If you've learned anything from reading Cracked, it's that the past is a bizarre and confusing place. That's why so many of its photos, when viewed out of context, are bizarre and/or terrifying. And in many cases, adding the context just makes them worse.
So let's do that now ...
#13. Pass the Popcorn
National Nuclear Security Administration
Don't pop it first. We got that covered.
It looks like somebody cut the bleachers out of a photo of a little league game and cleverly pasted them onto this pic of a mushroom cloud, maybe for an awesome album cover or something. But this is in fact an unaltered photo depicting more or less how they passed the time around the beginning of the Cold War -- just gathering together to sing songs and share stories around the nuclear campfire.
Between 1951 and 1992, over 900 nuclear detonations were conducted there in the Nevada desert, and the mushroom clouds could occasionally be seen from Las Vegas. And people did see them -- as weird as it is to see military personnel just hanging out watching the detonation of a doomsday device, civilians around town would organize viewing parties on rooftops to get a good view of the blast (admit it -- you'd watch a nuclear explosion if you had the chance).
There's no real word on how many of these folks got leukemia or turned into Hulks, but let's just say there is a reason this is no longer a popular pastime.
#12. I Never Actually Passed Flight School
Luckily, they taught "bail out" on day one.
If you look closely, you might notice something strange about the direction this plane is flying. Skilled aeronauts should be able to pick it out fairly easily.
Apparently, a farmer was in the process of snapping a photograph of his buddy riding a tractor in 1962 when, by a billion-to-one chance, he accidentally took an interesting photo instead. That's test pilot George Aird ejecting from his fighter jet as it was cruising a little too vertically for his comfort.
Aird survived, but not without injury -- rather than landing on the pillow-like soft grass of the farmer's field, he crashed Wile E. Coyote style through the roof of a nearby greenhouse and sustained several fractures. Here's a picture of the crash site from above -- check out the second greenhouse from the left. That's where Aird landed. The big smear in the field is obviously the wreckage of his plane.
The smear he left on the plane's seat is something else.
#11. Friendship Is Magic
Magic enough to make a three-piece suit and bowler hat look shabby.
Stop scrolling. Take a moment and really let that photo sink in -- it gets funnier the longer you look at it. In fact, let's all just pause here for, oh, an hour or so. Have you noticed its tail yet?
Here's another one:
Every time it shits, they cut the tail off and start from scratch.
Seriously, what the fuck? Are they wearing wigs?
The truth is actually stupider -- these were Percheron horses, specifically bred for the purpose of growing those ludicrous long-ass manes. And yes, that hair has been braided:
No ribbons, though. That would look a bit showy.
Such princess-pimp rides were known as wonder horses (up there is the Oregon Wonder Horse and its 18-foot-long mane and 21-foot-long tail). They would take these horses on tour so crowds could gaze in amazement at this ridiculous achievement in animal husbandry, and at least one of them became such a moneymaker that its owners had it stuffed when it died so they could continue to show it off.
So, yeah, maybe we owe today's bronies an apology.
#10. We Honor Our New Spider Overlords
Metropolitan Post Card Club
Feed them train meat and they may spare us!
It may look like a vision from some terrifying alternative history in which giant alien spiders have enslaved the human race, but really these are just old-timey telephone wires coated in snow. Hundreds and hundreds of wires.
In big cities like Manhattan, telephone wires became a terrifying nuisance before someone had the good idea to run them underground. That's why nightmare scenarios like the below photo were a common sight:
Library of Congress
Christmas snows reached the ground on Valentine's Day.
It's difficult to tell from the quality of the photo, but you're looking at a world that nearly has enough utility wires to blot out the sun. How many birds were getting stuck in that shit? Did suicide jumpers get caught in the tangle and have to be rescued by the fire department?
Speaking of which ...
#9. The Human Flytrap
Eugene de Salignac/NYC Municipal Archives
Four in a row diagonally. Pretty sneaky.
OK, this one really looks like a giant spider made a web for catching humans. Dapper, strangely unperturbed humans.
These are actually just some superhumanly badass painters goofing around during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge (you just know that one of these guys decided to be a jackass and bounce on the cables while they all dangled precariously, waiting for the slow-ass camera to do its work).
Also, we're pretty sure the only workplace safety precautions they had was a big sign that said, "IF YOU FALL, PLEASE AIM TOWARD THE WATER AS NOT TO MAR THE PAINT. YOUR WIDOW WILL BE BILLED FOR ANY DAMAGE."
#8. Saving Private Ryan -- ON ICE!
Netherlands General News Agency
Absurd! They should be wearing shin guards.
We want you to picture, in your head, a serious, gritty war movie. The kind that wins Oscars and really focuses on the human suffering warfare inflicts on its brave young victims. Then we want you to imagine a harrowing climax in which our heroes have to escape across a border marked by a river. A frozen one.
Now imagine everyone is on ice skates.
Because that exact thing totally happened, over and over. These particular soldiers were from the Netherlands. And yes, the Dutch absolutely employed ice skates in order to pursue retreating enemies across frozen surfaces, so whoever these guys are fighting, they're already running away. Consider that before you think about how ridiculous they look.
WhaleOil/The Firearm Blog
Also consider the graceful photographer who skated in reverse.
Now imagine that guy on the left stopping and firing his bazooka and the recoil sending him sliding backward out of frame. "OH, SHIIIIIIIII-"
#7. Early Submarines Were Easy to Spot
The Gibsons of Scilly
Damn tree huggers and their insistence on wind power!
Either this is a rare photo of the Flying Dutchman emerging from the depths to drag sailors to their doom, or someone's efforts to perfect the hull-less boat have been met with yet another failure.
Actually, it's a ship captured on film mid-sink in 1912, just a few days before the Titanic disaster. Strangely, the vessel went gently down into the deep, perfectly upright, its sails still neatly unfurled. The crew of this embarrassingly ill-fated ship, the Mildred, couldn't say they hit an iceberg to save face when it came to explaining the mishap to friends -- fog was the cause of this maritime disaster. Specifically, the sailors' inability to navigate in it (the ship went off course and ran aground). We'll just assume for their sake that the fog was way worse than that photo makes it look.