The Most Notorious Nicknames In History

Ivan the Terrible

Nicknames are usually cute endearments we give to our best pals or cherished loved ones. But sometimes, history attributes way creepier nicknames to loathsome figures from the past.

Take Ivan the Terrible for example. Suffering from violent, paranoid delusions, he earned a ghastly reputation for slaughtering his political opponents while suppressing free speech in Russia. Ivan's armies once destroyed an entire town, simply because the Tsar had a misinformed hunch they were plotting against him. Oh, and he "accidentally" killed his own son with a giant walking stick in 1581.

Need we go on? The man was truly terrible!


WATCH: This Is Why You Should Not Judge A Word By How It Sounds

Jack the Ripper

Jack the Ripper's nickname fueled his staggering notoriety in London during the late 1800s. London's rabid press couldn't help but report all the salacious details of these grisly murders either. They paid particular attention to how the murderer seemed to rip his poor victims to shreds.

And, there you have it.

The Butcher of Bosnia

The term butcher is often attributed to war criminals who commit large-scale slaughter. Take Ratko Mladić for instance—or you may know him as The Butcher of Bosnia. The combat general was convicted of human rights violations, including genocide against Muslims, after the Bosnian War in the early 90s.

You've got to be one nasty guy to be remembered solely for your butchery.

White Death

White Death: a frosty nickname given to the deadliest sniper in the history of modern warfare.

Simo Häyhä, a Finnish soldier in the Winter War of 1939–1940, is reported to have single-handedly killed upwards of 400 enemy soldiers over 3 months of battle.

Häyhä was called White Death because his sniper fire came from deep snow embankments. Opposing forces couldn't locate the sniper's position thanks to his camouflage against the icy white tundra. 

Vlad the Impaler

Want to take a wild guess at how Vlad the Impaler got his nickname?

Turns out he had a nasty habit of cutting people's heads off and impaling them on spikes. Dude! Not cool, Vlad. The Wallachian leader used these savage displays to intimidate his opponents and consolidate his political power.

Oh, and you might already know he's the real-life inspiration for Dracula and loved torturing people in his creepy castle. No, Vlad. Just no.

Killer Clown

Are you afraid of clowns?

Pennywise from Steven King's IT might strike fear into your heart — but he's got nothing on John Wayne Gacy, AKA the Killer Clown. Without getting into too much detail, let's just say he definitely wasn't clowning around when it came to serial murder. Before his gruesome crimes were discovered, Gacy was known as a friendly clown named Pogo who performed at children's parties and raised money for charity. That's horrifying.

Ivar the Boneless

Unlike most of our loathsome nicknames, this one's actually kind of funny. It belonged to a Viking warlord known as Ivar the Boneless. There isn't enough historical evidence to prove exactly where this bizarre nickname came from, but we have some clues.

Ancient Nordic poems portray Ivar as a fearless berserker who had a superhuman resilience to pain or injury. Others believe he suffered from a genetic condition that softened his cartilage, making his limbs hyper-flexible — perhaps giving him the appearance of being boneless. 

The Gray Man

File this one under: Google if you dare.

Albert Fish, known as The Gray Man, is one of American history's most distinguished nut-jobs. Fish got the nickname from a frightened witness who described his unruly appearance. She claimed the infamous kidnapper made strange movements with his hands, and "everything about him seemed faded and gray." Her creepy description struck a chord in the press, and Fish became known as a real-life boogeyman around New York in the early 1930s.

Zodiac Killer

Most of us know our zodiac sign and use it to check out horoscopes. But, one mysterious serial killer from the late 1960s gave the term a whole new meaning.

The Zodiac Killer haunted Northern California for several years, committing a baffling string of murders that remain unsolved today. In mocking letters to the press, he called himself The Zodiac, leading to massive speculation about his true identity.

It's actually possible this nickname has nothing to do with astrology at all. You'll have to dig deeper to get the whole story, but some believe the killer borrowed his nickname from a brand of Swiss watch called Zodiac. The brand's logo closely resembles a crude mark he would draw after signing his ominous letters.

Doctor Death

Several doctors have been given this dubious nickname throughout history. It's usually attributed to those who break the Hippocratic oath by purposefully euthanizing elderly or sick patients against their will.

One doctor, Jack Kevorkian, spent his career advocating for the concept of right-to-die, which permits terminally ill patients to undergo euthanasia at will. Now that practice is legal in some states thanks to his pursuits.

Nobody likes hospitals, but imagine how freaked out you'd be to hear "Paging Dr. Death ..." over the loudspeaker.

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