An epithet is a literary device used to describe or characterize a person, place, or thing by highlighting a particular quality or trait associated with them. It is a descriptive phrase or adjective that often becomes closely linked to the subject’s name. Here are some of the most notorious nicknames.
Ivan the Terrible
Ivan the Terrible, also known as Ivan IV, was the first Tsar of Russia, reigning from 1547 to 1584. Despite his early achievements, including the expansion of the Russian territory and the establishment of a centralized government, Ivan’s later rule was marked by periods of brutal repression and paranoia. He conducted a series of purges against real and perceived enemies, leading to the deaths of thousands, and even killed his own son in a fit of rage. His actions earned him the moniker “Ivan the Terrible.”
Ivan’s reign left a complicated legacy, as he is both remembered as a powerful ruler who laid the foundation for the Russian Empire and as a tyrant responsible for immense suffering. His reign exemplifies the complexities of power and the impact of unchecked authority on a nation’s history.
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper is the infamous and unidentified serial killer who terrorized the Whitechapel district of London in 1888. He is believed to be responsible for the brutal murders of at least five women, all prostitutes. The gruesome nature of the killings, which involved mutilation and disembowelment, shocked Victorian society and the world. Despite intense investigations and numerous theories, the identity of Jack the Ripper remains a mystery to this day, making him one of the most enigmatic and notorious figures in criminal history.
The case of Jack the Ripper has inspired countless books, films, and theories over the years, perpetuating the legend and fascination surrounding this elusive and chilling killer.
The Unabomber, whose real name is Theodore Kaczynski, is an American domestic terrorist and former mathematics professor. Between 1978 and 1995, he carried out a nationwide bombing campaign targeting individuals involved in modern technology and industrial society. His homemade bombs killed three people and injured 23 others.
The Unabomber’s manifesto, titled “Industrial Society and Its Future,” was published in 1995, leading to his identification and arrest. In 1998, Kaczynski pleaded guilty to all charges and is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His case raised important discussions about the impacts of technology on society and the motivations behind acts of domestic terrorism.
“Scarface” is a nickname famously associated with Al Capone, a notorious American gangster who rose to power during the Prohibition era in the 1920s. Capone became one of the most influential crime bosses in Chicago, involved in various illegal activities such as bootlegging, gambling, and prostitution. The nickname “Scarface” was derived from a facial scar that Capone had earned during a bar fight, which added to his fearsome image.
His criminal empire and violent tactics made him a prominent figure in organized crime, but he was eventually brought down by law enforcement, primarily for tax evasion. Despite his incarceration, Al Capone’s legacy as “Scarface” endures in popular culture, symbolizing the dark and ruthless aspects of the criminal underworld during the Prohibition era.
The Butcher of Bosnia
“The Butcher of Bosnia” is a nickname often associated with Radovan Karadžić, a Bosnian Serb politician and leader during the Bosnian War (1992-1995). Karadžić was the President of the self-proclaimed Republika Srpska and played a significant role in orchestrating the genocide and ethnic cleansing campaigns during the war. He was indicted for war crimes, including genocide, by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In 2016, Karadžić was found guilty of genocide for his involvement in the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
His actions during the Bosnian War earned him the infamous nickname “The Butcher of Bosnia,” highlighting his role in the widespread and systematic killings that took place during that dark period of history.
The Railroad Killer
“The Railroad Killer” is a nickname given to Angel Maturino Resendiz, a Mexican drifter and serial killer responsible for a series of brutal murders in the United States during the 1990s. Resendiz would travel by train and hop on and off freight trains, earning him the moniker “The Railroad Killer.” He targeted isolated homes near railroad tracks, committing his heinous crimes across several states, including Texas, Illinois, and Kentucky. His victims included men, women, and children, and he often used blunt objects or tools found at the crime scenes as weapons. Resendiz was known for his transient lifestyle, making it difficult for law enforcement to apprehend him.
He was finally captured in 1999, and in 2006, he was executed in Texas for one of his murders.
The Acid Bath Murderer
“The Acid Bath Murderer” is a notorious nickname given to John George Haigh, a British serial killer who operated during the 1940s. Haigh was responsible for the brutal murders of at least six people, including his victims in acid-filled drums, to dissolve their bodies and destroy evidence.
He believed that if the bodies were dissolved in sulfuric acid, there would be no traces of the murders. Haigh’s motive for the killings was mainly financial, as he planned to steal his victims’ assets and properties. However, his heinous crimes were eventually discovered, and he was arrested, tried, and found guilty. In 1949, John George Haigh was executed by hanging for his gruesome and chilling acts.
The Night Stalker
“The Night Stalker” is the nickname given to Richard Ramirez, an American serial killer and rapist who terrorized Southern California during the mid-1980s. Ramirez’s crime spree lasted from 1984 to 1985, during which he committed a series of brutal home invasion attacks, leading to the deaths of at least 13 people. His modus operandi involved breaking into homes at night, assaulting and killing the occupants, and often leaving satanic symbols at the crime scenes.
Ramirez’s shocking and heinous crimes caused widespread fear and panic in the region. He was finally captured in 1985 when residents recognized and subdued him during a botched home invasion. In 1989, Richard Ramirez was convicted on 13 counts of murder, along with various other charges, and was sentenced to death. He died of complications related to B-cell lymphoma in 2013 while still on death row.
“White Death” is a nickname associated with Simo Häyhä, a Finnish sniper and soldier during the Winter War (1939-1940) between Finland and the Soviet Union. Häyhä earned this moniker due to his exceptional marksmanship skills and deadly accuracy as a sniper. He is credited with having the highest number of confirmed kills by a sniper in any major war, with an estimated 505 kills during the short duration of the Winter War. Häyhä’s tactics and camouflage expertise allowed him to be highly effective in the harsh winter conditions, earning him the respect and fear of his enemies. His remarkable skills and contributions to the Finnish defense effort during the war have made him a legendary figure in military history.
Vlad the Impaler
Vlad the Impaler, also known as Vlad III Dracula, was a 15th-century ruler of Wallachia, a region in present-day Romania. He earned the nickname “the Impaler” due to his brutal and ruthless methods of punishment, particularly his penchant for impaling his enemies and criminals. Vlad’s preferred method of execution was to place wooden stakes through the bodies of his victims and leave them on display as a warning to others. His reign was marked by violent tactics against his enemies and those he perceived as threats, making him infamous for his cruelty.
Vlad’s character and deeds inspired the literary figure of Count Dracula, popularized by Bram Stoker’s novel, “Dracula.”
More Notorious Nicknames Coming in Part Two
- “The Unabomber Manifesto: Industrial Society and Its Future.” The Washington Post. (1995). Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/unabomber/manifesto.text.htm
- The New York Times. (1998). “The Unabomber Pleads Guilty.” Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/1998/01/23/us/the-unabomber-pleads-guilty.html
- International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). (n.d.). Radovan Karadžić Case Information Sheet. Retrieved from: https://www.icty.org/en/case/karadzic
- BBC News. (2016). Radovan Karadžić: Bosnia’s ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Found Guilty of Genocide. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35994117
- Ramsland, K. (2008). “The Acid Bath Murderer: John George Haigh.” Crime Library. Retrieved from: https://web.archive.org/web/20081014020834/http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/serial_killers/history/haigh/index.html
- BBC News. (2013). “Night Stalker Serial Killer Richard Ramirez Dies.” Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-22862949
- BBC News. (2006). “Finnish Marksman’s Daring Second Shot.” Retrieved from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6184729.stm
- Snopes.com. (2017). “Did Simo Häyhä, ‘White Death,’ Kill More Than 500 Soldiers During Finland’s Winter War?” Retrieved from: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/simo-hayha-white-death-500-kills/