“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”



Five hundred years after the publication of The Prince, the informative BBC documentary “Imagine… Who’s Afraid Of Machiavelli” asks how relevant is The Prince today, and who are the 21st century Machiavellians? [Via]


Darstellung des Räderns in einem Holzstich von 1586


Last October, archaeologists surveying the site of planned road work on federal highway 189 in Groß Pankow, Brandenburg, Germany, unearthed human remains. [...] Further examination revealed the deceased was a man in his mid to late 30s who had been executed on the wheel. His bones are in more than a thousand pieces. This is the first time a skeleton of someone broken on the wheel has been found in Germany, even though judicial execution by wheel was employed in the Holy Roman Empire from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

This is not a coincidence. The whole point of the wheel was to display the broken bodies until they rotted away entirely, leaving the bones for carrion birds to enjoy. The punishment was reserved for the worst criminals — serial killers, murderers who killed someone during the commission of another crime, killers of kin — and the destruction of the body in a slow, public fashion did double-duty as the most gruesome retribution and as a stern warning to the public.

Death by wheel was usually a two-stage process. First a large spoked wagon wheel would be slammed onto the large bones of the arms and legs, breaking them in two places each. Then the wheel would strike the spine, breaking it. With the body’s skeletal structure in pieces, the condemned was then tied to the wheel, his limbs woven in and out of the spokes. Finally the wheel was raised on a pike and planted into the ground. If the man wasn’t dead yet, and he usually wasn’t unless he was fortunate enough to have been deliberately struck with fatal blows to the chest and abdomen as an act of mercy, he would die in slow unspeakable agony over the course of hours, often days. [Via]


“This wood cut shows the ‘breaking wheel’ as it was used in Germany in the Middle Ages. [...] The woodcut relates the crime and the punishment of Peter Stumpp and includes a depiction of the punishment of his daughter and mistress. Stumpp was accused of being a werewolf and in the top left hand corner of the woodcut we see a large wolf attacking a child. Above this scene a man with a sword is seen fighting off the wolf and in doing so, lops off the wolf’s left forepaw. In the centre left of the illustration we are shown the first punishment of Stumpp, namely the tearing of his flesh with red hot pincers while he is bound to a wheel. In the middle we see the executioner using the blunt side of an axe to break Stumpp’s arm and leg bones. On the righthand side of the illustration the executioner beheads Stumpp. In each of these three depictions we can see that Stumpp’s left hand is missing, presumably pointing to the fact that the werewolf had its left forepaw cut off. After his beheading, Stumpp’s body is dragged away to be burnt. In the top right hand corner of the wood cut we see the fire where Stumpp’s daughter and mistress, each tied to a stake, are burnt alive with Stumpp’s headless body tied to a stake between them. Also shown is a wheel, mounted on a pole, which carries Stumpp’s decapitated head together with a figure of a wolf.” [Via]

See also: Executed Today – Broken By The Wheel


At the end of the Civil War “a vast hoard of enfranchised slaves, discharged soldiers and a cloud of riffraff, bummers and camp followers” descended onto the city of Washington D.C., doubling it’s size from 75,000 people to 150,000 and turning it into one of the most disorderly places in America. Crime was out of control and the very names of its neighborhoods (Bloodfield, Bloody Hill and Murder Bay) reflected that state of lawlessness.


This map from the 1890′s (possibly created by the “Anti-Division Association for the Suppression of Vice in the District of Columbia”) details the whereabouts of 109 brothels and saloons located within the disreputable slum known as Murder Bay (aka Hooker’s Division) which rested all but a short walking distance from the White House.

The Slate provides some context:

The area was the former “Hooker’s Division,” where the Civil War soldiers responsible for the defense of Washington under the command of Gen. Joseph Hooker once sought R&R in their off-duty hours, and its bad reputation persisted decades later.

The unknown mapmaker critiques the efficacy of the so-called “high license” law on the saloons and bordellos of this district. During the late 19th century, advocates of temperance were divided in their support of laws that raised license fees for establishments selling liquor. Some believed that such a scheme would curtail drinking. Others, like the author of this map, thought that “high license” would just encourage sellers to sell illegally, and that nothing short of full prohibition would work.

Tom of Ghosts of DC found this description of Murder Bay in the July 8th, 1888 issue of the Washington Post:

Then the streets were unpaved, except certain of the principal thoroughfares; the houses were for the most part mean and straggling, while the moral atmosphere was almost in accord with the condition of the town itself. Gambling establishments, some of the highest order, and descending by gradations to dens of the lowest character, where life itself was frequently sacrificed on the turning of a card. Thieves and unprincipled men and women, as ready to cut a throat as pick a pocket, flourished and walked the streets in certain sections in open daylight, while at night they frequented the haunts of vice and selected their victims from among the unsophisticated without fear of law or justice. In those sections it was unsafe for any one with the slightest appearance of respectability to enter after nightfall. There were, of course, the respectable sections, and numbers of people lived here and mingled in society who knew little or nothing of the darker localities, except as they were brough to their attention through the newspapers; but to the people who saw down-town life, as it may be termed, after the town was buried in darkness, except for the straggling rays from dim street lamps or the light from the saloons and gambling places, Washington was a wild and weird place.


One of the first murders about this time that brought attention to Murder bay was the killing og a negro named Rideout. He had gone into Murder Bay with his week’s wages in his pocket, and was found the next morning lying on the bank of the canal with his throat cut from ear to ear. No one knew how it occurred, nor did the efforts of the police result in finding a single clue to his murderer. Then began a series of crimes which continued for the next four or five years. Men were known to go into Murder Bay and were not heard of again until their bodies were discovered in the canal or found buried in ash dumps. Robberies of the most daring nature occurred in rapid succession. Men were carried from the streets into this locality and stripped of whatever they possessed, lucky, indeed, if they escaped with their lives; while fights between blacks and whites were constantly occurring. The locality abounded in dingy saloons, and the soldiers flocked there in numbers, and added to the general disorder, as they fought among themselves, crazed with the vile whisky that was served them. How many men lost their lives there it is impossible to estimate. The police were powerless to suppress the disorder to detect the criminals, and many of the crimes were not even investigated.

And here’s what Murder Bay looked like in 1855:

(Source: Metafilter: Within Sight And Gunshot)


“I have been a “Taita” in prison. Taita” means the prison’s lord, the wisest one, the toughest one, the biggest killer. If you’re “Taita” you master a bunch of thugs, because they respect you, you have a certain weight.”

Luis Cuevas Manchego

After spending 27 years in prison for multiple murders, Peruvian folk artist Luis Cuevas Manchego (aka Lu.Cu.Ma) has spent the last decade dedicating his to life to social change through art. In the documentary “From the Knife to the Brush” Vice Magazine examines Manchego’s criminal past, how he uses art as a way to repent and the message that even a stone cold killer can change.

“Be the strange you wish to see in the world.”



Dazed TV‘s short film POCKETS opens with a mugging gone wrong then swiftly moves into the realm of the fantastic and ties up with an unexpectedly humorous twist. Short sharp fun.


Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times takes an in-depth look into the cannabis “training school” industry and some of the things you may (or may not) learn there:

Inside a conference room at a Sheraton Hotel in Miami, Bob Calkin paces in front of a small stage, holding a microphone. The 50-year-old Los Angeles cannabis hustler with ’80s rock-band hair flies around the United States, charging folks $299 a head to learn how to make a fortune dealing po — sorry, “dispensing medicine.” Before 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning, 150 wannabe marijuana barons have filed in for a ten-hour crash course put on by Calkin’s company, Cannabis Career Institute. He’s just raked in $45,000 for a day’s work.


Dropping hundred-dollar bills on medical marijuana classes may seem like a good idea, and some school operators are already making a mint. But David Jones, communications director for the Florida Cannabis Network, a Melbourne-based nonprofit organization, cautions: “Some are trying to be perceived as experts and take advantage of the ill-informed.”

Some classes may offer real insight; others could be just puffing smoke. Calkin says his Cannabis Career Institute can teach people how to create a business plan, find business partners, and recruit growers who can cultivate high-quality marijuana. Once students have paid their $299, they can attend as many seminars as they want. “In the marijuana industry, it is all about networking,” Calkin says. “Some people won’t work with you unless someone they know vouches for you. We introduce you to those people.”

Yet it sounds like he has a low bar for who qualifies as an expert: “You can even become a consultant too after attending one seminar. You can start charging other people to teach them.”

See also: How to Become a Medical Marijuana Millionaire in Ten Easy Steps


The RoaringTwenties

“Anyone who wants a quiet life should not have been born in the twentieth century.”

~ Leon Trotsky

Emily Thompson, author of The Soundscape of Modernity and historian at Princeton who studies acoustic innovation and the historical “emergence of excessive noise,” has taken ten years of research and boiled it down into a wonderful new website.

The Roaring Twenties is an interactive map of nearly 600 noise complaints made in New York City from 1926 to 1932. Each marker represents one complaint and is often accompanied by old news-reel footage offering the sights and sounds of those responsible for the ruckus.

Emily describes the project here:

By offering a website dedicated to the sounds of New York City circa 1930, The Roaring ‘Twenties is following the lead of countless other individuals and organizations who have turned the web into a vast sonic archive, delivering a previously unimaginable wealth of historic sound recordings to anyone with a connection and a desire to listen in. With The Roaring ‘Twenties, I hope we not only add to that archive, but also set an example by doing so in an explicitly historically-minded way. The aim here is not just to present sonic content, but to evoke the original contexts of those sounds, to help us better understand that context as well as the sounds themselves. The goal is to recover the meaning of sound, to undertake a historicized mode of listening that tunes our modern ears to the pitch of the past. Simply clicking a “play” button will not do.

(Source: The Atlantic – Maps Exploring the Hilarious Noise Complaints of 1930s New York)

“If you’re going to run an illegal business, you better be driving the best car, living in the biggest house, fucking the best looking people and spending every dollar you make because sooner or later you’re going to get caught.”



Conversnitch is an inconspicuous recording device that automatically tweets snippets of overheard conversations onto twitter. Disguised as a light bulb or a lamp, the Conversnitch works anywhere that has wifi — a restaurant, library, or home, for instance — and uses a Raspberry Pi and a microphone to record audio.

Project creators, Kyle McDonald and Brian House built the device for about a hundred dollars and then pay to have the audio transcribed through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform. Although it’s creators admit that the art project could be used for a variety of illegal activities, they intended it to raises questions about the nature of public and private spaces in an era where anything can be broadcast by ubiquitous, Internet-connected listening devices. (Via)

At Newark Airport, The Lights Are On, And They’re Watching You



A club with nails hammered in at the end. The inscription reads “Ternopil,” which is a city in Western Ukraine. According to the owner, the handle is wrapped in tape after having broken in clashes with the Berkut. (Photo by Tom Jamieson)

Photographer Tom Jamieson shows Wired magazine his series of photographs detailing the nasty homemade weapons that Ukrainian protesters used when they filled Maidan Square to battle the army and topple President Yanukovych.

Besides clubs meant for bashing and forked pikes used to rip the shields out of the hands of police, Jamison said:

” [...] he did see evidence of more substantial weaponry on the protesters’ side, including automatic weapons, but those were carefully kept out of view in order to avoid escalating the violence. It was a sign of how well organized the protesters were. Commanders of 10, 100, and 1000 people operated out of camps divided based by occupiers’ home towns. A ban on alcohol was enforced by internal police units, rotated in and out on a regular schedule. They even produced combat equipment on-site, including the very metal shields used by the government forces.

“They set up a factory on the second floor of the press center where they were literally cutting [shields] to template, and they were turning them out like one every half an hour,” Jamieson says. “They were in there for the long thing, it wasn’t just a quick flash in the pan, it was a big deal and it was really, really well organized.”


For us, the most gripping detail wasn’t in the photos themselves but this observation of Jamieson’s fellow photo-journalists:

“Some days you go to the front line and there’d be 20 or 30 protesters milling about smoking cigarettes, and there’d be 150 photographers there taking pictures of nothing,” he says. “You’d have NBC news there doing pieces to camera going, ‘Tonight on NBC, Kiev is burning,’ and there’s just a guy in the background warming his hands on an oil drum.”

[Thanks, Brooklyn!]


Vox talks to 15 porn superstars about what it’s like to tell your friends, family, and romantic partners that you work in the adult entertainment industry. For us, the highlight of this piece has to be the conversation that the lovely Stoya had with her grandmother:

My grandma’s maiden name is Stojadinović, and she used to use “Stoya” to sign her paintings in college, and I decided to use it as my stage name. Eventually it got to the point where it was like, “Aw, I just did a media-heavy convention, and I was in front of the G4 cameras, and I gave a quote to the Wall Street Journal about whether I’m concerned about high-definition video, so this is now becoming a thing where I kind of have to tell my grandma because of Murphy’s Law of Inappropriate Behavior. If I don’t tell her, she’s going to stumble on it.”

So I called her:

Stoya: Hey grandma! How are you?

Grandma: Good, how are you? What are you doing for a living? Because your mother says you’re “kind of like a model,” and she wouldn’t say “kind of” if you were, and, no offense honey, but you’re a bit short.

Stoya: You know like Bettie Page, right?

Grandma: Yes!

Stoya: I do stuff like that except, because everybody runs around in skimpy clothing now, I do the modern version, where I have sex with people on video.

Grandma: Oh, you’re a nudie girl in the moving pictures!

Stoya: Yes I am.

So I’m thinking, “Sweet, we’re doing good.”

Grandma: Do you enjoy it?

Stoya: Yes!

Grandma: Lovely!

Stoya: Okay, I’ve got to tell you another thing.

Grandma: Okay.

Stoya: Well, I’m using your name.

Grandma: Oooh. Vera? That’s not very sexy.

Stoya: Well actually, if I was going for pin-up, that would actually be a fantastic name, but I’m using “Stoya.”

Grandma: Ooooh no.

And I’m like, “Fuck, we were going so well!”

Stoya: What’s wrong?

Grandma: I hope that no one at the nursing home gets us confused and tries to put my feet behind my head, because I don’t bend that way anymore.

Bonus points go out to Vox for including the complete transcripts of all the interviews used to create this article. (Via)


NightHawkInLight shows us how to pick locks like a secret agent using nothing but a pair of strategically bent hairpins. (Via)

“Hey, Ethan, you know the guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square? He’s the guy who hot-glued the faceplate over the keypad in the phone you are using.”



Unblinking and unsettling, this documentary lays bare a mysterious process that goes on all around us – what happens to people who die with no next of kin.

Dead bodies in various stages of decomposition are seen, but not played for shock factor. Instead, you learn a little about each person, both what they were before death and what will happen to them afterward. They are followed from the discovery of the body to the final disposition of the remains, and each step in between.

(Source: Metafilter)


The Millwall Brick is a home made baton constructed out of a carefully folded newspaper. It was invented by English football hooligans who were getting all their other weapons confiscated at matches.

“In the late 1960s — in response to football hooliganism at matches in England — police began confiscating any objects that could be used as weapons. These items included steel combs, pens, beermats, horse brasses, Polo mints, shoelaces and boots. However, fans were still permitted to bring in newspapers. Larger broadsheet newspapers work best for a Millwall brick, and the police looked with suspicion at working class football fans who carried such newspapers. Because of their more innocent appearance, tabloid newspapers became the newspapers of choice for Millwall bricks.

A Millwall brick is constructed from one or more newspaper sheets rolled and folded to create a handle (a haft) and a rounded head at the fold. The Millwall brick is used similarly to a shillelagh or a waddy

The newspaper sheets can first be wetted with a liquid to add weight. The blunt end can be wrapped with a shoelace or leather. The ends can be taped together and a string attached to the handle, enabling the user to swing the brick, similar to a meteor hammer. A pencil, pen, or large nail can be driven from the first interior side near the middle perpendicularly through the first end so that that head of the nail rests against the first interior side. The nail may be secured in place by bringing the ends towards and adjacent to each other, effectively forming a crude nail bat.” ( via )



Every family has their black sheep.

On my mother’s side, our black sheep was instead a shepherd who enslaved his own flock, the king of cons, a man who made himself a messiah but never called himself a God.

His name is engraved on steel tablets in titanium capsules hidden miles underground in nuclear blast reinforced tunnels so even if our whole species goes extinct, his words will still survive.

He was the subject that never got talked about at the kids table at my family reunions, but he was my great-grandfather, L. Ron Hubbard.

Lafayette Ron Hubbard.

Filmmaker and spoken word artist Jamie DeWolf‘s powerful piece about his great-grandfather, Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard.

“ emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line.”

Tom Robbins | Skinny Legs and All


History Of The Devil is an entertaining documentary about the origins of Satan that Top Documentary Films sums up best:

“The History of the Devil is wickedly good, informative and concise. A no-frills Welsh film produced in association with SBS Australia and distributed by Siren Visual, it’s roughly 52 minutes in length and packs a fair dinkum amount of history into its slender running time.

The documentary itself is made up entirely of mostly still images alternating sporadically with talking heads; religious scholars, theologians and reverends.

Directed by Greg Moodie and written and produced by Dave Flitton, it was researched by Eibhleann Ni Ghriofa, Deirdre Learmont and Craig McGregor.

It’s an impressive and very open-minded account and offers some fantastic insight into the evolution; the hows and whys the specter of the Devil has existed and morphed through the ages from the dawn of civilization through to the new millennium.

So despite its relatively low-fi approach, the richness and diversity of its imagery; the historical plaques, plates, engravings, illustrations, paintings, drawings, and the occasional staged re-enactment (some dude dressed up in rather bemusing demonic attire), keeps the documentary at a high level of beguilement.”

Engraving made by Cornelis Galle I, After Lodovico Cigoli, Belgium, 1591-1650. Lettered extensively around image with excerpts of Dante’s Divina Comedia.

• The name Lucifer originally denotes the planet Venus, emphasizing its brilliance. The Vulgate employs the word also for “the light of the morning” (Job 11:17), “the signs of the zodiac” (Job 38:32), and “the aurora” (Psalm 109:3). Metaphorically, the word is applied to the King of Babylon (Isaiah 14:12) as preeminent among the princes of his time; to the high priest Simon son of Onias (Ecclesiasticus 50:6), for his surpassing virtue, to the glory of heaven (Apocalypse 2:28), by reason of its excellency; finally to Jesus Christ himself (2 Peter 1:19; Apocalypse 22:16; the “Exultet” of Holy Saturday) the true light of our spiritual life.

• The Syriac version and the version of Aquila derive the Hebrew noun helel from the verb yalal, “to lament”; St. Jerome agrees with them (In Isaiah 1.14), and makes Lucifer the name of the principal fallen angel who must lament the loss of his original glory bright as the morning star. In Christian tradition this meaning of Lucifer has prevailed; the Fathers maintain that Lucifer is not the proper name of the devil, but denotes only the state from which he has fallen (Petavius, De Angelis, III, iii, 4).

Via Assaf Kintzer.

For hundreds of years, Hell has been the most fearful place in the human imagination. It is also the most absurd.

The shape of Hell, as Dante described it (and he, together with Milton, is the primary textual source for the Christian Hell, at least), is an inverted funnel of several layers separated by rocky banks, with each layer deeper and narrower than the last. The Buddhist Hell is similar. But Hell has many mansions. Hinduism has 21 main Hells and a lakh of smaller ones, mostly for religious offences. Sinhalese Buddhism has 136 and Burmese Buddhism 40,040, one for each particular sin—including nosiness, chicken-selling and eating sweets with rice. At the entrance to the Underworld proper in most religions there is a trial of sorts, in which the damned are separated from the not-so-bad. It is always peremptory: as Jesus pictured it, as brief as a farmer ripping weeds out of a field. Then come the long fall and the fire.

Image: Dulle Griet by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Dulle Griet arrives to us from Flemish folklore in which a peasant woman, Mad Meg, allegedly in the possession of “otherworldly” powers gathered an army of women to storm the gates of Hell.


“Mushfaking” is prison slang for the construction of any contraband object made from whatever materials are at hand.

“Mushfake” is a very interesting word. It seems to have first appeared in underworld slang back in the early 19th century in England. “Mush” by itself was, in that period, slang for an umbrella, from its similarity in shape to a mushroom. The verb “to fake” during the same period was criminal slang for “putting something in shape to sell by covering its defects.” So a “mushroom faker” or “mushfake” was a con artist who repaired discarded umbrellas just enough to make them briefly functional and then sold them on the street, preferably during a downpour. Anyone who has ever bought one of those $3.00 umbrellas in a New York City rainstorm will recognize the racket. You’re wet again two blocks later.

Imported to America fairly quickly, “mushfaker” became hobo slang for an itinerant tinkerer or handyman. “Mushfakers” repaired pots and pans as well as umbrellas, but “mushfaking” was considered an occupation of last resort and “mushfakers” occupied the lowest rung of hobo society. By the 20th century, “mushfake” had become prison slang for making useful objects out of cast-off or less-useful materials. Ironically, a good “mushfaker” is probably a lot more popular in prison than on the street.

~ The Word Detective

Below are some of our favorite mushfakes uncovered over the past three years of running Criminal Wisdom.

homemade shot gun


“Shotgun made from iron bedposts; charge made of pieces of lead from curtain tape and match-heads, to be ignited by AA batteries and a broken light bulb. On May 21, 1984 two inmates of a prison in Celle, Germany, took a jailer as a hostage, showed off their fire power by letting go at a pane of bullet-proof glass, and escaped by car.”

From Marc Steinmetz’s photo collection of Escape Tools.




Antonio Vega Macotela discovered this makeshift stove in one of his many visits to Santa Martha Acatitla, a Mexican prison where he makes collaborative art with the incarcerated.

Some of the inmates teach me their particular “skills” in exchange for my time. One of them, in trade for teaching his daughter to read, showed me how to kill someone with a shoelace. Basically, all you have to do is hold the shoelace in such a way that when you shake someone’s hand, his index finger gets caught in a little noose. Then you pull sharply, he loses his balance, and you twist the shoelace around his neck and pull as hard as you can. The prisoner who showed me this technique is a really tiny guy, but he can do it in one swift move. It’s crazy to watch, almost like a magic trick. He used to be a locksmith, and he says he has invented a lock that not even he can break into. He asked me to help him patent it so I am researching patent laws for him next week. There are really talented cons in there. Some are really brilliant in fact, you have no idea all the things I have learnt in the past two years. The prison is a great school for all the people inside them: though probably not in the way that society would like them to be. Re-adaptation, certainly; for what exactly is the mystery.

Mexican Rashes: Contraband, Commerce And Art In One Of Mexico’s Most Overcrowded Prisons



“In 2001, the artists’ collective Temporary Services asked an incarcerated artist named Angelo to share with them the ways in which inmates adapt to their confinement. Angelo responded with over one hundred pages of meticulously detailed ink drawings and text. The resulting compilation, Prisoners’ Inventions, is a unique guide to prison life, covering subjects ranging from how to cook a grilled cheese sandwich in a locker to how to chill a soda using a toilet. “

Temporary Services – Prisoner Inventions




Materials: “Unbreakable” plastic comb; three single-edge razor blades inserted into teeth; wrapped with copper wire and shoelace.

Backstory: During the 1980s, a modest stipend of $1.10 per day was deposited into each working prisoner’s personal account. The comb and shoelace used here were available from the prison commissary at that time. By completing an order form, prisoners could make purchases and tailor a shiv to their own design specifications.

Dangerous Beauty: The Art of the Shiv




Because prison issued hot pots never get hot enough to boil water prisoners have created this ingeniously simple device. Simply plug it into the wall, drop the metal end into your cup of water and viola – electricity brings your drink to a boil. (If it doesn’t trip the circuit breaker on your cell block first – then look out. Hello, Mr. Popularity.) You can see the stinger in action on a video at Lockdown: The DIY Wizards of San Quentin, part one of Gizmodo’s 5 part series looking at technology in prison.



This gun was found along with other homemade firearms in the cell of two Celle prison inmates on November 15, 1984. The weapons had been made in the prison’s metal workshop. They were loaded with pieces of steel and match-heads.

Another one from Marc Steinmetz’s collection of Escape Tools.


Increasing numbers of ‘terror suspects’ are being arrested on the basis of online and CCTV surveillance data. Authorities claim they act in the public interest, but does this intense surveillance keep us safer?

“I woke up to pounding on my door”, says Andrej Holm, a sociologist from the Humboldt University. In what felt like a scene from a movie, he was taken from his Berlin home by armed men after a systematic monitoring of his academic research deemed him the probable leader of a militant group. After 30 days in solitary confinement, he was released without charges. Across Western Europe and the USA, surveillance of civilians has become a major business. With one camera for every 14 people in London and drones being used by police to track individuals, the threat of living in a Big Brother state is becoming a reality. At an annual conference of hackers, keynote speaker Jacob Appelbaum asserts, “to be free of suspicion is the most important right to be truly free”. But with most people having a limited understanding of this world of cyber surveillance and how to protect ourselves, are our basic freedoms already being lost?

(Source: Boing Boing)

“World War I was a railway war of centralism and encirclement. World War II was a radio war of decentralism. World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.”



Malware aficionado Daniel White collects vintage computer viruses, infects his machines and records the results for his Youtube channel.

“This channel’s main purpose is to entertain users with the effects of (mainly older) pieces of malware, while educating them as to how they work. No, I will not send you any malware shown in any video, regardless of whether it is considered “harmless” or not. Malware is not a toy and additionally, it is against the YouTube terms of service to distribute it.”

Via Nerdcore.




Email-Worm.Win32.Loveletter (ILOVEYOU Worm, 12 years later)




Cybercide DOS Virus


Cybercide DOS Virus


ZippedFiles Windows Worm



Even more infected PCs here.



Hound Dog Bug Detector And Phone Sweep Unit, 1950′s/1960′s

The Hound Dog Bug Detector And Phone Sweep was state of the art portable countermeasures for the 1960′s. If you owned a set, almost every detective agency in town wanted to see it and “barrow them.” They were made by R. B. Clifton and cost what would be about $2000.00 for the set by today’s standards. The Hound Dog was a portable RF bug detector which is shown on the left. The Phone Sweep was a tone sweeper that would let you remotely sweep a phone to turn on any hidden microphones which the unit could then detect. This was state-of-the-art countermeasures for the 1960′s. There were many countermeasures services that offered remote tone sweeping of telephone lines in these days. There were some agencies that even offered monthly remote tone phone sweeping services for a monthly fee.

Via Spy & Private-Eye Museum.

Kiev John Player Special

Dating from 1978 this is a Kiev 30 (23mm (f3.5-11); 1/30-1/250. 13x17mm format) concealed inside a package of “John Player cigarettes”. Supposedly, these cameras were designed by the KGB to use in the United Kingdom. It is very unlikely that this was a KGB design as the camera would never pass for a packet of cigarettes except by the most cursory glance and some variations lack the space for a real cigarette. These seem to have been engineered in the Ukraine to sell to gullible westerners and where first sold for 2000USD. Now typically under 100USD they are an interesting addition to the Kiev family of subminiatures.

The top of the camera is open, showing the filters of fake cigarettes. One butt sticking out is used to advance the film. The normal aperture and shutter speed setting are at the bottom of the pack.

The most common version is shown above. It was sold in a larger, fake, JPS cardboard box with a spare film cartridge.

Via Submin.

KEL / Bell & Howell SK-8 Audio Surveillance Briefcase.
American recording device in attache case from the 1970′s. (Via


“Belly Buster” Hand-Crank Audio Drill

CIA used the “Belly Buster” drill during the late 1950s and early 1960s. It would drill holes into masonry for implanting audio devices. After assembly, the base of the drill was held firmly against the stomach while the handle was cranked manually. This kit came with several drill bits and accessories.

Via Tools of Tradecraft: The CIA’s Historic Spy Kit


Kiev Speccam Detective Camera

The version shown here is a modified 303, gold plated and leather bound case made to resemble a note book, complete with pages and a pen to write notes with. The pen holder opens up the camera ready to shoot and the shutter release is under the note book pages. You can’t set shutter speed, aperture or focus without removing the casing. The casing is fastened by a single screw.

There are reports of another version, based upon the Kiev 30, with gold plated cover housing a lipstick case and mascara holder in an art deco case with handle.

Check out the link for even more pics.


Microdot Camera

The secret transfer of documents became very difficult during the Cold War. Agents relied on the microdot camera to photograph and reduce whole pages of information onto a single tiny piece of film. This piece of film could be embedded into the text of a letter as small as a period at the end of this sentence. Microdots were also hidden in other things such as rings, hollow coins, or other mailed items. The recipient would read the microdot with the aid of a special viewer, often cleverly concealed as well.

Via The Central Intelligence Agency’s Museum

The 1946 Great Seal Bug Story

In 1946 our ambassador to the USSR was Averell Harriman. The Russians pulled a fast one on him. They had Soviet school children present the ambassador with a two foot hand craved great seal of the US which Ambassador Harriman hung in his office. In 1952, a countermeasures survey revealed that the great seal contained a bugging devise. That means that for six years, the Soviet Union had the ambassador’s office bugged. On May 20th 1960, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. revealed the great seal bug to the UN.

The actual bug was very ingenious. Any sound made in the room caused a spring to vibrate. Eavesdroppers outside the building could then pick up the vibration measurements from the spring and turn it back into sound.

The microphone hidden inside was passive and only activated when the Soviets wanted it to be. They shot radio waves from a van parked outside into the ambassador’s office and could then detect the changes of the microphone’s diaphragm inside the resonant cavity. When Soviets turned off the radio waves it was virtually impossible to detect the hidden ‘bug.’ The Soviets were able to eavesdrop on the U.S. ambassador’s conversations for six years.

Via Spy & Private-Eye Museum.

snooping anyone

From The Realist Vol.67 | 1966:

Other grape-pit size transistor mikes have become available as the space age has developed,some from Japan for as little as $14. Private detectives specializing in divorce cases use one which can be secreted in a man’s food.

When he swallows it, the warmth of the man’s stomach powers it, and it emits a high-frequency beep which can be picked up on a receiver 300 feet away. Another pill, with a different beep, is secreted in the food of the mistress. If the operative hears the two beeps together coming from the same room, he knows the two are making more than beautiful music together.”

“A Paranoid’s Guide to Bugging” Ramparts (1968)
Via Babylon Falling

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