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John F. Kennedy? You've heard about him. Caesar? Got his own salad.

History is stuffed with famous warriors and mad geniuses who are just waiting to be played by Russel Crowe, or at least, Ben Affleck.

This article isn't about them. This is about the little guys who wandered onto History's highway and managed to do something that changed the world for the better, and in a huge way.

5
The Security Guard Who Brought Down a President

Wait, Who?

There you are, getting ready for work, brushing your teeth, staring at the mirror, wondering if anyone is going to notice that zit... and then this thought kinda just pops into your head:

"Today, I'm going to accidentally bring down the American government."

Never happened to you? Security guard Frank Wills had no early warning either. With a hefty paycheck of $80 a week, Wills might have had good reason to believe he was well out of History's high beams. But in 1972, while patrolling the offices where the Democratic National Headquarters was, Frank noticed that little strips of tape was holding a few doors open. He tore them off. Coming back later, he saw that the tape had been replaced and, deciding that shenanigans were afoot, he called the police.


Not on Frank Wills' watch!

You all pretty much know the rest of the story. The burglars were arrested, tied to Nixon's re-election campaign and eventually, to the President himself. Amidst charges of massively illegal behavior, Nixon finally resigned in 1974, and was beaten to death in an alleyway behind a New Jersey Taco Bell.


The one on Rt 34.

No, wait. He became a bestselling author, and lived for years.

Wills, the hard working American who was just doing his job, managed to disintegrate into obscurity almost as quickly as he'd emerged. He played himself in the 1976 movie All the President's Men, but he didn't even get a raise for bringing down the government. In fact, when he left the job because they apparently refused to pay for vacation time, he found he couldn't get work anywhere else. One university told him that they didn't want the government to withhold funding because they'd hired him as a security guard.

Money went fast, and there wasn't a whole hell of a lot of it to begin with. He couldn't pay his electricity bill, couldn't afford to bury his mother, and had to wash his clothes in a goddamn bucket. And not one of those fancy golden buckets. In 1983, he was sentenced to a year in prison for shoplifting a pair of $13 shoes. And that was pretty much it until he died in 2000.

Without This Person, We Might Not Have:

The desire to add "-gate" to every scandal that makes the news. That, and an executive branch that wasn't totally corrupt. For most of the 20th century the media had a crush on the president. Teddy Roosevelt made racist jokes, JFK chased tail, and the press blushed and wondered if the president ever thought of them when they weren't around. Frank Wills showed the world how important accountability can be, especially when the president is a paranoid lunatic.

Watergate caused Congress to strengthen the Freedom of Information act, making it a vicious scalpel of Truth for the common man. Until George W. Bush weakened it in 2001. And in 2002. Don't worry, though. We're pretty sure his intentions are pure.

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4
The Kid Who Killed Richard the Lionheart (and Changed History)

Wait, Who?

Richard I of England, usually portrayed as a smug Sean Connery type, spent most of his life at war. When he wasn't slaughtering heathens, hating Jews and seizing land, he was at war with his brothers and his father. The man had lived to the then-unbelievable age of 42 when a hundred elite assassins sacrificed their lives to mortally wound him in a dazzling swordfight along a sheer cliff face.

No, just kidding. It was one kid with a crossbow and a frying pan.

The young assassin was such a nobody that historians don't even know his name, calling him either Peter, Dudo, John or Bertran (we'll just call him PDJB). The Lionheart came to PDJB's tiny land to suppress a minor revolt, killing the kid's father and brother during the assault. With most of the castle's defenders dead, Richard the Lionheart took a stroll along the base of the walls.

And there, history tells us, the Lionheart rofled. Because at the top of the wall, all alone, was our friend PDJB, batting away arrows with a dented frying pan, and shouting insults at the top of his young lungs. Spotting the king, the boy fired an arrow and missed. Richard, who clearly thought arrow wounds were things that happened to other people, cheered on the defender. The second arrow buried itself in his shoulder. After an unsuccessful surgery made the wound gangrenous, the dying king had PDJB brought to him, and pardoned the boy. Once the king had died, his soldiers skinned PDJB alive. Then, to drive home the point that everyone was just so irritable about the regicide thing, they hung him.

With Richard dead, his brother John became King of England, and began losing territories from Richard's hard-won empire so fast that you have to imagine he was getting candy and handjobs out of it.

Without This Person, We Might Not Have:

The Magna Carta. Though there is still a debate as to whether Richard was even into the ladies, he was still married to one. If he had survived long enough to have a kid, the crown wouldn't have gone to John, who lost so many battles that he got the nickname "Softsword". After a particularly nasty defeat, his Barons forced him to sign a document that essentially made him a king in name only. Add this to the fact that we remember John now as the sissy, whining lion in Disney's Robin Hood, and you have a pretty fair idea of how bad he was for England at the time.


King John signing the Magna Carta. Also, some guys with pots on their head.

If it wasn't for that one lucky shot, English royalty might have held on to their God-given deathgrip on the lives of their subjects. Our Magna Carta-inspired Constitution? Gone. And you and I, buddy? Proud citizens of the great nation of "New England". Kiss that July 4th holiday goodbye, suckers. And pretty much all of the political advances of the past few hundred years.

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3
The Slave Girl Who Helped Conquer The New World

Wait, who?

Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes has always been credited with taking down the savage Aztec empire when it was at its bloody peak, but he never would have gotten anywhere if it hadn't been for his mistress, Dona Marina.

Let's look at the numbers. The population of the Aztec empire around that time was about 20,000,000. Cortes, in typical we-have-superior-weapons-plus-they-are-heathen-savages fashion, only thought to bring 600 men. We'll leave you to do the hilarious math. Fractions have never been our strong point.

The idea is insane. He should have been on a sacrificial altar within a week. But shortly after landing, he was given twenty slave girls as a gift. La Malinche, later Dona Marina, was among them, and became his "translator".


Okay. What the hell is going on in this picture?

Remember: Cortes and his men didn't know the land, the language or the culture. Any reinforcements were months and months away. With Marina's help, the Spanish army avoided traps, made allies among the natives and worked their way towards the capitol of Tenochtitlan, which surrendered without a fight.

Historians have been having a vicious cage match over this for years. The most interesting theory is that Marina took advantage of religious prophecy and imagery to trick her people into thinking that Cortes was the earthly incarnation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl. By the time the devout emperor realized he had been tricked, it was too late.

Without This Person, We Might Not Have:

The world.

Everyday life in the Aztec Empire looked like a Rob Zombie movie. During one four day "festival" they sacrificed 84,400 people in order to prevent their sun god from causing the apocalypse.

Now nobody can say for certain what would have happened to this terrifying culture if they'd given Cortes a less cunning slave girl, but it almost definitely would have happened like this:

Instead of gods, the Aztecs see Cortes and his men as bank robbers with weird pigmentation. After slaughtering them easily, they spend the next few decades studying his advanced weapons. Hundreds of years later, you spend most of your childhood hoping that Aztec fighter jets don't bomb your city as a sacrifice to the sun god.

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2
The Prospector Who Stumbled Across An Ocean of Gold

Wait, Who?

In 1886, the South African gold rush was ON, and prospectors were combing the land for big strikes. Sors Hariezon was wandering around a bit, and found a solid lump of gold, just sitting on the ground. He staked a claim, started working, and was soon joined by every gold-hungry land-thieving bastard within a hundred miles.

Then, apparently, Sors was just over it. He sold his claim for 20 bucks and split. No one knows what ever happened to him. Some say that Sors never existed, and that his name was the result of a misspelling of "George Harrison" on a gold claim form (who, according to historical confusion, also sold the claim for 20 bucks and wandered off, but was eaten by a lion.)

That land, near a settlement that would explode into Johannesburg, still produces a retarded amount of gold per year. Fun fact: Sors is the name of a Roman god of luck.

Without This Person, We Might Not Have:

Well, Johannesburg. You know, largest city in South Africa? Exporter of a majority of the western world's gold and (blood) diamonds? Sure, it's not exactly a hot bed for cultural progress, but it's also pretty much responsible for everything good that has ever come out of South Africa.

If someone with any damn sense at all had found that gold mine, they would have kept it to themselves. Instead of a city, Johannesburg would just be a huge industrial goldmine. You'd still have South Africa, and all the awful shit that goes on there, just a more backwoods version. What you wouldn't have is Nelson Mandela, who grew up there.

If that doesn't sound bad enough, all that gold would have belonged to one dude. So enough gold to build an entire city belongs to some white South African gold speculator. If you've seen Lethal Weapon 2 you know that white South Africans are evil enough without being able to buy the moon.

And if you're still not convinced, without the mythical Sors Hariezon and his lucky find, Johannesburg native Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band would have never been born. Take a moment to stop shivering in terror before reading on.

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1
The Coal Merchant Who Saved King Louis the Fourteenth (And Changed History Again)

Wait, Who?

In the mid-1640s, French coal salesman Jacquot came home late to his family's one-room shack with a half-drowned kid in his arms. Over the long night, they nursed him back to consciousness while Jacquot explained that he had found the boy sinking in a pool behind the royal palace with no one else in sight. As was common in the 1640s, the family then ate the child, and buried his bones beneath an apple tree behind their house.

What? Oh, sorry. This whole thing has a very fairy-tail ring to it, and we got distracted. What really happened was that the kid woke up, and started mocking the poverty of the house, the clothes they had changed him into, and the food they made for him. In short, they should have eaten the little prick.

After a little while, voices rose outside, and half the royal guard burst into the room. It turned out that Jacquot had rescued the boy king Louis XIV from an early death. To thank the peasant, Louis promised him a fuckton of money. History doesn't tell us if the little shit actually followed through with it.

Without This Person, We Might Not Have:

Modern France, and most of the good things that came out of it, which is more than you might think. Louis XIV spent his seventy-two-year reign both unifying the fragmented regions of France, throwing his money at arts and culture and kicking the crap out of any nation that looked at him funny.


This is probably not how he drowned.

All that warring and spending dragged the French government into some damn serious debt, which would eventually contribute to the French Revolution, which is often credited as being one of the most influential movements in history. Basically, if the monarchy were a hotel room Louis XIV was Led Zeppelin: he threw such a kick ass party that by the time he was done with it, it was totally ruined. Which of course turned out to be good news for those of us who aren't kings.

For men who kicked too much ass for history to ignore check out The 5 Most Badass Presidents of All-Time. Or for men who fooled history into thinking they were smart check out 7 "Eccentric" Geniuses Who Were Clearly Just Insane.

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