6 Dark Details History Usually Leaves Out (For Good Reason)
If there's one thing we've discovered in the age of unrestricted information, it's this: History was one long, demonic orgy of obscene atrocities. The more you learn about the past, the more you prefer the vague, sterile version of it you were taught in school.
For example, we bet your eighth-grade teacher never told you ...
Jackie Kennedy Witnessed LBJ's Swearing In While Still Covered In Her Husband's Blood
In the five decades since graphic footage of the JFK assassination splattered its way onto our television screens, said footage has been played, enhanced, replayed, zoomed in upon, and declared "FAKE!" by everyone from Oliver Stone to your dumbass college roommate. As such, you probably think there's no gruesome detail of that fateful day with which you're unfamiliar, and to that we emphatically say, "No, you are wrong. Unless you have heard of it, in which case you are some kind of macabre history buff, and are still wrong, albeit in a more general sense."
The most distressing detail of the footage -- other than the exploding skull -- is the outward anguish of Jackie Kennedy, who in just seconds transforms from a poised First Lady into a blood-drenched widow. What you probably haven't heard was her insistence on staying that way.
Hours after the assassination, Jackie arrived on Air Force One for the emergency swearing-in of her husband's vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson -- still wearing her watermelon-pink suit from the motorcade, filthy with her husband's blood and brain matter. She had repeatedly shot down her aides' pleas to change with, "No, I'm going to leave these clothes on. I want them to see what they have done."
If you'd like to "see what they have done" for yourself (and if for some reason the unflinching video recording of President Kennedy's actual murder isn't enough for you), you can see Jackie's suit for yourself ... in 2103, when, according to the agreement set forth by her daughter, Jackie's blood-covered clothing will become displayable to the public. Such an artifact would surely be worth our great-grandchildren making the treacherous journey through the Wastelands!
Pavlov Mutilated And Starved His Famous Dogs To Death (And Didn't Use A Single Bell)
Odds are you're familiar with the Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, or at least the dog-drooling experiment that made him world famous. His signature study involved conditioning said dogs to expect food whenever they heard a bell ring; eventually the dogs would immediately begin salivating at the sound of the bell, regardless of whether or not it preceded any actual food. It was a massive advance in the science of behavioral conditioning and dog pranks.
But for some reason, textbook summaries tend to leave out some of the more specific details -- for instance, Pavlov never actually used bells, but rather relied on metronomes and electric shocks to condition his dogs. Oh, and he measured the dogs' saliva by removing their esophagus and cutting holes into their goddamned necks so that food would just fall out, no matter how much they ate.
See, Pavlov was interested in measuring conditional and unconditional responses, meaning responses that were triggered by specific associations (the metronomes and electric shocks) and responses that were triggered by the act of eating itself. By cutting little food trapdoors into each dog's throat, he was able to measure how much saliva was being produced by the act of eating. But don't worry -- Pavlov didn't stop there. He carved many holes into each of his test pooches, tracing along their digestive tracts to measure how much gastric fluid was being generated by the act of eating (remember, the dogs weren't actually consuming any food -- it was falling out of their neckholes as fast as they could swallow it).
Unsurprisingly, in addition to proving a connection between association and physical response, he also succeeded in killing a shitload of dogs. He lamented the loss of a particular dog after draining it of stomach juices for 10 straight days as follows: "Our passionate desire to extend experimental trials on such a rare animal was foiled by its death as a result of extended starvation and a series of wounds."
Basically, Pavlov was wronged by dogs in a past life, and it was time for them to fucking pay in the cruelest way possibly. To punish him for his undeniably monstrous obsession with torturing dogs to death, Pavlov was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The Lindbergh Kidnapping Resulted In A Confession Tortured From An Innocent Man
It's hard to overstate what an absolute media frenzy the 1932 Lindbergh kidnapping was; this was an O.J. trial-level event back when people had far less to do for entertainment.
To droves of giddy admirers, Charles Lindbergh was a world-famous pilot catapulted to Superman-status after completing the first solo, nonstop transatlantic flight from Long Island to Paris in 1927. So, when someone crept into the Lindbergh house and absconded with young Charles Junior five years later (ultimately resulting in the child's death), the public demanded justice. It was the first-ever "Crime of the Century," a bold statement considering we were only a third of the way through the century at the time, and the Nazis had yet to submit their entry.
Justice for Lindbergh's murdered son came with the arrest of Bruno Richard Hauptmann. Evidence against him included a missing board in his attic, possession of bills used for ransom money, and the fact that he was an immigrant. He was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair.
However, many -- not the least among them Hauptmann himself -- maintained the man's innocence, blaming his speedy conviction on the public's overwhelming cry for blood. Most notable among the dissenters was famous New Jersey detective Ellis Parker, who was convinced that shady disbarred attorney Paul Wendel was the real perpetrator of the ghastly crime. Spoiler alert: In the real world, it's a bad thing when loose-cannon cops try to solve crimes on their own.
Parker was so convinced of his theory that he rounded up three "deputies" (one of them his own son) to revenge-kidnap Wendel, carry him to a house in Brooklyn, and beat the ever-loving shit out of him until he talked. Once there, they strapped him to a makeshift medieval rack by tying his wrists to an overhead pole, pulling him spreadeagle over a wooden plank, and tying a weight to his goddamn head. Then they proceeded to wail on him with a rubber hose, burn his face with a light bulb, and even threatened to put his eye out with a lighted cigarette, because as the president will tell you, this is the way to get reliable information out of people.
Ellis's medieval methods garnered a full confession from Wendel, which in turn earned Hauptmann a temporary stay of execution. Unsurprisingly, Wendel recanted his confession the very moment he was no longer being brutally violenced by the 1930s equivalent of an r/conspiracy brigade, so on April 3, 1936, the New Jersey State Prison strapped Hauptmann to a wooden chair and electrocuted him to death instead. Yeah, we're thinking that in a world in which Batman was real, this kind of shit would happen every week.
The California Gold Rush Created A Bounty On Native American Body Parts
When you think of the California Gold Rush, you probably picture scores of men with impressive beards and pickaxes doggedly mining the countryside for gold while wearing straw hats, suspenders and absolutely no shoes whatsoever. What you probably don't picture (but will starting now) are hordes of angry Gold Rushers looking to lop various body parts off of Native Americans.
The Gold Rush ratcheted the white population in California from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands in just a few short years, which is historical shorthand for "genocide waiting to happen." In 1852, for example, a clash between the Wintu people of northern California and settler John Anderson resulted in Anderson's death. In response, a small army led by Sheriff William H. Dixon surrounded the Wintu camp at Bridge Gulch and massacred 153 men, women, and children. Only after the smoke had cleared did the vigilantes realize that the group of Wintu they'd slaughtered weren't even the ones responsible for Mr. Anderson's death.
Anyway, at one point the local governments initiated a sort of bounty-based racial cleansing, in which they paid out "$25 for a male body part, whether it was a scalp, a hand, or the whole body; and then $5 for a child or a woman." Murdering the native population became a legitimate source of supplemental income for all those settlers who plunged out west to seek their fortunes, even if that's not exactly what they had in mind. Or maybe it was?
Either way, from 1851 to 1852, California paid out over a million dollars to citizens embarking on "private military forays" similar to the aforementioned Wintu massacre, so there's a very real possibility that some prospectors earned more collecting Indian scalps than they ever did panning for gold.
The National Parks Were A Weird Experiment In Eugenics
When we picture the establishment of the U.S. National Park System, we imagine President Theodore Roosevelt thundering in atop a wild moose, marking off the territory to be preserved with a weighty stream of presidential urine, and willing the stone from the surrounding countryside to form itself into an elaborate entranceway beneath which future generations would pass to take in nature's splendor.
The reality, though, is that Roosevelt had help. The unfortunate reality is that he had help from a tremendous racist, who shaped the national park system according to his tremendous racism. The further unfortunate reality is that Roosevelt thought this dude was awesome.
Madison Grant is remembered less for his avid conservation efforts and more for writing The Passing of the Great Race, AKA Adolf Hitler's Bible. Understandably, his being a racist shitbag has somewhat overshadowed the fact that he near-singlehandedly developed the concept of wildlife management, was instrumental in saving more than one endangered animal species, and founded the Bronx Zoo ... where he lobbied to put Ota Benga, a Congolese man, on display next to the apes.
If there were some sort of award about "making your many legitimate strengths literally impossible to appreciate," Madison Grant would definitely be eligible.
Roosevelt praised The Passing of the Great Race as "a capital book; in purpose, in vision, in grasp of the facts our people most need to realize" and his close friend's conservationist views wretchedly paralleled his racial ones. Since evolution had granted humanity (read: white people) "complete mastery of the globe," it was humanity's (white people's) responsibility to decide "what forms of life shall be preserved." Dude was super into eugenics, is the point.
Thanks to Grant and similar thinkers in the upper echelons of conservationist circles, Roosevelt's 1909 National Conservation Commission was likely to veer off into discussions of the "race suicide" being inflicted upon people of Northern European origin by all these pesky nonwhites daring to share the same land. For these men, the National Parks were a metaphorical representation of their eugenicist beliefs, with regal species such as the moose and the mountain goat being constantly encroached upon by lesser creatures who weren't even worthy of decapitation for trophy purposes.
As a demonstration of their ideals, we like to think it failed. If any visitors to the National Parks come away thinking they are great displays of the need for racial purity, they were probably pretty racist before they got there.
The Siege Of Leningrad Was A Cannibal Apocalypse
World War II is an embarrassment of riches for anyone who gets off reading about unrelenting horror. Take the Siege of Leningrad; lots of American kids barely learn about this in school (teachers usually whip right past it in order to get to D-Day) but it killed more than a million fucking people. Slowly.
See, the Reich needed Leningrad in order to take Russia, but they decided to go the passive route: They surrounded it, cut off its supply lines, and allowed nature to take its course. They kept this up for two and a half years.
That meant the Nazis' primary weapon was starvation, but you have to really stop and realize what the word "starvation" can mean in a wintery Russian hellhole. What, exactly, does a city of millions eat when their choices are a) minuscule daily bread rations, b) sawdust soup, and c) the aforementioned millions of succulent fellow humans?
Yeah, you guessed it. What started with eating cats and dogs progressed to families sacrificing their younger children to feed to their older ones. The horror came full circle when parents stopped allowing their children out onto the streets after dark for fear of them being abducted and eaten by roving bands of cannibals, sort of like The Warriors if all the gangs spent less time on decorative themed outfits and more time violently eating screaming toddlers.
Cannibalism became such a fact of everyday life that the Leningrad police department developed an entire anti-cannibal division, and split the crime into two distinct categories: trupoyedstvo, meaning corpse-eating, and lyudoyedstvo, which means eating someone who's still actively trying to get away from you.
If it makes you feel better, the former was much more common; in one sample month, about 85 percent of arrests were for eating corpses, only 15 percent for hunting The Most Dangerous Game. You can debate among yourselves whether or not the former should have even been illegal, under the circumstances.
Stephan infrequently tweets over at @StephanRoget
It's Spring Break! You know what that means: hot coeds getting loose on the beaches of Cancun and becoming imperiled in all classic beach slasher ways: man-eating shark, school of piranhas, James Franco with dreadlocks. There are so many films about vacations gone wrong, it's a chore to wonder if there's even such a thing as a movie vacation gone right. Amity Island and Camp Crystal Lake are out. So what does that leave? The ship from Wall-E? Hawaii with the Brady Bunch? A road trip with famous curmudgeon Chevy Chase? On this month's live podcast Jack O'Brien and the Cracked staff are joined by some special guest comedians to figure out what would be the best vacation to take in a fictional universe. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!
For more details about history you'll wish we didn't tell you, check out 6 Horrifying Facts That Get Left Out Of History and 5 Horrifying Realities Of Daily Life Edited Out Of History.
Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere.