5 Tiny Screw-Ups That Caused Giant Catastrophes
In wacky sitcoms and movies, an elaborate practical joke results in nothing but brief consternation from authority figures and laughter from the audience. It doesn't matter if the hero's shenanigans shut down the whole school -- it will all be forgotten and forgiven by the next scene.
In real life, well, that shit is taken a bit more seriously ...
French Tourists Get Drunk, Cause a Terrorism Scare
Back in 2011, five Frenchmen were touring the United States and ended up in Texas. For reasons that were never made explicit but almost certainly boil down to "ask the alcohol," the tourists decided it would be great fun to don sombreros, break into a San Antonio courthouse in the middle of the night, steal a judge's gavel, and swing it around like the Mightily Plastered Thor. Sounds like good, clean, innocent debauchery to us!
"I sentence you to six-to-eight beers and hard liquor."
San Antonio police, on the other hand, interpreted it as terrorism and acted very accordingly.
The drunks triggered a silent alarm during their boozecapades -- once the authorities showed up, three of them were already gone, but they had left behind their sombreros (after all, God forbid you look stupid while drunkenly stumbling the streets at 2 a.m.). Somehow, the cops took these sombreros as the calling card of a highly-organized terror cell, and immediately went into high alert. They shut down and conducted a massive sweep of the entire surrounding area. They soon located and arrested the remaining perpetrators, who were snoozing in their RV and totally unaware that they had joined Al-Qaeda.
"I swear, I thought 'Jihad bomb' was a beer cocktail."
The news media played their role well, meaning they exaggerated everything, wove tales from whole cloth (and possibly the anchor's favorite Clancy novel), and acted like 9/11 Part Deux was nigh. No damage was reported, yet they called it an "attack". They reported that two of the men were on an FBI watchlist, which is two more than actually were. They falsely claimed a search of the RV turned up photos of the courthouse and the city's water system. Also, the men were suddenly Moroccan, because brown people.
They conveniently edited out the cans of beer left behind, which all but confirmed this was less a sign of World War III and more a sure sign of a good time. Ultimately, cops determined that these silly drunken Euros weren't frightening African terrormongers, and opted only to charge them with burglary.
Guy Invites Thousands to a Stranger's Birthday Party, Destroys an Entire Village
Just Having Some Fun ...
When New Zealand bro Jesse Hobson discovered the Facebook page for a random girl's sweet 16 birthday bash hadn't been made private, he decided he really wanted to go. There was only one problem: she lived in Haren, a Dutch village well over 11,000 miles away.
Hobson quickly resorted to Plan B: invite everybody else. Inspired by Project X, a 2012 film about a party that spins out of control thanks to social media, Hobson extended thousands of invites to every name he found. Dubbed "Project X-Haren" (shockingly, a guy wholesale plagiarizing a movie premise wasn't creative enough to dream up an original name), the invites quickly snowballed until over 30,000 people promised to attend.
"We may not have ordered enough pizza."
But hey, it's social media -- people get invited to shit all the time. They say they'll come, but they never do. They probably just thought it was funny to RSVP for some random teenager's birthday ...
Wrong -- over 3,000 people showed up, ready to fire it up with someone they'd never even met. Then they found out there was no party, as the girl's family had caught wind of the situation, cancelled the festivities, and immediately went into hiding. So now there were 3,000 highly pissed-off party people, many of whom had long since wandered into the wrong end of Margaritaville. Rather than disperse, they simply chose to destroy everything, laying waste to Haren like a horde of barbarians not good enough at barbarian-ing to topple actual empires.
"Crush your beer cans. See them drunken before you. And hear the lamentation of the tequila drinkers!"
It was pure madness, with broken store windows, hurled rocks, shattered glass, looting and plundering, flaming cars, and assaults on police officers becoming the order of the night. Thirty-four arrests and 36 injuries resulted, and the village found itself a million Euros (about 1.6 million Frodobucks) poorer thanks to all the damage incurred.
Hobson, as expected, played the Innocent Kid card, claiming all he wanted was for people to have fun, and he had no idea something so bad would happen. This despite his being influenced by a movie where something exactly that bad very much happened. He apologized, and nobly declared to "probably" never invite strangers into strange worlds anymore. As for the broken bodies and millions in damages, he had nothing to do with that. After all, he wasn't even there, dude.
A Professor's Wacky Prank Fills Building With Toxic Fumes
Just Having Some Fun ...
Wayne Taylor, an assistant chemistry professor at Cal State Fullerton University, was sick of seniors pulling pranks on him and his fellow educators. These were pranks such as filling offices with balloons and wading pools -- amateur stuff. Nothing compared to what a true prank genius could come up with. He'd show them!
"Water? No, my friend, that was spider pheromones."
So on May 28th, 1993, Taylor sought revenge by scaring the crap out of anybody who dared show up to learn that day. He snuck into the chemistry hall's bathrooms and slid highly sensitive nitrogen triiodide pellets under the toilet seats. Once the students sat down to poop their pre-exam nervousness away, the pellets would loudly explode and scare them straight. It's the sort of thing that would work beautifully in any of the wacky teen movies of the era, so what could go wrong?Oh, Shit!
There was one flaw in Taylor's evil-ish scheme -- custodians doing their job. Campus janitors entered the hall bathrooms to shine the toilets and get them to ready for another long day of being shat in. They noticed the pellets but had no idea what they were, only that they weren't supposed to be there. Spraying the pellets with their trusty cleaning products didn't so much "work" as it "released toxic fumes that quickly overcame the unsuspecting sanitation engineers."
Seeing as how most college students live on Top Ramen and Milwaukee's Best, chemical fumes were probably a nice change.
Once officials realized what had happened, 4,000-plus students were quickly evacuated and sent elsewhere to take their exams (any hungover slacker who thought the unholy air beast would bring an extra night of study time was shit out of luck), while three janitors and a security officer got to spend an unexpected day off at the hospital. And for all anybody knew, this was an act of chemical warfare, so Cal U was quickly overrun by cops, firefighters, EMTs, and even hazardous material handlers (the latter charging the school $10,000 for their stinky-smell-detecting services).
Taylor did not face criminal charges for that whole "putting lives in danger" thing -- amazingly enough, the police chief's rationale was that Taylor never intended to harm anybody. After all, it isn't like a chemistry professor could have possibly known that an unstable chemical designed to merely explode could also have other serious effects. Though this was also pre-9/11 -- pulling the same stunt now would presumably get you shot to death by a SWAT team.
Guy Running a Parody Twitter Account Gets His House Raided by Police
Just Having Some Fun ...
You're nothing in life until somebody parodies you on Twitter. So when Jon Daniel of Peoria, Illinois created an account parodying his city's mayor, Jim Ardis, Hizzoner should have taken it as a form of flattery. True, the account painted Ardis as a Rob-Ford-esque purveyor of drugs, booze, and hookers, but it was clearly marked as "parody" and only had about 50 followers, so Ardis probably chuckled momentarily and then returned to running an entire city.
Ha, of course not -- he declared total war on both the account and its evil mastermind. Apparently, running Peoria is so damn boring you have to grab every opportunity imaginable to up the excitement.
Ardis' first act as mayor of Misguided Spin Control Land was to contact Twitter and demand they remove the account. Initially, Twitter refused, because parody is 100 percent legal, no matter how unfunny the target may find it. But Ardis pouted and pouted until finally the company buckled under his intense political clout and killed the account.
Pictured: politics, apparently.
Step two was to find the bastard responsible and make him pay. After all, this clown and his four dozen followers badly damaged Ardis' political rep, and if saving face meant abusing his power in an incredibly petty manner, then he would do just that. He insisted that the Chief of Police find some legal excuse to bring the account holder to justice. The best he could come up with was "false impersonation," but that was good enough for Ardis. Warrant in electronic hand, the Peoria police obtained the account holder's IP and went to pay him a visit.
"If it's any consolation, we feel as stupid about this as you do."
The arrest, as you might imagine, was conducted with more gusto than your typical meth lab bust. Several plainclothes officers confronted Daniel at his home, while others tracked down his roommates and dragged them from their workplaces. The cops confiscated numerous computers and phones, and subjected everybody to hours of interrogation intense enough to turn even Jack Bauer into the Good Cop.
What did they ultimately find? Absolutely nothing, because there never was anything. "False impersonation" still doesn't apply to parody, meaning your shitty "Will Ferrell" account is safe for now. Oh wait, they did find two things: a smorgasbord of pissed-off Twitter accounts even more vicious than the one that hurt the mayor's fee-fees, and a lawsuit tucked neatly between Daniel's middle finger and a copy of the Constitution.
Police Showdown With a Video Game Statue
Just Having Some Fun ...
If the Simpsons have taught us anything, it's that shiny buttons are human catnip. Sheer curiosity is usually enough to make us want to press it and see what happens, even though an orgy of knives unleashed directly at our skull is always a possibility.
At least half of you are fruitlessly pawing at your screens right now.
One such button was installed at Robotoki Studios, a video game development company founded by Robert Bowling of Call of Duty fame. One of his workers saw the button and, knowing his life would be incomplete if he ignored the thing, opted instead to press it. Nothing happened, so the worker went on his way, in search of more shiny things to swat at.Oh, Shit!
The button was a silent alarm specifically designed to alert the cops in case of an armed attack (hardcore gamers are an incredibly entitled bunch, so you never know when one will show up with guns-a-blazing because they thought the achievements in Call of Duty X-2: Modern Warfare Boogaloo were lame sauce). So they showed up to investigate, which isn't terribly newsworthy. The real fun began when one of them, attempting to find a way into the studio, noticed this:
The armed madman or the bitchin' Mercedes?
That hulking mass of pending doom is a mannequin of Simon "Ghost" Riley from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II. Fans of the game know him as a perfectly harmless badass with a gun and a skull mask who promises unending pain to anyone who even begins to piss him off.
So pretty much your standard southern California boutique window dressing.
The cops, clearly not into hyper-realistic military shooter games, only saw a lone gunman pointing a high-powered rifle right at them. They immediately stormed the compound with high-powered weaponry of their own. Inside they found Browning -- all alone, working late, and about to shit himself in abject terror. The cops commanded him to surrender, and once he was in custody, they went in search of the Big Bad Ghost.
At least urine should clean right up off those hardwood floors.
They quickly found him, since he was a statue and not very likely to move from his perch any time soon. Just before turning him (and possibly Browning) into bullet stroganoff, the cops finally deduced Ghost wasn't real, and a hearty sitcom-esque laugh was had by all. So the next time those cops walk the beat and see a shadowy figure clad in fatigues and waving a weapon of war at them, they'll know to laugh it off and move on with their day.
For more catastrophes that happened, check out 6 Small Math Errors That Caused Huge Disasters and 6 Tiny Mistakes That Caused Apocalyptic Explosions.
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