10 Terrorist Plots That Failed

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605
An actor dressed as Guy Fawkes sits atop fake barrels of gunpowder in Westminster Hall in the Houses of Parliament in London, as the British Parliament marked the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot in 2005. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty Images

Think terrorist plots are a purely modern invention? In 1605, a failed terrorist attack -- perhaps the first in modern history -- was made on the British Parliament. Although motives for the plot are murky, it is believed to have been an attempt to reinstate Catholicism by assassinating the Protestant king of England.

Whatever the plot's religious leanings, one thing is certain: Five men planned to blow up the House of Lords during the state opening on Nov. 5, 1605, when the king would be present, as well as members of Parliament. After an anonymous letter supposedly warned off a Catholic noble, the Houses of Parliament were searched. On Nov. 4, around midnight, one of the group's members, Guy Fawkes, was found huddled in a cellar directly beneath parliamentary chambers. Unfortunately for Fawkes, he was also found with barrels upon barrels of gunpowder.

The five conspirators, including Fawkes, were either killed or taken to the Tower of London where they were tried, found guilty and executed. Their heads were placed on pikes and displayed throughout London. Currently, Nov. 5 is a loosely organized holiday known in England as Guy Fawkes Day or Bonfire Night, and is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks -- and the occasional Fawkes dummy burned in effigy [source: Houses of Parliament].

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