Octopuses, octopi, octopodes: whatever plural form used, the surprisingly smart eight-tentacled underwater cephalopods are a popular symbol of something far-reaching and sinister, both on earth and, now, above it. The National Reconnaissance Office, tasked with watching the earth through largely classified satellite programs, recently launched a new rocket into space. That rocket’s classified contents were marked with an incredibly subtle image: an octopus spreading its tentacles across the globe, over the words “nothing is beyond our reach.” Charming! In honor of the “oct” in octopus, here are eight images featuring an octopus–and similarly limb-surplused creatures–straddling the globe.

Click here to enter the gallery.

For further reading beyond this gallery, Strange Maps has an amazing collection of maps featuring the “Cartographic Land Octopus,” and Vulgar Army is a whole site devoted to “the Octopus in Propaganda and Political Cartoons.”

Mission Patch For A Spy Satellite

Posted to Twitter last night, this nice friendly octopus is the logo for the National Reconnaissance Office’s semi-classified space mission. Do not fear! It only wants to make sure that its tentacles reveal all the secrets in the world. There is _ nowhere to hide_.

Communism Octopus Encircles The World

This pamphlet cover from 1938 shows Stalin’s Soviet Russia as a threat to the whole world. Nice, cuddly image there.

Workers Stab The Capitalism Pentapus

Published around 1919 by the Industrial Workers of the World, this pentapus shows the multi-limbed cephalopod as an ideologically-flexible villain at the heart of several interconnected problems.

Imperial Hendecapus

In this editorial cartoon, likely first published in 1888, John Bull (the United Kingdom’s Uncle Sam) has 11 tentacles and is grasping part of his empire with each one. Because he’s an imperialist. This is generally not thought of as a flattering characterization.

The Prussian Octopus And Austrian Sidekick

Made in 1915, during World War I, this map shows Prussia as an octopus, expanding its reach from 1740 to 1915. (Confused? Prussia was a small German-speaking state that gradually became more powerful, before leading a coalition of German states to defeat France in 1870, thereby establishing a united German nation, with Prussia as the dominant influence.) As an added bonus, fellow German-speaking empire (and WWI ally to Germany) Austria-Hungary appears beside Prussia, with a measly two new possessions, and the loss of a territory to its northern neighbor.

Standard Oiltopus

The terrifying tentacles of Standard Oil capture the U.S. Capitol as well as a state house in this editorial cartoon from 1904.


The early 1950s in Europe were a complicated time, with rebuilding after a World War underway and the Cold War dividing countries and the globe into competing spheres. The French Communist party wasn’t too keen on American influence in post-war France, and around 1950 created this poster to express that.

Octopus Glass Globe Terrarium

This octopus holds a whole world in its eight tentacles, but fortunately it is a very small world. The octopus doesn’t seem terribly concerned about spying on the inhabitants of his terrarium.