5 Insane Historical Theories That Make Way Too Much Sense
When it comes to history, we usually trust the historians. It's right there in the name, you know? If it's a choice between "historian" and "some random dipshit," we'll go with the former nine times out of ten. But then there's that tenth time -- the time some random dipshit comes up with a theory so compelling that we can't help but pay attention. We're not saying these folks are right -- hell, we're not even saying they're sane. We're just saying what if ...
The Sinking Of The Lusitania Might Have Been A British Plot
America's involvement in World War I began with the sinking of the British civilian cruise ship Lusitania by a German torpedo in 1915. The German government had warned Britain to suspend tourism during the hostilities, because German ships weren't going to discriminate between civilian and military vessels when they got trigger-happy. Nevertheless, the Lusitania embarked from New York to Britain on May 1, under the captain's naive impression that the Germans wouldn't really blow up a cruise ship full of innocent tourists. Over a thousand people died when Germany called that particular bluff.
Say what you like about their invading Poland every few decades, but Germans are men of their word.
As with Pearl Harbor, 9/11, and basically any tragedy ever, there are conspiracy theories that say the American government allowed the attack to go ahead because they wanted an excuse to enter the war and start whooping German ass. But when it comes to the Lusitania, that idea is a little more plausible.
For one thing, the official story at the time was that two torpedoes launched by a German submarine sank the ship, but it's since been proven that only one torpedo was launched. The cause of the well-documented second explosion remains a mystery, which is like Viagra for the kinds of people who Google jet fuel temperatures on their lunch break.
"The shot might have come from that icy knoll."
In 1982, the British government was forced to admit that the Lusitania was secretly carrying a shitload of munitions back to Britain. The Germans at the time defended their attack on the ship as a military action, but it was long denied by the British in order to bolster war sentiment against those evil, civilian-targeting Hun assholes. Once salvage crews started diving into the wreck, the Brits had to come clean, lest the workers inadvertently explode inside the ostensibly weapons-free site. This was confirmed in 2008, when salvage divers recovered a mother lode of weapons which officially never existed.
During all of this, the person in charge of ensuring the safety of British vessels, with the very British title of "First Lord of the Admiralty," was a man you might recognize: one Sir Winston Churchill. Yes, the "We will fight them on the beaches" guy. Modern Lusitania Truthers contend that Churchill set up the tragedy in order to convince the United States to enter the war. Whatever classic one-liners he quipped as a result remain lost to history.
"In the morning, I'll be sober, but my 1,198 victims will still be dead."
Jack The Ripper Might Have Never Existed
Jack the Ripper's reign of terror is legendary for a number of reasons: the particularly gruesome ways he dispatched his victims, his childish, gloating, borderline illiterate letters to the press, and the fact that he's never been identified to this day. The Wikipedia page for people suspected to be the Ripper lists dozens of possible culprits, from Queen Victoria's personal physician to Alice In Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. And yet there remains a simpler and perhaps more plausible scenario: that the dude never existed at all. That is to say, the five victims of Jack the Ripper might in fact be five unrelated murders.
"Unrelated murder victim" was one the most coveted positions in Victorian England.
It turns out that the Ripper's victims don't have a whole lot in common, besides the fact that they were all killed in the same year, in the same district, and all violently. That sounds like enough to pin them on the same killer, but then you find that they were killed using different knives, and under very different circumstances.
Then there are all the taunting letters sent to the press and the police ... most of which have been dismissed as hoaxes. Of the two probably genuine letters, one of them has outright vanished due to 19th-century law enforcement incompetence, so only one, the fabled "Dear Boss letter," can be confirmed as having been written by a true killer.
Because it correctly spoke of cutting off the victim's ear.
And we say "killer" instead of "serial killer," because the author of this letter might only be responsible for one of the Ripper murders. Author Simon Wood, who has spent decades obsessed with the Ripper case, ultimately concluded that Jack was probably an invention of the press to sell more newspapers. But that would mean newspapermen used to be unscrupulous, which is frankly an absurd accusation.
"Even more gore than number four! Can't miss this!"
Frankenstein Was Written By Mary Shelley's Husband
The story behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein says it was the product of a night of campfire tales shared between herself, her lover and future husband Percy Shelley, poet Lord Byron, and a bunch of other classic authors. If you're a Cracked fan, you know the extended version of this story, which involves a shitload of hallucinogens. But there's another theory: that it might not have been written by Mary Shelley at all, but by Percy.
All we know for certain is the author had a completely hairless chest.
Back in the early 1800s, Frankenstein was published anonymously, which makes perfect sense, considering how women novelists in those days could only get published with Jane-Austen-style comedies about roguish men learning manners. But Percy Shelley was known for publishing his work anonymously, and Mary was only identified as the author of the book in 1823 -- a year after he died in a sailing accident. Percy Shelley didn't like putting his name on his work, because he was more interested in throwing his ideas out into the world than he was in getting credit for them. Or notoriety. See, he was an atheist at a time when that was frowned upon, to say the least, and Frankenstein is a notably atheistic story about a man who creates life with no help from God. One speculates that the author, whoever it was, decided they could do without the inevitable barrage of death threats.
The book's angry villagers chapter wasn't supposed to be an instruction manual.
A ding against the Percy theory is that we have the original manuscript for Frankenstein, and it's in Mary Shelley's handwriting, which seems like kind of a slam dunk. But scholars will note that she regularly transcribed her husband's work. Of course, maybe the similarities in both writing and publishing style can be explained by the fact that these two people were, you know, married to each other. Prominent feminist Germaine Greer defends the idea that Mary is the author based on her opinion that Frankenstein is one of the worst books ever written. Which is ... kind of a backhanded defense, but okay.
Her other six novels, we assume, were all vampire fuck fiction.
Van Gogh's Suicide Might Have Been A Prank Gone Wrong
Vincent van Gogh is as renowned for his madness as he is for his art. He suffered from severe depression, as well as a constellation of other mental disorders, all of which led him to famously chop off his own ear and later commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest -- though he missed his heart, and sadly bled out in agony.
Coincidentally, he had already painted the perfect reaction face for this.
But despite his madness, there's not a lot of evidence that van Gogh was suicidal. Those who knew him were genuinely surprised that the guy who obsessively kept diaries and notes on his innermost thoughts didn't write anything resembling a suicide note. According to the official story, he simply put a few last strokes on a painting he was working on, stood back to admire it for a second, then pulled out a gun and shot himself.
This could be a suicide note, sure, but forensic art historians are uncertain.
But later evidence has suggested that the suicide narrative is suspicious. For one thing, the bullet missed all of his organs. Van Gogh probably had a pretty good idea about the general area where his heart was located, so it's strange that he shot himself in a more or less random spot in his upper torso. An alternate theory is that the shooting was the result of a prank gone wrong. In his later years, van Gogh befriended a youth named Rene Secretan. At the time, van Gogh had a reputation in his village as kind of a benignly crazy one-eared hobo. Secretan and his friends spent equal time hanging out with van Gogh and playing tricks on him, like pouring salt into his coffee and putting live snakes in his paintbox. You know, standard asshole stuff.
Secretan also owned a revolver -- incidentally, the exact kind that delivered the bullet that killed Van Gogh -- but it was apparently faulty and wouldn't fire. The story goes that Secretan visited Van Gogh on that fateful day, pointed his gun at the artist, and pulled the trigger, knowing that it would just give an ineffectual click, as always. You know, standard asshole stuff. But the gun picked this one inopportune time to work, and the rest is history. Van Gogh, in a last act of charity, described it as a suicide attempt to save his friend -- then presumably settled for haunting the shit out of Secretan every time he used the bathroom.
The ear thing was a prank too. By Jack the Ripper.
Rasputin Might Have Been Assassinated By A British Spy
Tsar Nicholas II became so enamored of Rasputin that he made him his closest advisor. The other nobles became worried that Rasputin was effectively taking control of the country, so they concocted a conspiracy to assassinate him. According to legend, Rasputin was stabbed, poisoned, shot several times, and then beaten to a pulp, yet he still lived. Ultimately, they had to hold him underwater until he stopped twitching, and even still, we're not 100 percent sure that did it.
Finally, they had to throw three harpoons into his massive bobbing schlong.
Almost every single detail of the murder (and murder, and murder, and murder again) of Rasputin comes from the account of one Prince Felix Yusapov, who was known for being a little ... strange. By which we mean that he used to dress up in his mother's clothes and dine at local restaurants like a foodie Norman Bates. His account of Rasputin's death was so absurd that even his biographer called bullshit, noting that he had a homosexual obsession with the cleric, and that he was a more notorious liar than that kid in your class who insisted he wrote Power Rangers.
Modern researchers have come up with a different theory: Rasputin was assassinated by a British intelligence agent. According to former Scotland Yard commander Richard Cullen, the forensic evidence doesn't support Yusapov's version of events, and shows that Rasputin's death was caused by a close-range bullet between the eyes, consistent with assassination by a British agent -- specifically one Oswald Rayner, who was tasked with infiltrating the Russian monarchy at the time.
This arcane forensic evidence includes a goddamn photo of the bullet wound.
This theory holds that Rasputin was talking Nicholas II into brokering a peace deal with Germany during World War I. If realized, this would have allowed the Germans to move a third of a million soldiers to the Western Front, thus significantly turning the tide of the war. Speculation is that Rayner received orders straight from the top of the British government to take Rasputin out, and they didn't mean to dinner, dressed in women's clothing.
This theory is further supported by coded memos passed between Rayner's superiors, celebrating the death of Rasputin and the "tying up of loose ends." Though it might ruin the mystique of Rasputin a bit to suggest that an ordinary monk was dispatched by one mundane, non-supernatural bullet, it is a bit more likely than "Russian Vampire Wizard."
For more crazy people who actually kind of made sense, check out 5 Conspiracy Theories We're Ashamed To Admit Make Sense and 6 Conspiracy Theories So Damn Stupid They're Works Of Art.
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