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8 Most Bizarre Presidential Assassination Plots

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There is no way of knowing how many plots or planned attacks have been made against American presidents. Amongst the many assassination schemes in the public record, however, are numerous instances which have involved bizarre plots by individuals or groups of individuals to assassinate the president.

  • X-Ray Gun
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In 2013 Glendon Scott and Eric Feight planned on building an X-Ray gun to target "Muslims" and President Obama with a lethal dose of radiation "silently and from a distance" using their machine. Crawford and Freight were arrested in June 2013 after Crawford tried to connect a remote activation device to an X-Ray machine. Despite skepticism from scientists, prosecutor John Duncan said, “From our investigation, the device....would have been capable of emitting X-Ray radiation that would have caused death.”
  • Model Airplane
    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    In 2004 a Buffalo man, Darrel David Alford, told acquaintances he wanted to equip one of his model airplanes with a bomb then take it to an arena or stadium where Bush was to speak. Alford intended to detonate the bomb as his plane flew over the platform where Bush was to give his speech.
  • BIC Lighter
    Pool via Getty Images
    President Clinton was a target for a little known radical separatist organization, the Republic of Texas, which believed that the state was illegally annexed by the U.S. in 1845 and should be a separate nation. During the FBI’s investigation of their assassination plans, an FBI informant said the conspirators planned to modify a BIC lighter so that it would expel air instead of propane. They then planned to glue a hypodermic needle to the opening of the lighter and a cactus thorn would be inserted that would be coated with a biological agent such as anthrax, botulism or HIV. The home-made weapon was to be used to kill the president.
  • Catman
    NBC NewsWire via Getty Images
    A presidential stalker given the name "Catman" by Secret Service agents called the White House numerous times and sent letters to President Reagan which mentioned security details that were unknown to the general public. He also sent close-up photographs of Reagan when the president appeared at political events and “lots of photos of cats.” When Secret Service agents eventually caught Catman they discovered photographs which revealed he had been close enough to shoot President Reagan during a presidential visit at the New York City mayor’s residence, but his shot had apparently been blocked by agents.
  • $1,000 Bribe
    Keystone via Getty Images
    Andrew B. Topping was a “well-off” investment banker and right-wing radical whose wife had committed suicide shortly after the birth of their son. Topping, who blamed “pro- rightist forces beyond his control” for his wife’s death, made a request for an appointment to see President Nixon. His request prompted Secret Service agents to interview him and carry out a background check. A short while later one of Topping’s acquaintances arrived at Secret Service offices in New York and told agents that Topping had asked him for assistance in finding an assassin who would kill the president. The Secret Service arranged for one of their undercover agents, Stewart J. Henry, to pose as an assassin for hire. After negotiations, Topping handed over $1000 and made it clear the money was “to kill Nixon.” Topping was immediately arrested and charged with “threatening and attempting to kill the president of the United States."
  • Gun on a salt box
    UniversalImagesGroup via Getty Images
    In June 1971 the Secret Service discovered a plan to kill President Nixon during a presidential visit to Chicago. Would-be assassin James E. Beavers wandered around near the hotel where Nixon was staying before placing his gun on a salt box in full view of the public. When Beavers was challenged by police he refused to hand over his gun and was fatally wounded.
  • Suicide Bomber
    MCT via Getty Images
    Christopher Clarence Cull, a bomb expert in possession of nitro-glycerine, believed Hitler was the “greatest man in the world.” In 1943 he made plans to become America’s first presidential suicide bomber. Cull’s plans involved preparing three nitro-glycerine bombs, strapping them around his waist, wearing an Army uniform to get close to Roosevelt’s car as the president exited the White House and detonating the bombs to “blow myself and the (redacted) President to bits and also kill any goddamn Secret Service agents or other people who were nearby.” When Cull was eventually arrested, Secret Service agents found a black suitcase containing two bottles of nitro-glycerine and a bottle of nitric acid in his hotel room.
  • Roosevelt Stalker
    NBC via Getty Images
    In 1943 an armed man named Walter Harold Best stalked Roosevelt and spent 10 days waiting across the street from the White House for a chance to shoot him. He was only prevented from continuing with his plans when he was arrested for jaywalking during the period when his wife was warning the authorities about her husband’s plans.

Mel Ayton is the author of the new book Hunting the President: Threats, Plots and Assassination Attempts--From FDR to Obama.