6 Normal People Who Turned Into Superheroes Out Of Nowhere
The best superhero origin stories aren't the ones where someone gets doused in radiation, or gets powers from magic aliens, or has lots of money and saw a bat one time. No, the best origin stories are about regular schlubs stumbling upon criminal shenanigans and deciding to stop them, because dammit, someone has to jump-kick a jaywalker while wearing purple tights, right? Here are six real crimefighters who make Batman look like Green Arrow, and Green Arrow look like Green Arrow (the TV version).
An Electrician Poses As A Pedophile To Save Girls From Sex Traffickers
In 2001, someone told Tony Kirwan about an American vacationing in Thailand who offered young girls $400 to "do-as-you please." But unlike most of us, who would respond by saying "That's horrifying," then trying to forget about it by not inviting that guy to parties anymore, Kirwan decided to rearrange his whole life to save sex trafficking victims from perverts. Even if it meant posing as a pervert himself.
Kirwan quit his job as an electrician to travel Southeast Asia undercover as an ... uh, "connoisseur" of really young children. His idea was to pretend to be a client, and once someone took him to the "merchandise," he'd then lead the girls to freedom. But it wasn't that easy. At first, none of the girls trusted him, because why would they? So Kirwan developed a method to earn the girls' trust, which mostly consisted of not touching them inappropriately.
Kirwan also started collaborating with local authorities to organize raids and sting operations. Not content with handing the girls to a social worker and riding into the sunset feeling good about himself, Kirwan also founded an organization called Destiny Rescue, which places trafficking victims in safe homes and helps them recover both physically and emotionally. Kirwan and his team of volunteers have rescued 2,000 children in the last seven years alone, which is 2,001 more than we ever will (we assume we will damn a child at some point in our lives, just playing the odds).
Average Joes Risk Their Lives To Recover Other People's Stolen Property
In 2015, a Seattle engineer we'll call "Bruce W." was looking at cheap bikes on Craigslist when he found one that seemed perfect, except for one problem: It was too cheap. Bruce looked up the model online and confirmed that the bike was stolen. No one would fault him if he'd simply alerted the owner, emailed the thief a photo of his butthole, and moved on. We've all been there.
The anonymous vigilante now scours Craigslist, OfferUp, and other dens of villainy for suspicious bikes, then cross-references them with ones reported stolen on Bike Index. It's a time-consuming task, since Seattle has tons of bikes, tons of drugs, and therefore tons of bike theft. Once he gets a match, he asks the seller to meet up ... which doesn't always go so well. One time, the thief recognized him from a previous incident and brought four pals, forcing Bike Batman to flee the scene. That episode probably explains why the two-wheeled crusader has started coordinating his stings with the police beforehand.
He's not alone. Snow removal worker Floyd Hall devotes four to six hours a day to snooping Facebook pages on stolen cars and digging through his tip-inundated inbox.
Once he spots a stolen car, he sends his A-Team (the "A" stands for "Anchorage") to road-block it while the police head over. That's if everything goes to plan. In 2017, Hall was shot while chasing a stolen car, which resulted in criminal charges ... for himself, due to reckless driving. If someone ever steals a police cruiser in Alaska, we've know who's not picking up the phone.
A Rocket Scientist And A Mystery Novelist Teamed Up To Solve Genetic Mysteries
One has a PhD in nuclear physics. The other used to write code and mystery novels. The only thing they had in common was a passion for genealogy ... and justice.
Colleen Fitzpatrick, the rocket scientist, already had some experience using DNA to solve historical mysteries, like the identity of a baby who drowned on the Titanic. Software developer / novelist Margaret Press, meanwhile, had some experience researching unsolved murders, and used to help adoptees find their biological parents. In 2017, the two women united their powers to form the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that uses genealogy to put a name to the nation's many, many nameless cadavers.
They took the case of the "Buckskin Girl," a Jane Doe who had stumped investigators since the early '80s, and solved it in only four hours by uploading her DNA to a public genealogy database, then recreating her family tree. They did this even though the original DNA sample was in pretty poor shape, due to not being refrigerated for 37 years. (Always read the back of the blood vial before you put it in the pantry!) We've previously mentioned that DNA Doe also solved the mystery of "Lyle Stevik," a suicide victim whose identity had baffled the internet for a decade.
Hell, two of the mystery people we talked about in this article have since been identified thanks to them (the other is "Joseph Newton Chandler"). Can Cracked therefore take all the credit for pointing these women in the right direction? Absolutely not. That's not even sort of correct. Will Cracked therefore take all the credit for pointing these women in the right direction? Gladly, and with shameless vigor!
An Accountant Identifies Murder Victims Through Better Police Sketches
Like most recently unemployed people, former Disney accountant Carl Koppelman spent a lot of time on the internet, especially on message boards. The difference is that, instead of getting in 20-page debates about whether or not Shrek is circumcised, Koppelman's message board addiction is identifying long-forgotten murder victims.
Koppelman stumbled upon amateur investigators site websleuths.com, which has a forum dedicated to identifying murdered John and Jane Does. But as he looked over the police sketches for these cases, Koppelman realized something: They sucked. So he loaded up a copy of Corel Photo-Paint and began modifying photos of unidentified dead bodies to simulate what they might look like if they were alive, which is way more complicated than drawing googly eyes on them.
And it worked. In 2015, Koppelman linked a missing person's photo with his reanimated sketch of a body that no one had been able to identify since 1979.
DNA testing confirmed the match, but Koppelman was only getting started. After helping identify five other dead bodies (and two live ones), he was asked to reconstruct a face based on nothing but some hazy photos of a skull with its jaw missing, no front teeth, and a bullet hole in the left temple. Even Koppelman didn't think he could pull that one off, but he ended up producing a sketch that authorities linked to a missing person from 1974. Thanks to Koppelman and his Corel skills, this murder investigation now has more to go on than just "Yep, she's dead, alright."
The Women Who Track Bogus Crowdfunding Campaigns
In 2015, the internet fell in love with Bart, the "zombie cat" who got ran over by a car, was buried, and clawed his way back to life. A GoFundMe to pay for his medical bills got more than $6,000. Remember that feel-good tale? So does financial reporter Adrienne Gonzalez, because she's the one who found out there were no bills. The Humane Society was paying for everything.
When Gonzalez informed GoFundMe about the situation, they responded by doing fuck all about it. So she took it upon herself to start GoFraudMe, a site that tracks crowdfunding scams. How does she determine which stories are fake? She says there's no simple formula, but sometimes it's as easy as Google image searching a campaign's photos and finding out that you're actually looking at a Swedish stock photo model.
Gonzalez isn't the only one doing this. In 2012, Taryn Wright's Facebook feed was inundated with the sad story of Dana Dirr, a gifted surgeon who died in a car crash right after giving birth to her 11th child ... on Mother's Day. Also, one of her sons, nine-year-old "Warrior" Eli, was fighting his fourth battle with cancer. Sure seems like a lot of tragedy for one family outside of a soap opera, but come on, the Dirrs had a long, dramatic history stretching back to the early 2000s. It couldn't all be fake, right?
As Wright soon determined, it could! Family photos had been stolen from a South African blog, and there was no record of Dana Dirr in the hospital where she "worked." Wright set up the Warrior Eli Hoax blog to out the 22-year-old medical student who had been faking the Dirr saga since she was a preteen, because it's really hard to get people to read your fanfiction, guys. Since then, Wright has exposed many other shameless scammers ... and befriended them out of serious concern for their mental health, because she's a way better person than us.
The Beach Bum Who Can't Get Out Of Bed Without Taking Down An Evil Cult
Paul Morantz was a self-described LA "beach bum" who'd studied law as a fallback but really wanted to become a professional writer. That didn't work out, because Morantz was apparently cursed to fight injustice wherever he went. In 1974, he stumbled upon the case of Golden State Manor, a nursing home that was basically abducting homeless people and keeping them doped up while making big bucks billing the government for their "care."
Having nothing better to do, Morantz spent two years building and winning a case against Golden State and the "dog-catchers" who fed hapless bums to them. He returned to focusing on his writing career, and even sold a TV movie of the week ... but then an old acquaintance came back to pull him right into the stakes-raising sequel.
Morantz was asked to help a girl held prisoner by a group called Synanon, a drug treatment program that gradually transitioned into a truly terrifying cult. They brutally assaulted anyone who opposed them, forced members into having abortions, and built a heavily armed "security force" known as the Imperial Marines. Not satisfied with merely getting the girl out, Morantz dedicated himself to taking Synanon down. The cult hated him so much that they put a live rattlesnake in his letter box, which is something we had no idea happened outside of kung fu movies.
Morantz survived, barely, but Synanon's founder was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and the cult collapsed, so it was all worth it. The snakebite left him with lifelong medical problems (he's currently housebound, and says his death will set a record for the longest murder). But if anything, this only gave Morantz more of a hate-boner against cults.
He ran the class-action lawsuit that put the sickening Center for Feeling Therapy out of business, organized the campaign that stopped the LAPD from being trained by the bizarre group known as est, and even fought early cases against Scientology. That's numerous major cults and a hobo-kidnapping conspiracy, all foiled by a guy who really only wanted to write and surf. By contrast, when we set out to write and surf, we barely manage to write, and certainly don't manage to surf. How does one just stumble onto justice?
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