4 Scary Moments In History That Were Worse Than You Realized
World wars, serial killers, that brief and terrible window when Robin Thicke was everywhere -- the past is full of harrowing, nightmarish things. But today we go even deeper, looking into already-nasty historical events ... that hide even darker underbellies. Like a Kinder Surprise, if the chocolate was horror and the surprise was even more horror.
The Unabomber May Have Been The Product Of A Brutal Psychological Experiment
Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, is one of the most famous murder-hermits of all time, and that's saying a lot. He is generally perceived to be a violent, paranoid schizophrenic, and rightfully so. But there are parts of his story many don't know.
Kaczynski was messed up, sure, but he was also brilliant. He attended Harvard in 1958, when he was only 16. Impressive as that may sound, it may also very well have been the start of his spiral into madness. In 1959, a group of psychologists from Harvard's Department of Social Relations apparently decided that they hadn't quite filled their evil science quota. So they got a group of 22 students, young Ted among them, to enlist in a blatantly torturous psychological experiment.
First the test subjects were tasked with writing an essay that would reveal their personal beliefs -- the values and tenets they held most dear. Students were then supposed to debate their beliefs with a fellow undergraduate. But the "debate" consisted of being covered in electrodes, then sitting in a bright room facing a one-way mirror, while a law student who had been specifically prepped to verbally abuse the subjects tore their ideas and values apart. Then, after the participants had been ridiculed and humiliated to the verge of extreme anger, they were called back to watch the recordings of the procedures. They had their very world torn apart, then had to sit down and watch how stupid they really were on TV. It'd be like signing up for a charity run, then finding out you'd been pressed onto Jersey Shore.
The experiments were conducted between 1959 and 1962, and headed by Professor Henry A. Murray, who was already somewhat (in)famous for his work with the OSS and the CIA. They took place in a mansion/laboratory known as the Annex, because clearly, no one here was even remotely interested in pretending they weren't supervillains. Our first piece of evidence: The researchers gave all their subjects bizarre code names. Ted's was, ironically, "Lawful."
The fact that Kaczynski first displayed his signature hostility toward technology in 1962, right when the Murray study ended, is clearly a coincidence. Also coincidence: The "un" part in "Unabomber" is because he preferred targets associated with universities.
The Government Sent Hundreds Of Thousands Of Unfit People To The Vietnam War As "The Moron Troops"
Most people associate the Vietnam War with three things: Creedence Clearwater Revival, Good Morning Vietnam, and John Rambo. Oh, and the protests and death and all that.
In 1966, all those protests presented President Lyndon B. Johnson with a problem. He needed a metric ton of fresh soldiers to feed into the pit of escalating terror Vietnam had become, but couldn't afford the massive backlash that abolishing student deferments or calling up hordes of reserves was sure to create. Luckily for him, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had a way to do this while avoiding unwanted civil upset from concerned citizens: Simply focus the recruiting effort on poor, unfit, and disadvantaged people.
Dubbed "Project 100,000," McNamara's plan was sold to the public as a way for impoverished youth to gain education and work their way out of poverty. In reality, they threw all previous fitness and mental regulations to the wind and started targeting people who had previously been rejected as unfit to serve. The recruiters targeted Southern backwoods and urban ghettos (a whopping 41 percent of the recruits were black, as opposed to the 12 percent of the troops as a whole), and brought in at least one kid with an IQ of 62.
Unsurprisingly, these recruits weren't exactly Captain America material. "The Moron Corps," as Project 100,000 troops were charmingly nicknamed, were hauled off to enter combat in disproportionate numbers. The exact number of their dead is hard to come by, but we're hazarding a guess that when compared to the rest of the troops, the word "disproportionate" is a good fit there, too.
Even more damning is that McNamara created the program a few months after he privately admitted that the war was unwinnable. But hey, at least "Project 100,000" is something of a misnomer. In reality, the U.S. didn't send anywhere close to a hundred thousand woefully unfit soldiers to serve as cannon fodder in Vietnam ...
... They actually sent 354,000.
The Worst Enemy Of Napoleon's Army Was Napoleon Himself
Napoleon was notoriously lax in feeding his dreaded Grande Armee. An old Polish saying -- "Bread? There is none" -- was so popular with the troops that Napoleon himself once shot it back at a hungry soldier who asked him for food. Generally, it's the commander's job to boost morale, not engage in cynical memes about starvation.
During the 1798 Egyptian campaign, 55,000 of Napoleon's troops endured a brutal three-day desert march from Alexandria to Cairo. They died like flies from heat, thirst, the occasional Bedouin attack, and suicide. This wasn't particularly good news for the Egyptians, either. By the time the army reached the Nile, half-crazed soldiers tore through the area in a looting rampage that did little to endear Napoleon to the local populace. Of course, Napoleon learned precisely nothing from this exercise in troop hydration, and put his men through an even crazier ten-day desert march, which went exactly as well as you'd think. When they finally reached their destination in Syria, the exhausted troops were greeted with a plague and prompt defeat at the hands of an Ottoman and English coalition.
Surviving The Atomic Bomb Was Only The Start Of The Ordeal
The aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki left over a million survivors worrying about injuries, illness, and homelessness. On top of it all, they were treated as total outcasts and third-class citizens by their own country for the rest of their lives. Back then, radioactivity was invisible, mysterious, and terrifying. Who's to say that the survivors really survived anything at all?
Yeah, you know where this is going.
Japan treated the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki like the ghouls from Fallout. They feared the survivors would spread radiation-related diseases to those around them. Even their scarring was considered contagious. They were dubbed hibakusha -- "atomic bomb survivors" -- and actively shunned by the rest of society. Survivors found it difficult to secure jobs or housing. Many also found it impossible to marry -- after all, there was no telling what crazy mutants their irradiated loins might give birth to. Japan didn't even bother setting up proper healthcare for the victims until the 1950s, because hey, with any luck, they'd all die out.
But that's because it was a different time, right? Not so much. The victims of the 2011 Fukushima disaster may lack the keloid scars that many A-bomb survivors bear, and officially, they're treated fine -- maybe even as heroes. But scratch the surface, and everything indicates that they get the same hibakusha treatment as their WWII counterparts in day-to-day life.
So the lesson here is, uh ... don't ... don't have bad things happen to you?
Try to do that.
It's still probably worth studying what the Unabomber was talking about -- here's a helpful book on the subject.
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