Science fiction legend Isaac Asimov had one of his most celebrated fictional mouthpieces declare that violence was “the last refuge of the incompetent.” He meant that those that resort to violence do so because they’re not competent to solve their problems in any other way. The novels in question were elegantly constructed socio-political space opera, in which the protagonists triumphed by anticipating and planning for the removal of every obstacle – years, decades, even centuries in advance – without the need to fire a single shot.
But what about those for whom violence is not a means to an end, but an end in and of itself? There are those who are fascinated with violence for its own sake, or who find in it a kind of ugly beauty – and there are those who rely on a certain kind of pantomime violence to entertain, to tell a certain kind of story.
To those people, violence of a certain type isn’t a tool to be used or rejected – it’s the holy grail, a thing to be admired or that succeeds in its own right. This article is dedicated to violent phenomena and people around the world: stories of the hyper-aggressive, the criminal and the psychotic…
15. The Most Violent Insect In The World
With plenty of competition in this category, it’s the genocidal Japanese giant hornet that takes the title. Also known as “tiger hornets” due to their distinctive patterns and killer instinct, these massive, horribly aggressive wasps will absolutely murder and dismember any other insect they come across, even other predatory insects and arachnids.
Like other hornets they can deliver repeated stings, packing venom sufficient to incapacitate a grown man – in fact, the tiger hornet is considered the deadliest wild creature in Japan, killing more people every year than bears and snakes put together.
But that appalling sting is, incredibly, only its secondary weapon. You see, the tiger hornet likes to get up close and personal, decapitating its prey and ripping the corpse to pieces with its oversized jaws to feed to its young. And that tends to be a lot of body parts: because the tiger hornet is a mass murderer, capable of tearing apart forty honey bees a minute. Worse, a team of hornets can wipe out an entire hive of 30,000 bees in a matter of hours.
14. The Most Violent City In The World
For a decade or more, a combination of economic factors and the ever-present horror of cartel and gang violence have kept San Pedro Sula in Honduras constantly in the running to be named the most violent city on earth.
People whispered that Satan lived there, spoke of the state of the bodies found littering the back alleys. Riddled with bullets, decapitated and dismembered, tortured to death. The police were useless – corrupt and brutal, they were as much a part of the problem as the macho criminal classes that held the street corners and businesses.
To curb the horrifying violence plaguing the streets the authorities sent in the army. However, that was just a band-aid on an open wound. The underlying causes of criminality haven’t gone away, and crucially, neither have the criminals… which leaves the hapless population in a bit of a pickle, because a huge and phenomenally expensive deployment of militia and police isn’t sustainable over a long period of time.
In 2013, San Pedro Sula had a rate of 187 homicides per 100,000 people, far higher than any other place in the world not the centre of a war zone. Right now, Caracas in Venezuela is nudging past its old rival… but it won’t last. At some point, the Honduran army will need to cede control of the streets back to the gangbangers and gangsters that ruled them before. And when that happens, San Pedro Sula will once again be the mayhem capital of the world.
13. The Most Violent Girlfriend In The World
Sadly, it’s far from unusual to find instances of horrible, gut-churning violence by men against their wives, partners or girlfriends. But what about the other way around? Meet Katherine Knight, the Australian woman who murdered her partner John Price in March 2000.
The two had had a volatile relationship since 1995, mostly based around Knight’s tendency towards disproportionate aggression until finally Price took out a restraining order against her. That afternoon, Price told co-workers that if he did not come in to work the following day, it would be because his furious ex had killed him. He returned home, having sent his children to stay at a friend’s house.
Police later reconstructed what had happened. Knight had broken in and stabbed Price with a butcher’s knife while he slept. He had awoken and tried to flee; Knight chased him through the house, continuing to stab at him until he died. She then skinned him, hung the skin on a meat hook, and decapitated him, cooking parts of his flesh with potatoes and gravy and setting out plates for Price’s children. Knight threw away a third meal after trying and failing to eat it herself, and then took an overdose.
Knight was found at the scene, comatose but alive. Charged with Price’s murder, she eventually pleaded guilty, psychiatrists having confirmed that she suffered from borderline personality disorder and dissociative tendencies. Declared sane, Katherine Knight was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and will never be released from prison.
12. The Most Violent Child In The World
From twenty-first century murderer to nineteenth: this is the brief but eventful story of Jesse Pomeroy, called America’s youngest serial killer. Born with a cleft lip and a disturbing, entirely white right eye, Pomeroy wasn’t ever likely to blend into poor society in 1860s Boston. As it happened, he had certain tendencies that would make that impossible: he was a homicidal sadist, for a start.
As an eleven year old, Pomeroy kidnapped and beat several younger boys. In point of fact, he tortured them, getting progressively nastier and more vicious with each victim, stripping them and beating them, first with his fists, then with blunt objects, and finally jabbing at them with a knife. Arrested at the age of twelve for the crimes, he was sentenced to reform school until he reached his majority, but ended up being released into back the care of his family only two years later.
That’s when Pomeroy escalated to murder. In 1874, he abducted and killed ten-year-old Katie Curran, followed by four-year-old Horace Mullen. Poor Horace was found covered in stab wounds, with his head nearly severed from his body.
The police suspected Pomeroy from the start. When arrested, he readily admitted the murders and was convicted and sentenced to death at only fifteen years of age; later, however, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Utterly friendless and alone, Jesse Pomeroy spent the next six decades in secure medical care and died in a prison hospital at the age of 72.
11. The Most Violent Weather In The World
Hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, typhoons and blizzards: all terrifying weather bombs, capable of wreaking havoc for their duration. The top wind speed of an F5 tornado has been measured in excess of 300 miles per hour, intense enough to devastate whole towns.
The thing is, a tornado – or any massive storm event – has a finite lifespan. They’re freak events, like bar fights or good Adam Sandler movies. However, like an abusive stepfather, the violent winds of the McMurdo Dry Valleys at the South Pole are there to stay.
Like the rest of Antarctica, the Dry Valleys are freezing cold, with recorded temperatures of less than -68 degrees Celsius, or -90 degrees Fahrenheit. While most of the continent is covered in ice and snow, the Dry Valleys remain (as their name suggests) barren and rocky, a desert-like anomaly within the true polar deserts surrounding them.
Enclosed by mountains a mile high, for thousands of years the region has been scoured by 200 mph katabatic winds, formed by high density air plummeting down a sheer slope through the force of gravity. Carrying razor-edged grit and stone along with them, the winds act as a vicious scourge on the landscape, blasting the rocks into bizarre shapes and wiping away almost any trace of life.
10. The Most Violent Mammal In The World
There’s a reason that Marvel’s most violent and aggressive mutant was named after the wolverine. Amongst Native Americans, the wolverine was considered to be possessed by devils, and they’re not alone – many other cultures have attributed similar supernatural superstitions to them due to their meanspirited talent for violence, their uncanny intelligence and their total lack of fear.
Resembling nothing so much as a bear the size of a pit bull terrier, the wolverine is actually a larger member of the mustelid family, which includes otters, weasels and badgers. The wolverine is a predator as well as a scavenger, notorious for hunting much larger prey, and defending its prize from much larger predators. There are numerous stories about a lone wolverine fending off a pack of wolves, or scaring a bear away from its own dinner – there’s even one about a wolverine in captivity straight-up murdering a polar bear.
With jaws like a steel trap and long, curved claws, the wolverine’s surprising, disproportionate strength – it can apparently shift logs that would take two grown men to lift – tough, thick hide and devastating turn of speed make it a match for virtually any other predator in nature. But it’s the animal’s nasty attitude that makes up most of its legendary reputation. The wolverine will rip out the throat, go straight for the eyes or the soft tissue of the face, intent on shock and awe tactics reminiscent of the worst pub psycho street fighters.
9. The Most Violent Footballer In The World
Bruno Fernandes das Dores de Souza, professionally known simply as Bruno, is a professional footballer… and convicted murderer.
Born in 1984, the young goalkeeper was quickly spotted at age twenty-two, going on to play for one of Brazil’s most celebrated teams, Flamengo. A fan favourite, he became team captain only a couple of years after starting with the side.
It was the following year that everything came apart for this sporting hero. Well, to be more precise, for a woman he met at a party. Following the one night stand, model Eliza Samudio became pregnant; and when she approached him regarding his unborn child, Bruno refused to consider any form of support.
Faced with potential litigation from the mother of his son at a time when his career was skyrocketing, Bruno conspired with friends to kidnap, torture and murder the poor woman. Forced to dispose of the corpse, Bruno dismembered her and fed her to his rottweilers.
He was arrested in July 2010, having not considered that having his wife parading around with the newborn offspring of a missing woman would make him the prime suspect. Confessing to his part in the horrific crime, Bruno was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison; however, due to a technicality he managed to obtain his release in March 2017.
Disturbingly, top Brazilian teams thronged to sign him again following his release; he presently plays for Boa Esporte, although several of the club’s sponsors have threatened to abandon them due to the controversial decision.
8. The Most Violent Knife In The World
Named after the Austrian special forces team, the MicroTech Jagdkommando range of knives are designed to look like the kind of weapon a serial killer would come up with while doodling on a boring train journey.
With a blade comprising three sharp, twisted edges tapering to the tip, the Jagdkommando looks sexy in a really ugly way – which is absolutely the point. You see, the knife has been around for millennia, both as a weapon and as an all-purpose cutting, hacking and sawing tool. Functional, efficient knife design reached its apogee a long, long time ago, and there’s a reason why no one thought to thought to create a dagger that looks like it was designed to core giant vampire apples.
Useless as a cutting implement, if you slashed with the Jagdkommando you’d only be bashing something with a short, spiky blunt object. On the other hand, as a stabbing weapon the thing is thick and clumsy. You’d have to hammer it in to achieve any kind of penetration, let alone to the point where that vaunted helix blade could create a devastating wound.
So poorly put together that its only purpose is to scare children and fleece gullible militia wannabes of six months earnings from their paper round, the Jagdkommando is the most pointlessly violent blade imaginable, a knife for weirdos who like to torture cats and scream threats at women on the internet.
7. The Most Violent Grandmother In The World
On 13th June 2011, Betty Neumar passed away from cancer in a hospital in Louisiana. Aged 79, the grandmother left behind more than grieving family and friends: there was an open criminal investigation for murder, and a horde of unanswered questions about the death of her five (five!) husbands.
The fourth, Thomas Harold Gentry, was shot in their home in July 1986 by an unknown assailant. James Flynn died in unclear circumstances on a pier in New York; Richard Sills apparently shot himself during an argument at home. Clarence Malone survived fifteen years after their divorce, only to be shot in the head in 1970.
Her fifth husband, John Neumar, died of sepsis in October 2007… but the symptoms also matched arsenic poisoning, and his widow quickly had him cremated – despite his will requesting a burial – before any investigations could be made. Not only that, but her son Gary committed suicide… and she was the beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
The more police looked into it, the more the evidence mounted up. Neumar had an extravagant lifestyle well beyond her means, relying on large payments – like life insurance payouts – to bail her out. There were forged passports, fake identities, secret bank accounts. At one point, she racked up debts of close to quarter of a million dollars on 43 credit cards, forcing her to go bankrupt.
6. The Most Violent Battle In The World
One of the inspirations for the Machiavellian power struggles detailed in Game Of Thrones, the War Of The Roses was actually a series of civil wars between rival noble English families that ran from 1455 to 1485. The house of Lancaster, represented by a white rose, fought tooth and nail against the house of York, represented by a red rose.
As wartime violence goes, it’s hard to top the Battle Of Towton, the appallingly bloody encounter between the Roses on 29th March 1461 that brought Edward IV to the throne. Gettysburg comes close, but that took place over three days: Towton, only one. Considered the biggest and costliest battle ever fought on English soil, both sides had agreed that there would be no quarter – no mercy, clemency or prisoners taken – and that the matter that divided them would be settled here, in one huge, awful clash of men and ideologies on a small scrap of land near the village of Towton in what is now the northern county of Yorkshire.
Well over fifty thousand men took part in the battle – the number has been quoted as high as eighty thousand – and it’s said that fully half of those men were killed in a single day’s carnage. At the time, there were probably around three million souls in the whole of England; about 1% of the population were butchered at Towton, in a battle so bloody that the rivers literally ran red for days afterwards.
5. The Most Violent Fish In The World
Sharks get a bad rap, but for a reason: the horrendous eating machines look like what would happen if a fish was possessed by Pazuzu. In practice, however, a far smaller and less notorious wee beastie holds the title for most violent and aggressive fish.
That’s Parachromis dovii, the Central American gamefish also known as the wolf cichlid, nicknamed the “tank buster” because of their reputation for ramming the glass of their aquarium housing so brutally that they’ve been known to break the glass. Incredibly territorial and vicious toward fish of other species, fish of its own species and fish it’s trying to have sex with – so, all fish, essentially – the male wolf cichlid grows to well over two foot long, and thinks of everything it can jam into its maw as food.
The only way in which you can have any other fish in the same tank is if the other fish is equally large and nasty and the tank is very large indeed. However, given that the wolf cichlid is extremely intelligent and gets bored easily, if it’s left in a tank on its own it’ll start to make its own entertainment, which usually involves trying to headbutt or bite anything that looks at it sideways.
That explains the ‘tank-busting’ behaviour… but the wolf cichlid will also literally bite the hand that feeds it, seizing the opportunity to be a massive douchecanoe wherever possible to savage its owner just for trying to keep it alive.
4. The Most Violent Wrestler In The World
Tales of backstage fights in professional wrestling are often more entertaining than the predetermined and/or scripted antics that take place inside the squared circle. There’s one man, though, about whom stories of his insane, jaw-dropping gift for violence have achieved legendary status – and that’s Tonga Fifita, known professionally as Haku or Meng.
Even if the stories are a little exaggerated, they’re still terrifying. Bobby “The Brain” Heenan claimed that he saw him reach into a man’s mouth during a brawl and break off his bottom teeth. There are multiple witnesses to him taking on a whole group of cops, ignoring their attempts to mace him and snapping handcuffs with a shrug of his shoulders.
A tale about him biting the nose off a man in a bar fight seems to be true, while another about him gouging the eye out of a fellow wrestler backstage may be embellished. But Fifita wasn’t some garden variety psycho with a chip on his shoulder: he was just a man you only messed with if you liked the taste of hospital food.
World Championship Wrestling’s long time booker Kevin Sullivan used to use Fifita’s rep as a bargaining chip whenever someone balked at being asked to lose a match: he’d just stand behind Sullivan as he made the storyline pitch, not saying a word. Apparently the only reason Meng worked at WCW for so long was that no one was brave enough to fire him.
3. The Most Violent Kids Cartoon In The World
Kids’ cartoons have a weird relationship with violence. Just like adult popcorn flicks, they’re filled with superheroes, monsters, space battles, gunplay, martial arts and warfare – and to render that suitable for children’s broadcasting, they set all kinds of edicts in place. You know the kind of thing: using words like “destroy” instead of “kill”; having the villain’s henchmen be faceless robots, aliens or a clone army; anything to avoid having actual human-on-human violence take place on the show.
The same dictum holds true for all the variations on the classic Tom & Jerry formula, the definition of “cartoon violence”: they feature non-stop, breakneck mayhem on an appalling scale, but with no pain, injury or consequences of any kind.
And then there’s a cartoon like Tron: Uprising, a brilliant low key sensation with an all-star cast that aired on Disney XD in 2012. Easily better than either of the feature films that inspired it, the cartoon is also brutal in the extreme. Although it holds to the old precept about bloodlessness on kids TV (it’s a show about computer programs fighting), there’s jaw-dropping violence throughout the cleverly conceived action scenes, including characters being murdered, maimed and tortured while screaming in agony, while other characters react in horror.
That’s unadulterated violence on screen, detailing physical and emotional pain and suffering, and dramatic consequence to that pain and suffering. It’s shocking even for adults… but seems to have slipped under the censors’ radar due to the total lack of blood.
2. The Most Violent Disease In The World
Can a disease, faceless and anima-free, be truly violent? Well, the effects of a disease can be as dramatic and traumatic – physically and mentally – as any act of war, any senseless crime, any psychotic assault.
And that goes double for necrotising fasciitis. This horrifying infection spreads “flesh-eating” bacteria that circulates devastating toxins within the flesh, destroying the living tissue. The onset of the disease is sudden and appalling – first there’s intense pain and a burning sensation, fever and an accelerated heart rate. The tissue becomes swollen and discoloured, and blistering occurs within mere hours. Sometimes the affected areas crack and pop as fluid shifts around, poisoned and fetid. Then necrosis sets in: the cells begin to die, the flesh turning black, rotting away.
Antibiotics in quite stunning amounts can halt the infection before it spreads any further, but nothing can be done about the necrotic flesh… except to cut it away. That can extend to amputation and life-saving medical procedures that, on the face of it, look like maiming and mutilation. Prosthetics and plastic surgery can mitigate some of the permanent effects of necrotising fasciitis, but it’s a life-changing diagnosis if it’s not made in time to prevent catastrophic damage. And there’s nothing more violent than that.
1. The Most Violent Song In The World
In 1995, alternative culture icon Nick Cave was ensconced in the studio with his band The Bad Seeds working on the Murder Ballads record, a long player that was intended to put a lurid capstone to the fire and brimstone, “Old Testament” phase of his already long and turbulent musical career. Handed a book of prison poetry, Cave happened across an unspeakably brutal variation on an old American folk song, “Stagger Lee” and was inspired, dragging the band in to improvise their own typically dark, angular and frankly terrifying version.
The true story that had inspired the legend a century earlier was a simple tale of gun violence, with Missouri pimp “Stack” Lee Shelton killing an acquaintance over a mundane drunken disagreement. However, generations of different versions of the tale sung to different audiences had created in Stagger Lee a swaggering rebel icon, a symbol of macho pride and amoral decadence to be admired, albeit from a safe distance.
Cave had written bloody-handed songs with a higher body count, but none as savagely, gleefully violent. This was a Stagger Lee taken to the extreme: a man beyond the pale thrown out by his wife who embarks on one last horrific orgy of murder and sexual assault. The music has a sinister, abrasive snake-hipped groove, Cave’s rollicking baritone like an old school preacher groaning about the fires of Hell as he tells the tale of “the bad motherf***er called Stagger Lee” and the itchy trigger finger on his Colt .45…