6 Horrifying Secrets About Feel Good Historical Moments
Although history might sometimes seem like a never-ending cacophony of awfulness and terror (admittedly, we might have something to do with this), it also has countless amazing moments that make it all worth it. You know, those feel-good historic events where the human spirit reigns triumphant, inspiring future generations and proving that the world isn't so shitty after all. Pla! Net! Earth! Pla! Net! Earth!
Anyway, here is a list about why some of those are also terrible.
The Opening Of Disneyland Was A Total Nightmare
In 1955, the world was a single red button away from turning your grandparents into dust and shadows. It was in that context that Disneyland opened for the first time and provided America with some much needed ... disappointment, torture, and stress?
At least Mickey Mouse was there to- OH JESUS FUCK.
The opening of the park was a monumental shitstorm that almost killed the company. Walt Disney had arranged for the entire day to be broadcast live on television -- the roster included an endless stream of musical acts, a tour of the park, and (naturally) a go-kart race between Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. It was like he was daring the universe to wreck his shit. The universe immediately obliged.
When the turnstiles opened, the park was besieged by a swarm of 28,000 ticket-holders ... which was weird, because they'd only sold 15,000 tickets. As it turns out, some scamp (as all criminals were referred to back in those days) had printed and sold an extra 13,000 counterfeit tickets. It didn't get any better. The overwhelming number of people meant that every food stall in the park soon sold out, leaving starved visitors on the verge of eating Donald Duck.
"It's not cannibalism if they're in an animal costume!"
The park's hasty construction didn't help matters. The plumbing soon ground to a halt on account of a local strike that left the water fountains dry, while the freshly laid tarmac paths turned into a sticky, people-trapping mess. It's even rumored that a visitor's poodle was completely enveloped in that Swamp of Sadness.
As for the rides, they didn't work for myriad reasons, ranging from mechanical failure to not being finished. To compensate, workers started piling people onto Mark Twain's Riverboat Ride, leaving it teetering and swaying in that way all boats do before they list and wipe out your potential word of mouth. Again, this was all broadcast on live television. If we didn't know better, we'd suspect that this was all a huge propaganda setup by the USSR to show their people how Western-style decadence is the path to idiocy.
This is just the toilet line, presumably.
To salvage his reputation, Walt ordered the park to, you know, be finished, and held a second "opening day." Fortunately, the public loved it (along with the ability to eat and drink) and attendance grew and grew. That's not to say that people ever forgot about that first day. It became known as "Black Sunday" among the workforce, and some swear that, when the moon is full and the night air is still, you can hear the noise of a yapping poodle.
The Raid On Osama's Hideout Triggered A Health Crisis, Murder Spree
As you might recall, 2011 was a good year for truth, justice, the American way, and arguing with your Facebook friends about the ethics of shooting terrorists in the face.
"That's right! Tooth Fairy 2 was greenlit!"
After 10 years of turning over every rock in a part of the world that's full of them, the CIA finally found Osama bin Laden, capped his ass, and closed a dark chapter in U.S. history. However, none of this would have been possible without Dr. Shakil Afridi, who was hired by the CIA to run a vaccination campaign in the Abbottabad region in the hope of snaring a DNA sample from the man that they suspected was bin Laden. Although unsuccessful, his work proved vital in proving that ObL was holed up in his now-infamous compound, leading to his death ... and that of many innocents in the coming years, unfortunately.
How? Well, before the raid, there was already myriad conspiracy theories in the region surrounding vaccination campaigns ("The West is plotting to sterilize Muslims!"), and the CIA's antics only gave the locals even less reason to trust strangers with needles. Vaccination levels in the region subsequently plummeted to such an extent that we could have used the resulting crater to throw Osama's body into the molten core of the planet. Oh, and it super didn't fucking help that the Taliban then jumped into the fray and started systematically murdering aid workers, planting roadside bombs to take out aid convoys, and just straight-up burning down the vaccination centers.
Congrats on making Jenny McCarthy look sane, dickbags.
Rightfully fearing for their lives, the aid groups being targeted (i.e. all of them) closed up shop, leaving Pakistan and Afghanistan as a virological no-man's land. If vaccinations were carried out, they had to conduct them in the backrooms of bus/train stations, like common junkies. It's only been within the last couple of years that vaccinations have been carried out in the open, but workers still have to be accompanied by a small platoon of armed guards. All in all, it's estimated that the CIA's intelligence-gathering exercise might have put back the projected date for the global eradication of polio by 20 fucking years.
Nostalgia for the '80s has officially gone too far.
Harvey Milk Boosted His Career By Ruining A Closeted Friend's Life
Gay rights martyr and politician Harvey Milk did more than just give Sean Penn an Oscar and invent delicious cow juice -- in the '70s, his cries for universal equality inspired millions to the cause of social justice. It's just a shame, then, that his election campaign was built on the unintentional destruction of an innocent man's life.
And not just any innocent man. This one:
In 1975, Oliver Sipple thwarted the assassination of President Gerald Ford by heroically wrestling a gun away from some Lee Harvey Oswald fan. In the aftermath, Sipple shunned the spotlight ... with good reason. As well as being a former U.S. Marine, he was secretly a big player in the underground gay scene of San Francisco, at a time when even being a little player could get you beaten up. In the end, an anonymous tipster passed information to a local newspaper columnist about Sipple's double life. The truth came tumbling out, and no one could have been more thrilled than Sipple's friend Harvey Milk. Because he was the tipster in question.
Although outing Sipple was dickish, Milk saw it as an opportunity to prove that gay men weren't just sissies who hung around in bathrooms and molested children (Milk's words, by the way). They could be just as heroic as everyone else. Milk couldn't let this once-in-a-lifetime story pass quietly. Accordingly, he hit the publicity trail and regaled the press with tales of Sipple's participation in pride parades and demonstrations and even caused a minor political scandal when he (albeit rightfully) called Ford out for not having thanked Sipple for the little favor.
"I save my own life every time I remember to breathe, and you don't see me compl- *gasp*"
This worked out great for Milk, but not so much for Sipple. Hounded from his home and ostracized by his family, Sipple launched a lawsuit arguing that the media had violated his privacy. Unfortunately, thanks to Milk's anecdotes and Sipple's own confession that 100-plus people knew about his secret, the media successfully argued that they were within their rights to report the story since it was never secret in the first place. Which is why they reported it, obviously.
There could only be one ending to this story. On the back of his newfound public profile, Milk became involved in politics and was eventually elected to city supervisor. Sipple, meanwhile, crashed into a deep alcohol-fueled depression and died several years later, regretting ever stepping into the firing line all those years ago. OK, there's your best actor Oscar, Benicio del Toro.
Returning Apollo Astronauts Were Quarantined Because Of "Space Germs"
The way the TV specials and fluff pieces tell it, as soon as the crew of Apollo 11 came back from their little stroll on the moon in 1969, we immediately threw a giant parade for them and declared them galactic heroes. However, those retellings are leaving out one important part: the one where we threw chemicals at them, made them wear isolation suits, and locked them inside a tiny chamber for weeks.
"Heads up -- if I go all Shining I'm axing Aldrin first."
You see, there was a serious fear at NASA that astronauts returning from the moon might bring back a little something extra among their moon rocks and fart juices: space germs. After splashing down into the ocean, the crews of Apollo 11, 12, and 14 were each bundled into reverse biohazard suits known as biological isolation garments ("reverse" because they keep the germs in) and stowed inside a mobile quarantine facility. Sounds pretty fancy, but it was basically a glorified trailer.
The trucker hat materialized on his head as soon as he stepped in.
For entertainment, the crews had books and television and, in the case of Apollo 12, enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. They were kept inside these trailers for 21 days, during which they underwent extensive medical exams and chemical scrubbing to find any stray alien organisms/spacepox they might have caught out there. There was also a window in the astronauts' trailer where scientists could observe them during the facehugger gestation period ... or where Richard Nixon could just stare at them. We're not quite sure which scenario is worse.
"This is the most boring Twilight Zone I've ever seen."
When NASA eventually realized that there weren't any nasties on the moon trying to kill us, they scrapped the quarantine procedure. Or that's what the aliens want us to think, anyway.
Spain Vaccinated The New World Using Orphans And Slaves
Back in the 19th century, Spain's colonies in the Americas were having their asses firmly and unexpectedly kicked by smallpox. To save these colonies (and the countless golden temples hidden in them, no doubt), King Charles IV ordered an expedition to carry the newly discovered smallpox vaccine to them. The man in charge, Francisco Javier de Balmis, was able to round up ships and a sizable crew but hit a problem: keeping the vaccine alive during the voyage. It's not like they had medical refrigerators back then, you know? Still, no matter. They had all these orphans lying around, after all ...
"There's a reason we called it smallpox and not adultpox."
After "recruiting" 22 orphans to serve as live carriers for the vaccine, de Balmis set sail for the New World. The procedure was brutally simple. Shortly after departure, the first orphan would be vaccinated -- several days later, they'd break out in vesicles containing fluid that would be used to prepare a vaccine for the second orphan, who ... you get the picture. Needless to say, this was not The Love Boat. It's hard to build a fun-filled ambiance when your hold is full of sick, fluid-spewing, screaming children. We're told, anyway.
Despite aiming for Puerto Rico, de Balmis had run out of unvaccinated orphans by the time his ships reached the Canary Islands. Like a trucker with a cab full of empties, he simply dropped anchor, hopped ashore, and swapped his old orphans for a new batch.
Is that a Batman logo on the ship? Very appropriate.
Upon reaching Puerto Rico, de Balmis swapped his empties again and continued on to Haiti. Once there, he hit a(nother) snag: There were no orphans to buy/borrow/steal (they'd probably been hidden in anticipation of his visit). Finding a silver lining in this cloud, he simply bought four young slave girls and continued on his way. He subsequently lost a significant sum of money selling them back to the slavers on his arrival, as if the economic downside of using child slaves as walking incubators was worse than, say, having a special place in hell reserved for him and his dubious ethical standards.
The main voyage, meanwhile, continued on through the Philippines and China and eventually returned to Spain. In one of the few moments of levity that this story has, the orphans that he scattered around the world were all welcomed into the arms of their respective communities. It's just as well. After all, would you get on a boat again after that journey?
Gay Holocaust Survivors Were Still Regarded As Criminals By The Allies
The Holocaust might be one of the darkest moments in history, but one good thing came of it: the end of the fucking Holocaust. That moment when the good guys broke down the prisons and concentration camps and provided warmth, shelter, and humanity to those who needed it most.
Oh, except the gay ones, that is.
Among the many groups that occupied a special place on Hitler's hate-boner were homosexuals, mainly gay men. Prior to the Nazis, major cities such as Berlin and Hamburg were hotbeds for sexual experimentation where people could mash their genitals into whatever exciting and energetic configurations they wanted without any fear of the law. That all changed in 1935 with the passing of Paragraph 175, which strictly outlawed "lewd and lascivious acts" between men (between women wasn't as serious, for some reason). Under this legislation, thousands upon thousands of men were arrested for anything ranging from sex to kissing to baseless rumor. By 1942, they were being sent to concentration camps, because Nazis are so original.
This is who the whole pink triangle pride symbol is in remembrance of.
Following the end of the war, the new government repealed many of the laws introduced by the Nazis. Paragraph 175 wasn't one of them. Sadly, this made sense: Considering that the U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union all had laws outlawing homosexuality, there was nothing specifically Nazi-ish about Paragraph 175. To the Allies and Germany v. 3.0, this was a basic law of the land. Indeed, one survivor recalled a soldier berating a 175er (as they were known) for having the temerity to be gay.
With their conviction still legally sound, survivors were ostracized by society, their friends, and even other survivors. In actual fact, the post-war government was responsible for more convictions under Paragraph 175 than the Nazis were. We were better Nazis than the Nazis at this.
Presenting one of the rare times "worse than Hitler" has been a legitimate internet response.
Faced with this situation, survivors disappeared into anonymity or committed suicide. As they were still considered criminals, they were denied the same financial compensation awarded to other groups of survivors. Additionally, this led to Kafkaesque nightmares, such as survivors being rejected by leftist support groups and being refused a symbolic payment of one Deutschmark. In the case of Josef Kohout, he was denied pension benefits that even ex-concentration camp guards received.
In all, only a handful of survivors won the battle for the compensation that they were rightfully owed (one case wasn't finalized until 1992). In 1969, however, West Germany began decriminalizing sexual activity between men. In 1994, Paragraph 175 was abolished. In 2002, all 175ers received official pardons from the government. It took them only 57 years. We'd normally end this with some pithy remark about it being better late than never, but fuck 'em.
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