelCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Fast forward to him having been recently knighted for his services, he threw a party at the town’s carnival. Everyone was feeling festive, wearing their masks. Then, a group arrived and asked if they could join the celebration with their leader dressed in a full bear costume carrying an ax. Jenatsch probably responded with, “Come on in!” as he ushered them to join the group.

Some reports said Jenatsch was unceremoniously hacked by that bear with the ax the bear was carrying, while others said that he was shot with a hidden gun. Whichever it was, Jenatsch died, and his assassin was never identified.

Stabbed with Styluses

This is yet another bad example of using a famous phrase. This time it’s the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Gaius Gracchus, tribune of the people, presided over the Plebeian Council. (Silvestre David Marys, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 121 BC, a public meeting was held in the Forum to repeal some parts of Gaius’ legislation, particularly the one that allowed the establishment of the colony of Junonia. Gaius and Flaccus were there. At that time, they were no longer holding positions.

The mood was tense, and a massive mob of their supporters accompanied them. According to Plutarch, Quintus Antyllius, the bodyguard of Consul Lucius Opimius, pushed his way through the crowd of Gaius’ supporters and said, “Make way for honest citizens, you riffraff,” all while raising his arm in an insulting gesture. The already enraged supporters turned their attention to him and began stabbing Quintus to death with their styluses.