In the Shadows: 10 Notable Criminal Aliases and Their Origins

Published on April 2, 2024

Credit: Ye Jinghan

Just like an artist chooses a stage name, criminals have long used aliases to instill fear and avoid capture. These pseudonyms often embody part of the essence of the individual behind the mask, or are related in some way or another to their past.

Let's delve into the stories behind these 10 infamous criminal aliases and the individuals who wielded them.



Credit: Miami Police Department

Al Capone, dubbed "Scarface" for the distinctive scar on his face, was one of America's most notorious gangsters during the Prohibition era. He earned the scar during his time in the Five Points Gang of New York. Capone insulted a woman while working in a gang-operated dance hall, only to be viciously attacked by her brother, who slashed his face with a knife. In time, his hair-raising alias became synonymous with organized crime in Chicago, where he ran speakeasies and engaged in bootlegging.


The Skyway Man

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Frank Abagnale, an American con artist famous for his many frauds against individuals and small businesses during the ‘60s, earned the alias "The Skyway Man" for his audacious scheme of impersonating a Pan Am pilot and using his status to cash fraudulent checks without suspicion everywhere in the world. His life was later portrayed in the acclaimed Steven Spielberg film "Catch Me If You Can."



Credit: Indiana State Penitentiary

John Dillinger was a notorious bank robber during the Great Depression, known for his brazen heists and daring escapes from the police. His dangerous exploits earned him the nickname "Jackrabbit" due to his graceful movements during heists, such as leaping over the counter - something he allegedly copied from the movies. The FBI also dubbed him "Public Enemy Number One," and his larger-than-life figure epitomized the glamorization of outlaws in American folklore.


The Zodiac Killer

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The Zodiac Killer, an unidentified serial killer active in California during the late 1960s and early 1970s, earned his alias for his taunting letters sent to newspapers and police, filled with cryptic ciphers and threats and signed under the "Zodiac" pseudonym. Though the police identified a series of potential suspects, the killer behind the letters was never positively identified, leaving behind an enduring mystery surrounding his identity and motives.



Credit: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Blackbeard was the nickname of Edward Teach, a notorious English pirate who roamed the Caribbean during the early 18th century. He earned his alias for his fearsome appearance and ruthless tactics. The pirate was described as a tall man with a thick black beard, often braided into pigtails. During battles, he often stuck lighted slow matches under his hat to scare his enemies. However, despite his appearance and reputation, most historians believe that Blackbeard never murdered or harmed those he held captive.


The Teflon Don

Credit: Rob Wicks

John Gotti, a powerful Mafia boss in New York City during the 80s, earned the alias "The Teflon Don" for his ability to evade conviction despite numerous charges against him. His apparent legal invincibility was achieved by intimidating witnesses and buying jury members with the help of the Gambino crime family. However, he was eventually convicted by the FBI after a lengthy investigation, receiving life in prison without parole.


The Black Widow

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Griselda Blanco, a Colombian drug lord known for her ruthlessness, earned the alias "The Black Widow" for reportedly ordering the killing of each of her husbands. Also known as the "Godmother", she rose to prominence in the underworld of Miami during the 1970s and was known for her penchant for eliminating rivals who dared cross her path.


The Mob's Accountant

Credit: Scott Graham

Meyer Lansky was a key figure in organized crime during the Prohibition era, as he earned his alias "The Mob's Accountant" for his financial prowess in managing illicit enterprises. Lansky’s alias reflected his strategic role in introducing money laundering and offshore banking in 1932 to the American criminal underworld. However, until his death in 1983, he was never found guilty of anything more than illegal gambling.


The Unabomber

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Ted Kaczynski, an American domestic terrorist and mathematician, gained notoriety as "The Unabomber" for his targeting of universities and airlines with homemade bombs. But before his real identity was known, the FBI internally used the name UNABOM (meaning University and Airline Bomber) to refer to his case. The media soon picked up the FBI identifier and creatively transformed it into the "Unabomber."


Pretty Boy Floyd

Credit: Roman Kraft

Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, a Depression-era bank robber and folk hero, earned his alias for his youthful appearance and charm. His exploits and story contributed to the romanticized image of the outlaw as a Robin Hood figure, as he was believed to burn mortgage documents during robberies, in theory freeing many people from life-long debts.


Believe It Or Not, Here Are 10 Wacky Superstitions From Around The World!

Published on April 2, 2024

Credit: Malvestida

Think back on all the lucky pennies you or someone you know have picked up through the years. Maybe you stored a four-leaf clover between the pages of your favorite book or put on that lucky shirt the day you had a nerve-wracking exam. Superstitions are one of the few aspects of culture that surpass generations. There’s a pretty big chance that your grandparents shared those same quirky rituals and traditions with you.

While some are fairly global, every culture has its own set of local and unique superstitions. We have gathered a couple on this list so you might find new ways to improve your luck on those days you need it the most.


Rabbit season!

Credit: Gavin Allanwood

The first day of the month can be quite stressful: bills start coming in, assignments begin to pile up, and all those chores we set aside for the next month suddenly knock on your door. We know how overwhelming the responsibilities of adult life can be, so we brought up this charming method that almost seems like a children’s game.

According to an ancient superstition that originated in the United Kingdom, saying the word "rabbit" right after you wake up on the first day of the month brings good luck for the remaining days. This ritual has been around since at least the 1900s and has found its way to other English-speaking countries. Supposedly, President Franklin Roosevelt said "rabbit, rabbit" each first day of the month, and he carried a rabbit’s foot during the 1932 election (which he won by a landslide).


Got a light?

Credit: David Tomaseti

Your health should be the main concern that drives you to quit cigarettes. However, if you are looking for extra motivation to stop smoking, you might want to look into this superstition. Some European countries believe that if you light a cigarette with a candle, a sailor will die. Ever the superstitious lot, the origins of this belief can obviously be traced back to sailors. When they returned to shore, sailors would make and sell matches to supplement their income while waiting to sail back. Therefore, lighting a cigarette with a candle would take away much-needed money from a sailor, who might starve without the earnings of his side job.


Broken dishes everywhere!


You might be familiar with wedding traditions that involve smashing plates against the floor: German couples smash porcelain plates to ward off evil spirits, and Greeks cheerfully shout Opa! over broken plates for good luck. Also, people from Denmark have a similar tradition for New Year’s Eve. Danes save up their old plates and glasses through the year and then throw them at the doorsteps of their friends and family. This might sound aggressive, but this beloved ritual supposedly wishes the recipient good luck for the upcoming year.


You still need to pay for that…

Credit: Adam Wilson

We discussed the fortune that intentionally breaking plates can bring, but what happens when you break something by accident? Breaking a plate in a U.S. restaurant might make the other customers applaud you, but rest assured that those claps are absolutely sarcastic. However, if you accidentally break a bottle of alcohol in a Japanese bar, you might find that the cheers you receive are genuine. Japanese people believe that this brings both good luck and bigger profits to the bar. However, it has to be an accident: intentionally breaking a bottle of delicious Japanese whisky will bring you nothing but trouble.


The runt of the family

Credit: National Cancer Institute

According to horror movies, it's probably not a good idea to stroll through a dark forest on a full moon night; you might end up encountering a werewolf.

We are all familiar with the werewolf myth: a helpless person, previously bitten and cursed, that forcefully transforms into a bloodthirsty wolf every full moon. However, people from Argentina have their very own spin on this myth, on which the causes of this affliction are not a dooming bite, but rather being born into a large family.

According to legend, the seventh son of a family only composed of boys will become a Lobizon , the Argentinean equivalent of a werewolf. However, the only way to stop a Lobizon does not come from a silver bullet, but from baptism. When the seventh son of a family is born, the president of Argentina becomes their godparent and sends a gold medal to congratulate the baptism of the would-be werewolf.


Kiss me, I’m an Irish stone

Credit: Dahlia E. Akhaine

Blarney Castle is not only an iconic landmark that must be seen when visiting Ireland, but this medieval stronghold is also home to a beloved Irish tradition. The Blarney Stone, located in the battlements of the castle, is visited by millions of tourists with a single objective in mind: kissing the stone. According to legend, the Blarney stone grants whoever kisses it great eloquence and skill at flattery. However, this task is not as easy as it sounds: To kiss the stone, visitors must climb up to the top of the castle, and then lean backward over the parapet’s edge.


Don’t drink the moonlit water!

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If you visit the website of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture, you might come upon a page detailing over 100 different Turkish superstitions. They range from those involving animals, like "It is good to see scorpions in one’s dreams", to several involving water. Among those is the belief that water where moonlight has reflected shouldn’t be drunk, since they might curse anyone who drinks this water with bad luck. The moon, however, is not always considered a bad omen by Turkish people: Many believe that a baby born under the full moon will be lucky and have a bright future.


We’ll say a little prayer for you

Credit: Kelsey Chance

Remember that iconic scene in the film "My Best Friend’s Wedding", where an entire dinner bursts into an acapella rendition of Aretha Franklin’s "I Say a Little Prayer"? As ingrained into pop culture as that scene is, it should be noted that, had that wedding happened in The Netherlands, other customers of the dinner might not have been so thrilled about the impromptu performance. According to this superstition, whoever sings at the dinner table is singing to the devil and praising him for the food. So remember: if your best friend happens to get married in The Netherlands, leave any Aretha Franklin song for karaoke night.


A fruitful beginning

Credit: George Bakos

According to an old phrase, in order to live a full life, a person should have a child, write a book, and plant a tree. While we might not guarantee that this is the formula for a perfect life, we can provide our two cents and add that, if you happen to plant that tree on your wedding day, you might be able to bring good luck to your new marriage. According to a tradition followed in the Netherlands and Switzerland, planting a pine tree outside your home to celebrate your wedding will provide the new home with good fortune and fertility.


Sweep, sweep, sweep!

Credit: Tushar Gidwani

If you visit China during the Chinese New Year, you might be surprised to see several people thoroughly sweeping their homes, particularly their front doors. This is because, according to Chinese tradition, good fortune enters through the front door of your home. People clean their homes to say goodbye to the previous year, while also carefully sweeping inwards to avoid accidentally sweeping good fortune. After this ritual, no cleaning can be performed during the first two days of the New Year to avoid dispelling good luck.

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