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When taken at face value, pictures from the olden days are either fake as hell or proof that the entire time between the Big Bang and our birth was totally fucked up. But, as we've shown many times in the past, with just a little backstory, even the strangest old-timey photo starts to make sense. More or less.

11
"Within a Week, You Won't Even Miss Your Real Hand!"

Popular Mechanics
"Gentlemen, three men died to bring you the Jack-o-matic prototype ..."

Now this is bullshit. This photo was taken about 50 years ago -- why are we not all wearing mech suits right now? We understand that this dude was almost certainly killed by Superman days after this photo was taken, but somebody should have picked up where he left off and given us all the terrifying cyborg future we deserve (which, of course, we would all simply know as "the present").

This is a 1965 General Electric concoction called the Hardiman, one that we're fairly certain they have never used to coerce deadbeats into paying their electric bills. Their goal was to build the ultimate human helper, a giant mechanical exoskeleton that provided "super strength for average man." Strenuous tasks and the handling of dangerous materials would no longer be a hassle, as the ton-plus of steel enveloping your body would easily handle all the heavy lifting. You know, like how Doctor Octopus just wanted help doing his experiments.

Popular Mechanics
This is what happens when a Village Person turns to supervillainy.

The problem was, it was too heavy, and GE abandoned the Hardiman in 1971, never promoting it past prototype level. Come on, guys, how the hell is Ripley going to defeat the alien queen if we don't get this shit working?

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10
At One Time, G.I. Joe Vehicles Existed in Real Life

Modern Mechanix
And were inspected by spiffy swing trios.

Owning a tank would certainly be badass, but where would you store it in between bouts of squashing your enemies and blowing up any building you deem too ugly to live? Back in 1938, Frenchman J. Lehaitre unveiled the compact tractor-cycle, named as such because the "you-die-now-fucker-cycle" didn't roll off the tongue as well.

Its big hook was supposedly its ability climb up steep hills and handle rocky terrain that a regular old Harley would simply wuss out over. Unfortunately, its low top speed (25 mph on a boring-ass straight road), ensured that the tractor-cycle never caught on. It also might explain the downright-bored look on that poor test-driver's face.

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9
"Set the Engines for Ramping Speed!"

Library of Congress
"Make everyone run forward to the bow!"

While this may look like the Love Boat-Dukes of Hazzard mashup we all demanded but never got, it's actually a real boat with a real problem. In August of 1910, a steamship known as the Princess May was sailing around Sentinel Island in Alaska when a combination of fog and low tide threw her off guard, sticking her smack-dab on a tiny batch of rock roughly the same shape and size as the ship herself.

The above photo's realness becomes even more apparent with the follow-up shot, featuring the Princess May hoisted up on scaffolds to keep its hull from getting scratched up by the rocks.


Princess gotta look pretty.

While this has to be the second-most wrong thing you can do while steering a boat, it could've been worse. It could've been the other Sentinel Island, the one with pissed-off natives who violently murder anybody within arrow-shot, no matter how nice their boat might be.

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8
Finally, a Vision of the Future Just as Stupid as What We Got for Real

Life Magazine
The bowtie was so he'd look dignified.

This isn't a creative rendering of that sad moment when grandpa completely loses it and you need to put him in a home -- that man is Hugo Gernsback, widely considered one of the founding fathers of science fiction, even though his magnum opus, Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660, is widely considered to suck quite a bit.

Ever the imaginative soul, Gernsback believed that one day we would watch television via special goggles with the screen built right in. That up there is his prototype. And sure, it looks pretty stupid, but compared to Google Glass or the Oculus Rift, it's classier than a goddamned monocle. Half a century later, and we wish we could make that shit as comfortable and compact as that.

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7
Hellraiser: Origins

Max Factor
"Better? Or worse?"
"Aaaaahhhh!"

This is just straight-up torture porn, right? Those needles are clearly burrowing into her skull, and that head vice is forcing them in deeper and deeper, allowing brain matter to seep out at will.

Ha, don't worry, this is actually just 1930s-era cosmetic surgery. Oh, wait, that might actually be worse.

That unassuming-looking supervillain working the Saw helmet is Max Factor, a Hollywood beauty legend who knew how 200-foot theater screens could really bring out the ugly in an otherwise normal-looking face. Thus, he designed the beauty micrometer, a giant studded mask that pointed out exactly where everything was supposed to go on a perfect face. If anything wasn't where the screws said it should be, Factor would mark it down and recommend surgery to correct the crime against sexanity.

Corbis Imiages
"Activate the smile clamps!"

Factor died in 1938, but his legacy of sexing up an otherwise-ogrish squash with medieval torture devices did not die with him. If the phrase "torture devices" seems like hyperbole, you should look at how they removed freckles:

via Famous History Images
This is a combo of at least three traps from Saw.

The white orb the gloved hand is smearing on that poor bastard is dry ice, the medieval torture device is intended to keep the head in place and protect the eyes during the treatment. We're going to assume the pipe in the patient's mouth is the result of a gruesome accident.

Speaking of ...

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6
Even Back in the Day, Nobody Enjoyed Going to the Gym

via Retronaut

"Dammit, Junior! You march yourself right into the Rib Constrictor and keep tightening the grip until you hear something pop. That'll learn you to wear unshined boots in public."

Actually, this isn't a punishment, technically -- it's exercise. Supposedly. In the 1890s, Gustaf Zander and EF Goransson designed a dozen elaborate workout machines, designed primarily to correct spinal issues. They also worked for adults, such as this prototypical rodeo cowboy:

via Retronaut

This bondage queen:

via Retronaut

This lonely soul who can't find a girl to massage his achy bones for some reason:

via Retronaut

And this handy-dandy solution for whenever the surgeon needed to keep his patient still but ran out of anesthesia:

via Retronaut
If the patient got too twitchy, the little bell would ring.

Never before had the human body been given so many opportunities to stank up a perfectly good three-piece suit. And don't forget the kids! What's happening to the child in the below machine is perfectly healthy, and legal! It's not doing anything at all to his butthole. Why would you even suggest that, you psychopath?

via Retronaut
We won't talk about the nipple bar, nor should you.

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5
It's Like the Witch's House in Hansel and Gretel, Only Meat

via Retronaut
Duck as you enter to avoid the dripping E. coli.

Most butchers advertise their product with a few slabs of beef artfully laid out in a windowed, chilled area, because otherwise their stinkshake would bring all the flies to the yard. But this late-1930s butchery in High Wycombe, England, had no such concerns.

They had a heavy stock of pork, poultry, and beef, and not enough storage for it all, so they just literally lined their walls with the shit. Note that High Wycombe housed the Royal Air Force Bomber Command during World War II, so it's entirely possible all that meat suffered a second death by German bomb at some point. Meaning that maybe for a brief moment amid the horror confused townspeople saw it rain bacon.

Hey, speaking of which ...

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4
All Aboard the Porky Express

National Library of France
Note the stick to poke the pig.

Horseback riding is all well and good if your life goal is to be boring as shit. But if not, why not invest in a literal piggyback ride, like this fine gentleman did? Bring the kids!

National Library of France
"Great."

Pig riding is a pastime that goes back to the 1800s, and there isn't much explanation to offer beyond that. Sometimes people would just get bored and ride a pig. If you could go back in time and stop that gentleman and ask him why he's doing it, there would be no satisfactory answer. Then he'd probably go work in a coal mine until he died of some terrible disease.

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3
OK, We Admit This Could Be Modern-Day Portland

via Retronaut
We don't know how he got up there. You ask him.

We've all seen penny-farthings, those old-timey bikes with the one fat-ass wheel in front that Family Guy randomly references whenever they can't think of a real joke. But as it turns out, that was not the most hilarious design in bicycling history. No, that would be the Eiffel Tower tallbike, a mainstay of 1890s Chicago. As you can see from the picture above, this bike rose the pedaler a towering 20 feet in the air, which was shockingly not an old-timey way of impressing the ladies. No, catching serious air was simply how people moved around those days; carriages and horses were high off the ground, so why not bike high up as well?

via Retronaut
Besides, what day is truly complete without a rousing game of "Bird With Explosive Diarrhea"?

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2
Gentlemen, I Now Proclaim This Building Zombie Proof

University of Southern California. Libraries
But if the zombies and beavers join forces, we're screwed.

Well, shit, now we feel bad for making fun of Tallbike Guy -- when your school is on 20-foot high stilts, how else are you gonna reach the door?

University of Southern California. Libraries
"We have a curriculum based on the three Rs and the three Ps (pole vaulting, pogo sticks, and paragliding)."

This is actually the Fort Moore Hill school in Los Angeles. In 1886, the building needed to be moved from its spot atop a hill to another location nearby, so they simply propped it up on huge stilts and moved it to its new home, using people and horses to scoot it along and hope it didn't topple over and crush everyone below it.

And while we dashed off the above explanation in a couple of sentences, any attempt to picture how they got from stationary building to the scene depicted above boggles the mind. The photo series seems to skip all of the most impossible steps. It's, like, "OK, so here it is up on the stilts. Now ..." It's as if they're trying to clumsily hide the fact that they had the assistance of a wizard.

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1
You'll Never Look at BioShock the Same Way Again ...

University of Southern California. Libraries
First the real-life Handyman, now this?

What you are looking at is not a fake or a movie scene but rather a February 1939 Nazi rally in freaking Madison Square Garden, patriotically coinciding with Washington's 207th birthday. A pro-Hitler group called the German American Bund held the rally in order to rebrand fascism as positively American, even more so than mom, apple pie, and killing Nazis.

via RareHistoricalPhotos.com
This group is why frankfurters are so popular in New York today.

From far away, it certainly doesn't look like a hate group co-opting a beloved American leader's image for their own benefit. But a closer look reveals swastikas galore, the world's scariest drumline, and the threat of a riot breaking out at any time (GAB leader Fritz Kuhn assigned 3,000 soldiers to watch over the rally, while NYC mayor Fiorello La Guardia countered with 2,000 police officers to watch the watchmanner).

The GAB never came close to the dominance they dreamt of, and the group died shortly after the city imprisoned Kuhn for embezzlement. Oh, and also there were numerous things that happened soon after that kind of ruined the Nazis' image with the average American.

For more reasons the olden days were terrifying, check out 8 Terrifying Instruments Old-Time Doctors Used on Your Junk and 9 Unintentionally Terrifying Old-Timey Children's Toys.

Pick up Jacopo's debut novel The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, available everywhere!

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