Tsar Alexander II ruled Russia from 1855 to 1881, a time when grenades were chucked at world leaders like water balloons and the man in charge was whoever was blown up the least. In April 1866, a man shot at the tsar while he was walking in his garden. He missed. That summer, a man shot at Alexander while he was visiting France. He missed. In April 1879, another man shot at the tsar while he was walking in his garden again. This guy missed, too, and all garden walks were canceled. If they were going to kill this guy, they were going to have to come up with a plan.
"Step one: Shave his bullet-deflecting mustache."
In June of 1879, 11 young Russians came together and formed a group called the People's Will, which took a vote and decided that the tsar had to die. Since he was bulletproof, they decided to use a newfangled invention called dynamite.
The original plan was to blow up the tracks under the train he traveled by at the exact moment the train passed over them, but it turns out that's even harder than it sounds. After failing on multiple occasions (though successfully blowing up a train car full of fruit at one point), they decided to just blow him up in his own house.
They were not wildly imaginative assassins.
The Near Miss:
The People's Will had connections. They had a man working in Alexander's palace, directly under the dining room. He spent more than three months sneaking more than 300 pounds of dynamite into his room. At this point, it was just a matter of finding an exact date and time when they knew for a fact the tsar would be in there.
Finally, they got it: The tsar was scheduled to have dinner with Prince Alexander of Hesse on a particular day at 6:00 p.m.
Their beards were fraternal twins.
The day came. The assassins knew the tsar and his entire family were in fact in the palace. The bomber in the basement lit the fuse and got the hell out of there. He walked out of the palace and waited. A few minutes later, the bomb exploded, turning the dining room into a crater.
But the tsar and his family weren't in it. They were home, yes, but there was a blizzard in Russia, and all of the trains into the city were late, so their visitor, Prince Alexander, was late for dinner. And starting dinner without their visitor would have just been rude.
Assassination attempts are less of a faux pas by comparison.
The tsar and his family waited, and were in fact walking toward the dining room when they heard the boom. The tsar was unharmed, and probably believed himself to be immortal (he would be proven wrong a year later, when another assassination attempt finally got him).
Church choirs are serious business. It takes a lot of practice to properly testify, so the West Side Baptist Church choir in Beatrice, Nebraska, had practice every Wednesday at 7:20 p.m. Somehow, every single member of the 15-person choir showed up late for their practice on March 1, 1950. All of them. There were no holdouts. Every single person in the choir decided that the importance of the petty bullshit they had going on was far more important than showing up to pay tribute to the Lord. Jesus would not be pleased! Or would he?
Beatrice Daily Sun
We'll never know. He was out sleeping one off.
The Near Miss:
Practice was to start at 7:20. The church literally exploded at 7:27.
The flame in the furnace ignited a gas leak, sending the roof of the church straight down, killing all of the nobody inside. Like we said, every single member of the choir was late and, as a result, missed not only their date to sing for the Lord, but also their date to meet him. And they each missed it for completely different reasons. Seriously:
The pianist was going to get there half an hour early, but she fell asleep after dinner. Her mother woke her up, but she did that whole "Yeah I'm up zzzzzz ..." thing and hit the snooze button. So both she and her mother, the choir director, were late.
"I'm an atheist for the next half hour, piss off."
Two high school girls, Lucille and Dorothy, were late because Lucille was listening to a riveting radio broadcast and wanted to hear the end. Yes, kids, there was a time when you couldn't just download that kind of thing later.
The Estes sisters were going to be there on time, but the car wouldn't start. They called Ladona Vandergrift, a high school sophomore, to get a ride with her. However, little Ladona was doing geometry homework, and couldn't figure out a problem. She spent so long on that problem that they were all late.
Ms. Schuster and her daughter missed practice because they were helping Ms. Schuster's mother prepare for a missionary meeting.
Herbert Kipf decided that he needed to finish a letter before he went to practice. Because it's not like you can just pick up that kind of activity later, you know?
Joyce Black says that it was cold outside, so she delayed going for so long that she ended up being late. Cold weather in early March in Nebraska? A likely story, Joyce.
"The spirit of God warms me, but giving my car heater a head start helps, too."
Harvey Ahl and his two sons were late because he was talking to somebody and lost track of time. Talking to a person who makes you late for an appointment with God? Tell us, what does the devil talk about?
And finally, the reverend, who had lit the furnace earlier that day and then went home to dinner, ended up being late because his daughter made a mess in her dress, so he had to wait for his wife to iron a new one before they could all go.
Beatrice Daily Sun
"Darling, you can have as many pudding cups as you want when we get back home."
So the church explodes, while all of the people who are supposed to be inside are ironing dresses and working on homework. Considering that it was a church choir, the members pretty much agreed that it was a miracle. No matter how cynical you are, you have to admit, they have a point, though if they had seen Final Destination, they would probably all feel differently. Unsurprisingly, this story was fascinating enough to earn a spot on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
For people who looked death in the eye and flipped it the bird, check out 7 People Who Cheated Death (Then Kicked It In The Balls). Or learn about the 6 People Who Died In Order To Prove A (Retarded) Point.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see which columnist is Death incarnate.
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