5 Real-Life Stories Way Crazier Than Any Movie (Part 1 of 2)
B-movies don't get a lot of respect from audiences, admittedly for good reasons. The acting is cringeworthy, the special effects aren't, the production values are "bankrupt" and "nonexistent," and the plots don't even vaguely resemble anything that could happen in real life.
Well, about that last point ...
A Suicidal Madman Unleashed A Pack Of Killer Animals On Small-Town Ohio
We know for a fact that some of you out there have unusual collecting habits. It might be serial killer memorabilia. It might be pictures of Robert Downey Jr's face. It might even be pony action figures, you twisted individual. Whatever it is, Terry Thompson, ex-resident of Zanesville, Ohio, has you beat. Thompson had a personal zoo containing a menagerie of dangerous animals -- everything from tigers and lions to cougars and (*shudder*) macaques. In other words, lethal killers that shouldn't be messed with unless you have a vendetta against your organs and/or extremities. And they should certainly not be set loose all at the same time.
Which is, of course, exactly what happened in 2011.
The first indication that something had gone wrong down on the Ol' Thompson Farm was when one of his neighbors went outside to tend to his horses and saw a black bear slowly ambling toward him. He turned back to the house, at which point he ran right into a lion. After managing to escape and locking himself in a barn, the neighbor grabbed a phone and (as we all would) called his mom. The lady in turn called 911, which promptly sent a deputy ... to book somebody for making prank phone calls.
Within minutes of arriving, however, the deputy had shot a wolf, bear, and lioness with his rifle. With more and more animals swarming the area, he linked up with three other deputies and went a-hunting. After a while, they wound up at Thompson's farm and discovered the cause of the outbreak. Thompson, a troubled Vietnam vet with money problems, had bolt-cuttered the cages and then shot himself, but not before scattering raw chicken over his body in the hopes that it'd be eaten. He almost got his wish; in order to inspect the body, the law had to retreat until a white tiger was finished snacking on it.
The day went on, but without Thompson to give any precise figures on how many creatures he'd freed, the lawmen were left shooting in the dark -- quite literally. Unable to find a missing grizzly, they had to rope in a thermal imaging helicopter to track down its hiding place.
All in all, 49 animals were killed, and on the off-chance that a local spinster would harvest their corpses for a fancy coat, they were disposed of in a mass grave. (Which you can look at, if you have a stomach for total sadness.)
An Off-Duty Firefighter Singlehandedly Stopped Armed Criminals From Stealing Uranium
Stop us if you've heard this one. A man visits his lady at her workplace. Bad guys with European accents and big guns storm the place for a heist. Police fail to be of any use to anyone. The man is forced to defuse the situation using his fists and balls of steel. If that sounds too cliched, let's add a twist to the premise: The whole thing happens in a nuclear plant. Oh, and for real.
Firefighter Anton Gerber was visiting his fiancee at her office, which happened to be the control room in a highly-enriched-uranium (HEU) depot in South Africa. At 1 a.m. on November 8, 2007, two teams of baddies came a-knockin', looking to steal the 1,000 pounds of HEU to use as fuel for nuclear bombs.
The Pelindaba Nuclear Facility was ... less than satisfactory when it came to security. After sneaking in and deactivating the alarms, Team One found the control room empty save for Gerber, his fiancee, and their dog, who, no joke, alerted the pair to the four armed intruders. Gerber immediately went McClane on Team One ... and was promptly shot in the chest. Despite that, he was able to get the word out that at least four armed men had infiltrated the facility. Police response time was supposed to be three minutes. They took 24.
Still, Gerber's call spooked the armed thieves enough that both teams decided to bail without taking anything. Only a six-pack's worth of HUE is enough to make a weapon, but these men had apparently seen enough movies to know this situation could only end with all of them getting exploded, dropped from skyscrapers, or both, so they made the right call.
A Disgruntled Gambler Held A Casino Hostage With An Unbeatable Bomb
On August 26, 1980, employees at Harvey's Resort Hotel and Casino discovered a mysterious box sitting smack dab in the middle of their employee lounge. Thinking that management had finally gotten rid of the vending machine that ate their bills, they investigated it ... only to find a note reading: "STERN WARNING TO THE MANAGEMENT AND BOMB SQUAD." The gist of it? If they so much as breathed on the bomb, it would blow up so hard that even the casino across the street would need serious renovations. There was no way to disarm it. The only one who knew how to move it was the blackmailer, and all he wanted in exchange for that information was $3 million in used $100 bills, delivered via helicopter.
Soon enough, the FBI had the casino cordoned off. It was now a matter of sending their best men to turn this jerk's bluff into scrap metal. The only problem was, the note wasn't kidding. It wasn't a bomb; it was a sophisticated piece of artwork containing over a thousand pounds of explosives and a variety of mechanisms designed to counter any and all attempts to defuse it. To this day, the FBI still refers to it as "unbeatable," and makes academy students study it just so they know to run like heck if they ever see anything like it.
So who was the master bomber who was telling the best specialists in the world to sit on it and swivel? That'd be "Big" John Birges, a former Luftwaffe pilot and millionaire / current disgraced gambling addict, who needed the money to cover the losses he'd made at that very casino. Birges had paid two guys to help him plant the bomb before rushing out to laugh maniacally and await the helicopter containing his booty. But it never came. Not because the casino owner had refused to pay out, no. It was because Birges' note contained such vague instructions as to where the FBI should drop the money that they couldn't find the place.
With the knowledge that they were somehow dealing with an awesome bomb-maker and a dopey note-writer, the FBI figured that it couldn't hurt to try to defuse the bomb. After all, what were they going to do, make it blow up worse? The result:
Thanks to Birges' thoughtful note, no one was injured by the blast, and the police were able to immediately switch tracks to hunting him down and throwing his butt in jail forever. Unless they secretly offered him a pardon in exchange for joining the Suicide Squad, that is.
A Man Spent Eight Years Completely Unable To Move His Body Or Communicate ... And His Hatred Of Barney Helped Him Break Free
Ever had sleep paralysis? It feels like it's just you locked in a darkened room, and you can't move, and no one is coming except for the horrific monster who's there to eat your soul. Well, replace the succubus with Barney the Dinosaur and dial the frequency up to "all the time, ever," and you've got a good idea of the living nightmare that Martin Pistorius endured.
Pistorius suffered from locked-in syndrome. His body was paralyzed, but his mind was still active and unable to communicate with the outside world. He was trapped like this for eight mothergoddamning years. So how do you stay sane when the rest of the world thinks you're comatose? Well, you eavesdrop on conversations and watch a crapload of TV. 9/11, Princess Diana's funeral, the dancing baby meme -- you name the historic event, Pistorius witnessed it from his hospital bed. That is, when he wasn't stuck watching hours upon hours upon hours of Barney And Friends. It was like this, but like, forever:
Oh, and to make matters worse, Pistorius was trapped with a brain determined to remind him not of how badly he was going to kick ass at trivia competitions when he recovered, but of the thought that he was never going to recover, and that he was nothing more than a drain on his parents. This feeling certainly didn't pass when his mother stared him in the eyes and, not knowing what we know, wished that he'd died. That alone would have been enough to drive us insane and despondent. But we aren't Martin MindMaster Pistorius.
Realizing that his best hope of survival lay in keeping his mind active, he fell into a regular routine of activities, such as telling the time by tracking the movement of sunlight in his room and, of course, wishing that Barney would get headshotted by a meteor. We're not joking. When Pistorius eventually recovered, he credited, in absence of any medical explanation, watching that clappy-happy junk all day with fortifying his mind until it was strong enough to punch through his paralysis and escape. See? In a way, he does love you, Martin.
WWII Veterans Fought Corrupt Sheriffs Over A Rigged Election On The Streets Of Tennessee
During the 1930s and '40s, the small town of Athens, Tennessee was a political no man's land where every election -- from state to sheriff to hall monitor -- was fixed to favor the interests of the local establishment. Well, either that or the town had cultivated a very politically active group of dead people. Corruption was an everyday thing for the civilian population, who'd pretty much gotten used to living in a fiefdom. Now, the local GIs ... that's another story.
Having heard about the town's situation while handing Nazis their behinds, the returning GIs immediately set about organizing their own slate of nonpartisan, non-corrupt candidates, promising a return to free elections. The local deputies responded to this heartwarming display of patriotism by beating and arresting any GIs they could get their hands on.
When the GIs tried to set up observers at every polling station during election day, the deputies arrested them and continued turning away voters, even going so far as to shoot one of them. An angry crowd of GIs soon started protesting outside the local jail, alleging (correctly) voter suppression and (definitely) dickishness of the highest order. The sheriff, himself up for reelection, told them to get lost. We wish we had his confidence, because remember, Adolf Hitler couldn't get these guys off his back. What sort of odds did he have?
The GIs responded by grabbing their guns and laying siege to the jail. It was 250 well-trained, battle-hardened killing machines versus 200 local deputies who were probably good for ticketing local drunks and helping rustle cattle and little else. It isn't known who fired the first shot, but both sides were soon trading fire using everything at their disposal -- pistols, shotguns, automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, everything short of missiles and nukes.
The townspeople took to the streets and watched, with some even going as far to serve refreshments and snacks to the soldiers. The GIs soon figured that it was time to cut the bull and called in the resident demolitions specialist to strap a few sticks of dynamite to the jail and bring the whole system tumbling down.
And you'd never guess what the GIs found when they opened up the ballot boxes: The townspeople had overwhelmingly voted for the GI candidates, presumably because the local cemetery hadn't yet bused in their load to swing the vote back. It was a victory for democracy, justice, and the solving-all-our-problems-with-guns way. (Though how awkward would it have been if they'd opened those ballot boxes to find that there wasn't a massive conspiracy and the townspeople hated their guts?)
Please join Cracked tomorrow for even more true stories that are too gonzo for your local cineplex.
Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook, and has a newsletter about depressing history that you should definitely subscribe to.
Dangerous best animals are best appreciated from behind a wall and in plushie form.
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