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We've worked long and hard here at Cracked to make it clear that the past was badass. All you have to do is sift through old-timey photos, and you quickly realize that people back then possessed neither sanity nor a sense of self-preservation. Trust us, the explanation behind these seemingly inexplicable photos tends to make them even more baffling.

18
"Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Him. We Have the Technology ..."

So ... what can that be other than two Nazi scientists doing repairs on a robot super-soldier?

Actually, this 1964 pic from Popular Science depicts the wizards/Nazi scientists at Walt Disney Studios building an automated caveman for the 1964 New York World's Fair. See? That's not horrifying at all.

Walt Disney was quick to calm the world's fears about his horrifying creations, reminding everyone that only he knew "the killing code."

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17
A Bicycle Built for ... Two

This 1890s photo is of the legendary "Armless Wonder" Charles B. Tripp of Woodstock, Canada, who was born without arms yet enjoyed a fantastic career in the furniture business. Next to him sits Eli Bowen of Ohio, who if you look closely was born without legs but does enjoy two feet.

In the compassionate late 19th century, being born with a deformity meant joining the circus. So both men toured the world with Barnum and Bailey and eventually married, though it was Bowen who wooed ladies as "the handsomest man in his line of business."

Take that, Mr. "Armless Wonder"!

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16
The Model T Vending Machine

Are you tired of delinquents stealing the hand crank to your Model T? Well, bamboozle those scalawags with a car lift! The fools will either be powerless to harm your car or will die trying to steal it.

This isn't some ridiculous "city of the FUTURE!" concept art; this photo of an "elevator garage" was taken in 1936 Chicago by photographer John Gutmann, and here it is from another angle. All we can picture is us dropping in a nickel to get our car back and then seeing it get stuck at the top like a bag of chips in a vending machine.

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15
The Racist-est Place on Earth

How far back in American history do you have to go to find the Ku Klux Klan openly riding the Ferris wheel, presumably screaming "wheeee!!!" the whole time? To 1928, apparently. That "every day is the carnival when you're in the Klan!" publicity photo was taken in Colorado (the owner of the carnival was also a Klansman).


It was a different time.

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14
"PETAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

It was 1881 when William "Doc" Carver came up with the idea of dropping a horse 60 feet into water for financial gain, a spectacle that quickly become a popular attraction at Atlantic City's Steel Pier. If you're not understanding what is cruel about this trick, you're not picturing what practice must have looked like.

Carver claimed he got the idea when a bridge collapsed under him one day and he and his horse plummeted into the river below. Back then, witnessing gruesome accidents was all most people had for entertainment. So making it in showbiz involved nothing more than finding some tragedy you could replicate on a nightly basis.

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13
Goddammit Another Ball Went Into the Propeller

Barely 20 years after the invention of the airplane, mankind started doing shit like this. This 1925 photo depicts a male and female daredevil pretending to play tennis on the wing of a biplane.

Based on what we know of the era, we're guessing there is either no one flying the plane, or it's a chimpanzee.

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12
Vote McKinley/Roosevelt!

This picture is real, this scene existed, and yes, at one point in our history, you could have actually voted for this man.

We do not know if this was a publicity stunt, a routine hunting incident or seriously how our beloved President Theodore Roosevelt used to ride to work every day. All we know is that it was taken during the 1900 presidential election campaign and as far as we are concerned, virtually guaranteed William McKinley's re-election for as many terms as God gave him.

On that note, President McKinley was dead a year later.

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11
Apparently, Hitler Loved Women's Hockey

Not only did Hitler forever ruin a perfectly good mustache, he also ruined one of the classic good-luck symbols -- the swastika. Once upon a time, it was as common a symbol to see on a team uniform as the five-pointed star is now.

So, for instance, here's the 1909 Chilocco Indian Agricultural School basketball team:

They even named the teams "The Swastika" -- here's the San Francisco YMCA Swastika ...

... and the proud Canucks of the Windsor Swastikas ...

We're just waiting for some league or other to bring these back for Throwback Jersey Day. It's history, dammit!

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10
Call of Duty: Old-Timey Warfare

It's easy for us to laugh, but in 1899 this must have looked like a terrifying vision of the future. Even if the guy was wearing a tie, bowler hat and dress shoes. Back in those days, if you were not the more finely dressed army, you were considered to have lost the war regardless of how much land you seized.

That's inventor F.R. Simms, by the way, demonstrating his Simms Motor Scout armored quadricycle. Can somebody in the comments photoshop this guy onto a battlefield littered with blood and maimed bodies?

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9
The Rise of the Machines

Here's one that looks like somebody ported props from Terminator: Salvation onto an old-timey photograph. They didn't have tiny little robot tanks back then, did they? Shit, they barely have that now.

But, as with all terrifyingly futuristic war machines from back in the day, we can thank the Nazis for this one. The above picture was taken shortly after the D-Day invasion and shows four British soldiers alongside three captured German Goliath tracked mines: killer robots capable of delivering 75 to 100 kilograms of high explosives.

OK, so they were remote-controlled instead of robotic. So instead of a Skynet AI, they were merely controlled by a nearby Nazi with a joystick. That's much less terrifying!

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8
Pony Rides Were for Pussies

Wait, did we say Teddy Roosevelt was a badass for riding a moose earlier? In 1920s Louisiana, if you weren't standing on an alligator by age 3, you got sent to a special school.

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7
A scene from D.W. Griffith's Cloverfield

While a cursory glance would suggest foreigners like King Kong, the above is an actual photo from a calamity that befell the Empire State Building on July 28, 1945, at the hands of an American airplane. At 9:49 a.m., Lt. Col. William Smith mistook the tallest man-made structure on the planet for nothing when he banked his B-25 bomber into it.

The plane hit so hard that one engine shot all the way through the building, out the other side, and landed on the roof of another building the next block over. Still, that happened on Saturday and the building was open again on Monday. People were probably sitting at their desks, smoking cigarettes and doing paperwork with smoldering hunks of plane laying all around them.

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6
And It Was the Least-Manly Piece of Grandma's Furniture

This chair, apparently created from a mutated six-footed monstrosity, was a gift to President Andrew Johnson. The grizzly chair was the creation of an admirer named Seth Kinman, who apparently had this much badass to spare.

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5
Back in Those Days, an Oil Spill Went Completely Unnoticed

That ain't Texas, and it sure as hell isn't Saudi Arabia. That's the modern home of hippies and Priuses -- California, as it looked in 1928 (specifically, Huntington Beach). Back in those days if you ran across an otter that wasn't covered in oil, it was considered a source of shame for the community.

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4
How Did It Wind Up on the Second Floor in the First Place?

Here's one you may have seen floating around the Internet. This seemingly impossible shot of a train exploding out of the second floor of a train station is the great derailment of the Granville-Paris Express at Gare Montparnasse on Oct. 22, 1895.

Despite the fact that the train carried more than a hundred passengers and plowed through a goddamn train station, only one person was killed: a woman outside. The image went on to play a direct role in surrealist artwork, inspire countless imitators and ultimately serve as a reminder to humanity just how much the world looks like a freaking toy if you zoom back far enough.


At least it was on time.

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3
Those Are Not Stilts

If you think they just paired that guy up with a couple of tiny women, you're wrong. Shaquille O'Neal would only come up to his chest.

That's Robert Wadlow of Alton, Illinois, widely believed to be the tallest man who ever lived, at 8 feet 11 inches. He weighed almost 500 pounds and had size 37AA shoes.

In answer to your next question, no, it's not normal for a person to get that size, and he only lived to be 22. Still, he's making people say, "Holy shit, look at that guy!" 70 years after he passed away. Will you be able to say that?

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2
No! The Airplane's Natural Enemy!

It is difficult to discern what is more embarrassing about this picture from 1915 Brussels: The fact that this pilot just lost a fight against a zeppelin, or that he subsequently lost a second fight against a tree?

Ah, well. At least he's in good company:

Yeah, aviation has come a ways since then. Kind of puts those tennis players earlier in another light.

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1
Salvador Dali Hated Cats

That is not a photoshop or otherwise manipulated. The guy standing in front of the easel, as many of you already know, is surrealist Salvador Dali. The photo is the work of photographer Philippe Halsman.

If you're wondering how they came up with this, here's the actual exchange between the two men:

Dali: "I know what the picture should be ... We take a duck and put some dynamite in its derriere. When the duck explodes, I jump and you take the picture."

Halsman: "Don't forget that we are in America. We will be put in prison if we start exploding ducks."

Dali: "You're right. Let's take some cats and splash them with water."


It only took them 26 takes!

There's plenty of more badass imagery in our our new book.

For more unbelievable photos, check out 15 Images You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped and The True Stories Behind 5 Famous WTF Images.

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