The Dreaded / Real Life


  • According to retired Scottish gangster Paul Ferris in his book Villains, the IRA had this status among the British underworld during The Troubles; British criminals sometimes took on money-laundering jobs for the Provos because they paid well, but Heaven help you if you informed on them or, worse, lost their money. It didn't help that most British gangland murders are committed over territory or by gangs in the same city, meaning the murderer was normally still within reach of the law and revenge from other gangs, whilst many IRA operatives could be back in Ireland before the bodies of their victims were even discovered.
  • Vlad the Impaler (otherwise known as Vlad Dracula) achieved this reputation with the Ottoman Turks. According to records of the day, he once stopped a Turkish army that greatly outnumbered his by ambushing its vanguard (away from the rest of the force) and mounting them all on spikes—not their heads, the entire person, usually still alive and screaming. The rest of the Turkish army was so appalled at the sight that it suddenly decided it didn't want to fight anymore. The man was so dreaded that upon Vlad's death, the Ottomans had his head hung from the walls of Constantinople to help convince people he was gone for good. Not surprisingly, Christian Wallachians were fond of him, not just for his martial successes but for his various social and economic reforms.
    • Referenced by the Heralds in Assassin's Creed: Revelations: "To all visitors seeking the head of Voivode Dracula: Yes, we have it. Yes, he's dead. No, you cannot see it. No, he will not come invade you again. It has been over thirty years, now please stop asking!"
    • There's a (probably apocryphal) story that a cart laden with treasure and gold was left overnight in the middle of a street in Vlad's territory, and was left completely untouched, so much did his subjects fear him.
  • Genghis Khan used this as his modus operandi. If you didn't submit the moment the Mongols demanded it, you were butchered. Simple as that. Genghis's subordinates were even worse than him in this regard; Genghis at least practiced a degree of brutal pragmatism in his campaigns in China. In the regions conquered by his generals, entire countries were left utterly devastated. On his death bed he told everyone to make sure the enemies in the next battle didn't know about his demise, so he could scare the crap out of people even when he was dead.
  • Hannibal Barca was this for The Roman Republic. His epic crossing of the Alps and the Victory at Cannae introduced the catchphrase "Hannibal ante portes" (Hannibal at the Gates) as a short-hand for Code Red in the years of the Second Punic War, even after Scipio's triumph at Zama, they chased him to Pergamon because they were afraid that he'd make a comeback from any inch of ground he had to stand on.
  • Oliver Cromwell and his army. Especially during the Ireland campaign. Although the Irish put up considerable resistance, the retribution bestowed upon them by the British was so horrible that the Irish fled for the very name of Cromwell. The Drogheda Massacre was the initiating factor — not a single person was spared.
  • The Golden Age of Piracy. If you hove to and handed over the supplies and sailors they wanted (they ruthlessly took carpenters, coopers, and smiths especially) then they'd let you sail off. If you tried to run away or dumped valuables overboard... Heaven have mercy, because the pirates wouldn't.
    • Pirates who were especially terrifying include Francois l'Olonnais, ("The Exterminating Angel") who famously murdered priests and took a bite of a heart to intimidate crew members, Charles Vane and Edward Low (who once cut off the lips of a captain and made him eat it).
  • Josef Stalin made a science of this trope. After the assassination of Kirov in 1935, the purges he ordered Nikolai Yezhov (chief of the NKVD, forerunner to the KGB) to execute to, well, execute his political opponents filled his cronies with such dread that from that point onward they were terrified of invoking the wrath of the Vozhd ("boss") and would never dare try to depose him. His reputation was so bad that his personal bodyguard successfully invoked the trope of him being such a Bad Boss that they dared not call for medical intervention when he had his stroke in '53 — though that was, of course, a big fat lie because they wanted him to die right then and there so they could save their own skins in the leadership struggle that would inevitably follow.
  • The nickname of Ivan the Terrible is this trope. He was indeed feared by his subjects, primarily not because of his total death toll — his reign coincided with the golden age of Inquisition and the struggle between Catholics and Protestants in Europe, so he was a rather moderately brutal king by his century's standards. But he had an unpredictable personality, was prone to onslaughts of rage and liked the more alternative methods of capital punishment. Likewise, in order to crush his Boyar nobles, he innovated his personal State Sec the Oprichniki who were Torture Technicians and essentially a Cult dedicated to serving the Tsar.
  • Saddam Hussein's closest advisors were so terrified of displeasing him that they told him he could beat the US armed forces. In 2003. He couldn't. He was so amazingly feared that during his trial, when he wandered in all disheveled and malnourished, the jury still reeled in horror. It's actually a testament to their courage they managed to find him guilty, so frightened were they of reprisals and reputation both. Even after being found guilty Saddam felt he still had full control of his country and DEMANDED he be presented with a firing squad like a true soldier, but as we know, he didn't quite get his final wish.
  • All South American and Latin American dictators are this. Fulgencio Bastista and Fidel Castro in Cuba, Augusto Pinochet In Chile, Jorge Videla in Argentina, Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua and Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
    • Porfirio Diaz in Mexico played with this trope: While he was (and still is) hated in his time due of his iron-hand policies, he hardly was the most feared dictator Mexico had, only the most notorious one since he ruled for about 35 years. On the other hand, Victoriano Huerta (who succeeded Diaz after executing Francisco I. Madero) was (and still is) the most hated dictator Mexico ever had, despite ruling for only one year, but the atrocities he did during his rule managed to outshine anything that Diaz did during his three-decade rule, to the grade there's an award in Mexico named the Belisario Domínguez Medal of Honor after the aforementioned man who opposed him, and Huerta's men killed him, not before cutting his tongue out.
  • Basically every notable warrior (and a couple government officials too) got at least one mention of them being regarded as this by one of the other sides in the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, but Zhang Liao got to truly live up to this trope as he was able to rout a force of 100,000 with only 800 men, and was said to be so feared crying children would grow silent in his wake.
  • It's hard to imagine the Mike Tyson we know nowadays to be the dreaded, but in his prime he was considered unbeatable and he truly terrified his opponents. It also helped that he played up his reputation by walking into the ring without music while unrelentingly staring down his opponent, psychologically unnerving them. Oh yeah, he hit bloody hard, too.
  • Many Secret Police agencies are or have been viewed this way; in many cases, for very good reason.
  • Many successful military commanders have been this to their opponents. Napoleon terrified his enemies, as did Lord Horatio Nelson, to give two examples from The Napoleonic Wars.
    • Napoleon and Hannibal (from the Second Punic War) stand out as two of the only military commanders in history whose enemies have paid them the ultimate compliment of redesigning entire strategies specifically to avoid facing them personally in battle.
  • The Wehrmacht was this in the early stages of World War II. Indeed, after Fall Taifun bogged down in sight of Moscow, Chief of the German General Staff General Franz "a strong military leader with great powers of motivation is the most important factor for success" Halder invoked this trope: "The myth of our invincibility is shattered", he wrote. The man's mile-wide optimistic streak had helped him ignore the way the Wehrmacht had actually taken her first serious losses on the first day of the war with the USSR (in Bessarabia) and had suffered its first true setback in just the third week (at Smolensk). The British press actually reported the battle of Smolensk as a Soviet victory (which is true enough strategically, though it was a tactical-operational defeat), something that annoyed Joseph Goebbels to no end.
    • Not to mention the SS and earlier the SA. Also the Red Army in Germany. Though they weren't genocidal, as they'd been portrayed in German propaganda (with some justification, as Germany's stated intention had been to kill a quarter of them and enslave the rest and even non-Nazis assumed that they would try to return the favour).
    • Erich Hartmann (history's top scoring Ace Pilot) had to erase the black stylized tulip from the nose of his plane, since all possible opponents had learnt the hard way to avoid him.
    • The Japanese Army would also count, across Asia people would run and hide when Japanese troops were approaching. While they were afraid of being killed, they were mostly afraid of having everything they owned stolen and being sexually assaulted. Then again, they were also afraid of being conscripted into a work gang and doing heavy labour until they died from malnutrition and/or disease (if male, though usually aged 10-50) or being conscripted into a brothel and serving as a sex-slave until they died from malnutrition and/or (sexual) disease (if female).
  • Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, the most infamous pirate in the world. Anyone who saw his ship, the Queen Anne's Revenge, would surrender immediately rather than put up a fight with him. He intentionally cultivated this sort of fear by, among other things, tying burning scraps of slowmatch (cord impregnated with gunpowder) into his beard to give the impression that he was on fire in battle.
  • The Royal Navy was this to the Italian Navy in World War II: while the Italian high officers thought they could win and control the Mediterranean, the sailors and the officers who actually sailed against the Brits (plus a few of the members of the high command) openly admitted they were doomed and their success would be measured by the length of their resistance and the losses they'd inflict before the ultimate defeat. Interestingly, the special operation branch of the Italian Navy had the same reputation among the Royal Navy, especially after that time they sank two battleship in Alexandria's harbor, one of which had the commanding admiral on board (the battleships were recovered and repaired, but remained disabled for months and the Royal Navy didn't dare to lower its guard for the rest of the war).
    • The Italian Navy (Regia Marina) was built with French Navy as the assumed enemy and to counter the French threat. Their cruisers and battleships were optimized to fight their French opponents. The Italian admirals never even thought having to face the Royal Navy. When they did, they were somewhat demoralized.
    • And it was that also to the Kriegsmarine. Grand Admiral Erich Raeder openly admitted to Hitler that his forces were so underpowered that all he could do was to fight bravely before the ultimate defeat. After the Operation Weserübung, which cost the Kriegsmarine two cruisers, one battlecruiser seriously damaged and dozens of destroyers, the Kriegsmarine was especially ordered to avoid the White Ensign and concentrate on the Red — the British merchantmen.
    • And it had been that to the Kaiserliche Marine in the runup to World War I, too.
  • The Gurkhas. The Pashtun of eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan believe that the Gurkhas are immortal demons, who eat the bodies of the men they kill. Such is their reputation, it's said that during The Falklands War, a British captain casually radioed over to an attacking Argentinian vessel, informing them they had a company of Gurkhas onboard. Cue the Argentinian vessel immediately withdrawing.
    • The regular British military has a somewhat similar reputation for their bayonet charges. In the same war, just hearing a British officer shout "FIX BAYONETS!" would sometimes result in the enemy disengaging or even surrendering immediately. How dreaded were they? They successfully executed a bayonet charge on the Taliban, who broke and fled.
  • Swiss mercenaries were considered the best soldiers in the world for several hundred years. To make sure everyone on the battlefield knew exactly who they were, they took to wearing outrageously colorful uniforms. The uniforms of the Vatican's Swiss Guard is a relic of this custom.
    • They were so feared that a treaty ending a war between several major powers specifically stated that no one was allowed to hire Swiss mercenaries. Ever.
  • Simo Häyhä, the legendary Finnish sniper who earned the most recorded sniper kills (505) in any major war, repeatedly wiped out mortar units and enemy snipers sent specifically to eliminate him and most impressively of all, only had iron sights to aim with.
    • Optical scopes were actually already in use at the time, but Hayha refused to use them because they tend to make you raise your head a little while aiming, and he wanted to keep his silhouette as small as possible. Combined with his snow camouflage, enemies had difficulty even seeing him, and this eventually earned him the nickname of "The White Death".
    • Whilst being shot in the face, he simultaneously managed to take out the sniper that shot him, before lapsing into a coma. He awoke on the same day the Russians called a ceasefire, leading some to joke that the Red Army did so because they were too afraid of facing him again.
    • Eventually the Russians became so scared of him that they dropped an artillery strike on where he was thought to be. And even that didn't kill him.
  • The entire United States Armed Forces is pretty much this to the rest of the planet. Despite cuts in both budget and manpower, it is still the most powerful fighting force on the planet and is so far ahead of any other country that it's meaningless to even note who is in 2nd place. China and Russia? Capable of regional influence and messing with their neighbors, but aside from their nuclear forces (which are only good for deterrence, once you launch a nuclear weapon it becomes useless) they have next to no power projection capability. Think aircraft carriers, global logistics, mid-air refueling, forward bases located either in or close to every potential hotspot, etc. U.S. political leaders are very reluctant to unleash the full force of American military might because there are literally very few situations that would justify it, and doing so without this justification would have tremendous political consequences. As it stands right now, the only realistic situation in which the full force of American fighting strength would be used is if a coalition of foreign nations banded together to try and invade the United States. The possibility is so unlikely that it belongs almost entirely in the realm of fiction.
    • What this does mean, however, is the United States finds itself bogged down in long-duration, low intensity conflicts where not being able to use overwhelming force to end things quickly means being bogged down and taking long term losses in manpower and equipment that also affect troop morale and public opinion.
  • Civil wars tend to be always cruel and bloody, but the Whites of the Finnish Civil War 1918 deserve a special mentioning. The Reds called them lahtaris (The Butcherers) because of their tendency to shoot the prisoners on spot and take Disproportionate Retribution on red civilians.
  • Theodore Roosevelt. One of his friends said that he died in his sleep because if Death showed up when he was awake, there would've been a fight.
  • Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of the most feared Soviet sharpshooters in World War II. Crafty and resourceful, Pavlichenko would use such techniques as sniping in the rain to conceal the sound of her gunfire, or rig store mannequins as decoys. After the death of her husband, she became an even more fearsome Cold Sniper, adopting a new technique of aiming for the Germans' extremities, leaving them alive to call for help and bringing more targets into her crosshairs. The Germans considered it humiliating to be bested by the "Russian bitch from hell". Such was her renown that, after being forced to evacuate during the battle of Sevastopol, she was sidelined for the rest of the war: she had become a Hope Bringer for the Soviets, and it was believed her death would've been devastating to the war effort.
  • Honey badgers. They're famous for being avoided by every predator in Africa, and have been known to chase away elephants and eat (young) jackals and crocodiles. It's true, honey badger don't give a shit.
    • Wolverines too. They've been known to chase away bears and cougars from their kills.
    • Golden eagles have been spotted chasing grizzly bears and scaring badgers not dissimilar to honey badgers away from a meal.
  • Notorious gangster Al Capone was terrifying both to the police and to rival gangs.
    • To emphasise this: Why was he so terrifying? Well, first, the guy had a gang about the size of a private army. (Or at least the size of a typical leading Mexican drug cartel.) Second, he didn't just control the underworld in Chicago, he literally ruled Chicago. Every judge, every reporter, every politician, every citizen was in his pocket somehow, and if they weren't, he had them killed. Third, he was powerful enough that he could simply hold up a police station with little resistance at all, and fourth, he waged a gang war in Chicago that lasted for 5 years, with tons of casualties and loads of Tommy Gun bullets.
  • Dolph Lundgren is such a badass that, when robbers broke into his house and tied up his wife, he managed to scare them off without even being physically present, once they realized who owned the house.
  • Diseases can be pretty terrifying in this way too, such as cancer or AIDS.
    • In the 1980s, AIDS was a mysterious disease no one knew about, except that it was fatal. Over time as more effective treatments and preventatives came out, it lost much of its dreaded title, though since there's no cure, it's still pretty dreaded.
    • Cancer comes along in so many different forms, each one more or less deadly than the others. While some cancers like squamous-cell carcinoma aren't very deadly, others like pancreatic cancer and lung cancer have much higher death rates and are considered much more threatening and scary.
      • AIDS and cancer are so dreaded that thinking you had it but being tested negative are known as AIDS scares or cancer scares.
      • And now Ebola is shaping up to be just as feared.
      • Then there's the granddaddy of them all, the Black Death. Let's just say that we're lucky that life today is a lot cleaner.
      • The 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, which is estimated to have killed anywhere between 5 to 10% of the planet, or about 100+ million people. Unlike most other pandemics, this one primarily killed healthy young adultsnote , causing mass chaos and a breakdown of society since almost all those of working and reproductive age were either sick or dead. Even the most hardcore virologists — who tend to be a pretty crazy group of people to begin with — admit that they feel a nasty dose of fear every time a new mutation shows up in that particular influenza strain.
  • In a humorous American Football example, Bernard Pollard is this to New England Patriot fans. He's caused no less than 4 injuries to Patriot players over the past few seasons, all of which completely altered the Patriots' seasons for the worse.
  • Fans will have their heart skip a beat if a star player on their team gets injured and they hear that the player has scheduled an appointment to see Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews is obviously not a bad guy — he is very highly regarded and is considered one of the best specialists in knee, elbow, and shoulder surgery (three things which get hurt a lot in sports) — but if the player's going to see Dr. Andrews, it means the injury is bad (season-ending surgery is not infrequent).
  • Native soldiers from France's African colonies were sometimes this to the Germans in World War One, because as everyone knows black people practice cannibalism and are invisible at night.
    • Much the same went for the Canadians and ANZACs, though the hilariously inaccurate rumours about them were that they tortured the wounded to death and killed everyone who tried to surrender to them. Well. Not so much 'inaccurate' as 'never investigated'. But it's not like anyone would ever take the opportunity to hurt and kill one's enemies with impunity, even as revenge for friends they'd killed or out of racist hatred or just plain old sadism, would they?
      • Canadian forces in WWI also have this reputation out of sheer smarts and badassery, which resulted in them being used to spearhead every BEF offensive of the years 1916-18. It is probably Not Hyperbole to say that the Canadian Corps (50k men) was the best-administered Corps of the entire war. Britain was one of the most industrialized nations of WWI, and largely drew her armies from the poor, often malnourishednote  men living in the slums of the large, heavily polluted, industrialized cities, while Canadian (And other Dominion) forces were often recruited from relatively healthy frontiersmen, who were often quite familiar with firearms. Sir Arthur Currie was also one of the greatest generals of the time, being one of the first to employ creeping barrages, and granting a greater degree of freedom to his Junior officers, allowing them to react better to the developing situations on the battlefield, On top of this, unlike many British divisions, which were moved about to wherever they were needed, for the most part, the 4 Divisions of Canadians were largely kept together, giving them a greater sense of cohesion. Their reputation was also helped along by British press praising them as "The Shock army of the British Empire", with Germans equating them with their own Sturmtruppen (assault troops). "The Canadians are here" and "Attack imminent" became synonymous by 1917, with the BEF playing on this reputation in the Hundred Days' Offensivenote  by concealing the Canadians' location and shifting it around constantly. Other myths surounding the Canada Corps included their supposed immunity to Chlorine (There were two physicians in the Canadian ranks, and both had ordered their men to urinate on cloths and hold them over their faces as make-shift gas masks).
      • The reputation continued into the Second World War and was occasionally used strategically. In one instance in Italy, the Allies made sure the Germans were aware that the Canadian units present were being moved to one particular section of the front, which resulted in the Germans pulling men from the rest of the line to reinforce against the expected attack and moving up their reserves to react...which was, of course, exactly what was desired as the move had been faked and Allied units (including the Canadians) advanced through the weakened positions.
  • In Cricket, the West Indies team of the 1980s, both due to the fact that they enjoyed one of the longest periods of dominance in international sport, and the physical intimidation from their fast bowlers.
    • When it came to batting, until recently, one man became the bowler's bane more than any other: India's Sachin Tendulkar. His knack for getting runs was uncanny (he amassed 100 centuries in international competition), to the point that whenever he was on the pitch, many teams would become fixated with getting that man out.
  • In Ice Hockey it's the Canadians. Their Olympic team has more gold medals and total medal wins than any other hockey team in the world. The junior team is even scarier, winning fifteen of the thirty-six tournaments that have already passed and scoring 28 medals total. While the NHL results tend to be more mixed, the league is absolutely full of Canadian players, and it's worth noting that the team with by far the most Stanley Cup wins is still the Montreal Canadiens. Canadian players are also responsible for some of the most violent events in sports history, including the "Punch-up in Piestany," in which the Canadian juniors had a bench-clearing brawl against the Soviets that went on for twenty minutes before the officials blacked out the stadium. Their fans are also notorious for rioting, as any residents of Vancouver in 1994 or 2011 will tell you (Canucks fans appear to be sore losers). Essentially, Canadians try very hard to hold up their reputation of politeness... until you get them on the ice, and then all bets are off.
    • Worth noting that the USSR/Russian team is this to the Canadians, as they're one of the only teams that have records to match Canada's. This heated rivalry was one of the things that led to the "Punch-up in Piestany."
    • The American and Canadian women's national teams are this to everyone else. Any tournament these two teams are in (Olympics, world championships, whatever) tends to have the following result: Canada and the US will play for gold, everyone else is really just competing for Bronze.
  • When it comes to Association Football, Brazil gets to have this reputation. Many fans from other countries find themselves dreading the possibility their team will end up going against them in a World Cup, which will usually mean any winning streak will end right then and there. Other teams do get temporary Dreaded status, but they always get to qualify for it.
    • After absolutely flattening Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, Germany's team became one, they went on to win the cup.
  • While American privateers during The American Revolution and The War of 1812 exacted a heavy toll on British merchantmen in general, the American heavy frigate USS Constitution quickly became this in the latter conflict, and much of her subsequent career. In fact, the Royal Navy in the Atlantic was under standing orders to never engage Constitution unless they could bring the entire fleet to action against her.
    • This was mainly due to the bulk of the Royal Navy, including her Ships of the Line, being busy blockading Europe and standing ready to face the French navy. The USS Constitution and her sister ships were so-called "Heavy Frigates", being very solidly built and rated at 48 guns. The Royal Navy's frigates were typically much lighter, carrying something like 28 lighter guns. This was mainly because unlike the US Navy, the Royal Navy (and most of her expected opponents) could afford to field a fleet of Ships of the Line, and thus had no doctrinal use for a Heavy Frigate (or an equivalent to the Americans' fleet of gunboats, which proved entirely useless against RN frigates.)
    • Additionally, the fact that she had a Double Hull, which was able to bounce cannonballs off it like they were almost nothing, gave her the nickname "Old Ironsides".
      • It didn't help that Americans generally used 24lb cannons while the British used 18 and 12 lb cannons.
  • Rozalia Zemylachka, one of the last of the "Old Bolsheviks" to escape being purged by Stalin. Why? Because he was terrified of her. She was known as an extremely competent and sadistic soldier, and moreover one who was relatively content with her station in the Soviet state. She was just too psychotic to bother: as Verbal notes in The Usual Suspects, "how can you shoot the devil in the back? What if you miss?" There was a good chance any attempt on Zemylachka's life would result in the death of the entire arresting force, and an extremely pissed-off and perhaps mildly amused killing machine out for revenge.
  • Especially for anyone who grew up during the Cold War, two words: "The Bomb".
  • Russian paramilitaries. Remember how EVERY Russian man goes into the army and learns how to fight? Now imagine dozens of these guys coming after you. And they are ALL personally motivated to destroy you.
    • Russian-extraction paramilitaries are some of the few effective forces for law and order in the Mexican drug war, to the point of taking on cartels, and winning. They are the real inspiration for the Autodefensas, and they even killed so many guys as to make the La Familia cartel collapse.
  • In Baseball, Barry Bonds was so feared as a hitter — so able to not only get base hits but hit doubles, triples, and homers—that many pitchers took to intentionally walking him rather than risk a big hit. This was exacerbated by the fact that he was rather unlikeable; the intentional walks hit their peak in 2001, the season he broke the single-season home run record.
    • In 1923 Babe Ruth drew 170 Bases on Balls in a single season when he was 28. That was back before intentional walks were recorded. Barry Bonds is the only MLB player who has ever drawn more walks in a single season, and he did it 3 times. 177 in 2001, 198 in 2002, and 232 in 2004. Barry Bonds was 36, 37, and 39 when he did that.
    • Such was the fear for Barry Bonds, that the Arizona Diamondbacks once intentionally walked him... with the bases loaded. note 
  • Orcas. Their mere presence in an aquatic biome has been recorded to scare away sharks (which already qualify as this to humans). After an Orca attack, entire Great White populations are known to vacate the premises, usually a feeding ground which sharks travel thousands of kilometers to get to.
  • Locusts. These hungry little bastards never strike when expected and make every situation go From Bad to Worse, as they often come after droughts. Look at any point in the history of an agrarian society (which is most of them) and a swarm will be there. Populations have been forced to migrate because of locusts, and some modern surveillance of insects was created to specifically deal with them.
  • The Internal Revenue Service is the one government agency every American loathes and fears, for good reason. They have the power to make your life a living hell should you screw up on your taxes or simply if you're randomly selected for an audit. And that's just their lawful function. As many people have learned, politicians have a bad habit of using the IRS to go after their opponents and their supporters, something that Richard Nixon was proven to do and Barack Obama was accused of doing. After they managed to take down Al Capone for failing to pay taxes on his illegal income they've been consistently used the same tactic to take down other criminals in the same way. Being every murderer's worst nightmare doesn't exactly soften their public image.
    The Joker: "I'm crazy enough to take on Batman, but the IRS? Nooooooo, thank you."
  • During The Crusades, men in an advanced stage of leprosy were given a sword, some basic armor, and one last chance to serve God and country by being a soldier. Due to the disease destroying the parts of their brain that allowed them to feel pain, while still being able to follow orders and swing said sword, they became terrifying fighters that were part Implacable Man, part walking biological weapon, as every drop of their blood that was spilled held a very high chance of infection. Most just ran for the hills rather than risk being slowly eaten alive by leprosy.
  • In chess, many of the dominant players of their day acquired this type of reputation. Specifically notable are Jose Raul Capablanca, who once went 8 years without losing a single serious game; Mikhail Tal, who, in additional to his nearly preternatural tactical abilities had the habit of staring down his opponents over the board to the point where some of them took up wearing sunglasses to avoid it, and Bobby Fischer, who was known to intimidate his opponents so often that the term 'Fischer Fever' was coined for the phenomenon.
  • Since the 1960s, military attack helicopters have been bringing nightmares to ground forces, especially insurgents lacking the weapon necessary for fighting back. Most attack helicopters are nearly impervious to anything short of a dedicated anti-air missile and have enough firepower to wipe out an entire city block. Several notable examples include the Mi-24 Hind and the AH-64 Apache.
    • The Mi-24 has built a reputation of terrifying foes in many conflicts on 4 separate continents. The most common variant, the Hind-E, is armed a 12.7 mm gatling gun, 23 mm autocannons, 57 mm rocket pods, and anti-tank missiles. If needed, the Hind can even transport 8 armed troops who can finish off any stragglers from its initial attacks. The Hind is also nearly impervious to small arms fire and, in one instance, a Hind safely returned to base with ''20'' bullet holes in its fuselage and rotor blades. This helicopter has been nicknamed "Satan's Chariot" by the Mujahadeen and is still a terrifying weapon even when largely overshadowed by the Mi-28 Havoc and Ka-50 Hokum.
    • AH-64 has also been proven to be a nightmarish weapon of destruction. Created in response to fears of thousands of Soviet tanks rushing into Europe, the Apache was designed to be the ultimate anti-ground helicopter and it has more than succeeded in that role. Like the Hind, it is built to be tough and strong. Unlike most versions of the Hind, all Apache variants are equipped with infrared sensors and night vision, meaning that opponents can't hide from it even in low visibility. Its signature weapon, the Hellfire anti-tank missile, can destroy a tank with a single hit and anti-tank roles allow it to carry as many as 16 of those missiles. While it was initially designed only to attack tanks, the Apache can also attack infantry and fortification, a role at which it may have performed too well. Yet the ultimate testimony to the Apache's reputation was its ability to win fights without firing a shot. In many instance during the first Gulf War, many Iraqi soldiers surrendered at the first sight of an Apache.
  • To the various terrorist and insurgent organizations that the United States has opposed in the 21st century, the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" is terrifying. It's one of the last dedicated ground attack jet aircraft and uses a giant explosive chain-gun and a compliment of missiles to devastate nearly any ground target. This isn't why its particularly feared, however: its massive amounts of titanium armor and durability are. In tests, this aircraft has been able to soak up multiple air to air and ground to air missile strikes and keep flying, and can even do so with large parts of its wings and one of its engines missing. Even most state-sponsored armies in the Middle East simply lack the firepower to take one of these things down. The handheld anti-air missiles and WWII era flak cannons used by insurgents lack the ability destroy the Warthog; they can't even really damage them at all. It's often the only manned aircraft cleared to operate over various combat zones, simply because nothing stops them. The Taliban is so afraid of the aircraft that they have sometimes surrendered en mass just because they heard one coming.
  • If this trope can be applied to an element, then fluorine definitely qualifies. Chemists tend to be quite scared of working with it, both in its elemental form and with some of its compounds, due to the fact it's tremendously energetic, touchy as hell, nearly impossible to dislodge from a compound without some drastic measures and it can produce some of the nastiest compounds imaginable, including chlorine trifluoride (which can set asbestos on fire on contact), dioxygen difluoride (hard to make, thankfully, but will explode even when close to absolute 0) and hydrofluoric acid (which can seep painlessly through your skin and dissolve your skeleton from the inside out, and can eat through most types of glass). The fact enough people died studying it that they're collectively known as the fluorine martyrs only caps it off.
  • Tanks if vehicles are allowed. In olden days, they had Horrendous Top Speed, but their extreme fire power and incredible resistance to gun fire makes them a threat to anyone who looks at them silly. This is taken up at least eleven notches with the introduction of the Main Battle Tank when they start adding speed to the mix.
  • Skunks are notorious for spraying potential predators, which leaves a very strong odor that's hard to get rid of and easy to smell even from a distance. Because of this, people generally try to avoid them.
  • Any type of carnivorous predator (i.e lions, cheetahs, grizzly bears) is feared by humans and animals alike.
  • Bears in particular have been considered this worldwide since antiquity. Many names used, regardless of language (bear, bruin, grizzly) refer to its color — it is simply "the brown one". This is because it was so feared as to be He Who Must Not Be Named, with the original name for the animal being forgotten to time due to superstitions that merely saying its would summon one. Being that bears will, on occasion, hunt humans if other prey is scarce, this is justified. They can also appear to be The Unfettered, since bees (themselves The Dreaded) don't deter them when elephants will avoid hives.
  • Africanized honeybees, AKA killer bees. So called due to their higher aggression; they attack perceived threats much sooner than other bee types, and at closer range. Most bees will let you near a hive for about 30 seconds as long as you don't touch it and keep moving. Killer bees will attack merely within line of sight after only about 10 seconds and can chase for a quarter of a mile. They also aren't easily lost by jumping into water like regular bees — they wait for you to come up for breath or climb down your snorkel. They're actually no more poisonous than any other type of bee, but will send far more soldiers to defend the hive than most other species. All that said, there are far fewer deaths from "killer" bees than the regular kind, which are more often due to allergy.
  • Jack the Ripper stains his mark here, nobody else in British History could ever hold a candle compared to this unsolved mystery. Jack (as they called him) was an infamous murderer during the Victorian Period of London. His methods of maiming were, to put it nicely "Artist" being that he was precise and escaped his crimes without ever being caught. Prostitutes were mostly his victims, yet why he killed them is again unsolved. Though he's definitely long gone, his lethal legacy will forever remain a mystery.
  • Two words, Soviet Union. Russia may be quite the scary country now, but consider it rather tame than what it used to be. Russian folk long ago wanted to form a socialist state, which in turn promised to care for the common man. However in doing so meant a lot of sacrifices were made, two well-known dictators Vladimir Lenin and later Josef Stalin were put into power after the public encouraged the death of the current Tsar at the time. Soon immense power was achieved by the Russians, they were the first to send men into space, gain support from neighbouring countries like Ukraine and Belarus. But most of all, they forged enough nuclear weaponry to start their own nuclear war and make any Nazi who dares invade them run home crying no doubt.
  • The Samurai of Edo Japan (Ancient Japan) were (and still are) greatly feared for their military prowess. Being among the few ancient armies to recruit both genders, Samurai would train in the sacred art of Bushido. For generations this teaching praised skill, dedication and most of all honour to oneself and their superiors. As loyal soldiers, Samurai were taught to die rather than dishonour themselves with cowardice. With this ideal in mind, and utilizing some of the scariest armour sets in history some believed the Samurai were real monsters.
  • The Nazis most definitely had this reputation during World War 2. Where they went death wasn't far behind, even non-Jewish folk feared them (or at least had no choice but obey them). With death counts in the millions, all who didn't conform towards their ways were sent away to work or die in filthy, cramped camps. What really made them part of this trope is simply this. The Nazis literally lied to the German public, brainwashing them to believe that all the evil they were committing is of everyone's benefit.
  • The Spartans of Ancient Greece glorify this trope, for decades they were bred to be fighting and killing machines. Dozens fell before them for they were trained to be athletes, the very moment they could hold a sword. Trading armour for pure muscle, a typical Spartan didn't carry too much beyond a weapon, a shield and a helmet. Their sheer force was soo brutal, they have historically ploughed down armies far greater in numbers than their own.
  • If there was a war machine Allied tank crews do not want to meet during the early years World War II, the Panzerkampfwagen VI "Tiger I" is that machine. When it was first introduced, neither the Allies or the Soviets had the weaponry to counter it's armor, and it's 88mm gun is able to blow almost any Allied tank at incredibly long ranges, meaning a Tiger could lie in wait, then blast a tank apart before it knows there was a Tiger there. So dreadful and terrifying was the weapon, Western Allied forces suffered what was known as "Tiger terror"; every time their tanks/armored vehicles took a hit, they automatically assume the culprit was a hidden Tiger with the 88mm gun, regardless of whether it's true or not.
  • In Italy, there were the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades), feared for their indiscriminate attacks against police forces, magistrates, and anything that could be taken to represent the Italian state, including the lawyers designated by the courts to defend arrested members in their trials. They were so feared that someone was able to rob a bank by walking in and telling the director he was from the Brigades and they would blow up the bank if he didn't leave with a briefcase full of money (the director gave in and the robber was never caught, so it's still unknown if it was a bluff or the real thing).

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/TheDreaded/RealLife