8 Unbelievably WTF Photos Of Famous Places In The Past
Most major cities in the world have at least one iconic landmark, whether it be a building, a natural formation, or a street corner where a famous murder occurred. These landmarks become a visual shorthand for the city itself, so it's important that they don't look like something H.R. Giger shat into his bed during a fever dream. But sometimes things happen, like fires, war, or a severe lack of money. Which is why a lot of famous landmarks have a certain period in their past when they looked more like a cannibal nightclub than something you'd put on a postcard. For instance ...
The Hollywood Sign Looked Like Mad Max
The gleaming white letters of the Hollywood sign have seemingly always been there, greeting every aspiring actor who enters the Los Angeles city limits to work as a waiter and/or Lyft driver for the rest of their natural lives. But during the 1960s, people just kind of didn't give a shit about it.
Young Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich saw this when they first visited, and they shared their first kiss.
With crime up and the economy down, Los Angeles had more pressing concerns than maintaining some lame symbol of old Hollywood glamour, but by the end of the '60s, the Hollywood Sign looked like it was about to fall down and crush a bunch of desperate tourists. The city attempted to rectify this oversight by holding a conference to make it a protected landmark. But L.A.'s famous weather stepped in to blanket the entire ceremony in fog, rendering the whole event a disaster and making people care even less. This is when pranksters emerged to fuck with the sign in all sorts of creative ways.
If this looks familiar, remember that every story has already been told. That's the Hollyweed mantra.
By the '70s, the sign was in such disarray that it looked like a giant toddler had put it there. Eventually, some letters actually fell down the hillside, while the ones that remained upright got set on fire.
"We used your unsolicited screenplays as kindling."
That's when Playboy founder Hugh Hefner offered his services. In 1978, when he was still flush with boob money, Hefner set up a party and convinced all his famous friends to donate some money to help refurbish the sign. And by refurbishing, we mean to say that they had to tear the old sign down and put up a new metal one that could withstand the elements a little better.
The Taj Mahal Was Covered In Ridiculous Disguises
Like with an expensive car or watch, governments are constantly worried that someone might harm their iconic national monuments. That is why they have dozens of defensive measures in place in case anyone tries to blow up their tourist hotspots. For example, India routinely tries to disguise the Taj Mahal from attack by throwing some twigs over it.
"Move along ... nothing to see here."
When the India-Pakistan war brewed up in 1971, the country scrambled to protect the landmark with some sort of green camouflage. The result was a Taj Mahal that looked like it was abandoned by mankind right before the aliens took over.
Or like it was decorated for a terrible themed wedding.
This was actually something of a step up from what occurred in 1942, when the British were sure that German Luftwaffe bombers were going to hit the Taj Mahal. So they naturally came up with the idea to "camouflage" it, with bamboo scaffolding surrounding the topmost portion:
So it blended in with the thick bamboo jungle surrounding it, you see.
These plans worked so flawlessly (in that the Taj Mahal didn't get bombed for various other reasons we can only assume were not related to its camouflage), it has seemingly becoming hard to convince the Indian military to try another way to defend India's most famous landmark. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, it was reported that the Taj Mahal was to be shrouded in a massive dark cloth. Local tailors were said to be stitching together over 1,300 feet of fabric to protect it much the same way your Uncle Rick covers his firewood in the back yard. However, the plan never came to fruition, perhaps because they realized building a giant fake mustache would be more cost-effective.
Phone And Telegraph Cables Made New York City (And The World) Look Like Spider Hell
Hey, here's a picture of Stockholm, Sweden, around the turn of the 20th century, when the developed world looked more or less like it had been conquered by metal tarantulas:
"Stockholm Syndrome" used to refer to a particularly terrifying kind of spider bite.
As the city tried to keep up with the new telephone craze, its communications tower wound up having 5000 telephone and telegraph lines bursting out of it. New York City in 1887 had a similar issue, making the whole city look like it was preparing for a dragon attack:
And the wires all smelled like urine. No one knows why.
Besides giving pigeons an entirely new canvas to paint white, the forward-thinking people of the past also didn't account for another calamity that could befall any city tying all its buildings together like a giant shoelace prank: extreme weather. Boston experienced a rare January hurricane in 1881, which brought down nearly all of those wires and made the famous architecture of the town look like it had been visited by drunk Spider-Man.
A mugger had an entire bottle of Night Train, and he didn't want it to go to waste.
Eventually, not even little one-horse towns could escape progress. Even last vestiges of the Wild West like Pratt, Kansas, had the tentacles of progress coiled around them, providing even more confirmation that absolutely everything about living in the past was terrible and stupid.
"I may get strangled at any given second during my work day, and absolutely nothing I can masturbate to has been invented yet."
The Washington Monument Was Shitty And Half-Built For Decades
Of all the phallic-shaped statues peppered around the country, the Washington Monument is the most famous and anatomically correct.
Fittingly, it's also the monument whose origins most closely mirrors the frustration kindergarten teachers feel when planning a field trip to the underwhelming pillar. The Washington Monument took nearly thirty years to build, and during that time, it looked less like a testament to the American spirit than a super early marketing campaign for Fallout 3.
Above: Actual live footage of the Washington Monument, streamed to you from 1865.
Begun as a private venture in 1848, it didn't take long for the grandiose and expensive Washington Monument to run out of funding. By 1853, a new group took over control of the Washington National Monument Society, but the perfectly named Know-Nothing Party quickly dragged the project into complete bankruptcy. The year after, the monument's architect died. And when Pope Pius IX donated a slab of marble for the monument, the super anti-Catholic Know-Nothingers stole it and chucked it into the Potomac River, because bankrupt or not, Pope marble is garbage. For two decades, the most popular dedication to our first president and Revolutionary War hero stood at half-mast.
It would be 130 years before Pfizer developed a treatment.
Congress stepped in to try and just get the damn thing finished -- at which point the American Civil War leaned in and whispered "nope." So during the entire war, the Washington Monument sat in a D.C. field in pieces, serving as an apt metaphor for the state of the country.
In 1876, after the nation was done strangling itself, control of the project was handed over to the Army Corps Of Engineers, who are not only known for their machine-like efficiency, but also their great artistry. However, by the time construction started again, the quarry in Maryland where the original stones were obtained was now defunct. So a similar stone was imported from Massachusetts, which the builders quickly became unhappy with because it had a sickly off-white color that made it look like the pillar had contracted some sort of venereal disease.
You never noticed this before, and now, you'll never not notice it.
After finding a third kind of stone, they completed the tower in late 1884. And there it stood, watching over the seat of power in America, totally disappointed. But the shoddy workmanship wasn't done disappointing just yet. When a 5.8 magnitude shake-party hit the capital in 2011, it opened some cracks along the monument, which was promptly gooped up with 2.7 miles of sealant, and loose chunks of marble that had tumbled off the sides were replaced with porch steps from Baltimore row houses.
"Yeah? You like that, monument?"
Still, despite it's almost ruinous journey it's a better monument to a national hero like George Washington than the hard-nipple-chested, Bonnaroo-sandal wearing statue that was dedicated to him in 1841, and promptly removed and hidden forever.
A single tasteful phallus is always the classier option.
Stonehenge Used To Be Crawling With Lunatics And Violence
Stonehenge is a place of contrasts. The stones make it look like the kind of place where human sacrifices were made so that it would stop raining in England for just one goddamn minute, but the sleek tourism machine has now turned it into one of the most sterile and preserved spots to bore the whole family. But England never forgets its own history, and there have always been "special clubs" doing their best to keep Stonehenge looking freaky and insane.
And inadvertently creating history's favorite game "Are they serious or LARPing?"
In the eyes of many British people, Stonehenge has always represented a powerful link to Druidism -- no matter what scholars say to refute it. Eventually, druidic groups were founded to keep the old ways alive and well. Tons of high-ranking Brits would join the ranks of these loosely-affiliated groups, including Winston Churchill himself at one point. And why just have Druids, when we can add pagan and neo-Druid groups, in an almost-Braveheart display of warring factions of nonsense?
"You can take away our lives, but you can never take our plastic drums."
By the dawn of the 20th century, visitors were causing so much damage at Stonehenge (including knocking down parts of it) that the owner of the land put up a fence and began charging a cover fee. Druids, as you know, aren't keen on the concept of property, so they got super pissed and refused to pay, which led to police kicking them out of the park. A decade later, Stonehenge's owner passed on to the great henge in the sky, and new management presented it as a gift to the nation. Still, inter-Druid squabbling led to many beefs about who could perform sacred rites, especially during the summer solstice, which as we all know is the optimal time to dance and chant in a field.
"Make sure to time it so optimal sunlight hits your bare genitals."
The '60s and '70s drew hippies to Stonehenge like a Bohemian bug lamp, which resulted in so-called "Free Festivals" that were rife with every drug, politically-charged activity, and/or sexual position that would attract the attention of the cops. This all culminated in the "Battle Of The Beanfield" in 1985. Local police had set up a roadblock to keep hippies out of Stonehenge. Not wanting to take shit from the "man," a group of 600 free-lovers tried to ram their way through, colliding with the 1200-strong police force. Witnesses reported rampant police brutality, including pregnant women being clubbed over the head, because you can't be too careful when dealing with underfed polygamists.
"Legally, she was being really irritating."
All told, eight officers and 16 would-be partiers were sent to the hospital, one with a fractured skull. Over 500 were arrested, which is the largest mass arrest of civilians in England's history since a bunch of radicals refused to add the "u" to "favorite" and had to be banished to the Americas. All over a big circle of rocks, which today is the most boring place on Earth.
Bushwick (From Girls) Was Plagued By Fires And Blackouts
Today, Bushwick in northern Brooklyn is one of the coolest places in all of New York City. The HBO series Girls has many scenes and episodes set in Bushwick, and one of the show's stars, Zosia Mamet, bought a million-dollar home there. Which she owned for less than a year, and then sold for a $500,000 profit. But before it became infused with an indelible hipster essence, Bushwick looked more like a war zone than a place that has really good coffee.
There are still dumpster fires, but they're ironic dumpster fires.
1970s New York City was a magical city where anything could happen, provided you were an arson-prone landlord who wanted to collect insurance. Throughout the city, entire blocks of buildings were set ablaze, and sometimes even left to just spread on their own by authorities who were stretched too thin.
Some firemen just want to watch the world burn.
No area of the city was hit harder by the anarchy than Bushwick. And it all reached a breaking point with a citywide blackout on July 13, 1977, which ironically caused many neighborhoods to light up like roman candles.
As recounted in the famous story of Moses and the burning Bushwick.
Over 25 buildings centered around the main thoroughfares were completely burned down. Developing a taste for the flames, a mere five days later some teenagers started a fire in an old knitting factory which set off a chain of events that included exploding kerosene tanks, blocks-long fuckwalls of fire, severe loss of home and life, and a hell of a mess for the Bushwick Tourism Board to walk into on Monday.
"I wonder if Dave's Rubble Outlet is open on Sundays."
The two-square-mile neighborhood of just over 100,000 residents was transformed almost overnight, speeding up an already-alarming migration of people out of the area. At the beginning of the decade, 138,000 people lived in Bushwick. By the time the '80s arrived, it was down to 93,000, turning the place into a ghost town. And the crack epidemic had yet to hit.
But something happened during the '90s. Crime plummeted (thanks to Giuliani killing all the homeless people), and businesses felt safe to return to the neighborhood without fear of creosote poisoning. People gradually began moving back, and now the hotel business there is booming. Like a gentrified phoenix, Bushwick rose from the ashes to become a home for that obnoxious person from high school you can't stand.
The Eiffel Tower Was A Dystopian Beacon
Nazis were the original 14-year-olds in that they just loved drawing Swastikas over everything. After capturing Paris, Nazis turned the City Of Light into a big ole Swastika party, with their symbols being hung from every cafe and baguette shop in a ten-mile radius. But their piece de lack of resistance must have been when the fascists got to the Eiffel Tower, the ultimate symbol of progress, and decided to make it their beacon of oppression.
They next ordered France to build America a Statue Of Tyranny.
Getting Paris was a big "win" for the Germans, as the city stood for everything the Nazis despised: unity, love, and fun. So when the German army entered the city on June 14, 1940, one of the first things the soldiers did was tack a massive V For Victory onto the Eiffel Tower, directly above a banner proclaiming "Germany is victorious on all fronts!" This is so flaccidly trollish that it would almost be funny were it not for the historical context. The newly conquered French had only to look up at their most prized monument to know what the score was.
Which was still nowhere near as gauche as when the Fuhrer himself came to visit and posed next to the Eiffel Tower like a teenager on his first trip abroad.
"Are you sure we can't put a big 'H' on it?"
But the French, ever defiant, knew their new overlords would try to corrupt everything they held dear. So before the Germans could get to Paris, some geniuses decided to cut the elevator cables in the Eiffel Tower, meaning Nazi command had to send soldiers scrambling up the side to plant their stupid Nazi flag. And the soldiers succeeded ... for a couple of hours, until the massive flag they erected blew away. They eventually replaced it with a much smaller flag. The anti-Nazi graffiti basically wrote itself after that.
Las Vegas Used To Have A Nuclear Bomb Lightshow
Up till now, we've been talking about places that in the past fell on some hardship. After all, no place on earth wants to look like it's a giant billboard for the end of days, right? No place except Las Vegas, of course, which courts disaster like craziness is the only thing keeping the desert from encroaching. That must be why, in the '50s, when the fear of a mushroom-shaped death was on everyone's mind, Vegas decided to turn nuclear holocaust into a glitzy show.
"So, uh, about that 'Fallout marketing campaign' thing ..."
You see, back in those days, the government was still testing atomic bombs, presumably because they looked super bitchin' and they had no idea when they were going to get to use one again. They tested over a thousand bombs a mere 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. By this time, the nuclear bombs were so goddamned big and powerful that Vegas tourists could easily see the mushroom clouds and light from the city. So while any other city would petition the army to either test their world-ending death weapons a little further away or maybe, y'know, not at all, the Vegas Chamber Of Commerce made up schedules and calendars giving tourists exact detonation times of the bombs, and even suggested the best spots for watching them.
Visitors to Vegas, on balance, aren't good at assessing risk.
The Desert Inn, among other casinos, made good use of their north-facing properties and even started serving themed drinks called "atomic cocktails." Other places would host "Dawn Bomb Parties," and "Miss Atomic Energy" would be crowned at the Sands hotel, with all of the contestants dressed in their finest mushroom cloud-shaped gowns.
The swimsuit part was always won by whichever woman had the most pronounced tailbone.
These tests went on until 1963, when the Limited Test Ban Treaty stopped the military from bombing parts of America like they were trying to get rid of super-termites. After that, Vegas had to stop trying to squeeze money out of the Cold War (and do more matinee shows to compensate), and all those death-obsessed tourists had to settle for the thrill of betting their kids' college money on blackjack.
Behind every awful movie is the idea for a good one. Old man Indiana Jones discovers aliens. Good in theory, bad in practice. Batman fights Superman. So simple, but so bad. Are there good translations of these movies hidden within the stinking turds that saw the light of day? Jack O'Brien hosts Soren Bowie, Daniel O'Brien, and Katie Willert of 'After Hours' on our next live podcast to find an answer as they discuss their ideal versions of flops, reboots, and remakes. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!
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