You laugh now, but just you wait: Gulag Island is going to be a huge hit with your grandkids.
The problem with history is that until science gets off its butt and invents time travel, old buildings and statues are the next best thing we have to witnessing history. But those old buildings are constantly beset by vandalism, acts of God, and plain old rotting drywall. It's when people get it into their heads to restore them, however, that the potential for disaster becomes hilariously impressive. For example ...
The countries that comprised the former USSR are pretty big on downplaying that whole Communism thing these days. The process of removing Communist memorials is called "decommunization," probably because "antisovietization" was already taken by an indie band from Austin. The problem is that after a 70-year reign across multiple countries, the Soviets racked up a decent number of buildings and monuments celebrating their Sovietness. Grinding each one into capitalistic nothingness will take forever. If only there was an easier way to transform symbols of America's greatest nemesis into someone or something more likable.
When it came time to do something about Odessa's big ol' Vladimir Lenin statue, one bright artist had an out-of-the-box solution.
"I find your lack of government-controlled industry disturbing."
A local artist came up with a novel alternative for Lenin's demolition: He turned it into Darth Vader. With the simple addition of a helmet and cape, he transformed one of history's darkest villains into, well, one of fictional history's darkest villains. As a bonus, the helmet even doubles as a WiFi hotspot. Star Wars and mobile Internet -- can you think of anything more obscenely capitalist?
It's not entirely clear whether the artist is aware of the insult. His stated motivation was simply to save the statue by any means necessary, and he claims he chose Darth Vader because a bunch of people decided to run for parliament under the names of Star Wars characters, making Darth Vader "a political figure in the Ukraine." You guys all remember your local elections' joke candidates, right? You'd have to be a moron to miss that timely reference. Ideally, he says, he'd like to gather all the statues and move them somewhere where they can receive proper reverence as symbols of his childhood nation that no longer exists. Kind of like Disneyland but for oppressive regimes.
You'd be forgiven if you can't tell if this photo was recently taken in the former Soviet
Eastern Bloc or Main Street, USA.
You laugh now, but just you wait: Gulag Island is going to be a huge hit with your grandkids.
Europe has a hard-on for preserving old buildings. One object of their architectural erection (get it?) is Stratford House, a sprawling Tudor mansion dating back to 1601. This house was built during Shakespeare's lifetime and before the Mayflower set out for America. Do the math and the house comes out to "Super Mega Old." Which was why it was weird that the building was recently rebranded as The Tudor Lounge, a swinger's club.
Billed as "the U.K.'s most exclusive adult venue," the manor was completely repainted with a bang brush, boasting amenities like a "cellar dungeon for fetish fun" and "various play rooms." If one of those rooms didn't have a beheading theme, these people have no business organizing parties. Believe it or not, the kind of people who live within the vicinity of historical mansions aren't usually keen on strangers fucking around in the fuck basement down the street.
"Orgies are meant for Halloween balls and Boxing Day, new money."
Since renovations to fancy old buildings require permission from the city council, neighbors wondered why they weren't consulted about the house's new purpose. It turns out the sex club amazingly did secure council permission, and their astonished neighbors were met with a resounding, "Neener, neener, abide our (leather-clad) wieners."
And that was when things got ugly.
Notice how we're speaking in the past tense? Yeah, it turns out those townspeople were right to clutch their pearls and fret about "the criminal element." Not long after its "grand opening," the club was raided by a group of masked burglars. They succeeded only in sending a bunch of rich old men into the streets to give the neighborhood an inadvertent performance of The Full Monty, but the club's trouble didn't end there. Later the same year, it was nearly destroyed in a mysterious fire that definitely wasn't set by any prudish but awesomely wrathful local grandmas. As of today, the sex club is closed until "extensive work is carried out," according to the most heartbreaking message that's ever appeared on a fuck hut's website.
Is there even a spam filter strong enough to combat the amount of dick pics this email gets daily?
For those of you not up on your Chinese Civil War history, Chiang Kai-shek was the president of the Republic of China when it fell to Communists in 1949. Before fleeing to Taiwan, he and his son, future president Chiang Ching-kuo, briefly stayed at a charming villa in Zhejiang's capital. The Communist Party went soft for a second and declared the home a cultural relic in 2004, but the newly available residence struggled to find tenants.
After years of hemorrhaging money, its real estate company said, "What the hell, make it a McDonald's."
"Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, fuck all this shit!"
Contrary to what that giant middle finger of a sign would have you believe, it's actually just a McCafe. See, the local government allows its historic villas to be used as retail businesses only as long as they don't use open flames, because that would just be irresponsible. That means burgers are no bueno, but coffee is A-OK, as far as cultural blasphemy goes. They even turned a side wing into a Starbucks, because fuck it, you know?
Unsurprisingly, a lot of citizens are upset (including Ching-kuo's grandson, who refused to cooperate with the renovation), but the owner of the real estate company argued that he has the right to turn a profit on his investment. At least, we think that's what he said; it was hard to hear him over all the demons swooping in to claim his soul. Even some completely normal people who are definitely not government plants have been quoted as arguing that since "McDonald's have maintained the old structure and have kept the original Chinese style," why not get that fat tourist cash? If anything, they're protecting history. After all, they've put up posters about the former inhabitants' lives, so people can enjoy some history with their McFrappes -- surely just the way they would have wanted it.
"He never lived to see his dream of a united China and all-day breakfast."
Surely those of us with a rich capitalist history would be fine if the same thing happened to Mount Vernon, right?
So far, we've discussed the wartime hideouts and sacred monuments of historical leaders, but this -- this is unforgivable. To this day, CBGB is revered as the birthplace of punk. If you were looking to get elbowed in the face in New York City in the late '70s, it was the only place to be. The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Patti Smith, and Blondie would all be getting fired from various truck stops right now were they not discovered there. It closed in 2006, however, because it turns out punks aren't so diligent about paying their rent, and the brand was sold two years later after its founder's death. At long last, the brand is resurfacing ... as an airport diner. Because everyone knows that people came to CBGB for the food.
"Which you could find drunkenly thrown up in our historic bathroom stalls."
It gets worse -- the CBGB Lounge and Bar won't even be located in either of the airports in the city it came to represent, but in New Jersey. There is apparently an untapped market of big-haired housewives hankering for punkified pub food. Except nothing about the place appears remotely punk -- the only hints on the menu that the brand ever had anything to do with music are the "Disco Fries" (you know, the one genre the regulars likely would have burned the place down before they'd endure) and "Harold's World Famous Chili," a nod to the chili notoriously served by original CBGB owner, Hilly Kristal. So why's it called "Harold's" and not "Hilly's"? Because they're absolutely not using Kristal's recipe, which reportedly included cigarette ashes and unspecified bodily fluids. You know what? Maybe it's a good thing that place closed down.
World War II left behind an uncomfortable real estate problem in the form of all those places people who were rounded up and killed. Most of those unfortunate reminders of human shittiness have become museums or monuments, which people figured was the absolute least they could do for the places' former inhabitants. It sure is a shame to let all that space go to waste, though, isn't it?
That's apparently what was going through developers' minds when they figured out that there was, indeed, less they could do. They're turning the island of Mamula, the site of an Italian concentration camp near Croatia, into a beachfront resort. Plans for the VIP playground include swimming pools, spas, a nightclub, a yacht marina (you know, for taking historical tours), and five-star restaurants. There will even be outdoor dining spaces right on the fortress, so you can most effectively anger the spirits who starved to death there.
Salt & Water
"Does anyone else hear the walls screaming?"
This is actually not the first concentration camp that's been repurposed as a hotel, but keep in mind that this was a camp so horrifying that it got its own movie. Amazingly, the developers insist they have the blessing of both the city council and the local veterans' association. That doesn't necessarily prove that the area still has an alarming number of Nazi sympathizers, but one group the resort most definitely does not have the support of is the surviving families of the prisoners. The developers have attempted to quell their concerns by assuring that they will "completely preserve the historical value of the Island." What, razor wire around the hot tubs? No, actually, a "memorial room or a museum." ("Or something," they probably added, "we'll work that out after the palm tree architecture.") After all, who doesn't enjoy a little mortal reflection after a long day of sunbathing?
Not every demolition of a sacred artifact is a blatant "fuck you" -- some are merely fuck-ups. Vengeful spirits are not known to be soothed by an apologetic "Oops," though. Workers for the Cristovo de Cea Parks and Recreation Department in Spain can only pray for such mercy after they stumbled upon an old, crumbling picnic table and decided to fix it up. That's because it was actually a 6,000-year-old tomb. Look, it's a mistake anyone could have made -- don't we all have fond memories of eating potato salad off random slabs of rock?
The workers irreparably destroyed the burial chamber by pouring concrete into it, and they didn't realize their mistake until an environmental group noticed the makeover and filed a complaint, which presumably consisted of a single "Um." A mass necktie-loosening occurred as people scrambled to explain why government workers didn't recognize a protected historical site, and the best they could come up with was that they just didn't. As mayor Jose Luis Valladores and your roommate who constantly pilfers your leftovers put it, "No one told me." A local archaeologist commented that the miscommunication was probably due to the summer holidays -- in other words, everyone was too busy playing beach volleyball to worry about properly marking artifacts dating from 4,000 years before the birth of Christ.
El Huffington Post
"Eh, I'm sure this is what they meant it to look like anyway."
And you thought Pawnee Parks and Rec was disorganized.
As developers in Marin County, California, prepared to break ground on a multimillion-dollar housing development, they stumbled across a slight inconvenience: the remains of an ancient native village. The artifacts found on the site -- which included "tools, musical instruments, harpoon tips, spears and throwing sticks from a time long before the introduction of the bow and arrow" -- were estimated to be about 4,500 years old. There was also an enormous freaking graveyard. After surveying the area, they agreed to do the logical thing and promptly tore that shit up.
To their credit, they knew their horror movies. Everything, including the bodies, was carefully removed, a process that was overseen by the local tribe that is assumed to be descended from the villagers. The tribe has been outspoken about their approval of the construction, but before some archaeologists let the cat out of the bag, they were required to keep it on the down-low because ... the developers feared comparisons to Poltergeist. How'd that work out?
"Wait ... there wasn't anyone on-site when we took that picture."
Impending drop in property values notwithstanding, it's a happy enough ending. If the tribe is OK with it, who are we to argue? But that's where the story takes a weird turn. After all the bodies and stuff were dug up, they were returned to the tribe -- who proceeded to rebury it all in a secret location where nobody will be able to study it. They even sealed it off for good measure, stopping just short of booby-trapping it with poison arrows and huge rolling boulders. Archaeologists have settled for dismay, but we're here to ask the real questions: What are they hiding?
Manna hopes the editors will come up with something clever to say about her Twitter. Boy, it sure would be embarrassing if that sentence were left unchanged.
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For more disastrous monuments, check out The 10 Most Unintentionally Terrifying Statues In The World and The 11 Most Disturbing Tourist Attractions Around The World.
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Did you know cats modeled their "meow" after the cries of human babies, just because they knew us humans care about that noise? Did you know dogs can read your mind (emotionally), and live in constant suspicion that you know where the good food is (you totally do)? In the next LIVE episode of the Cracked Podcast, host Jack O'Brien leads Cracked's team of pet-loving/fearing comedians through all the ways our dogs and cats are more powerful, creepy, and awesome than we ever could have imagined. Jack will be joined by Carmen Angelica, Dan O'Brien, Alex Schmidt, and Jake Weisman at the UCB Sunset Theatre on Wednesday, March 9, at 7 p.m. Purchase your tickets here!