5 Serious Historical Events That Became Goofy Farces
If history were a person, it'd be a stuffy old white guy in an ascot who still says the word "orientals." Or so historians would have you believe. In reality, history is more like a toga-wearing frat boy named Moose who duct-tapes malt liquor bottles to his hands before he gropes you. See, some of the most serious moments in history were total farces behind the scenes. Like how ...
The Manhattan Project's Safety Standards Were So Bad That A Guy Once Accidentally Swallowed Plutonium
One would assume the Manhattan Project had some rigorous safety standards, what with the atomic bombs and all.
One would be wrong.
An example: During one of the project's critical experiments, the only thing keeping the whole shebang from going nuclear was a single screwdriver held by a nearby technician. Naturally, the screwdriver slipped, and the plutonium went critical, killing the technician.
This happened twice.
They nicknamed it the "demon core," because it was easier to blame the deaths on an evil experiment rather than horribly lax safety protocols.
And then there was the case of scientist Don Mastick, who once picked up a vial of plutonium, unaware that some of the liquid inside had converted into gas. When he tried to uncork it, the vial popped open and sent plutonium spewing into his mouth. He washed his mouth out with sodium citrate and repeatedly pumped his stomach, then handed the contents to a colleague and told him to go separate out the precious plutonium. No point wasting it, right?
Mastick survived without any major health problems, though for days afterward, his breath remained so radioactive that it could affect sensitive lab equipment from across the room. Did he use his powers to briefly fight crime as a superpowered vigilante? History doesn't say, so we're forced to assume that yes, he did, and further that his name was Dr. Meltmouth.
The First Time Mao Met Stalin, Stalin Stole Mao's Shit
Mao Zedong made his first historic visit to Moscow in 1949, and for some reason, Joseph Stalin declined to meet with him for several days. It was almost as if Stalin was ... putting it off. Once could even say he ... delayed the meeting. Get it?
Anyway, Mao became convinced that the place was bugged, and took to shouting at the walls that he was there "to do more than eat and shit." Which we know, because obviously the place was bugged.
But it's the shitting part the Soviets were truly interested in. According to former Soviet agent Igor Atamanenko, the Russians had secretly disconnected all the sewage lines in the house and rerouted the pipes to special boxes, which collected Mao's bodily waste each night. Stalin himself ordered secret police chief Lavrenti Beria to steal his rival's precious poop, in what was surely the stupidest espionage plot hatched this side of a Tom Clancy novel.
According to Atamanenko, the Soviets were trying to put together a psychological profile of Mao, and thought stool analysis could help with that. For example, if their tests found an excess of the amino acid Tryptophan, they might conclude that Mao was a pretty chill dude. But not enough potassium would mean he was a real nervous nelly, and probably not down to party. Sadly, we do not know what results they came up with, but in a bit of happy news for Mao, he eventually got his revenge on the Soviets. He forced Nikita Khrushchev to don water wings and nervously doggy-paddle around in a swimming pool, all while Mao swam laps around him.
LBJ Announced The First African American Presidential Secretary By Having Her Stump Contestants On A Game Show
Geraldine "Gerri" Whittington broke barriers when she became the first African American executive secretary to the president. Since the president in question was Lyndon "Let Me Show You My" Johnson, you can bet that he handled the announcement like only he could.
First, he broke the news to Whittington by cold-calling her at 10 p.m. and asking her to come to the White House. Once she got there, Johnson told her about the promotion, and that he intended to announce it by having her appear on the hit game show What's My Line?, which featured celebrity panelists trying to guess the occupation of mystery guests.
She waited for him to laugh.
He did not.
See, Johnson didn't want to hold a big press conference to announce his new hire, because that would've been the presidential equivalent of boasting about your one black friend. Johnson also knew that What's My Line? would get way bigger ratings than any press conference, though his plans were almost spoiled when Jet broke the news of Whittington's appointment with a full-page profile ...
Luckily, even in the age of magazines, nobody read magazines.
Whittington appeared on the show as planned. Journalist Dorothy Kilgallen eventually guessed that she was a secretary in the White House, and that's how racism was ended forever.
Civil War Soldiers Continually Stopped Fighting ... To Watch Fistfights
During the extremely bloody Battle of the Wilderness, one Union and one Confederate soldier ended up hiding together in the same gully. Naturally, they tried to take each other prisoner, which devolved into a bare-knuckle boxing match.
Eventually, the fight spilled into view of the rest of the battle, which promptly came to a halt as both sides stopped firing ... so they could get closer to the fight and cheer for their boy. The Confederate fighter won and took the Yankee prisoner, as was agreed upon before the fight.
A similar report came out of 1862, in a battle near Fredericksburg, wherein a Wisconsin regiment had gotten into a shootout with the Confederates that somehow became personal for two soldiers. A makeshift truce was called solely so the two soldiers could punch each other in the face in relative peace. A few missing teeth and bruised kidneys later, and the fight was declared a draw, and anyway, that's probably how the Civil War ended.
The Soviets Grabbed A Random Peasant Off The Street And Took Him To Negotiate Russia Pulling Out Of World War I
In 1917, Lenin's Bolsheviks seized control of Moscow, and decided to try to win the hearts and minds of ordinary Russians with the bold new policy of not making them run straight at German machine guns. To that end, they scheduled a peace conference in Brest-Litovsk to end Russian involvement in the First World War. Although the delegation was led by prominent activists, the Bolsheviks made a point of also bringing a soldier, a sailor, and an urban worker to really hammer home that communism was all about the good of the common people.
But you know how it goes when packing for a trip -- something always gets forgotten. In this case, the politicians were on their way to the train station when they realized they had forgotten to bring a peasant!
So they cruised around town until they spotted an elderly guy in shitty clothes, lured him into the car with promises of beets or something, and then told him he was coming to negotiate peace with the Germans. That man was Roman Stashkov, and he was only trying to get back to his village when he suddenly found himself sitting across from European royalty. He rolled with it pretty well, although he apparently kept addressing the other delegates as "master," and when asked whether he wanted red or white wine, he inquired, "which one is the strongest?"
Somebody crack a window, because we smell a motherfuckin' sitcom.
Friendly reminder that Stalin was a monster. Read more in Stalin: Waiting For Hitler.
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