#3. The Great London Beer Flood
The Old Testament says that God already destroyed the world with a flood once before, but even the Almighty gets bored with the same old techniques. In 1814, part of London was wiped out by a flood of downright biblical proportions, but with a slight twist -- it was drowned under an ocean of beer.
The London Beer Flood of 1814 occurred when a vat of liquid gold at the Meux and Company Brewery ruptured for no apparent reason, causing other nearby vats to burst, ultimately releasing nearly 400,000 gallons of beer in a 15-foot wave onto the streets of London. Patrons at the Tavistock Arms Pub were taken by surprise when the tidal wave smashed through the walls and brought down the building. We like to imagine that this happened in a way that was comically ironic, like immediately after the bartender declared last call.
"This beer sucks. I wouldn't drink this if the room was flooded in it and I had to drink my way out to survive."
The beerpocalypse went on to demolish two more houses before it came to an end, and although it sounds like nobody could have had a bad time here, eight people drowned and many more lost their livelihoods -- although it was pretty convenient for those survivors who decided to resort to drinking. Many retellings of the story mention a ninth fatality, a man who died of alcohol poisoning, and to be honest, that probably is the way we'd go in that situation.
In the end, Meux and Company was taken to court, but the jury placed no fault with them. It was legally ruled to be ... well, an act of God. That's just a legal term, but probably one that was said in hushed whispers.
"Our Father, who art a mean drunk, hallowed be thy booze ..."
#2. The Year Without a Summer
If you're a simple country farmer in 1816, you live by one clockwork schedule: You put seeds in the ground in the spring, wait for them to grow, then eat what grew over the winter. It's worked for thousands of years, because if there's something you can count on, it's the predictability of the seasons. Except, in this particular year, summer just never came. Kind of like if you woke up one morning and the sun didn't come up.
You have to admit, though, Italy looks pretty damn smooth in that shade of blue.
Across the northeastern U.S., Canada and most of Western Europe, temperatures dropped to winter levels in the spring and summer of 1816, creating frost that killed off all the crops that had just been planted. Snow fell and rivers remained frozen well into July and August. What little grain that did grow suddenly became a very expensive commodity -- oats, for example, rose from 12 cents to 92 cents a bushel. Of course, in some places, there simply was no food to buy, no matter what you were willing to pay for it, leading to riots, looting and arson over much of the Western world.
Did God just forget to turn up the thermostat or something? Actually, this was brought on by the eruption of Mount Tambora, the largest volcanic eruption in about 1,300 years. Not that the farmers knew that -- Mount Tambora is in Indonesia. Its April 10 eruption caused a volcanic winter, the ash cloud so thick and widespread that it blanketed much of the Earth and dropped temperatures globally, leading to worldwide crop shortages and famine.
Basically, people must have thought that they were living through an old school biblical apocalypse. Imagine trying to convince those people that their grandkids would have global warming to worry about.
#1. The Snake and Boiling Mud Plague of 1902
Everyone was just chillaxing in Saint-Pierre on the French-owned island of Martinique in 1902, sitting on the beach, sipping frog legs out of coconuts or whatever you'd do if you were a French person in the Caribbean back then. The point is, nobody could have expected that they were about to fall victim to some divine justice until the snake plague came.
Saint-Pierre was known as "Paris of the Caribbean," a booming cultural capital and tourist hotspot built just under the slope of an extinct volcano (remember that, it's important later). One day, with absolutely no warning, hundreds of 6-foot-long snakes slithered into town and just started killing everyone.
Danleo via Wikipedia
Like this, but, you know, more.
Apparently, the venomous snake plague killed around 50 people and a whole bunch of livestock before (according to the story) they were killed by the town's "giant street cats." We're just repeating what our sources say here.
But that wasn't the end of Saint-Pierre's troubles. Before they could recover from the snakes, another wave of death came over the town in the form of an avalanche of boiling mud. Finally, a superheated ash cloud descended upon the city, literally destroying it in an instant. See, it turned out that the volcano they were nestled under wasn't as extinct as everyone thought it was. The city was so thoroughly obliterated by the disaster that, of the estimated 30,000 people living in Saint-Pierre, only two survived.
Seriously, the barren wasteland behind that guy used to be an entire town.
Clearly, the powers that be had decided that Saint-Pierre had to go. But you have to ask, if you're going to wipe out a whole city with a volcanic eruption, why would you send snakes first? That's just being a dick.
For more ridiculous disasters, check out 6 Natural Disasters That Were Caused by Human Stupidity and 6 Man-Made Natural Disasters Just Waiting to Happen.