4 People Who Were Ridiculously Hard to Kill
From Rasputin to Jim Bowie, there has always been a small subset of people who seem to be able to survive life-threatening situations like it ain't no thing. These people may be utter hardasses, crazy-prepared, or just blindingly lucky, but they all have one thing in common: they are exceptionally gifted at shrugging off Death's dick-punches.
And they do it like this:
Anatoli Bugorski Took a Death Ray to the Face
So it's 1978, and the Soviet Union is dabbling with a large particle accelerator -- basically, past-Communist spin on the Large Hadron Collider. You're a researcher tasked with working on the project, and one day the machine malfunctions. The particle accelerator being a classic example of old-school Soviet technology, fixing it proves to be challenging. Eventually, the only trick left in your book is the "gun-owner's classic": staring into the barrel and trying to see why it won't fire.
Right on cue, the universe invokes the Looney Tunes law: the particle accelerator suddenly starts to work, while its fail-safes and other safety measures unapologetically continue to malfunction (or, rather, not exist).
And that, friend, is how the U-70 Synchrotron particle accelerator at the Institute for High Energy Physics in Protvino comes to fire a high-energy proton beam straight at your face. Straight. At. Your face.
Such is the story of Anatoli Bugorski, the mild-mannered research scientist whose ordinary day at work was rudely interrupted by a 200,000-rad dose of death-ray therapy (lethal dose: 500 to 600 rads). With the brightness of "a thousand suns," the beam entered through the left side of his nose, punched its way through his skull at near-light speed, and exited through the back of his head, because there's no kill like overkill.
Yep -- Bugorski received a direct message from the gods of science, and that message was, "Bye."
Even so, dude refused to die. The days after the incident saw the murder-beamed half of Bugorski's head swell beyond recognition and his skin peel off. He moved to Moscow to be probed and poked by his interested peers as he slowly and inevitably perished. However, much to the surprise of everyone, Bugorski started to get better instead. An injury that should have killed him 400 times over left him with just a deaf ear and some relatively minor scarring and neural damage (partial facial paralysis, occasional seizures). Of course, the psychological burden of the experience was so heavy that he never was the same.
Ha, just kidding! Not only was Bugorski all right but the man didn't even stop sciencin'. He calmly finished his PhD and continued his research like being shot with a Star Trek super weapon ain't no thing. Here's a recent photo of him:
Men who eat science-fiction artillery for breakfast dress how they damn well please.
Oh, and if Bugorski's death-fighting powers weren't impressive enough to start with, there's also the fact that the beamed left half of his face doesn't show any signs of wrinkles or aging. So either not moving your face for 30-plus years is good for the skin, or sometimes the universe decides to shoot a man in the head with a death ray and rewards him with 50 percent face immortality if he survives.*
*Results may vary.
Queen Victoria Powered Her Way Through a Succession of Murderous Lunatics
As the longest-reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria was an easy target to many disgruntled people. And thanks to several absurd malfunctions in her security detail, she did indeed have to deal with seven different attempts on her life, all by deranged individuals, most seemingly straight out of a goddamn circus.
In 1837, the year she became queen, she experienced her first taste of danger hobo, as a man started running by her unguarded carriage and screaming random bullshit about the crown truly belonging to him. The guy finished his 19th-century spin on the lizard people tirade with a trip to the mental asylum.
The next attacker in line was an angsty 18-year-old waiter, who fired two shots at the pregnant Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, with two decorative silver pistols he had presumably "borrowed" from daddy. When the crowd immediately subdued the kid, he was heard complaining that, actually, women shouldn't rule the country.
"This is really about ethics in mummy defiling party journalism."
In 1842, yet another attempt (in almost the same spot as the previous one) saw an unknown man fire at the queen and escape when the bullet failed to connect. At that point, Victoria's fucks-to-give meter was strictly depleted when it came to assassinations, so she and her prime minister actually devised a plan where she and Albert would return to the spot again the next day. Yes, Queen Freaking Victoria volunteered as bait to catch a wannabe killer her people would probably have caught anyway. The plan worked; the dude again attempted to shoot her, and the plain-clothes officers that were scattered throughout the area tackled the culprit. Victoria was left completely unharmed, and once the word spread, she rode out again the very next day to bask in the glory of a badass stunt gone well despite just having been nearly assassinated on two consecutive days.
Meanwhile, a stubbed toe is more than enough to put us out of commission for a week.
Another ill-advised gunman later, Victoria's reputation as an assassination-thwarter (and the shittiness of her security protocol) was so well-known, people actually started crowding in front of the palace gates to see her fired at. Although her security measures were upgraded, it managed only to make things more ridiculous: just a few weeks later, Victoria was suddenly attacked by a hunch-backed, 4-foot dwarf, who attempted to kill her with a (misfiring) pistol filled with paper, gravel, and broken clay. At that point, even deranged assassins realized things had gotten a tad too ridiculous to pass for British, so they stopped their attempts for a full seven years.
The only attacker to ever actually physically harm Victoria was Robert Pate, a retired army officer who managed to get close enough to beat the queen with his cane in 1870, leaving her with a black eye and several bruises. Victoria's reaction was to call the man a coward for beating a lady, then hit the town to see an opera.
A couple of final shooters (guess how it went for them) later, a pattern started to emerge that the only person to ever benefit from shooting at the queen was ... the queen. Every time she took an assassination attempt in stride, her popularity surged and her rule became more secure. Perhaps the rest of the weirdos hiding in the woodwork realized this and wandered away to throw poop at walls or whatever, but the last nine years of her rule were completely assassin-free.
King Hussein of Jordan Was Assassination-Proof
When 17-year-old King Hussein of Jordan took the throne in 1953, few predicted he'd last long. Hussein had plenty of enemies in both his own and neighboring countries, and the fact that the Cold War was just kicking up a notch didn't exactly help matters.
So of course he went on to rule his country for over four decades, shrugging off assassination attempts left and right like they were dewdrops.
That is to say, smoothly.
The first wannabe assassins were so eager, they didn't even bother waiting for Hussein to become King. When he was 15, his grandfather King Abdullah was assassinated as he was entering a mosque. Hussein was present and ran after the assassin, who ended the chase short by shooting him in the chest. Hussein survived only because the bullet became lodged in a medal on his chest. To add to the already movie-like nature of the scene, his now late grandfather had given him that medal just the day before.
"It's made of Kevlar. You'll understand."
Hussein proved an active ruler with a vision that didn't always sit well with other powers in the area, and as such, dangerous events kept piling up. In 1958, after establishing his rule and thwarting a couple of coups, the king -- an avid pilot -- decided to take a quick holiday in Switzerland via Cyprus. Sadly, he had to fly over Syria, which had unexpectedly aligned itself with his political enemies. Hussein found himself harassed by two armed-to-the-teeth Syrian military jets that zipped and zapped a hair's width from the plane, in an attempt to make it "accidentally" crash, or land so they could take the king prisoner. Hussein and his co-pilot narrowly escaped by throwing their plane into a dangerous evasive power dive and zig-zagging under the radar until they were over safe territory.
In 1960, an assassin rigged Hussein's prime minister's office with explosives before their meeting. The king didn't make it to the meeting before the bombs exploded, but the prime minister was less fortunate. After that, a cook attempted to poison his food. After that, another assassin attempted to poison his nose drops, because clearly someone felt Fidel Castro shouldn't be the only guy subjected to ridiculous assassination plots.
In 1970, the king's motorcade was attacked by gunmen and his driver was wounded. Again, Hussein himself not only escaped unscathed but, according to the BBC, actually jumped off his car and opened fire right back at the wannabe hitmen. And so on, and so on.
In the end, the king's "come on, guys" tally reached a total of at least 12 assassination attempts and seven separate plots to overthrow him. None was successful, and if it wasn't for an unfortunate case of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, he'd probably still be out there making peace treaties with Israel and angering pretty much everyone.
Lauren Elder Survived Everything Death Threw at Her
Imagine living in an action movie. Wouldn't it be cool? No, it wouldn't -- you'd be dead within minutes. No real human being is built to withstand an environment where every car is an explosion waiting to happen, every plane is just looking for an excuse to crash into a mountain, and everyone wears impossibly light and impractical clothing regardless of weather. Well, no real human being except Lauren Elder. In fact, the ordeals she was subjected to in 1976 would probably end up on the cutting room floor for being too unbelievable for even the most ridiculous Steven Seagal movie.
On April 26, 1976, Elder received a surprise: her boyfriend had to back out of a flight to Death Valley due to work, and she was offered his place. Excited, she left the house in such a hurry she didn't even bother putting on underwear, a fashion choice she would come to regret. She and two friends, Jay Fuller and Jean Noller, took off in Fuller's small Cessna 182 in excellent weather and plotted a course to the Sierra Nevada mountains. As Fuller was gloriously zig-zagging the scenery, Elder took in the magnificent sights, capturing the marvelous scenery with her camera.
And then she glanced out of the front window and saw a massive wall of rock rapidly approaching.
Not a sight you want to see while traveling airborne at breakneck speeds.
Although the crash was hard enough to break the plane in two, all three somehow managed not to get Jackson Pollocked all over the mountainside. However, Elder's friends soon succumbed to a combination of the elements and their injuries. She was now stuck on a mountain alone, cold, and with no help in sight. Also, she was a freaking artist with precious few mountain survival skills and plenty of severe injuries. Bring that scenario to today, and she'd probably spend her remaining hours figuring out how to pose her soon-to-be corpse ironically. Elder, however, absolutely refused to let a mere plane crash kill her. So she climbed down the 13,264-foot mountain -- that was covered in snow, and at times nigh-impossible to descend. While suffering from a broken arm, shattered teeth, and a bleeding, swollen leg. While wearing freaking heeled boots. The whole "wraparound skirt with no underwear" thing didn't exactly help, either, as strategically timed gusts of freezing wind would helpfully demonstrate.
Hey, she's the one who keeps mentioning that part of the story.
Elder's impossible climb required her to descend a 45-degree, frozen mountainside that occasionally veered into even steeper parts. Much of the time, she was forced to move on all fours, despite the fact that two of her limbs were essentially useless. Other times, she butt-skidded over the less steep but equally icy areas, fashioning her skirt as a protective pillow of sorts. Each and every part of this ordeal -- the crash, the injuries, the exposure to the elements, and the insanely challenging climb -- could and by common sense should have been fatal, yet Elder wrestled them all to submission with her sheer will to live. However, Fate still had one last dick move in reserve.
By the time Elder finally reached the base of the mountain, 34 hours with no food and drink had passed since the crash. The exhaustion, need for sustenance, and the whole "holy shit my body is so broken it's insane" conspired to give her constant hallucinations about people and vehicles. This, combined with her by then fairly disheveled appearance, gave her the look of a drugged-up creep. This probably wouldn't have been such a disadvantage, if it wasn't for the fact that Charles Manson had just been arrested and was being held in a jail near there. A number of his female followers had showed up in the town Elder was wandering toward, with her bare feet, bloody and tattered clothing, and dazed behavior. So, despite attempts to flag down passing cars and knock on doors, no one would help the near-dead woman. It was only purely by chance that one motel owner she'd begged for help freaked out enough to call a sheriff, who finally managed to connect the dots between the horror-movie survivor in front of him and the recently reported missing plane.
The book and the movie have somewhat increased her recognizability since.
Having depleted its bag of tricks, Death finally left Elder alone. To give it a final middle finger, she hiked back to the crash site three months later while still wearing a cast.
Pauli Poisuo once survived a Steven Seagal movie marathon. Join his gang on Facebook and Twitter.
For more from Pauli, check out 5 Famous Cities With Creepy Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight and 4 Famous Mysteries With Really Obvious Answers.
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