5 Stupid Rumors That Spiraled Out Of Control Super Fast
Humanity is a rich mosaic of vastly different beliefs and cultures. What's true in one place may not be true in another. But one thing we all have in common, no matter where you look: We as a species will hurry to believe any old crap someone spews out, as long as it's an interesting story. Sometimes it does us no harm to throw caution to the wind and skip Snopes for the day. But other times ...
A Finger "Found" In Wendy's Chili Costs Them $21 Million
At one point, you were almost certainly put off of Wendy's when you heard reports that someone had found a human finger in their tragically good chili. Well, you'll be happy to know it was the work of a con artist with a history of legal scams, and not a clumsy cook. It seems like a pretty ballsy move to claim you found a body part in your food with nothing to show for it. That's why she planted a real human finger.
"Where the hell did she get a human finger?" you may ask.
From her husband, who had recently lost it in an industrial accident.
"Why on Earth would he give her his finger?"
They had a bet.
"Exactly what kind of bet?"
"So her first instinct was to plant it in a cup of Wendy's chili?"
Apparently. Look, we don't have all the answers.
Like why did the hospital give him the finger back in the first place? Did they think there was some kind of "Finger Fairy"? And how did-
The police weren't fooled for long by the bizarre scheme, but the damage was done. The fast food chain suffered an estimated $21 million in lost business, and several franchises were forced to lay off workers to compensate. To try to repair their image and bring back customers, Wendy's spent two days giving away finger-free junior Frosties. Almost ten years later, so many people still believed the story that Snopes had to officially debunk it. Meanwhile, the Finger Master and her husband were sentenced to some lengthy prison time, and upon release, she was banned from Wendy's for life.
You do not fuck with Dave Thomas.
The Associated Press Gets Hacked And Tweets That The White House Got Bombed, Sending The Stock Market Spiraling
Social media is becoming alarmingly important in the modern world, and nowhere (outside of Trump's Twitter timeline) is that fact made more apparent than the time the Associated Press Twitter account was hacked. That's an ambitious target -- it's not just the news, it's the place where news comes from. It's the news stork. Sadly, the hackers did not choose to make the most of their newfound power by announcing that Netflix had ordered five new seasons of Firefly. Instead they tweeted this:
In hindsight, the clumsily worded tweet -- with no link to an accompanying article -- is clearly fishy, but a headline declaring that the most powerful man in the free world has been attacked in the most secure place in America tends to shut off the ol' critical thinker. Keep in mind that this was only a few days after the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon, so people weren't exactly primed to stay calm and skeptical. Digital shock waves were felt almost instantaneously, most catastrophically in the stock market. The Dow Jones dropped an astounding 150 points within minutes.
For the financially inexperienced among you, that's like suddenly losing an entire bindle's worth of hooch.
The White House press secretary squashed news of the bombing right quick, but not before an amount of money that doesn't even seem real -- $136 billion -- was wiped out of the market. Don't worry, they put it back ... somehow. Honestly, stock stuff is practically voodoo.
The scariest part is that the responsible party wasn't a bunch of idiot kids. A group of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporters calling themselves the Syrian Electronic Army claimed to be behind the hack, which they accomplished by whipping up a convincing-looking AP email address and phishing staffers. Soon after the incident, they tweeted: "Ops! @AP get owned by Syrian Electronic Army! #SEA #Syria #ByeByeObama."
OK yes, it was a bunch of idiot kids. It can be two things.
War Of The Worlds Causes Riots ... In Ecuador
A radio broadcast of War Of The Worlds didn't really provoke mass panic back in 1930s New York, but people with very little faith in humanity's collective intelligence will be pleased to know that it did happen somewhere. In 1949, Ecuador's most popular station, Radio Quito, decided to run a Spanish adaptation of the play. That proved to be a bad decision when the entire city of Quito lost its collective shit.
There were a couple of crucial differences between the Orson Welles broadcast and its Ecuadorian reboot. The latter didn't open with a disclaimer, for one thing. And where Welles invented phony experts to provide commentary, "La Guerra de los Mundos" featured solid impersonations of real public figures, like the archbishop of Quito, and the on-air "death" of one of their most popular personalities.
Panicked listeners flooded the streets, and with the president out of town and unable to clear the mess up, even police and military rushed to the presumed landing site to throw down with the extraterrestrial menace. Even skeptics freaked out. After all, it might not have been aliens, but it sure as shit could have been a cleverly disguised Peru, which could have ... developed ... death rays? You don't know.
People say a priest performed an impromptu mass confession session right there on the street. That's how sure everyone was that they were gonna die. In actuality, only one person passed away (an electrician who was literally scared to death) before Radio Quito decided their dramatic experiment had gone a little too far and told the audience what was really going on. The panicked mob suddenly became an angry one. They swarmed Radio Quito's building, where 100 employees had barricaded themselves, and burned that mother down. At least six people died before soldiers returned from their alien hunt to break up one of the most savage art reviews of all time.
India And Pakistan Almost Went To War Over A Prank Phone Call
India and Pakistan have fought four wars, not to mention fostered the fiercest rivalry in international cricket history. It's fair to say that they don't get along at the best of times, but in November 2008, the situation was particularly tense. Terrorists operating out of Pakistan had just laid siege to Mumbai. In the midst of the crisis, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari took a phone call from Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who had a simple message: If Pakistan didn't sort out its jihad problem right goddamned then, they were going to war.
India's army is much stronger than their neighbor's, meaning that if things escalated to all-out war, Pakistan's options were (a) lose badly, or (b) aim its nukes at the invaders, then blindly mash buttons and hope for the best, like your cousin playing Street Fighter II. Pakistan's air force went to high alert. Fighter jets patrolled the skies, loaded with live ammo and ready for a fight. Meanwhile, President Zardari worked the phones, desperate to find an ally who could throw cold water on India's war-boner.
Finally he got hold of Condoleezza Rice, who agreed it would be best if Southern Asia wasn't reduced to a Bollywood-inspired Mad Max sequel. She called Mukherjee in the middle of the night to politely ask why he was threatening to attack his neighbor, and then rang Zardari back to report that India had no idea what the hell he was talking about. It turns out an unknown maniac had inserted themselves into the diplomatic crisis via prank call, pretending to be Mukherjee, and tried to start a war. Transcripts of the discussions that followed are unavailable, but we assume the phrase "Are you fucking shitting me?" features heavily.
Publicly, Pakistan insisted they followed the right procedures and that the call definitely came from the Indian government. India accused its rival of either lying or being too clueless to screen its calls properly. But fortunately, both stepped back from the brink of war, and settled once again into their old routine of angry fist-shaking and the odd border skirmish.
A year later, a Pakistani newspaper revealed the true culprit. According to investigators, the call had come from inside Pakistan. From inside a high-security prison cell, to be more specific. The caller was convicted terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh. If the name doesn't ring a bell, he's the one who murdered American journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002. He somehow managed to not only score a contraband phone (no small feat inside max), but also reach the goddamn president and almost succeed in starting a war. If he ever figures out how to sign up for Twitter, we're completely screwed.
Britain's Iraq War Dossier Was Based On A Rumor From A Cabbie
The Iraq War was a tragically unnecessary endeavor, based on faulty information that too few bothered to question. Offhand, do you know what that information was? It was a dossier released by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, detailing the intel gathered by MI6 on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In other words, it was 50 pages of "Holy shit, Saddam's gonna nuke us, and he could do so in as little as 45 minutes." That "45 minutes" bit is what scared the crap out of everyone, and understandably added a sense of urgency.
The only problem was that it had no credibility. It turned out that MI6 came up with that time frame based on the word of a cab driver, who had overheard a conversation in his back seat years before the invasion. If you've ever asked the Uber guy for a restaurant recommendation, you know they're not a reliable source. Still, MI6 took the guy's word for it ... for some reason. A weapons expert named David Kelly tried to warn people that according to inside information, the UK government was exaggerating, using it as a pretext to go to war. He was found dead before anyone could double-check the "random cabbie" resources. Of course, as we now know, there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There sure are a lot of dead people, though. And for that, you can blame the ... cab driver?
That doesn't sound right.
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