The Cold War was a crazy time: We went into battle against the duplicitous penguins and the mighty polar bears; the great walrus hordes and the brutal whale armada; the seal assassins and the alba-
The Cold War was a time of geopolitical tension between two world superpowers, mostly involving political maneuvering and veiled threats? That sounds really boring. Let's talk about the best way to kill a penguin with your bare hands instead. First, grasp just above and below the beak, then apply a twi-
What's that? You say the five craziest stories we've ever heard -- stories about shadow governments, sci-fi ice fortresses and nuclear obliteration -- are all from the Cold War? OK, we're listening ... for now.
Sometimes history is just a little bit weirder than science fiction. Here's a fact: The United States of America used to have a small underground city in the North Pole called Camp Century. Also, it looked a lot like the rebel base on Hoth, which always gets you points when Cracked is keeping score.
US Army via Defensetech
"We already ate our Tauntauns."
Camp Century began life in 1959 as a scientific outpost located hundreds of feet beneath a Greenland iceberg. From the surface, it looked like nothing more than an ominous snow-covered pyramid. But below, it was gigantic: The base was powered by an underground nuclear reactor, and at one point boasted a staff of 200. It was a veritable city, complete with a gym, a chapel, a library, hobby shops and even a friggin' movie theater. Although why you'd watch movies down there when you were already living a better plot than half of them is beyond us.
But as with all awesome things, the military soon snatched it away from science and started using it to try and blow stuff up. It's all explained in this very real and clearly unbiased military-funded documentary.
US Army Defensetech
"Basically, we took all of that sciency nonsense out and replaced it with missiles. Ice missiles."
Let's reiterate what we've got so far, just so it sticks: The United States had a 200-person nuclear-powered outpost located beneath the ice of the North Pole, where one of their primary objectives was to drill as deep into the unforgiving, ancient ice as possible. If that's not the start to one hell of a horror movie, we don't know what is.
After the military takeover, Camp Century was converted into a giant ice-bound missile silo. The goal was to store approximately 600 nuclear missiles in the base, giving the U.S. a nice, neighborly little nuclear bungalow right next to Soviet Russia. Luckily for Russia (and the unmutated faces of your loved ones), technical problems led to the whole mission being scrapped. Because maintaining the tunnels was a constant chore (they had to remove 120 tons of ice every month just to stay uncrushed), the whole site collapsed within the decade.
US Army Defensetech
It's fit only for Hobbits now.
So no, you can't go there and play the world's most awesome game of hide and seek. This was all just a big cocktease, and we're really sorry.
Vincenzo Pinto / Getty
Propaganda Due, or P2, was a Freemason lodge described by journalists as a "shadow government." Their goal started out as fighting communism in Italy, but don't worry: That's just their noble origin story. They turn entertainingly villainous as shit in just a few sentences.
P2 had a litany of powerful members in their ranks, including Silvio Berlusconi, or as you may know him, the freaking former prime minister of Italy. This isn't some accusation by conspiracy theorists and Internet vigilantes or anything -- Berlusconi was found guilty of lying about his membership in P2 by a court of law, and has openly acknowledged the fact since.
Vincenzo Pinto / Getty
Through what we can only assume was a series of sweeping hand gestures.
Let's not forget that whole "shadow" aspect of the thing: We say that because the only real data anybody has on P2 comes from an Italian investigation conducted in 1981, which confirmed that the group had managed to infiltrate not only the parliament, but the military and press as well. The investigators also tied P2 to assassinations, kidnappings and arms deals. A list of roughly 1,000 members was compiled, most of them prominent politicians. It's a good start to a supervillain organization, if you ask us. But where's their big hook? Where's their grand act of impressive influence that proves that they control the world with an iron fist? Or, being Italian, some tasteful leather gloves and a purple ascot?
Well, how about the time they chose the president of the United States of America?
It all started with Billy Carter, Jimmy Carter's hilariously oafish brother, accepting a $220,000 loan from Libya. Libya was generally considered to be a landmass full of pretty sketchy dudes at the time, if not straight up enemies of the nation. The scandal was clearly enormous, but short attention spans aren't a recent invention: Since it happened months before the election, by the time November came around, most people had forgotten about it.
ISC Archives / Getty
Billy Carter, seen here as a living stereotype.
P2 wanted Reagan to win (look at those shrewd eyes, that glorious, razor-sharp haircut; can you blame them?), so they reached out to a few key journalistic contacts at The New Republic to plant another story come election time. They wrote that not only had Libya given Billy another $50,000, but that Billy had recently met with the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is considered a terrorist group by the United States to this day. And all this just two weeks before the election. Billy and everybody else involved denied it (the Senate investigation years later would confirm that it never happened), but the damage was done. Reagan won in all but six states, and likely all because of an Italian "shadow government" pulling their sinister strings behind the scenes.
The numbers speak for themselves:
And they sound a lot like Mario.
You can see plenty of gentle dips and slopes there for both major candidates -- that's just how elections work. But look there, at the end: the two weeks after the story was planted. Reagan friggin' skyrockets! It's the sharpest, fastest movement in the entire graph. Although to be fair, that's not saying much when Carter is involved: Nobody ever accused Carter of being exciting. Dude even looks like a human turtle.
Everyone who's passed freshman history knows the story of the Cuban missile crisis. Since that might not include you, and certainly doesn't include us, here's a recap that we just looked up and pretended to understand: Cuba was afraid that the U.S. was going to invade (which, in fairness to them, we had already done), so they asked Russia to install nukes across their country to launch against the U.S. if we ever attacked. Russia was thrilled to oblige. The U.S., not particularly keen on mass annihilation, was less so. We blockaded the nukes, and at the appropriately dramatic last minute, Russia and the U.S. worked out a deal where Russia would pull the missiles out of Cuba if we withdrew ours from Turkey and Italy.
Underwood Archives / Getty
We got to keep our Florida missiles, though, which is all that keeps the crocodiles under control.
What you didn't know was that we didn't actually intercept all those missiles. After the Cuban missile crisis was officially "over," Russia still had 100 nuclear missiles in Cuba. Since the U.S. didn't know about them, and therefore hadn't technically included those hundred in the deal, the USSR decided that they could legally "give" them to Cuba. But when the Russian higher-ups visited Cuba to figure out the details, they quickly realized that Castro was balls-out-of-the-underwear crazy. During those first negotiations, Cuba had been left out completely. And, since they suffer from the nation equivalent of Short Man Syndrome, they were furious at the slight.
The Russians decided that if the missiles were left in Cuba, it would almost definitely lead to World War III. So they did what politicians do best: lie ridiculously. They told Castro that there was an unpublished Russian law that made it illegal to give missiles to Cuba permanently -- our legal department says it's a variant of the "never promise crazy a baby" statute -- and the Cuban missile crisis was averted.
For realsies this time.
Keystone-France / Getty
"We promise not to kill everything and everyone if you promise not to kill everything and everyone."