#3. The Tunguska Explosion
On June 30, 1908, a mysterious explosion occurred several miles in the air over a spot of land known as Middle Of Nowhere, Siberia. That's right, because real life falls short of the spectacle demanded in disaster movies, this explosion pancaked over 80 million trees over an area comparable to Rhode Island but failed to decapitate a single Statue of Liberty.
Tough luck, Michael Bay.
Eyewitnesses as far off as Great Britain reported that the skies lit up like the Fourth of July, and since an event as awesome as the Tunguska explosion had flooded the human imagination with countless questions, thousands of hypotheses have been offered surrounding this phenomenon. Suspected culprits ranged from meteorites and natural gas to a natural H-bomb explosion, antimatter, black holes, aliens and Nikola Tesla.
Winner of Cracked Awards in "Mad Science" and "Coy Grins."
It took over 100 years and god only knows how much bullshitting, but in 2009, some researchers at Cornell University finally found something else to brag about besides being researchers at Cornell University.
Just because they didn't pay for their degrees in cocaine and lap dances they think they're somehow better than us.
Those bright skies over Britain? It turns out they were noctilucent clouds, which are like the plumes of cigarette smoke that a comet would puff out after a wild weekend playing hot and cold with Mother Earth. They realized this entirely by accident after watching a space shuttle launch create the exact same effect, and because these clouds are only produced by comets and space shuttles, it considerably narrows down the list of culprits for a phenomenon that occurred in 1908.
As spectacular as Hollywood likes to portray the idea of an honest-to-god comet collision, the reality is decidedly more mundane. No New York tsunami, no ragtag team of deep-core drillers; just a mere 5.0 on the Richter Scale.
#2. Stonehenge, The Pyramids and Ancient People Moving Huge Stones
Stonehenge in Britain and the Pyramids of Giza have mystified millions of people for something like one trillion years. The purpose of these giant piles of rocks have only ever been hypothesized, but the greater mystery has always been how they were built at all: How do primitive people, with not so much as a single bulldozer, move stones that weigh tons each?
And, more importantly, fucking why?
The popular theory about the Pyramids is the one that we saw in The Ten Commandments, that is that Charlton Heston and a massive Hebrew slave force painstakingly threw them together one block at a time. The problem with that theory is that it would have taken forever, and the project would probably still be going on to this day if nobody ever told the Jews they could stop working.
Hey guys, wandering around in the desert for decades will TOTALLY be more fun than drinking heavily and moving blocks.
Of course, just about every major structure on the planet built before Green Acres has at least one nutjob who believes that no less than three aliens helped build it. Pseudohistorians since time immemorial have sworn that the only way these buildings could have come into being is with the assistance of E.T., or at the very least, Predator.
Then again, these theories all rely almost entirely upon the baffling conclusion that people were incapable of moving stones in the Stone Age.
"A Giant did it" is the answer to a surprising number of ancient mysteries.
Not too long ago, some guy decided that he would build his own Stonehenge in his backyard just for the hell of it. His name is Wally Wallington (a name that only Stan Lee could appreciate) and all he used was observational physics, wood, stones and his own strength to recreate a somewhat sorry-looking but nonetheless impressive imitation of Stonehenge. Oh, but the best part: He did this all by himself.
People who fail to respect the ingenuity of our ancestors MAKE HIM ANGRY.
The architects of millennia past actually had some pretty damn spiffy techniques for moving enormous objects from one place to another, and none of them involved just throwing as many Jews at the project as possible.
For one, the Egyptians actually used independent contractors just like the Empire did when they built the Second Death Star. Researchers have found that small teams of professional laborers could have done much more with a little ingenuity than hundreds of thousands of peons, no matter how hard you whipped them. It's very probable that they simply put the rocks on barges and towed them along the Nile to their destination.
But how did they stack them so high, you ask? Well, fortunately, the Pyramids happened to have a pyramidal shape, which was ideally-suited for a system of ramps. That's right, it was an astounding coincidence that the shape of the building happened to also be the easiest possible way to move the stones up that building.
The incredible worldwide proliferation of the pyramid is due to simple human laziness, not the Predator.
Of course, this still doesn't explain the location of Stonehenge, especially since that whole "middle of nowhere" touch to it always added to the mystique. Why drag the stones hundreds of miles to that particular spot? Aliens, right?
Well, a whole bunch of Ph.Ds found out that Stonehenge was actually a short distance outside the largest Stone Age settlement in Britain, making it about as isolated from civilization as the Chrysler Building.
Did Anastasia Nikolaevna, youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II and heir to the Russian monarchy, survive the massacre of the Romanov family during the Russian Revolution? This question has been the subject of more than one dozen movies and countless storybooks since it was pretty much the story of a real Disney princess.
We're pretty sure having your entire family gunned down by Bolsheviks is more than a "low level" of violence, but hey.
The speculation began in the early 1920s when a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the Romanov princess, and that she had been living in exile. Her story drew a huge amount of publicity, and Anderson stuck by it until her death in 1984, at which point CSI was finally able to get close enough to determine that she wasn't even Russian, let alone Queen of the Russians. Still, they didn't take back the Academy Award that Ingrid Bergman won for playing Anderson in 1956.
Also known as bullshit.
In fact, at least 10 other women, and probably some men, have since come forward to claim the title of the real Romanov princess, and nobody ever seemed to find it fishy that most of them were suffering from mental illnesses.
Only one claimant to the Russian throne has provided compelling evidence that she may be the real Anastasia, and that is a corpse who was found buried with the rest of the Romanov family in 2008.
The main reason why the mystery of Anastasia persisted for so long was because it took one hell of a long time for Anastasia's body to be recovered. For most of the 20th century, researchers had that whole "Cold War" thing blocking their access to the Romanov gravesite, and even when they finally got to dig up the bodies in 1991, conspiracy theorists were tantalized by the fact that they still seemed to be missing a couple of stiffs, including that of the mysterious princess.
Nicholi's fabulous mustache remains unaccounted for to this day.
Then, almost two decades later, they went back and found them about 200-feet away. Well, shit.
In 2008, 21st century DNA technology confirmed that these were really the remains of Anastasia, proving that the long-lost princess was, in fact, very dead. But at least they got to make some decent movies.
Still better than Hercules.
For more mysteries we've sucked the fun from, check out 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (With Really Obvious Solutions). Or learn about what still has Science scratching its head, in 6 Insane Discoveries That Science Can't Explain.
And stop by Linkstorm (Updated 08.31.10) to discover the true origins of the Internet. (Al Gore only invented 4Chan.)
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