The List

Poison pens and lipstick guns: 8 real-life spy weapons

South Korean authorities capture an assassin armed with deadly gadgets almost as implausible as this collection of espionage gear

Newly crowned "Sexiest Man Alive" Kim Jong Un isn't the biggest fan of Park Sang-hak, an anti-Pyongyang defector now living in South Korea who's near the top of North Korea's hit list. The outspoken activist was recently the target of a would-be assassin equipped with three seemingly innocent, easy-to-conceal weapons plucked straight from a 007 script. A South Korea "investigation official," speaking with CNN, described the weapons thus: A poison-tipped device built to look like a Parker ballpoint pen; a second pen equipped to shoot poison-filled bullets directly into the skin; and a small flashlight rigged to fire three bullets at close range. "You'd notice a gun," said Park, "but these weapons are so innocuous [they could] easily kill someone [without warning]. I'd be dead immediately." Park is hardly the first to be the target of top-secret spy weaponry. Here, eight other imaginative killing devices that have actually been produced: 

1. Lipstick gunMeet the "kiss of death." This famous Cold War-era pistol may look like an ordinary lipstick, but it was designed by KGB operatives to let a Soviet femme fatale fire a single 4.5mm bullet at anyone unlucky enough to get caught in her cross-hairs. 

2. Exploding ratsDuring World War II, Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) devised a clever plan to blow up enemy boilers by hiding explosive rat carcasses in German coal piles. Supposedly, an unsuspecting enemy would simply toss the dead rat into the nearby fire to dispose of the body and... kaboom! The plan went awry when German authorities seized the first consignment of the devices — and went on to showcase them in the country's top military academies.

3. Flamethrower glovePatrick Priebe, a cyberpunk weapons hobbyist, designed this hand-mounted flamethrower using just four lithium ion batteries, butane, a NE555 circuit board, and a transformer to spew fire right from his palm. 

4. Umbrella dart gunJust one day before his 1978 death in London, Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov felt a sharp prick in his thigh. He looked up to see a man clumsily fiddling with an umbrella before speeding off. The brolly had shot a dart loaded with a pellet of ricin, a sophisticated poison. The pellet was coated in a special wax designed to melt at body temperatures, releasing the ricin into the bloodstream. The shooter, believed to be a member of the Bulgarian secret police, was never caught. 

5. Exploding chocolatePrime Minister Winston Churchill did not like the Nazis. And the Nazis did not like Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as evidenced by a letter written by a high-ranking World War II-era British intelligence officer, referencing a bizarre Nazi assassination plot to kill the boisterous politician with explosive chocolate. "We have received information that the enemy are using pound slabs of chocolate which are made of steel with a very thin cover of chocolate," wrote Lord Victor Rothschild of British intelligence. "Inside there is a high explosive and some form of delay mechanism." Fortunately, British spies discovered the candy bombs, which were to be placed around the War Cabinet's dining room, before anyone could have a taste.

6. Pistol gloveAnother product of the Cold War-era KGB, this glove-cum-pistol could be fired with the twitch of a finger. "It gave the wearer the ability to get within point blank range before firing a lethal shot," says Buck Sexton at The Blaze. "Oddjob would be proud."

7. Poisoned cigarsOn August 16, 1960, a CIA official was handed a box of Fidel Castro's favorite cigars… along with instructions to rig them with a deadly poison. The cigars were treated with a toxin called botulinum, reportedly so potent it could kill any man who attempted to light one of the cigars. Though the cigars were duly doctored, it's unclear if they ever even made it into Castro's vicinity. 

8. The CIA's heart-attack gunDuring mid-1970s Senate testimony, it was revealed that the CIA had developed a dart gun capable of causing a heart attack. The dart — which could penetrate clothing, leave skin unmarked except for a small red bump resembling a mosquito bite, and then disintegrate — was filled with a deadly shellfish toxin. The advantage, says InfoWars, was that officials would attribute the victim's death to natural causes in the event of an autopsy. It's unclear if the heart attack gun was actually ever used. 

Sources: CNNWired, BBC, Gizmag, Cracked, The Atlantic, The Blaze, InfoWars

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