5 World-Famous Tourist Landmarks (With Messed-Up Histories)
Some places are renowned across the world due to their awe-inspiring architecture, cultural significance, or because someone carved a bunch of dead guys' faces on a mountain. What the tour guides don't tell you is that some gruesome stuff has gone down at many of those locations. The older a landmark is, the higher the chances that it has witnessed some messed-up stuff. Like how ...
Cops Attacked Hundreds At Stonehenge
There's no evidence that druids ever used Stonehenge for human sacrifice, but that didn't stop the police from trying it out on June 1, 1985. In the largest mass arrest of British civilians since World War II, 1,300 cops came down hard on 600 would-be partiers, including some who were carrying babies (outside and inside their bodies). Heads were clubbed, hair was pulled, and colored van windows were smashed.
To be fair, those hippie vans were probably in dire need of ventilation.
Due to faulty intelligence, the cops were under the impression that the visitors were a ragtag army outfitted with chainsaws, hammers, Molotov cocktails, and even guns. You know, typical hippie stuff. In reality, they were weed-lovers of all ages, including many families, who were trying to throw a free festival without the proper permits. The cops re-rerouted the convoy of buses to a roadblock, then began destroying the vehicles and dragging people out.
And that was just the warm-up. Later, they put on riot gear and began beating people with truncheons and setting cars on fire, and they even killed seven dogs. It's easy to get carried away when you're "in the zone." All those arrested and beaten were then charged with obstruction of justice (as in, their faces obstructed the path of all those batons).
The hippies might have faced criminal proceedings if it wasn't for the unlikely help of a powerful aristocrat. The night before, the convoy had stayed in an area owned by the Earl of Cardigan, who decided to follow the group on a motorbike, probably out of the same curiosity that motivates David Attenborough. He witnessed the full horror of the police brutality, and since rich people matter more than some poor saps, his testimony was key in helping the civilians. For his efforts, the conservative press labeled him a class traitor, but at least he never has to pay for a doobie ever again.
The Golden Gate Bridge And Brooklyn Bridge Were Built On Death And Misery
The Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges are among the most famous in the world, and two of the three that most people can actually name. And all it took to make them a reality was ... wanton and reckless disregard for human life.
San Francisco built the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression, which meant that people poured in from all over the country to work on it. As a consequence, regulations were ... how should we put it ... nonexistent. Workers would go up the 746 feet to construct the bridge with prayers as their main source of support.
Shockingly, people died. On February 17, 1937, workers stripped a section of the catwalk to move, but instead of moving horizontally, they went vertical. Nine men died in the fall. Others were lucky enough to cling to pieces of steel jutting from the bridge. One man was tangled in a net when he hit the water. It dragged him so deep that when he emerged, he was bleeding from his ears and could probably speak Atlantean.
The Brooklyn Bridge was no picnic for its builders either. They worked in poorly ventilated underwater chambers, and would continually get decompression sickness. And once it was finished, things got even worse. People distrusted the bridge because it was so huge, perhaps fearing it would develop awareness and conquer the city. Shortly after the opening, someone cried out that there was danger, which caused danger, since a crowd panicked and tried to flee. The massive, pointless stampede killed at least 12 people and injured 35 more. Frankly, it's a miracle that pitchfork-wielding New Yorkers didn't torch the bridge overnight as revenge, vowing to never again use this demonic technology.
The Sculptor Of Mt. Rushmore Was A Huge White Supremacist
Gutzon Borglum, named after his father's sneeze, designed Mt. Rushmore, and it's no secret that he blasted it out of sacred Native land. But this decision resulted less from a "Well, we need land" reasoning, and more from a "We must purify the land of the unclean races"-type mentality.
See, Borglum's first claim to fame was the Confederate Memorial at Stone Mountain, Georgia -- a gigantic monument funded by the Ku Klux Klan.
Borglum was not merely sympathetic to the KKK's ideology and goals; he was damn near a member himself. While he never wore a white pillowcase on his head, he attended rallies, served on committees, and became so important to the organization that he would adjudicate disagreements between top leaders. He was good buds with D.C. Stephenson, a grand dragon. Stephenson was wealthy, and not only funded the sculpture of Confederate leaders on Stone Mountain, but also lent money to Borglum directly. The only thing that caused their relationship to sour a bit was when Stephenson was imprisoned for raping and murdering a woman.
Even after leaving the Stone Mountain project, Borglum didn't give up trying to glorify the Confederacy. During the initial years of Mt. Rushmore's construction in 1924, he worked on a new design for a coin that included Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback. The U.S. Mint rejected the design, because the only traitors we allow on currency are the ones who betrayed the British.
Central Park Destroyed A Black Neighborhood
Back in the 19th century, New York City's wealthy citizens decided they wanted some damn parks, because picnics, jogging, and yanking it in public are essentials elements of any big city. These merchants, bankers, and landowners formed a pro-park lobby, and went about petitioning the city to set aside land for a nice big one. They were successful, but the only problem was that a bunch of Black people lived on the land they wanted. But seeing as how this was the 1800s, this actually wasn't a problem at all.
The site of Central Park was home to a vibrant community called Seneca Village, which was two-thirds Black and one third Irish. They had homes, a school, and three churches, none of which stopped the city from branding them "squatters." The government then seized the land under eminent domain and squashed what was New York's first Black community. The fact that the inhabitants owned their land and used the legal system to challenge their eviction didn't matter at all.
It wasn't until 2001 that the city recognized the injustice against Seneca Village and returned ownership of the land to the descendants of ... ha ha, no, we can't even finish that sentence. They just put up a plaque noting what happened.
The Statue Of Liberty Represents The End Of Slavery (And America Totally Screwed That Message Up)
The Statue of Liberty has long been associated with immigration (hell, she's an immigrant herself), but that wasn't the original intention. Ellis Island didn't even open until six years after the statue's unveiling in 1886, and the "Give me your tired ..." poem wasn't inscribed on the base until 1903. So what was the statue all about at first? It was a monument to the abolition of slavery. Ever wonder what the broken chains at her feet are about? There you go.
The statue's creator, Edouard de Laboulaye, presided over a committee dedicated to helping newly freed slaves get on their feet with financial assistance after the Civil War. He figured racism was pretty much done in America, and decided that a giant statue of a lady in a robe would be the most logical way to commemorate this momentous turning point in history.
But by the time the statue was finished 20 years later, things hadn't turned out like good ol' Edouard envisioned. Reconstruction had failed, and Jim Crow laws set in a system of racism and violence we still haven't completely been able to ditch. Because of this, the Black community disavowed the statue's meaning. To them it was a sham, a tangible manifestation of America's shortcomings.
An 1886 editorial in The Cleveland Gazette didn't mince words: "Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the 'liberty' of this country is such as to make it possible for an industrious and inoffensive colored man in the South to earn a respectable living for himself and family ... The idea of the 'liberty' of this country 'enlightening the world,' or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme." Still, the statue needed to stand for something, and it shortly became immigration. Uh, let's not botch that one too, OK?
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