Colonel Muammar Gaddafi took control of the north African country of Libya via a coup in 1969, and would rule it until he was toppled by a western-backed uprising in 2011.
Gaddafis defining traits seem contradictory. Like most dictators, he was exceedingly vain and had a desperate need for validation and veneration. But on the other hand, he was private nearly to the point of being a recluse.
Gaddafi seems to have been innately afraid of his own people. In archival footage, he can be seen riding through the streets in his car, greeting his subjects. But whenever one of his fawning supporters actually managed to touch him, he responded by reflexively slapping his bodyguards for allowing someone to get through.
After his fall, the (literal) depths of his paranoia were laid bare. Gaddafi and his family lived on an enormous, heavily-guarded compound. But even those who guarded him did not know exactly where on the property he lived.
He apparently made his home in a Bedouin tent on the grounds. But underneath the surface, he had constructed miles of tunnels leading hither and yon, so that he could come and go without being seen.
His underground network included a TV station and a private hospital, and was so elaborate that it may have stretched all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Colonel (a rank he bestowed upon himself) was also notoriously corrupt, and stole untold billions from his people. In 2011, it was discovered that Gaddafi owned at least $1 billion worth of property in the UK alone.
Enough has been written about Adolf Hitlers crimes and eccentricities to fill a library. But there is one aspect of the Fuhrers life that remains surprisingly obscure, even 70 years after his death.
On top of all his other *ahem* issues, he was actually a hardcore drug addict. (continued...)
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In 1936, Hitler met the quack Nazi doctor Theodor Morell through a mutual friend. With a cocktail of vitamins and bacteria extracted from human faeces, Morell was able to cure Hitler's stomach cramps. From that point on, the doctor was never far from the dictator.
Human poop bacteria was far from the most bizarre medicine that Morell prescribed Hitler.
Morell may have been unorthodox, but he kept meticulous records. Over the course of World War II, he injected Hitler with caffeine, strychnine, animal proteins, testosterone, E. coli, morphine, adrenaline, and many other exotic chemicals.
Perhaps most alarmingly, he treated the Fuhrer with increasingly large doses of cocaine and methamphetamine. By the end of the war, Hitler could hardly get out of bed without being shot full of stimulants, and he sometimes received as many as 20 injections throughout the day.
In fact, methamphetamine was in commercial use in Germany both before and during the war. Under the brand name Pervitin, it was available to both civilians and soldiers. Despite the emerging evidence that it was a substance of abuse, Pervitin continued to be the Fuhrers little helper until his well-deserved end.
A lot of ink has been spilled explaining just how crazy former North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il really was. So let me tell you an unbelievable story about the star of Team America: World Police that you might not have heard before.
Its well known that Kim was a film buff; he had more than 15,000 titles in his personal collection. His job (before he took over the dictatorship from his father) was to supervise North Koreas propaganda efforts. Indeed, he even wrote a book about filmmaking called On the Art of the Cinema.
But by the early 1970s, Kim had come to the conclusion that his movies were bad. He was a prodigious consumer of films from all over the world, and he could plainly see that North Korean entertainment was low-grade garbage by comparison.
Instead of blaming himself (which isnt a very dictatorial thing to do) he blamed the talent he had to work with. And he decided to recruit some new talent in the most North Korean way imaginable. (continued…)
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In 1978, Kim Jong-il kidnapped a prominent South Korean director and his ex-wife - an actress.
He gave the couple access to his library of films, and required them to watch and review four a day. Eventually, his real motive became clear: he wanted them to produce movies for him in order to win acclaim for the Glorious People's Republic on the international film circuit.
Given an unlimited budget, and even a degree of artistic freedom, the captive director and his wife made at least six films for Kim Jong-il. Their final and most lavish effort was a North Korean attempt at Godzilla set in medieval times.
Somewhat surprisingly, they weren't entirely unsuccessful in their efforts; one of their films won an award at a Czech film festival. Further, the couple would later confess that they actually had some respect for Kim's perspective on their craft.
By 1986, Kim trusted the pair enough to allow them to take a vacation in Vienna. It was a big mistake on his part. They gave the slip to the North Korean agents who were assigned as chaperones, and claimed asylum at the American embassy.
Saparmurat Niyazov may not be a household name (or even a pronounceable one) but hes undoubtedly one of the weirdest dudes ever to somehow get control of an entire country.
Niyazov ruled the formerly Soviet central Asian country of Turkmenistan from 1985 until his death in 2006. And he had a habit of making some - shall we say unique - decrees.
He gave himself the illustrious title Turkmenbashi (Head of the Turkmen) and renamed a town after himself. He did the same with schools, airports, the month of January, and even a meteorite. He also changed the word for September to the title of a book he himself had written.
He outlawed dogs from the capital city of Ashgabat because he thought they smelled bad. Then, in a decidedly pro-dog statement, he encouraged his people to "chew on bones" to strengthen their teeth because that's what canines do.
But his greatest accomplishment involved the construction of what must be the most ridiculous palace in the history of the world. (continued…)
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In 2004, Niyazov paid a French firm $29,000,000 to build an ice palace just outside his capital.
The only problem is that Turkmenistan is one of the worlds hotter countries. It is, in fact, largely desert. Summertime temperatures in the region can reach a sweltering 50 degrees.
Nevertheless, Niyazov proclaimed: "Let us build a palace of ice, big and grand enough for 1,000 people. Our children can learn to ski. We can build cafes there, and restaurants."
As the BBC said of the outlandish project, "The Turkmen mountains are relatively high, but it is hard to imagine the palace remaining frozen without some sort of technical help."
In addition to his flights of fancy, Niyazov distinguished himself by forcing his countrymen to suffer his own personal limitations. In 1997, he was forced to stop smoking for medical reasons. In response, he banned public smoking in the country.
Robert Mugabe has been in control of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe since it achieved its independence from the UK in 1980. At 93 years old, he still maintains a grip on the landlocked former colony.
In the 90s, Mugabe set out to redistribute Zimbabwes land. Too much of the country was owned by white farmers, holdovers from the colonial era. Mugabe set out to give more of the land back to the Black Zimbabwean majority. This might seem like a reasonable policy in and of itself, but his methods proved disastrous.
He began by encouraging white farmers who were willing to sell to do business with those who were willing to buy. When this process proved too slow, he decided to simply take land from white farmers and give it to Black Zimbabweans - many of whom had no experience farming.
I dont know about you, but if someone just gave me a farm, I would probably starve to death. Not my fault; Im not a farmer. Somehow, this thought never occurred to Mugabe. (continued...)
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Between 1999 and 2009, food production in the country fell by nearly half, unemployment rose to 80%, and life expectancy plummeted.
Compounding the problem, Mugabe decided to pay for his involvement in the Congolese conflict (and his massive corruption) by printing money at a ridiculous pace. Predictably, this led to one of the worst inflation epidemics in the history of the world.
In November 2008, Zimbabwes inflation peaked at an unbelievable 79,600,000,000%. The country had to print 100 trillion dollar notes just so that citizens could purchase the bare necessities. And even then, the money was utterly worthless.
It can't help your self-esteem when you're a trillionaire who can't afford to pay for groceries.
In 2009, Mugabe stopped printing the country's currency, and Zimbabweans started using foreign money instead.
Alright, so Im breaking the rules here a little bit. Uday Hussein wasnt a dictator himself; he was the eldest son of the infamous Saddam. But as youll see, Udays behaviour rivals that of the worst rulers the world has ever seen.
The first thing to understand about Uday is that he was a genuine psychopath. Not in an "I kill people who cross me because Im a tyrant" sort of way, but in a King Joffrey/Ramsay Bolton/Ted Bundy sort of way as well.
As the eldest son, Uday was originally considered the obvious successor to his fathers despotism over Iraq. But from an early age, there were signs that Uday was excessively violent even by Saddams standards.
University classmates would later recount the fear that swept the campus whenever Uday made an appearance. He reportedly had a habit of forcing the prettiest women he met at school to date him. When he grew tired of a girlfriend, he would have his guards kill her.
After college, Uday took his first government job. He was put in charge of the countrys Sports Ministry, where he devised incredibly sadistic (and stupid) ways of motivating his athletes. (continued…)
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Uday decided that anyone who failed to meet his standards of performance must be punished. By torture.
He constructed a dungeon in the basement of the Ministry of Sport, where he would victimize athletes who he felt werent living up to their potential. Before major competitions, he forced competitors to fill out a form predicting where they would place: first, second, or third. At one point, he imprisoned Iraqs entire national football (soccer) team.
Uday eventually fell out of favor with his father after he shot and murdered Saddams valet at a diplomatic function in Egypt. (No, seriously.)
Uday was killed along with his younger brother Qusay in a firefight shortly after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Leopold II, King of Belgium from 1865-1909 wasnt a dictator in his native land. There he was a constitutional monarch. But he made himself the de facto dictator of his own private country - the central African nation known today as Congo. In so doing, he became the most evil man in history who most people have never heard of.
Leopold annexed the Congo as his own personal property, dubbing it the Congo Free State. His idea was not to govern the territory so much as to plunder it by enslaving the people.
One of the biggest products on the world market at the time was rubber, and the Congo had plenty of rubber trees. The trouble was extracting it. Leopolds agents accomplished this by covering Black Congolese people in the sap of the rubber tree, letting it dry, and then removing it.
This painful and humiliating process was made worse by the punishments meted out to anyone who didnt make their quota. These included mutilations (particularly chopping off hands) and execution. No one knows the death toll during Leopolds reign of terror - estimates range from 1 to 15 million.
In 1908, public outcry forced Leopold to relinquish the Congo. He died the following year in disgrace.
The Congo Free State is the setting of the classic novel Heart of Darkness.