Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas!

Pigeon-guided missiles and cat spies to believing that the movie It’s a Wonderful Life is the Communists’ way of brainwashing America…here are some of the unbelievably outrageous spy ideas throughout history.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 1: It’s a Wonderful Life and Communism

Would you believe that this 1946 American flick now traditionally shown during the Christmas Season due to its Christmas-y feel-good vibe hides a dark secret?

Well, many of us will say that’s impossible but the FBI thought otherwise. When it was first released, the Federal Bureau of Investigation believed unbelievably outrageous idea — that the movie was the Communists’ way of converting America to Communism!

According to informants, how the wealthy banker, Mr. Potter, was portrayed in the movie was a sure sign to that. Furthermore, a report consisting of 2,000 pages about Communist infiltration within the Motion Picture field described it “a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers”.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 2: Rat Bombs

Rat bombs – or explosive rats – were part of a hush-hush weapons development campaign by the  British Special Operations Executive during the Second World War.

To make the rat bombs, carcasses of the rodents were filled up with plastic explosives. They were, then, to be dispersed in close proximity to German broiler rooms. Expectations were that if the Germans saw them, they would likely be disposed off through burning and since the rats’ bodies were filled with explosives, they would eventually blow off causing broiler explosion and ultimately, damage.

Nevertheless, the rat bombs never saw use as the first shipment of this secret weapons were intercepted by the targets — the Germans.

However, British intelligence officers believe the operation “rat bomb making” a success since after that interception, Germans have been consumed – time and resources included – at looking for more of these booby trap rats.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 3: Acoustic Kitty, the Ultimate Cat Spy

Acoustic Kitty was a highly classified CIA project during the 1960s with the purpose of using cats to spy on the Soviet and Kremlin embassies.

A veterinarian surgeon is tasked at transforming a mere normal house feline into an ultimate cat spy. The procedure took an hour to execute and involved the implanting of a tiny microphone into the cat’s ear canal with an equally tiny radio transmitter embedded at the base of the cat’s skull.

The cost for the operation and training of the first Acoustic Kitty is believed to have amounted to more than $25 million.

And so, the first Acoustic Kitty was sent on its very first mission — to eavesdrop on two men who were in a park just outside the Soviet compound on Wisconsin Avenue, Washington DC. But then, before the cat could do its job, it was killed, hit by a passing taxi as soon as it was released.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 4: Bomb the Moon Away!


The year was 1959 and American scientists were seriously considering nuclear bombing the moon as part of the project called Project A119 or A Study of Lunar Research Flights“. Its aim was to get answers for a number of astronomy and astrogeology mysteries and mainly, to boost the morale of the United States after Soviet Union embarked on a similar project as the US and was in fact, ahead of the country in the race for conquering space.

The blast which would have been made by the detonated nuclear bomb on the lunar surface would have been visible, though rather faintly, to the naked eye of the people back here in earth.

However, both the US and Soviet’s projects were cancelled. They feared negative public feedback, potential militarization of space and the US eventually realized that landing on the moon would generate a more positive outcome from American and international citizens alike.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 5: Water Fluoridation and Communism

Aside from believing that the classic well-loved movie It’s a Wonderful Life was a brainchild of the Communists, many Americans also strongly believed that water fluoridation was a communist plot, their way of levying the rise of a socialist regime. This thinking was widespread during the Cold War.

Aside from that, mainstream right-wing politicians were also publicly announcing that mass vaccination programs were communist-organized.

One prominent opponent to the fluoridation of water was Dr. Charles Bett who described the said process as “better than using the atom bomb because poisonous fluorine has been placed right beside the water supplies by the Americans themselves, ready to be dumped into the water mains whenever a Communist desires!”.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 6: Milkshake Laced with Cyanide, Anyone?

Reportedly, Cuban Communist Leader Fidel Castro survived 600 attempts to end his life. One such attempt involved a cyanide pill and the leader’s favorite milkshake.

According to accounts, the CIA worked with the Mafia to smuggle a cyanide pill into Cuba and, eventually, to Castro’s favorite Havana bar where it would be mixed in with his favorite milkshake.

It was the perfect though outrageous assassination plan. Then, one glitch happened — the cyanide pill was stored in a freezer and got stuck to its side.

When the would-be assassin tried to pry the pill off, the lethal powder spilled off to the floor. In the end, the plan to kill Castro was abandoned.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 7: Missiles Guided by Pigeons

Project Pigeon [later on revived as Project Orcon] was another unbelievably outrageous spy idea during the Second World War whose brainchild was American behaviorist B.F. Skinner with attempts at developing pigeon-guided missiles.

For this undertaking, the missile’s control system a lens which projected the image of the target to an inside screen. One to three pigeons, trained to recognize the target through operant conditioning, would be the ones to peck at the screen guiding the missile to its intended mark. As long as the pigeons hit the center of the screen, the missile would fly straight to its target. However, if the pigeons peck off center, they would cause the veering off of the device from its intended destination.

Though doubtful, the National Defense Research Committee gave $25,000 for the project. But then, they had to stop it as the idea of pigeons controlling glide bombs were considered too far-fetched and impractical. Three years after the war, the project was revived as Project Orcon [for Organic Control] but was later cancelled when the reliability of electronic guidance systems were proven.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 8: The Rock Sleuth


Having a literal rock as a spy sounds outrageous and a worthy scheme in a James Bond film but British sleuths working in Russia did use this kind of device while they were out spying in the country. This controversial “rock spy device” even became the cause of a misunderstanding by the two countries, Russia and Britain, way back in 2006.

Accordingly, an artificial rock was planted near a tree on the outskirts of Moscow. This said rock has a hidden transmitter which was, then, used to pass classified data. Russian assets would simply pass by the artificial rock and, with the use of a palm-sized device, pass classified information to the rock. later on, British diplomats would also pass by that same artificial rock or take it with them to retrieve the passed data.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 9: Gerbil Sniffers

MI5 considered the idea of employing gerbils as terrorists and spies sniffers in the 1970s. Israelis had put the using of the animals into practice by putting them in cages and placing them at security checks in Israel’s Tel Aviv Airport. Big fans were placed strategically to make the scents of the passengers drift to the gerbils’ cages.

The idea of gerbils being spies and terrorists sniffers was based upon the rodents’ ability to recognize a change in adrenalin levels through a person’s sweat. The animals were trained via Pavlovian response to press a lever if they detected increase in adrenaline. In return, they get food as a reward.

However, MI5 never got to implementing their gerbil project as the Israelis were also forced to abandon theirs. In turned out that gerbils couldn’t tell the difference between persons who had increased adrenaline levels because they were either terrorists or spies going through airport security or those who were just simply afraid of flying.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 10: Hitler versus Himmler…?

It was also during World War Two when the British Special Operations Executive executed seemingly brilliant [yet outrageous] spy plot in hopes of destabilizing Hitler’s Nazi regime.

They issued fake stamps bearing Himmler’s face instead of the notorious Nazi dictator’s.

The idea behind the plot was to fuel the the rumors that Himmler was replacing Hitler as Nazi Germany’s fuehrer. Nevertheless, nobody – not even the stamp collectors – seemed to notice the forgery or bothered to question it rendering the plot an utter failure.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 11: Planted Dead

One of the greatest, but still a little outrageous, disinformation plots executed during the Second World War was strapping supposedly highly classified information documents to a corpse which was, then, deliberately washed up ashore in Spain.

The corpse was obtained from a London mortuary with intelligence officers creating false a false identity for the dead body — an Army Major with a very credible background.

And boy, did the plan work!

The German officers in Spain took the bait, believed the corpse’s back story and reported their findings to Berlin.

The plot, with the code name Operation Mincemeat, went on to convince high-ranking German officials that the Allies were planning to invade Sardinia and Greece in 1943. The actual objective was Sicily.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas 12: Typewriter Spies

If the British were able to get Russian classified information through the rock spy, the latter were able to get theirs from the US through the typewriter spies.

The KGB were able to install small eavesdropping devices and transmitters within sixteen IBM Selectric Typewriters used by the staff in the US Embassy in Moscow and Leningrad in 1976.

The spying equipment managed to copy everything that was typed into these tapped machines and the date were, then, transmitted to KGB engineers who were stationed in vans nearby the edifices.

The equipment went undetected for eight years. That was how long the Soviet spy agency were able to put their outrageous typewriter spies planted within the center of the US Embassy to use.

Unbelievably Outrageous Spy Ideas Honorable Mention: Bat Bombs

Like the rat bombs, bat bombs employ the use of bats to carry custom-sized explosive devices with the aim of causing damage to Japanese cities, the intended targets. Bat bombs development was an experimental project during WWII.

The whole plan of employing bats to carry the explosives was based on the observance that the Japanese built their infrastructures using bamboo, paper and other highly-flammable materials. Initial observations and tests produced positive results but then, the project was cancelled when it was found out that bat bombs would not be ready until the middle of 1945. In that time, it was reported that the project had already consumed an estimated amount of $2 million.

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE