The 5 Most Deadly Attempts to Look Cool

The 5 Most Deadly Attempts to Look Cool

Evolution has pushed us all to strive to impress each other. It is why peacocks have feathery tails. It’s why female pikes have colorful stripes. It’s why some people spend so much time cultivating their social media presence, which ironically prevents them from having sex at all.

Okay, maybe this urge to impress others runs deeper than evolution. Which is just as well, because it sometimes totally prevents genes from being passed along, either by killing the showboating peacock or killing everyone around them. 

A Sub Surfaced to Show Off, Killing Nine

It was February 2001, and off the coast of Hawaii, the USS Greeneville was taking some visitors on a tour. Aboard the submarine that day were 16 visitors, whom navy commentators would later describe as chiefly “high-rolling CEOs.” To really give the visitors a treat, the crew put two of the visitors behind the sub’s controls. 

Now to really super give them a treat, the crew decided to show off how quickly the sub could surface. They instructed Texas oil man John Hall to push two levers, emptying chambers of water and sending the sub shooting upward. It was definitely a memorable experience for the visiting VIPs. Especially when the sub smashed its way into a Japanese fishing trawler that happened to be above them and that none of the crew peering through periscopes had evidently noticed. 

Divers inspect the wreckage of Ehime Maru off Oahu, 5 November 2001

Andrew McKaskle

Just a teeny 200-foot ship, super easy to miss

This fishing trawler, the Ehime Maru, was operated by a Japanese high school devoted to commercial fishing. In addition to the crew, teachers and students were aboard the ship during this voyage. The Greeneville broke through it like a torpedo, and the ship sank in minutes. The collision killed three crew members, two teachers and four children. It was perhaps not the most deadly encounter between the Japanese and Americans off the coast of Hawaii, but it was surely the most avoidable. 

A Firefighting Demonstration Killed 15 People

The town of Gillingham in England used to have an annual tradition. In the 1920s, they used to host a summer fair in which the local fire brigade would show off their rescue skills. They’d put together a model house of simple wood and cloth and then stage a mock wedding, with one fireman dressed as a groom and another dressed as a bride. Then they’d set fire to the house, and other firemen would sweep in to save the happy couple. 

Gillingham Fair fire disaster

Lori Oschefski

It's not a British comedy unless some man’s doing pantomime in a dress. 

The way this was supposed to work, the event would start with just a simulated fire, with a bit of light and smoke. But to truly show off the firefighters’ power, they also did plan to set the structure on fire for real, once the mock wedding party had been carried out. Perhaps this was unwise. Because in 1929, the fire started prematurely, with the house still full of people.

The crowd cheered. They thought this was the show they’d come to see, and when they heard screaming from inside the flames, they thought these were clowns putting on a performance. The assembled firemen pulled out their extinguishers, but these weren’t really very good weapons at all against the blaze. Later, fire engines arrived, but it was too late. Three firemen died in the blaze — plus 12 other people, including eight kids, a troupe of boy scouts taking part in the fun. From this point on, fairs vowed to stick to simple carnival rides for entertainment, which on average each kill less than half as many people each day than died in the Gillingham fire.

The Men Who Thought it Would Be Cool to Break into the Lions’ Den

The Fourth of July is traditionally a time when people blow off their fingers setting off fireworks. In 1970, three men in Portland had a better idea: They were going to go to the zoo. Emboldened by beer (but not as much beer as they’d hoped to score that night), they scaled the fence and got a nighttime look at the grizzly bears. Then 19-year-old Roger Adams wanted to really show off his courage. He’d partly lower himself into the lions pit, dangling his legs above the animals while holding on to the edge and staying out of the their reach. 

Portland Zoo lions

Portland Zoo

This is perfectly safe. Psalms 91:13.

Adams forgot that lions can jump. Sis the lioness leaped upward and clamped her laws over his foot. One more lioness approached, and the two proceeded to maul him. At first, Adams played dead. Soon after that, he wasn’t just playing. 

That would have been the end of the story. Except, early morning on July 6th, someone broke into the zoo again. It was Ken Bowers, one of the two friends who’d sneaked in with Adams. He brought a rifle in with him, and he killed both the lions who’d eaten Adams, as well as one more lion for good measure. This revenge killing led the town to mobilize in a campaign of hatred — against Adams’ parents. Adams’ actions had led to the deaths of three innocent lions, they told the mom and dad. “I hope he suffered longer than the lions did,” wrote one well-wisher in a letter. “I hope he rots in hell.” 

A Man Jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge to Win Over His Wife

Many people have thrown themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge, seeking death. Not Dusty Rhodes. When the stuntman made the jump in 1948, he wrapped himself in football padding, multiple suits, as well as three parachutes. He was going to shoot a video and hopefully make some money, showing that people in the 1940s were pretty much like people today. He was also hoping to look good in front of his wife, with whom he was estranged. 

Golden Gate Bridge

Rich Niewiroski Jr.

Sounds like a heartwarming sitcom plot.

This wife, Lorraine, received an invitation to visit from Chicago and watch the stunt. She watched Dusty leap off the bridge rails. But his harness fell off. Only one chute opened, uselessly. And he hit the water face-first. He was traveling at 80 miles an hour, and it was like a watermelon getting dropped off a rooftop. 

“It was the last thing Dusty did,” said Lorraine, later, “and it was a failure.”

The Cannibal Who Killed 11 to Impress His Girlfriend

When we’re talking about stunts by men looking to regroup after their significant other cuts them off, there’s no beating Alexander Bychkov. According to a diary that police later found, Bychkov’s issues began when his girlfriend kicked him out. “She said I was a wimp, not a wolf,” he wrote. “I will show her... Maybe she will stop complaining and understand that I am a lone wolf.”

We think there might be some mixed metaphor there about exactly what “wolf” means. Bychkov took it to mean he should meet an 80-year-old man at a bar, offer him a place to stay for the night, and then kill him and chop him up. One victim was a good enough start, and he moved on from there killing a total of 11 people, chiefly selecting prey from the homeless. One of these 11 wasn’t homeless but was dating Bychkov’s mother, suggesting he may have had a few other issues as well, in addition to the established ones. 

Photo of serial killer Alexander Bychkov

Channel One Russia

Maybe he wanted to impress her too. 

That boyfriend of his mom’s was the first body to be found by police, who eventually linked him to nine murders (the other two supposed victims were never identified). Bychkov received life in prison. He also received a reputation as a cannibal, being called a serial killer cannibal in most media reports of his crimes, but we don’t actually know for sure whether he was one. He told police that he ate his victims’ livers and hearts, but police never confirmed that based on their analysis of their remains. It’s possible that he just said that because he thought it sounded cool.

Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for more stuff no one should see.

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