6 Secret Plots With Twists Nobody Saw Coming

In the movies, secret plans usually go wrong because a man named "Agent Cobalt" fires his watch-laser at exactly the right clone. The reality is far, far less dignified. Here are some real-life schemes that went awry for reasons so absurd and ridiculous that no screenwriter would ever touch them.

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6
The Navy Used A Hunt For The Titanic As Cover For A Secret Mission ... Then Actually Found It

Back in the 1960s, the U.S. lost two nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic, as one does. Everyone just kind of let that go until the '80s, when Navy brass started getting increasingly nervous about all those reactors and missiles lying at the bottom of the ocean. They decided they needed to take a quick look down there, if only to make sure that a race of mutant squid-men hadn't become a nuclear power.

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Problem was, the Navy didn't want the Soviets to know that valuable American military secrets were just lying around, and they really didn't want the U.S. public to know that Godzilla might be about to burst from the depths. They needed a cover story for why they were suddenly plumbing the ocean floor, and "We think this is where President Reagan dropped his car keys" probably wasn't going to cut it. Enter the Titanic. Literally.

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Robert Ballard was an oceanographer who hoped to discover the famous wreck, but couldn't get funding for his underwater exploration vehicle. To his surprise, the Navy told him they would fund an expedition, but that the hunt for the Titanic would just be a cover story for investigating the sunken subs. Kind of a good news / bad news situation there.

Ballard kept begging to have a quick real look for the Titanic until the Navy finally got tired of the whining and said he could have any leftover time if the mission wrapped up early. Since the subs weren't leaking any nuclear material, the Navy ended up giving Ballard 12 days to look for Leonardo DiCaprio's corpse, probably figuring that it wouldn't be enough to cover a vast area of the ocean. But he did it. He actually found the Titanic.

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To the Navy's complete horror, Ballard became an instant celebrity and the media became very interested in the details of this "totally not looking for nuclear subs" expedition. The military managed to keep the story classified until 2017 (though some details had leaked by the late '90s). We wouldn't be surprised if they gave James Cameron $200 million just to make a movie that would throw everyone off the scent.

Related: 5 Slapstick Failures By Modern Military Commanders

5
South Korea Trained Assassins To Attack North Korea, But They Snapped And Attacked South Korea Instead

In 1968, North Korea sent 31 assassins across the border to kill South Korean president Park Chung-hee. The plan failed due to a standard North Korean problem: The assassins were just too gosh darn nice. When some woodcutters ran across their camp, the strike team let them go if they pinky-swore they wouldn't tell anyone. The woodcutters, of course, immediately tattled, violating the sanctity of the pinky-swear for the first time in history. The assassins were caught in a bloody battle outside Seoul. But this entry isn't about them; it's about South Korea's even nuttier revenge.

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President Park, not the most original guy, decided to send 31 assassins of his own to kill North Korean leader Kim Il-sung. To that end, the government recruited 31 street toughs and shipped them off to an assassination training camp on an isolated island. The camp's logo was a skull and crossbones made with real human bones, which was not a good sign of what was to come.

At least we know the camp's arts and crafts class was a success.Yang Dong-soo/National Intelligence ServiceAt least we know the camp's arts and crafts class was a success.

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It's important to note that South Korea wasn't rainbows and boy bands under Park, who had come to power in a military coup. Training on the island was so insanely brutal that one recruit died of exhaustion and six others were executed by their trainers. To make matters worse, relations with North Korea thawed and the assassination was repeatedly put on hold, leaving the team completely isolated on Murder Island for over three years. Shockingly, this situation wasn't exactly great for their mental health.

In 1971, the team snapped and murdered 18 of their trainers, which we guess counts as graduating from assassin school. They then escaped to the mainland and hijacked a bus to Seoul. Their exact motives are unclear, but President Park wasn't about to take any chances with 24 rogue assassins bearing down on him, especially not ones he'd personally had trained to kill heads of state and given every reason to hold a grudge. The military killed most of the team in another bloody battle outside Seoul, and the surviving four were later executed. The government covered the whole thing up until the '90s, by which time not even this story could make the South seem like "the crazy Korea."

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Related: 6 Propaganda Campaigns That Backfired Hilariously

4
CIA Agents Fell For A Ponzi Scheme In The Investment Agency They Were Using For Cover

Ronald Rewald was the hottest playboy in 1980s Hawaii, itself an incredibly hot place full of playboys. He was one of Honolulu's richest men, so naturally the CIA was delighted when he patriotically offered to let them use his investment firm Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dillingham, & Wong for a cover story. A number of undercover agents were given "day jobs" pretending to work at Bishop Baldwin. Unfortunately, Rewald was also pretending to work at Bishop Baldwin, because the entire firm was in truth a Ponzi scheme.

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Bishop, Baldwin, and Dillingham weren't even real people, just the names of famous wealthy Hawaiians (it was basically the equivalent of calling a company Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, & McDuck). Rewald himself was covering up a criminal record in Wisconsin, which he cunningly prevented the CIA from discovering by, uh ... asking them not to. An official justified this by writing that Rewald was "a champion sprinter, a former professional football player, a pilot, a devout churchgoer and a hugely successful businessman," on top of an all-around stand-up guy. When later asked where he got all this information, he replied that Rewald had told him.

He was on the cover of <i>Honolulu Magazine</i>! So was everyone else in Honolulu, but still.Honolulu Magazine"He was on the cover of Honolulu Magazine! So was everyone else in Honolulu, but still."

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Once the jig was up, Rewald attempted suicide, but he survived to face trial, where a bunch of CIA agents testified that they had lost everything investing with Bishop Baldwin. Even the head of the CIA's Hawaii station got his family in on the deal. The whole affair was a huge embarrassment for the agency -- not just because Rewald implausibly tried to claim the CIA was behind the scheme (people running a Ponzi scheme tend not to invest their own life savings), but more importantly because it suggested America's top spies could be taken in by a random Midwest crook pretending to be Hawaiian aristocracy. At this point, we're pretty sure the Soviet Union could have crippled the agency by offering them the chance to invest in some phony timeshares outside Minsk.

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Related: Internet Scammers Try To Catfish The Military. I Stop Them.

3
South Africa Pulled Off A Daring Mission To Steal Ostriches (Then Everyone Stopped Caring About Ostriches)

In the late 19th / early 20th centuries, people loved ostrich feathers. Those suckers flew off the shelves in exactly the way that ostriches don't. Most of these feathers came from South Africa, where there were whole towns based around this thriving industry. They were the country's third most valuable export, after gold and injustice.

They were like AirPods: overpriced, dumb-looking, and not having them turned you into a pariah.Kunstmuseum Basel CollectionThey were like AirPods: overpriced, dumb-looking, and not having them turned you into a pariah.

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But while South Africa dominated the mass market, the highest prices were brought in by the mysterious Barbary feathers, which came from an unknown location in Africa. In 1911, South African agents got a tip that the feathers were coming from an area in modern-day Niger and Mali. At last, total feather world domination was within their grasp!

But then disaster struck. Word leaked that a rogue South African ostrich spy named Earnest Thompson had defected to America with the secret location of the Barbary feathers. Fearing that their ostriches were about to become lost riches, South African officials turned to the one man who could stop Earnest: his own brother, Russell Thompson (ostrich intrigue runs in the blood). Russell's orders were to lead a dangerous expedition into French North Africa and smuggle back a flock of the Olympic chickens before Earnest and the dastardly Americans could get them. The government warned him that if he was caught, they would deny any knowledge of his ostrich crimes.

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Russell's group journeyed hundreds of miles to French-controlled Niger, where he contracted malaria and had to be carried in a hammock. Thanks to secret contacts with a local emir, they managed to rustle up a flock of ostriches, possibly in a series of daring heists involving fights with nomads and French soldiers. The team hustled 140 ostriches out of French territory and back to South Africa, where they were greeted as heroes. And then the feather market absolutely tanked.

Fashion is a fickle mistress, and ostrich feathers suddenly became dreadfully passe (presumably somebody had just invented the peacock). Nobody ever even bothered breeding the Barbary ostriches Russell had smuggled. The flock just slowly died out until the last one got struck by lightning. See? This is why your teacher warned you not to steal ostriches.

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Related: 6 Hilariously Blatant Episodes Of Greed And Corruption

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2
An Austrian Businessman Killed Six People For The Insurance, Accidentally Implicated Half The Government

Udo Proksch was the millionaire owner of Vienna's famous Demel chocolatier. Think of him as Willy Wonka, if Wonka had straight up shot Augustus Gloop in the head for the insurance money. Yeah, it turned out that the confectionery game didn't leave Proksch as caked up as he had hoped, so he planned an elaborate insurance scam. In 1977, he hired a small freighter to take some "valuable nuclear plant equipment" (actually scrap metal) to Hong Kong, only to blow it up with a time bomb, killing six crew members. Proksch grieved for approximately five seconds before trying to claim a $20 million insurance payout.

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We're guessing his Napoleon cosplay pictures were taken the same weekend.

The plan was eventually discovered by the insurance company, which also found out that the "Chinese nuclear inspector" who'd overseen the deal was in fact a Japanese pastry chef at Demel. Proksch fled to the Philippines, where he had plastic surgery and hid out with faith healers. He tried to secretly return to Austria, and was promptly arrested at the airport. That's already a pretty crazy story, but it got a hell of a lot weirder when it was revealed that like half the Austrian government was in on it.

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Proksch wasn't just your average chocolate kingpin. He was also a major donor and a well-connected figure in the ruling Socialist Democrat Party. Most notably, he was the founder of Club 45, a shadowy group of politicians and businessmen who met in a room above his chocolate shop. When Udo needed a favor, his powerful friends came running, even if said favor was "Hey, help me blow up some people."

The Minister of Defense apparently killed himself after it was revealed he'd ordered the army to give Proksch a bunch of explosives. The Minister of the Interior had to resign in disgrace after police leaked his order to drop all investigations into his good buddy. The Foreign Minister committed perjury in an attempt to get Proksch off the hook, even producing forged Romanian documents to support the claim that the ship was carrying nuclear equipment. Proksch himself died in jail, but Demel still survives, hopefully now boasting 100% less murder.

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Related: The 6 Stupidest Ways Governments Tried To Assassinate People

1
Germany Had A Sabotage Ring In America ... Until The Mastermind Fell Asleep On The Subway With All The Evidence

At the start of World War I, Germany wasn't very happy with the amount of U.S. weapons reaching the Allies in Europe, so they tried to fix that by sabotaging us up the wazoo. One gunpowder plant was bombed three times. Another explosion "rocked Tacoma," something that has never happened before or since.

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The sabotage ring was run from New York by commercial attache Heinrich Albert (who handled the money) and military attache Franz von Papen (who handled being a crazy SOB). The U.S. Secret Service quickly put the pair under surveillance, but there wasn't much they could do, since both von Papen and Albert had diplomatic immunity and took care to work through proxies. Luckily for America, Albert was a heavy sleeper.

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In July 1915, Secret Service agent Frank Burke was tailing Albert on the Sixth Avenue Line when the dangerous mastermind nodded off. He jerked awake when the train pulled into his stop in Harlem, and then, operating in that weird groggy panic unique to waking up on public transport, he darted off without his briefcase. Burke quickly grabbed it and tried to make a quiet getaway, only to bump into Albert, who just had an "Oh shit" moment and sprinted back for the case (which was ominously marked "STRICTLY PRIVATE" in German).

My <i>Flintstones</i> erotica! No!German Federal Archives"My Flintstones erotica! No!"

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Albert then chased Burke on foot through Harlem, where the agent managed to escape by jumping on a streetcar and shouting for the conductor to "Step on it," which is a scene in at least three Jackie Chan movies. Assuming that his case had merely been swiped by a random train bandit, Albert placed newspaper ads offering a $20 reward for its return. (Remember, this was 1915; in today's money, that equals "still not enough to pay for state secrets.") By then the papers were already in the hands of U.S. officials, who leaked them to the press, revealing the diplomats' shady activities and badly damaging Germany's image in America. Should have offered $25.

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