5 Real Supervillain Attacks on America That History Forgot
Thanks to the age of instant information, constant media bombardment, and countless commemorative bumper stickers, the world will never forget the 9/11 terrorist attacks against America. And why would they? Prior to the attacks, we could scarcely believe such a thing was even possible.
But, here's the thing: We only believed that because we have a really short memory for this shit. We bet most of you have never even heard about the time ...
Anarchists Blew Up Wall Street
All we need you to do is sit back and imagine just how many metric tons of shit would hit the fan if the following string of events happened tomorrow:
In April of 1919, a New York-based faction of Anarcho-Communists sent 36 mail bombs to various important politicians and captains of industry, including J.D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, and Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Six of them exploded, though only a former senator's wife and her maid were wounded, which meant the perpetrators clearly needed more practice -- and they would get it.
"OK, I think we're ready for Book 2, now."
In June of the same year, a series of Fight Club-esque coordinated bombs went off in seven major American cities. New York; Boston; Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Paterson, New Jersey; Washington D.C.; and Philadelphia were all rocked by powerful explosions that took out houses, businesses, and churches. Although the operation was expertly coordinated (all of the explosions went off in the span of 90 minutes), only two people died in the attacks: William Boehner, a New York nightwatchman, and the bomber who was tasked with delivering another exploding hello to Attorney General Palmer but tripped on the steps outside Palmer's office and wound up blowing himself the fuck up instead. It's safe to assume that neither of these two dudes were the intended targets.
The subsequent slip and fall lawsuit filed against Palmer was also unsuccessful.
And, yet, all of this was still just a precursor to the real attack.
Palmer (already a notorious commie-hater) was understandably pissed off after having two bombs mailed to him within mere months. His fury resulted in the infamous "Palmer Raids," wherein thousands of suspected radicals were either illegally deported or detained without trial, which is apparently the only way America knows how to deal with the threat of terrorism. Despite Palmer's efforts (or maybe even because of them), by the time September 1920 rolled around, the Anarchists were still strong enough to muster one more attack: They decided to jump-start the market with a communist stimulus package, by which we mean they blew up Wall Street.
"Did you know dynamite doesn't explode explosively enough to flip a car?" - Wall Street Truthers
An anarchist took a wagon full of explosives and 500 pounds of iron weights, parked it outside the headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co., and detonated the giant shrapnel mine at one minute past noon. The street was turned into a bombed-out crater filled with pure carnage. All told, 38 people were killed, more than 300 were injured, and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) temporarily shut down. The massive blast was the deadliest act of terrorism ever committed on U.S. soil at the time. To this day, you can go there and see the original shrapnel marks from that bomb blast -- which occurred about 95 years ago.
Obviously, this was a huge freaking deal, but we're willing to bet that you've never heard of it, and the reason for that is simple: It was vital to open the NYSE as quickly as possible. In the process of cleaning everything up rapidly so that the country's money could continue moving, a whole bunch of evidence was either overlooked or destroyed. The case wasn't officially solved until the FBI revisited it in 1944, but, by that point, America was super busy with other stuff.
Related: Why The Avengers Are All Anarchists
A Harvard Professor Became a Real-Life Supervillain
Eric Muenter was a mild-mannered Harvard professor with the secret hobby of slowly poisoning his wife with arsenic, which was apparently in vogue at the time. Once she finally died, Muenter went on the run, changing his name to Frank Holt and getting a job as a German professor at Cornell, where he worked until WWI broke out. In the beginning of the war, America was happily arming the British and French, which infuriated both Muenter's proud German ancestry as well as the swarm of barking cockroaches burrowing through his mind. So, he decided to initiate a massive one-man terror spree to force America to cut all supplies to the Allies, and thus single-handedly end a world war in favor of Germany because there was simply too much crazy inside of Muenter for him to keep it all to himself.
Muenter's rampage began when he sneaked into the U.S. Capitol building on the Fourth of July weekend in 1915, with a pile of dynamite, and rigged a big bomb in a conference room next to the senate chamber. He then retreated to a train station, where he watched part of the U.S. Capitol building explode just before midnight. To his chagrin, the building was empty, and the only casualty was the dignity of a single guard, who was knocked off his chair by the blast.
And when someone wakes Nightwatchman Wiggins, you bet your ass that heads are going to roll.
Muenter then traveled to New York, planning to take the family of pro-British financier J.P. Morgan, Jr. into hostage. Wielding duel pistols, Muenter broke into Morgan's house and wounded the famous robber baron, but was also beaten into submission by Morgan's servants and taken to jail.
"Thank you for saving my life, Jeeves. Please polish the blood off that tea tray before you turn in."
"Very good, sir."
This is where you might expect Muenter's story to end, and, normally, you would be correct if it weren't for the fact that Muenter was apparently the goddamned Joker. While in custody, he revealed that he had planted incendiary bombs with multiday timers in the cargo holds of several munition ships in the New York Harbor, so they would explode while at sea and take all of their Germany-destroying artillery to the bottom of the ocean. Muenter wasn't bluffing, either -- a bomb of his soon went off onboard the SS Minnehaha, exactly when he said the ship would explode.
However, Muenter was more of an ideas man than a skilled agent of chaos and had mistakenly planted the bomb in the "general cargo" area, rather than among the piles of combustible munitions. Even so, the crew had to battle a huge, inextinguishable fire for two full days as the ship frantically raced to the nearest port.
"I told you we shouldn't have taken those shipments of dry kindling and lamp oil!"
So, to recap, a crazy German professor managed to bomb the Capitol, attack one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the country, and plant a bomb onboard a ship carrying American munitions to a foreign war zone within the span of a few days. The only reason he failed was because he wasn't a particularly skilled terrorist, and Craigslist and YouTube hadn't been invented yet to help him anonymously recruit like-minded sociopaths to his cause.
Croatian Nationalists (or Someone) Repeatedly Terrorized America
In December 29, 1975, a massive shrapnel bomb exploded in a locker in the baggage claim of New York's LaGuardia Airport, killing 11 people and injuring 75 more. Despite being the fifth deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, the case has never been solved, so it is our responsibility to assume it was carried out by COBRA. More intelligent people suspect it was the work of Croatian terrorists aiming to draw attention to their struggle for independence from Yugoslavia, for reasons which will soon become clear.
Or Decepticons if Trans World is a clue.
In September of the following year, Zvonko Busic (who might very well have been the locker bomber) hijacked TWA flight 355, which was leaving LaGuardia airport. Once in control of the plane, Busic had the pilots radio the ground to announce that he had hidden a giant bomb in Grand Central Station -- because it's best to reveal this sort of information at a time when your chances of being arrested depend heavily on either the police suddenly inventing jetpacks or the existence of Superman.
The police checked up on Busic's outlandish claim to discover that, yes, there totally was a massive bomb in Grand Central Station, tucked away in a subway locker (just like the bomb at LaGuardia airport the previous year). They managed to move the explosive to a bomb range, but it unfortunately detonated, killing an officer in the process. Meanwhile, Busic, still safely pulling strings from his airborne terror throne, began to issue demands to American and French newspapers, insisting that they publish a lengthy Croatian declaration of independence, and that pro-Croatian leaflets be dropped over various major cities, or else he would detonate more bombs that he claimed to have on board. Presumably, no one pointed out to Busic that he had hijacked a plane currently flying over the Atlantic Ocean, so he probably only needed to bring one bomb. He could have freed himself up some luggage space.
"Okay, your declaration made the front page of Reddit, and @Midnight posted a pro-Croatian hashtag game.
Now, let the hostages go!" -- how this would have played out in 2015.
When Busic landed in Paris for fuel, police waiting for him on the ground shot out the plane's tires and forced him to surrender. However, the alleged Croatian bombing spree didn't end there -- a few years later, a bomb impossibly similar to the ones used in both Busic's plot and the LaGuardia attack went off at the base of the freaking Statue of Liberty. No one was killed in the blast, but, for whatever reason, the damage to the Statue was left unrepaired for years, possibly because everyone felt some light ankle scarring would give Lady Liberty a more hip, dangerous look.
And, just like the LaGuardia bombing, the case has never officially been solved -- no groups, Croatian or otherwise, have ever taken credit for either bombing. The only thing tying the three cases together is the similarity among the devices used -- Busic never revealed the identity of any co-conspirators, and, after Croatia won its independence in the 1990s, everyone apparently just stopped trying to look for them.
"We've just lost Tupac and Biggie; we have more pressing concerns."
Speaking of unsolved terror mysteries ...
The Soviets May Have Used a Fake Terror Attack to Assassinate a U.S. Ambassador
This one is going to sound like a grand conspiracy theory, but you have to understand what kind of shit was going on during the Cold War, what with both sides trying to find subtle ways to fuck each other over behind the scenes. The incident took place in Afghanistan on February 14, 1979. At the time, Afghanistan was being occupied by the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Soviets were in the middle of a decades-long game of nuclear brinksmanship -- both nations with their hands hovering nervously over the Doomsday button. It was a powder keg, is what we're saying.
Four men in police uniforms kidnapped Adolph Dubs, an American ambassador to Afghanistan, by holding his limousine driver at gunpoint and making him drive to a luxury hotel in the middle of Kabul. Once there, they dragged Dubs through the crowded hotel while firing machine guns into the ceiling, hopefully not shooting the feet off any guests on the floor above. They made their way to a phone room, called up the very pro-Soviet communist government of Afghanistan, and started making demands for the release of their hostage. In retrospect, one might question whether kidnapping an American ambassador, and trying to ransom him to a communist regime during the height of the Cold War, was perhaps not the greatest plan.
It was the second dumbest plan involving Communist Russia and a dude named Adolph.
Anyway, the Afghan government promptly responded by sending a small army of police to surround the terrorists and let "advisers" from the Soviet Union's KGB take over. So, here were American, Soviet, and Afghan officials all in a standoff with an unknown group who had taken an American ambassador hostage, in a Soviet-held territory. Now, here was where things got murky: A frantic argument between Americans and Soviets quickly ensued -- the KGB was all about storming the hotel, while the American Embassy politely suggested that they try to negotiate the ambassador's release first.
And then, someone heard a gunshot.
A team of Afghan police stormed the hotel, while another team, in a building across the street, fired haphazardly at terrorists' hideout in what Time describes as "a complete holocaust of gunfire and explosions," and what Entertainment Weekly would have described as "the last half-hour of Bad Boys II." When the dust finally settled, Ambassador Dubs was found with an execution-style, point-blank gunshot wound to the head.
"Dubs stepped; he got dropped."
Two of the kidnappers were also killed, and a third kidnapper was executed by the Soviet-backed Afghan government before the U.S. could interrogate him, which is in no way suspicious. The fourth and final kidnapper managed to escape the scene and, officially, was never captured, which is a phrase here meaning "he was fed to bears in a Soviet gulag."
Furthermore, the Soviet/Afghan forces did their level best to obstruct American investigations, up to and including planting evidence. That's why to this day, the American government has no idea who killed Adolph Dubs. What we do know is that the KGB had long suspected that Dubs was secretly a CIA agent, tasked with influencing the Afghan government into aligning themselves with the U.S. This, combined with the nonsensical nature of the crime and its comically suspicious aftermath, was enough to make some believe the Soviets basically set the whole thing up to take Dubs out. If so, then holy shit. That seems like the kind of thing that could set off a world-ending chain of events, had they not done such a good job of covering it up.
The Alphabet Bomber Became the Original Lone Wolf Terrorist
In the summer of 1974, disgruntled aerospace engineer and public masturbator Muharem Kurbegovic began sending bizarre, rambling tapes to newspapers, claiming he had mailed Bob Hope postcards to all nine members of the Supreme Court laced with tiny canisters of nerve gas -- possibly because he was angry with the judicial system since his public masturbation charge had prevented him from opening a go-go club and was also placing his bid for U.S. citizenship in jeopardy. Absolutely no part of that is a joke.
At first, Kurbegovic's threats were dismissed as the rantings of a harmless crazy person -- he had in fact mailed the Bob Hope postcards, but the attached vials of "nerve gas" turned out to be some nontoxic chemical. Unfortunately, only one-half of that "harmless and crazy" assumption was correct -- shortly after the postcard incident, Kurbegovic planted a bomb in Los Angeles International Airport that triggered a horrific explosion, killing three people and maiming dozens of others.
"Who's crazy for wanting to make public masturbation a hangable offense, now?"
And that was just his first bomb.
Kurbegovic sent more tapes in the wake of the LAX attack, announcing that he was the commanding officer of an underground military group, known as Aliens of America, and demanding that immigration and sex crime laws be changed (again, because his public pants-ham juggling had prevented him from opening a dance club and obtaining citizenship). He further stated his intention to bomb more locations, and that, at the end of his terror spree, the first letter of each location would line up to spell out "Aliens of America." This earned him the nickname "the Alphabet Bomber" because there are letters in the alphabet and that's exactly as creative as the media can be at any given time.
"Our criminal expert has provided with a sketch of the terrorist."
Kurbegovic's next target was a bus station locker (which we feel should count as a "B" instead of an "L"), but the LAPD showed up in time to disarm what turned out to be the largest bomb they had ever encountered. Kurbegovic may have had a head full of whispering ghosts, but the man knew how to make a goddamn bomb.
In addition to this exploding game of Hangman, Kurbegovic continued his vendetta against the criminal justice system, throwing mayhem at anyone with any connection to his career-ruining public-dick-fiddling charge. He gleefully firebombed the homes of a judge and two different police commissioners, blew up one of the commissioner's cars, and burned down two apartment buildings before he finally got caught. We should point out that all of this took place within a few weeks -- Kurbegovic cashed in all of his crazy chips that summer and was in jail by August.
Like the Summer of Sam, but stickier.
Upon investigating Kurbegovic, the policed eventually discovered that he had figured out how to make sarin nerve gas, which you may recognize as a weapon that has been outlawed by the United Nations, and had acquired almost all of the components by the time he was captured. He had also been steadily stockpiling cyanide gas ingredients in his apartment. Even though Kurbegovic was an infamous bomb-making terrorist, the police didn't manage to find his chemical weapon stockpile (which, once again, was in his goddamned apartment) until two years after he was arrested, and then only because he told them about it.
So, yeah, keep that in mind the next time somebody pretends like terrorism is some kind of unprecedented, apocalyptic threat. If anything, terrorists have gotten a lot more sane over the years.
Still jackin' it though.
For more historical events we sort of glossed over, check out 5 Lesser Known (Completely Ridiculous) American Civil Wars and 5 Important People Who Were Screwed Out of History Books.
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