5 Big Mistakes That No One Caught for a Very Long Time

One time, a thief crashed a plane into an airport, and no one noticed
5 Big Mistakes That No One Caught for a Very Long Time

Errors pop up around you all the time, and your eyes just skip right over them. For example, did you notice that the previous sentence includes the word “the” twice in a row? You definitely didn’t notice that, because the sentence actually didn’t contain that mistake — we lied. But you went back and checked, didn’t you, because you know how easily missed such errors are. And some of the time, the the errors are a bit bigger than that. For example...

The Time Someone Crashed a Stolen Plane at Nashville International

Until 2013, Michael Callan was known for one thing: robbing banks. He robbed a bunch of banks in Canada, and they threw him in prison for 12 years, under the assumption that he’d probably be released long before that sentence was up for good behavior. But he was not released early, because he consistently behaved badly, including regularly stripping and masturbating whenever guards checked on him. 

Finally out of prison, Callen joined a flight school. The last time he’d come to this school, he’d been on the run from the cops, and a flight instructor had had to ID him to police, leading to his arrest. They nevertheless now admitted him as a student. One October day, he booked one of their planes to fly to a small island within Canada. Then he absconded with the aircraft, flew deep into the United States and crashed the plane at Nashville International Airport, dying in the process.

Michael Callan crash


We said they admitted him as a student, not that they taught him well.

You might imagine that this raised a huge panic at the airport. It did not. One employee heard the crash, but it was foggy that night, and he didn’t see any sign of what had happened, so he shrugged and ignored it. Not till five hours later did someone see the wreckage. This someone was on a different plane about to take off when they noticed a chunk of engine on the runway ahead of them.

Callan’s motive in all this? We don’t know, so we assume he was flying to Tennessee to see Taylor Swift. 

Taylor Swift Red

Big Machine

This is a valid legal defense in most regions of North America.

No, seriously — we assume he was flying to Tennessee to see Taylor Swift. He planned to visit some celebrity uninvited, and authorities concluded it was either Swift or Miranda Cosgrove, as he’d been stalking both of them by mail. He listed Swift as his emergency contact over at the flight school. This raised no eyebrows there, and his later crash raised no immediate eyebrows in Nashville. Listen, we don’t normally find ourselves saying airports need more security, but we’ll make an exception when analyzing this case. 

Chile Misspelled Its Own Name on Its Money

Depending on what browser you’re using to read this article, it’s possible that a lowercase L and a capital i look exactly the same. In fact, depending on your browser, it’s possible that a lowercase L and a lowercase i look exactly the same. Text is weird like that. 

None of that explains this coin right here: 

50-peso coin chiie


That’s a 50-peso coin from Chile. The third and fourth letters in “Chile” look the same there, even though the word is in all-caps, which means an I and an L should definitely not look the same. Authorities traced the error to one individual guy at the mint named Pedro. Pedro was fixing the master mold behind the coins, and he left out the horizontal part of the L. The field of typography assigns that part of the L its own name, by the way. It’s called the arm. 

He made that mistake in December 2008. The mint only realized what happened the following October, when a collector contacted them and told them what was wrong. The coin’s worth a fair bit more than 50 pesos to collectors today, so we hope that guy stockpiled a whole chest of the coins before reporting what he’d seen. 

A Bunch of Wikipedia Turned Out to Be Made-Up Scottish Words

Wikipedia is currently available in 326 languages. At least, that’s the number we saw online; instead of hunting down a reliable source, we just looked the answer up on Wikipedia. Some of these wikis are huge and have many thousands of active users (English, German), while others are small and use languages you may never even have heard of (Dinka, Lak, Gun). Since 2008, there’s been a Wikipedia in Scots, which is a language from Scotland. 

As of 2020, nearly half of all the articles in Scots Wikipedia had been created or edited by one user, named AmaryllisGardner. Amaryllis did not speak Scots. Amaryllis was American, had begun making Scots articles as a 12-year-old and kept the project going for the next seven years. Since this user didn’t speak the language, they just took the original English articles and reworded them to make them Scots.

detail from an illustrated manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles

via Wiki Commons

Normally, we’d love turning English into Scots, but not like this. 

This resulted in something a little worse than just poor translation. Because, often, Amaryllis could not find an applicable Scots word, so they just misspelled the English word to make it sound Scottish. “Where” became “whaur,” “part” became “pairt” and “village” became “veelage.” 

We can assume this disgusted various genuine Scots readers, while various other people who saw the articles must have concluded that Scots isn’t a serious language at all. Not till 2020 did one dedicated editor round up the evidence and figure out what was going on and who was behind the disaster. Wikipedia responded by deleting thousands of Scots articles, and Scotland added one more name to its list of natural enemies. 

A Finnish Office Employee Died at Work, and People Ignored Him

We can think of few deaths more disappointing than dying while doing tax paperwork at the office. There are more painful ways, and more tragic ways, but this is a lame end no one should want for themselves. And sadly, in January 2004, it happened to a tax auditor in Helsinki. 

Winter in Helsinki

Ninara/Wiki Commons

He should have spent his last day playing in the snow. 

We only know about this story because of the exact way his body was discovered. His coworkers spotted it two days after he died. Up till then, everyone figured he was being quiet because he was just so very conscientious about his work. Finally, someone approached him to ask him to lunch and spotted what had happened. Hey, at least that means we can’t say he died friendless. 

A Painting Hung Upside-Down for Almost a Century

This painting by Henri Matisse is called Le Bateau, or The Boat:

Henri Matisse

Actually, it’s a schooner.

In 1961, it went on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. With the canvas not being labeled properly, and with museum staff not quite understanding which part was the boat and which part was the reflection, the museum mistakenly hung the painting upside-down. 

For more than a month, visitors admired the display. Matisse’s own son, who’d arranged the sale, saw nothing wrong with it. Finally, a stockbroker named Genevieve Habert looked at it and noticed that (unlike in the correctly oriented version above) the more detailed half strangely stood at the bottom. The guard she alerted was not exactly receptive to her complaint, even when she showed him a book that displayed the painting correctly, but she went public about it, and the museum fixed their mistake.

That sure sounds like an absurd mistake MoMA wouldn’t be repeating in a hurry. Except, it turned out they had another painting upside-down as well, and this one stayed that way much longer. This painting by Piet Mondrian is even more abstract than Le Bateau, so you might understand how no one could tell which way was up:

New York City I

Piet Mondrian

Unless you’re a genius and realize those bottom lines are a dark sky.

It’s called New York City I, and after MoMA initially exhibited it in 1945, it moved elsewhere, ending up in a museum in Düsseldorf. This painting uses adhesive tape and is a reimagining of an earlier work Mondrian did with oil. In the earlier work, the tighter horizontal lines are at the top, and the vertical blue line is on the left. In 2022, someone realized that meant New York City I had been hanging upside-down in various galleries for over 75 years. 

The museum acknowledged the error, but they decided to leave the painting in its current flipped state. Moving it might damage it. Plus, the mistake is a part of its history now, and preserving history is a museum's mission. 

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

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