The year is 1970, and the hooded man sits in the very back of an abandoned building with a mysterious object in his hands.

A month ago, he had a name, a life, wishes, dreams, and aspirations. Then everything changed when he stumbled across a struggle between four-dimensional creatures during a hiatus in the mountains, and one of them dropped an artifact and left it there.

It contained a set of instructions that changed its language based on the reader as it was woven of handwavium and the ink was processed from a liquid form of lalalaicanthearyouium.

Think of an entity's given name while holding the artifact and looking at an image of any form of the entity or the entity itself and that entity will perish. Use the dials on the artifact to control how the entity will die and that person will die immediately.

He looks at a photo. We see a flicker of... someone. A terrorist? Or is it a Prime Minister?

With this artifact, a real life Death Note, how can this man maximise his influence over society and how could he keep getting away with it without being identified?

Some things we know:

  • He acts based off what he believes is best for humanity. He'll kill a serial killer or terrorist on the loose but he'll also remove a person from power if he thinks it's best.
  • He's a middle-aged American.
  • The instructions are true to the letter. Without a person's name and image, it doesn't work, and the effect is immediate without possibility of delay.
  • He is not wealthy at all. Yet.
  • No one has caught on to a pattern, but if he's not careful and doesn't take the necessary steps, they're able to with some Sherlock Holmes finesse.

Extra specifications for less broadness:

  • He wants to build up control over the world and help push it along to a better state of technology, peace, and all around good enough to impress aliens.
  • For the sake of this question, many people would not be happy with his decisions. Say a pattern emerges and people of perfectly good health are dropping dead. People start realising that it's only when a person's name is publicly released or available and that person's face has shown up in newspaper clippings or on television. Who knows who's next on the chopping block? And if they do detect him, his methods still take life away. It's not by the book.
  • Good answers require that he a) maximise his chance of remaining undetected or not captured (remember, it starts from 1970) but also maximise his influence over the world.
  • $\begingroup$ To the person who silently voted to close, this is not idea generation. See "How to hide from the world that you are a 'Groundhogger'" and "A most subtle magic." This question is of the same nature. The question itself also states the metric for a good answer - how to get away with being identified. Could you please comment and state your reasoning so I can make any necessary edits? $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2016 at 15:42
  • $\begingroup$ I always love to push the bounds of things like this: what if he was to look at a painting of a man or woman whom we all feel is inside of us? An everyman picture of sorts. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 2, 2016 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ The rules of idea generation are always tricky to navigate, and not all who vote to close share exactly the same opinions. I wouldn't worry about it until you get closer to being closed. If a question gets 5 votes to close without anyone bothering to say why, then a problem has arisen (and help from a Mod might be called for) $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 2, 2016 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ It might be a little bit broad, not knowing who he is or his intentions. There are a lot of ways to influence society with this device. But we could better say how he will influence society if we know his intentions. I wouldn't close this question, it seems valid, but it's just a heads up. Your answers won't be too specific. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2016 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ Related and related. $\endgroup$
    – Trang Oul
    Feb 2, 2016 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


In classic detective fashion, let's look at means, motive and opportunity for any patterns that could be used to track down the hooded man and how he could prevent or delay discovery.


This one is fairly obvious. People are going to notice a string of people dying to "sudden cranial explosion syndrome". On the other hand, stating "Person X will die of natural causes" will delay the discovery of any pattern for a very long time. A long list of diseases (heart failure and cancer being the most common in the 70s) may work equally well.

Note: It's hard to even say it, but the hooded man should experiment a bit on random unimportant people. If "X gets hit by a train" causes that to immediately happen inside X's corner office on the 42nd floor, that's going to complicate things. Also, can bystanders be affected?


"Who stands to gain from person X's death?" is the second way to discovery. If the hooded man's competitors for a promotion all drop dead inside a week, even the densest investigators are going to question him. They might also drop dead, but this just escalates the situation until a SWAT team of masked and nameless people busts down the door and kills the hooded man.

If the hooded man is motivated by personal gain, he has to be very careful to only use the artifact a minimal number of times (and this already assumes he is immoral enough to use it at all) and preferably in an indirect way. Rather than killing of a competitor, he might have the competitor's boss's corporate sponsor over in the head office meet with a traffic accident.

If the hooded man wants to affect the world at large, the risk is very low as long as he targets well-known (bad) people in far away places that have no personal link back to him. Unfortunately, any successor may be worse and if a string of people dies, smart investigators may start to establish a pattern. If they all die during CNN breaking news broadcasts, including a few only shown in the US, the authorities might start laying a trap.


In this rather unique situation, the opportunity merely consists of having a picture or a name of the target person.

Actually, a picture is pretty much required, because many people may share a name. If our hooded man tries to "fix" North Korea by killing Kim Il Sung, another few hundred people of the same name will drop dead if he doesn't use a picture. That is so unexpected that intelligence agencies all over the world will be on the lookout for any more occurrences. Each accidental multi-kill will draw the net closer.

On the other hand, getting pictures of the intended targets would not be nearly as easy in the 70s as we've come to expect in the age of Facebook and Instagram. Newspapers would be the primary source, as back then even borrowing the wrong book from a library would arouse suspicions. Having a picture of Kim Il Sung would be enough to be branded a communist spy, let alone collecting a whole bunch.

Discovery could be delayed by handling and possessing the pictures for as short a time as possible. Don't cut them out of newspapers, keep all newspapers if you have to, not only the issues/pages with persons of interest. Burn any separate pictures asap and above all, don't keep a diary of all the evil things visited on the victims.

Spoiler alert:

The hooded man dies by the artifact while trying to kill an investigator whose picture (and name) turns out to be an edited photo of the hooded man himself.

  • $\begingroup$ I love this answer, but for your spoiler, the device won't work if he's not thinking of a name and looking at them at the same time. Unless he's thinking of his own name, it's not sufficient to be tricked into looking at a picture of himself. And if he knows their name is the same, he won't try to kill them. The rest of your answer is fantastic, though. It matched closely to what I'd look at as an investigator in that situation. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2016 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Love the spoiler. That would make for a great ending. $\endgroup$
    – fgysin
    Feb 3, 2016 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't he notice his own name? I like it better before the edit. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Aug 28, 2016 at 6:00

First, getting away with it is not an issue. The mechanism (supernatural assassination) is simply not recognized by modern society as possible, so there is no recognition of what's going on. As long as the hooded man resists the temptation to use his device up close and personal, he should have no problem.

The hooded man will therefore have to restrict his activities to public figures, eliminating leaders whose policies he doesn't agree with. In the long term, he may have some success in weeding out the worst (from his point of view) or at least the most effective individuals.

Making money with this device is certainly possible, by renting out as an assassin for hire, but this is a very risky proposition. Convincing a potential client of your effectiveness has the possibility that you're talking to an FBI agent or some such, and gaining entrée to a criminal organization is likewise iffy. The idea of working as an anonymous killer is pretty much a matter for bad movies - criminal organizations like to see who they're working for, and sooner or later they leak.

  • $\begingroup$ Assassin is not a possible career choice. The people paying him expect to see some kind of known cause of death. Pay him 3 times, and 3 targets just drop dead? The same way every time? Which is also the same way a bunch of public figures died recently? Who cares how he does it, the problem is that at any point he could raise his rates, and then what happens? Say no, and drop dead? The client will be able to connect the dots, and once they do, they need to act before buddy suspects, and act decisively, say, with a bullet to the back of the head as he leaves, from a rooftop. $\endgroup$
    – chiggsy
    Oct 7, 2020 at 5:18
  • $\begingroup$ "The people paying him expect to see some kind of known cause of death." Probably not. You start by establishing your bona fides. "Give me a name and address. At 1:37 PM next Wednesday, he or she will die with no apparent cause of death. First taste is free." $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2020 at 14:52

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