5 Things That Sound Safe But Just Might Injure You Horribly
We here at Cracked would never dream of scaremongering. When we hear of one strange incident, we’re not going to tell you this is something you can expect to happen again and again. So with each of the following stories, even though things ended very poorly for one person, you personally should have nothing to fear. After all, nothing about these seemingly very safe things sounds even remotely terrifying.
But. But. But.
In April 2012, Anthony Hensley was going kayaking at a pond in his Illinois apartment complex. Kayaking is a fun and exciting activity, which becomes much more boring when you throw the words “pond” and “apartment complex” into the mix. Throw in the equally boring word “swan” in there, however, and the activity suddenly becomes exciting again. You know what happens when you multiply together two negative numbers, right?
Hensley steered close to the pond’s swans, one approached him and the kayak “flipped over.” Whether a bird flipped it over or Hensley flipped it in a panic, sources do not say. But the man was now in the water, and when he tried to head for shore, the swan (or possibly even multiple swans) got in the way.
Could he have defeated the swan in one-on-one combat? This is a question every man has asked himself. Hensley, however, faced not just a defensive swan but the weight of his waterlogged boots pulling him down, as well as all the heavy clothes he wore. He never made it back to shore. Half an hour later, police pulled his corpse out of the pond.
The community had placed swans in the area to keep geese away. Geese, as you know, are nature’s most vicious killers, so maybe this would label swans as a an obvious threat, a danger greater than geese themselves. And yet we must not blame Hensley for approaching the geese in his boat. He was the swans’ caretaker — checking on them was his job. He provided for the swans, and they still killed him, because swans know only hate.
We normally wouldn’t describe a cactus as an underrated danger. Cartoons trained us to probably overrate how dangerous they are. They certainly gave us a false impression of how common cactuses are, fooling us into thinking that any time we fall, in any location on Earth, we will somehow land on a whole unbroken field of cacti and then drag ourselves away with spines poking out of every square inch of our body.
Still, a simple trick would (you’d think) totally protect you from a cactus hurting you. Don’t touch it. Stand 10 feet away, and you’ll be totally safe, surely.
This brings us to February 1982. Arizona men David Grundman and James Suchochi drove into the desert with a shotgun and two rifles. They planned to shoot some of the cactuses there. The reason, presumably, was this just sounded like fun.
Grundman fired at a 23-foot-tall saguaro. Saguaros are the cactus you picture in your head when you heard the word “cactus,” though it only grows in this specific one desert. Its arms make it look like a satisfyingly anthropomorphic target. A saguaro this tall can weigh tons, with each arm alone weighing hundreds of pounds.
When Grundman shot the cactus, it died, yes. But the cactus then fell over and crushed him to death. This death has since been immortalized in song, which is the most glorious fate any of us could hope for, after getting into a gunfight with a plant and the duel ending in a tie.
In 2018, a 34-year-old British man held back a sneeze. He did this because he considered sneezing impolite. Like most British impulses, this was a mistake.
Or maybe the mistake was how he held his sneeze back. He pinched his nose shut, which doesn’t actually stop the sneeze but just stops air from coming out of his nostrils. Try the same thing yourself, and the sneeze will awkwardly and wetly come out your mouth, but this 34-year-old Brit kept his mouth shut tight too.
His lungs still tried to expel air, and that pressure had to go someplace. It ripped a hole in his pharynx, which is the part of the throat on top of the gullet and windpipe, a cavity that carries both food and air. Air started bubbling right into his muscles, which was, to use a medical term, bad.
He showed up in the emergency room saying that his throat hurt a lot, his neck was swelling and his voice sounded strange, even stranger than most British people. They asked if he’d had any kind of cervical trauma, and he said no, as he was not pregnant. (They were actually referring to his spinal cervix.) Then they asked if he’d been swallowing any blades, and he again said no. For a while, they diagnosed him Boerhaave syndrome, an esophageal tear that we were telling you about recently and didn’t imagine we’d ever be talking about again, let alone would mention again just a few days later.
They figured out what the deal was eventually, and they kept him in the hospital for a couple weeks on a feeding tube while they treated him. The guy recovered in the end, and they sent him away “with advice to avoid obstructing both nostrils while sneezing.”
If you ever feel the need to sneeze in public, the surest way to avoid tearing your pharynx is to refrain from obstructing your nose or mouth in any way. Sneeze directly in someone else’s face, then say, “Hey, when you think about it, this is really the safest route.” (Note: This too may land you in the hospital.)
We imagine that some of you have already heard of water intoxication. Drink too much water, faster than your body can deal with it and your blood gets so thin, your cells burst and kill you. This is most common when chugging water during intense physical activity (fleeing pursuers for hours, clubbing in Belgium, etc.). Pure water does not replace all the electrolytes you lose from sweat, which is why we recommend only the finest of sports drinks.
We’re not going to give you any of those stories out there of athletes who pass out from this most boring type of binge drinking. We want to share with you something worse: A Colorado fifth grader, Zachary, had a condition that made it extra important that he stay hydrated. His mom and stepdad were strict with this, making him drink two 32-ounce bottles of water a day (that’s about 2 liters). Also, Zachary wet the bed. This was apparently because of the condition, not because of the regular water intake.
This past March, Zachary’s parents noted that the boy’s urine had become extra dark and extra smelly. That meant, they decided, it was time for a little extra hydration. Those two 32-ounce bottles of water should be fine, even good for you, if spread throughout the day, but stepdad Ryan now ordered Zach to drink four 24-ounce bottles over the course of just four hours, without eating anything. We’ll let you pause and calculate whether this hurried 50 percent increase over his usual daily intake should have been such a big deal. Then we’ll just cut to the chase and say the kid died.
The mother pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and got probation. As for stepdad Ryan, he’s going on trial for first-degree murder, so it’ll be up to a jury to decide if this was a mistake or it was a water-themed twist on a long pattern of child abuse.
Sheesh, that was horrible. Let’s close this article on a story where no kid dies. Yeah, instead, she just loses eight fingers.
This tale takes place at Giles Academy, a British art school. In 2007, a class of kids were working with plaster of Paris, which meant digging their fingers into the wet powder to mold it. Normally, you should wear gloves during this process.
One 16-year-old girl decided to get a little wacky and sank her entire hands into a bucket of plaster. The school should have foreseen kids trying this sort of thing. The most expected way the day would go, at least seven kids would try taking molds of their butts.
Then she felt the heat. Plaster of Paris undergoes a chemical reaction in water, where one type of calcium sulphate changes to another, and this can produce temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not sound dangerously hot — saunas get a lot hotter than that. But a pleasant air temperature can be a scalding water temperature. Touch water that hot, and you’ll instinctively yank your hand right out, but the girl couldn’t pull hers out. She was stuck.
The plaster had already hardened, and it was still producing heat and sending it into her skin. Some enterprising students fetched a hammer and tried to smash her free. You might think that would turn some mild burns into shattered bones, but far from breaking her hands, the hammer couldn’t even break its way through that gypsum. She had to go to a hospital, where they removed the plaster using power tools.
Now doctors took a look at her hands and got out their scalpels. Twelve operations later, she still had palms attached to her wrists, but she had only two fingers left. The girl’s identity has been kept secret, but you can see pictures of her unfingered hands if you like.
The school had to pay a fine over the incident. For failing to report it to the government, they had to pay around $30,000. Really, that's all? Where are ambulance-chasing lawyers when you need them? In our totally uneducated legal opinion, it sounds like the family had a case against the school, the hospital and perhaps the entire nation of France. You too may be entitled to compensation, just for having to hear about all this.