The fear wasn't strictly that these people were gay, but that gay people were more susceptible to blackmail, and therefore a much bigger security risk. The logic was that a homosexual member of the State Department would voluntarily give up state secrets if someone threatened to out them. So the obvious solution was to fire them all, because that certainly wouldn't create any disgruntled potential intelligence assets. This whole debacle was dubbed "The Lavender Scare," and wouldn't you know it, Senator Joe McCarthy was up to his ears in it as well. Being a big-time asshole, he'd often use accusations of homosexuality against his political foes, reportedly saying, "If you want to be against McCarthy, boys, you've got to be either a Communist or a cocksucker."
Karl BullaSo if you were both, he was like, super mad.
The whole thing reached a bigoted fever pitch in 1953, when President Eisenhower signed a bill stating that all gay and lesbian government employees were to be immediately fired. The bill resulted in the release of 425 employees in a single year for the mere suggestion of homosexuality. And before you say, "Jeez, this was such a backwards time," consider that this law was in effect until 1995. Thousands of people lost their jobs over the years because of it, and in 29 states, it is still legal to fire someone for being gay.
So although we might not be living through a Lavender Scare any more, we've still got a solid Lavender Apprehension and Misgiving to deal with.
The Great New England Vampire Panic
New England seems to be oddly susceptible to panics. Apart from the famous Salem Witch Trials, we've discussed in this very article the region's dubious history with clown sightings, and now we're can add another mythical monster scare to their scorecard: freaking vampires.
Boston Daily Globe And yet Patriots fans roam the streets with impunity.
In the early 1800s, 200 years removed from Salem and what should have been a sobering lesson on the dangers of moral panics, the region convinced itself that it was now beset with vampires. Residents throughout New England decided that dead guys were rising from the grave to suck the life essence from the living. To protect themselves, residents began exhuming corpses, decapitating the bodies and burning their organs. That's a whole lot of work, though, so sometimes they would merely flip the exhumed corpse over, which is apparently sufficient defense against the undead. Maybe vampires have a terrible sense of direction and are easily confused.
It was a whole ordeal, too, often carried out in the dead of night with lanterns to guide the way. Henry David Thoreau wrote about an exhumation in his own journal, covering it like it was a normal thing to do on a Saturday night. Occasionally, the vampire hunters would also festively burn the dead guy's heart and inhale the smoke, or eat its ashes so that they themselves would not become a vampire. Again, it is unclear why this would help, but the important thing is they believed it would.
The Providence Journal "Mix it with hot water and pretend it's cocoa."
The horrific tuberculosis outbreaks going on at the time provide an almost plausible explanation for this insanity. You see, tuberculosis was called consumption back then, and a significant portion of the population appeared to think it was caused by dead people "consuming" the unsuspecting living. That's what all the corpse-exhuming was about -- they were looking for corpses that appeared "too fresh," as if they had been up all night the day before consuming the rosy-cheeked energy from living people. Now, this is obviously dumb, but to a 19th-century person with limited education watching all of their neighbors wither away, you can sort of see why the notion of vampires might cling to their thoughts (the vampire legend is a plague allegory, after all).
Also, the early 1800s were super boring, and it's not like those corpses were using their heads and organs anymore.
Justin is writing a free, spooky novel here. Vote for it. He writes other, less grim stuff on his website.
Also check out 5 Eerie Ways Entire Groups Went Insane Science Can't Explain and The 6 Most Insane Moral Panics In American History.
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