french film:1980s

While it may look like something out of a spy film, this is a real device, known as a Bulgarian umbrella. It has a hidden pneumatic mechanism which injects a small poisonous pellet containing ricin.

Such an umbrella was allegedly used in the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Markov on September 7th, 1978. This was also the birthday of Bulgaria’s communist Head of State, Todor Zhivkov, who had often been the target of Markov’s criticism. The assassination took place on Waterloo Bridge in London and is believed to have been organised by the Bulgarian Secret Service of the time of the Cold War with the assistance of the KGB (naturally).

The case inspired 1980 French film Le Coup du parapluie (The Umbrella Coup), as well as the novel The Executioner (by Stefan Kisyov).