As we can see from our list on the Strangest Monarchs, leaders can be pretty darn entertaining when they lose their ever-loving minds and just start with the power abuse and quirky behavior. But the things people will do on their way to power can often be good too. Here is a list of the Top 10 almost-leaders of nations.
10. Homer A. Tomlinson
Born in Indiana in 1892, in 1916 Homer A. Tomlinson founded an advertising agency and shortly thereafter, a church. His following reached approx. 3,000 people – numbers which slowly but surely went to his head (he exaggerated them into the tens of millions.) In 1952, he ran for president on the ticket of a party he had formed called “the Theocracy Party,” which promised unification of church and state amongst other very unlikely things. Obviously, he lost.
Fortunately, this left his schedule wide open for his true calling. In 1955, he declared himself “King of All Nations“. He traveled to literally every existing country of the time (of which there were 101) to perform coronation ceremonies, mostly in parks and airports. The accoutrements of world leadership included:
1. An inflatable globe.
2. An iron scepter and crown painted gold.
3. A foldable lawn chair with a sign “King of The World” on it (which was a dead giveaway that he wasn’t really the king of the world. Obviously, the real king would use a Lazy Boy™)
9. Don Lupe De Aguirre
Here was a man that was, to some extent, understandably believed to have had real power in his grasp. During a 1560 expedition by the Spanish army in Peru to find the infamous El Dorado on the Amazon River (“City of Gold”) Don De Lupe Aguirre managed to rebel against his commanding officer and take charge of an army. An army of 300. Aguirre’s schemes then got a bit too big for his boots: he planned to conquer all of Peru (where his army would be outnumbered dozens to one) but only AFTER sailing to Panama, conquering Panama, and then sailing south to begin the Peruvian invasion (I.e., getting them from behind) Along the way he became paranoid and began whittling away at his already tiny army, including killing off the puppet Prince that he had appointed to give himself a flimsy legal claim to the conquests he was about to make. Along the way to his conquests, he also wrote a letter to the King of Spain, declaring him dethroned, indicating South America was only Step 1. When word reached his army that they would be given full pardons if they abandoned Aguirre, his entire army deserted, leaving him to be executed for treason. His life would be adapted into the highly acclaimed 1971 film Aguirre, the Wrath of God where he would be played by blond German Klaus Kinski.
8. George Train
Have you or someone you know ever wished that candidates for offices would tell the truth? Okay, here’s a sample of what that would look like: in 1872, industrialist, feminist, man of the world (and inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World In 80 Days) ran for President of the United States as an Independent Party candidate. Then he switched and ran for Dictator of the United States of America. His ego having just gotten started, he began to charge admission for his rallies. He would not shake hands, preferring instead to shake his own hand when someone offered theirs (wonder what he did when someone offered their baby for him to kiss.) In 1873, he was put an asylum. Notably though, it was for publishing feminist literature, not trying to become dictator.
7. Richard Booth
In 1977, this former humble book salesperson declared his local community Hay-On-Wye, Wales an independent kingdom, netting him 1,200 followers. He began selling titles and printing an independent currency on rice paper (which he claimed was so that people “could put their money where their mouth was”) and bought huge amounts of books from failing libraries. He rented out closed-down buildings to open second hand book stores. The stores became enough of a success that he began an annual book sales festival. Once again, the power went to his head, and he began issuing edicts trying to ban automobiles from the community. Also he went after supermarkets, which he deemed would bring down society eventually. In 2009, he humbled himself enough to run for a mere position with Parliament. He lost.
6. James Harden-Hickey
Hickey came from better wealth than most of the others listed, and perhaps that was the problem. Born in San Francisco in 1854, he was taken to Paris. Then he saw Versailles – opulent with entrancing royalty, and apparently he was imbued with a lifelong desire to be king of his own country. In 1891, he got his wish when he landed on a small, uninhabited island in 1893 called Trinidad. He declared himself “Prince of Trinidad” and began attempting to recruit followers through bonds and titles of a Kingdom with one permanent citizen. Disaster struck in 1895 when the British “invaded,” which is to say the built a telegraph cable station. Hickey redoubled his fundraising and contacted Henry Flager, a wealthy Irish rebel, with a plan for a joint invasion of England by Ireland with himself in command. Somehow Flager thought it was best to say no. In 1897, the British withdrew only to be replaced by Brazil. Depressed by his ruined dream of the Kingdom of Himself, he committed suicide in 1898.
5. Eleazar Williams
While most of the other entries on this list relied on good old rebellion or insane public claims in their pursuit of the throne, in the 1830’s William tried his hand at power by pretending to be a French king, specifically the late Louis Charles de Bourdin XVII who had died in 1795 during the French revolution while in prison at the age of eight. Standing in Eleazar’s way a bit was the fact he wasn’t a Caucasian, but instead Mohawk Native American. That, and the claim that his reason for waiting until he was in his forties to let everyone know that he was the Dauphin was because he had forgotten until blow to his head had refreshed his memory (a curiously original claim as it predated cartoon clichés by more than half a century), cast some doubt. Allegedly persuasive enough to get some money from European aristocrats (probably based mostly on their not meeting him) he supposedly died talking about a dress his mother Marie Antoniette wore. So that means I’ll have to come up with some new dying words if I want to avoid being accused of copying.
4. Verdicaee Turner
Most of these leaders, you’ll have noticed, strove to gain their illustrious offices. In Vedicaee Turner’s case, she was born for it. You see, at birth, (she claimed), she tried to kick off the placenta and it “…flipped back onto my head like a crown.” An appropriate beginning for this woman, who in 1927 claimed she was “Empress of the Washitaw Nation. ” The Washitaw Nation is a bogus native American tribe that claims to own all the land that was acquired for America from France in 1803 during the Louisiana Purchase. Discontent with merely basking in power and enjoying the support of a local separatist group called the Republic of Texas, she began to sell expensive passports, driver’s licenses, and other “official” documents related to her nation. She brought under investigation for fraud in 1999. One of the investigating officers said “she’s goofy.” It’s not a title like Alexander the Great, but there are worse titles than “Verdiacee the Goofy.”
3. Hong Xiuquan
It might seem odd to consider a man who managed to get a rebellion that ultimately killed twenty million people “ridiculous,” but that’s just what Hong Xiuquan is. The main instigator of the Taiping Rebellion that lasted from 1850 to 1864 in China, was, in fact, ridiculous. Born in middle class China in 1914, he was originally a bright but undistinguished tutor. In 1836 he became acquainted with and then obsessed with Christianity in a very unusual way. He claimed to have been put on Earth to rid the world of demons. By 1850, he had a following of 10,000-30,000 people that followed him as he preached a “combination of utopianism, evangelism, and muddled Catholicism.” As time went on, he began to believe that he was actually a direct relative of Jesus Christ, which sort of makes him the Chinese equivalent of the Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame). Hong Xiuquan’s rebellion was clearly hopeless as he was outnumbered ten to one by the first army he encountered. Since he could not properly engage enemy armies or cities with a decent hope of victory he settled on having his followers kill millions of civilians while the Imperial army did the same thing trying to hunt him down. Ultimately he poisoned himself in 1864.
2. Chen Sheng
In 209 b.c., Chen Sheng was in charge of a unit of soldiers that was stationed near the Northern border of what was then the nation of China. One day, marching to report for duty, his unit was late because of bad weather. So with an “army” of 450, he rebelled. Instead of doing the sensible thing and deserting, he made for the local palace, determined to become king of the local province of Chu completely though military might. He managed to conquer a palace, and thus his numbers swelled to 10,000.
While this might not seem so ridiculous on the face of it, you have to consider this is ancient China we’re talking about. An imperial army of 200,000 men was dispatched to take care of him. Sheng responded to his hopeless situation by having many of his own soldiers killed in the face of utterly impossible odds. So Sheng’s reign from rebellion to defeat lasted little under six months.
While some Western societies might see him as some sort of martyr an attempted folk hero, Chinese history has been eager to heap abuse on him through the years. The Chinese historical epic The Romance of the Three Kingdoms backhanded his corpse by saying of him “how can a little songbird hope to appreciate the majesty of a swan?”
1. Jonathon Sharkey
We’re not sure how safe it is to call Jonathon Sharkey ridiculous. We might really be putting our butts on the line. You see, while all the rest of these people just wanted to rule a nation of human beings, Sharkey rules a nation of vampires. He let all of us lesser beings know he was the leader of the vampire nation on December 16, 2009 when he testified in court that he should not be bound by the rulings of American courts but by Vampire Law. He even made death threats at a judge. The puny humans didn’t recognize what they were up against, and Sharkey was forced to go easy on us by serving out his sentence. Now, he is planning his 2012 bid for President. We shudder to think how he plans to expand his constituency.