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Five Scariest Geopolitical Events That Happened on Halloween

From its ninth-century origins as a ceremony dedicated to remembering saints and the dead, Halloween has evolved—or, depending on one's perspective, devolved—into a largely secular holiday associated more with crunchy Candy Corn and costumes reflecting the increasing vacuousness of Western popular culture than with solemn reverence for the departed. But beware: an eerie number of frightening historical events have occurred on Halloweens past, events that resulted both in tremendous levels of bloodletting and far-reaching transformations of the world’s geopolitical landscape. Below is a list of the top five scariest historical events that happened on October 31. Read on, if you dare….

#5 On the night of October 31, 1954, the indigenous Algerian Front de Libération Nationale, or FLN, launched attacks on French government assets in Algeria, igniting the Algerian War of Independence, a brutal liberation struggle characterized by massive human rights abuses, including torture by both sides. The conflict divided France politically and cost numerous French prime ministers their jobs. It also brought down France’s Fourth Republic, which involved riots, revolts, and even rebellion by a section of the country’s army. After nearly seven-and-a-half years, over 40,000 terrorist attacks, and hundreds of thousands of battle deaths, the French withdrew in June 1962. The following month, Algeria, which France had since 1848 considered to be an integral part of French territory, declared independence, effectively ending the second French colonial empire.

#4 After the March on Rome from October 22-29, Benito Mussolini was sworn in as Italy’s prime minister on October 31, 1922, fulfilling his threat that "either the government will be given to us or we shall seize it by marching on Rome." Before long, Il Duce turned Italy into a police state. In what was quickly revealed to be a hopeless attempt to resurrect the Holy Roman Empire, Mussolini presided over Italy’s invasion and occupation of Ethiopia in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War, during which Italy employed chemical warfare agents on a massive scale; the conflict led to approximately 20,000 battle deaths. After the demise of Italy’s colonial presence in Africa, Mussolini’s alliance with the Nazis effectively put Italy in the position of being a puppet state subordinate to Germany. The result was Germany’s brutal occupation of Italy and the Allies’ invasion in 1943, which, in making Italy a key battleground during World War II, also devastated the country. In the end, despite supposedly making the “trains run on time”, Mussolini’s Italy was characterized by rampant corruption, dictatorship, racist laws and, finally, utter ruin.

#3 Turkey joined the Central Powers on October 31, 1914, which would eventually result in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the drawing of conflict-prone national borders across the Middle East. On November 2, Russia declared war against Turkey; France and Great Britain followed suit on November 5. Although the Ottomans were eventually defeated, the road to victory was hard, bloody, and horrific; the Gallipoli Campaign, generally considered a defeat for the Allies, was particularly costly. Eighteen months after jointly declaring war, France and Britain, with Russia’s assent, signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement, spelling out each party’s proposed sphere of influence in a post-Ottoman Middle East. After Russia’s revolutionary Bolshevik government was subsequently denied any claims to Ottoman territory, it published the text of the agreement in November 1917, exposing French and British imperial designs on the region. The eventual implementation of Sykes-Picot resulted in the drawing of national borders that in many cases failed to correspond to demographic realities on the ground, thereby sowing the seeds of many future conflicts in the Middle East, a phenomenon that still haunts the region to this day. Nonetheless, the demise of the “sick man of Europe” ushered in a period of French and particularly British regional dominance that lasted for over four decades.