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Humans have been sailing for millennia, but submarines as we know them today are a more recent innovation. It takes a brave soul to journey in one of these claustrophobic underwater vessels, surrounded on all sides by the crushing pressure of the sea.

We all know about the Yellow Submarine, but most people don’t know about the following tales of intrigue and mystery from deep underwater, and sometimes right at the surface. Ghosts, sea monsters, UFOs, and skeletons aren’t just for pirate ships, or spaceships for that matter. Submarines have their own stories of unexplained lore.

10 U-505

On October 24, 1943, U-505 was bombed with depth charges by British destroyers. In the midst of the attack, Peter Zschech, the commander of the sub, shot himself in the head in front of his crew in the control room.

In an account of the day’s events, a crewman named Hans Goebler notes that Zschech didn’t fully die by the gunshot and was making loud sounds after he shot himself, making it easier for the British to locate them by sonar. He then describes someone grabbing a pillow and placing it over Zschech’s mouth, to the dismay of the crew doctor, who protested, but two other crew members held the pillow firmly until Zschech was silent.[1]

Zschech’s second-in-command took over and led the crew through the attack, and everyone on board survived but Zschech. The entry from the logbook that day reads “Kommandant tot,” meaning “Commanding Officer dead.”

9 UB-65

Another German U-boat, this time from World War I, that had uncannily morbid luck was UB-65.

Before she set out to sea, a torpedo exploded, injuring several crewmen and killing the second officer, Lieutenant Richter. Soon after she left port, a lookout who was in the conning tower reported seeing Lieutenant Richter, returned to haunt the boat, standing on the deck. Maybe it was the long, lonely days at sea, but crewmen kept reporting sightings of him, and things got so bad that the higher-ups had to step in. The Imperial Navy ordered a pastor to kick the ghost out.[2]

In UB-65 ’s final stroke of terrible luck, an American submarine found the U-boat along the Irish coast. As the Americans prepared to attack, they were shocked to see UB-65 explode on its own before they fired. One American officer also reported seeing a silhouette on the deck wearing a German officer’s overcoat, with folded arms, standing sturdy while the boat sank.

8 UB-85

Who doesn’t love a good sea monster story? On April 30, 1918, the crew of the German U-boat UB-85 surrendered willingly to a British patrol boat as their sub sank. The Germans’ commanding officer, Captain Krech, had a strange story about why they didn’t resist: He said that the previous night, while UB-85 was surfaced, a “strange beast” had crashed out of the water and attached itself to the deck, its enormous weight nearly sinking the boat. The beast, according to Krech, had “large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull.” The crew started firing their sidearms at it, eventually hurting it enough to weaken its grip. The monster let go, but it left the deck so damaged that UB-85 couldn’t dive.[3]

In 2016, the wreck of UB-85 was discovered, bringing attention to what could have possibly happened back in 1918. Was it a sea monster, or something else?

Historians recently uncovered an interview with another crew member which tells us what might have really happened: Apparently, Krech had a heater installed in the officers’ quarters. The cables for this heater ran through a watertight hatch, making it vulnerable to flooding. It’s likely that Krech’s story is just a “sea monster sank my submarine” excuse for his own indiscretion, though believers still insist it was a kraken-like monster.

7 The H.L. Hunley

Picture this: It’s 2000, and you’re a diver going underwater to help pull out the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine ever to sink an enemy warship. The submarine disappeared the same day it sank the USS Housatonic, on February 17, 1864.

When you get to peek inside the craft, you are struck by the sight of eight skeletons, each manning a respective submarine station, none of which appear to have been alarmed by sinking or have moved from their posts. What could have caused them to stay where they were, perfectly preserved in a strange image of action?

The answer scientists found is that the H.L. Hunley suffered from the explosion of its own torpedo, which was detonated by ramming the Housatonic, knocking them unconscious. Unable to guide the sub or do anything else, they remained at their stations, not to be discovered for 136 years.[4] The H.L. Hunley came to rest about 300 meters (1,000 ft) away from the wreck of the Housatonic.

6 USS Trepang

Submarines are the last place you would think you’d see a UFO. But in 2015, mysterious photographs published to the French magazine Top Secret showed just that: a cigar-shaped unidentified flying object.[5]

The photos were reportedly taken in March 1971 by an officer aboard the Trepang in the middle of the ocean between Iceland and Jan Mayen, a barely inhabited Norwegian island. At the time, the Trepang was conducting a routine expedition and apparently found the UFO by accident, as it was spotted through the periscope by officer John Klika.

A British UFO investigator named Nigel Watson has said that similar-looking cigar-shaped aircraft have been spotted and reported since 1896, and reports have come from all across the world. While he is skeptical of the authenticity of the photographs, we can dream, right?

5 Quester I

Have you ever seen the shipwrecks on Coney Island Creek in New York City? They look like skeletons could pop out at any moment. The most unusual of these ships is a submarine that has a rusty orangish-yellow conning tower sticking up. This submarine, called the Quester I, was built for a purpose that never ended up being fulfilled: to rescue treasure from a sunken ocean liner that lies under the Atlantic off the coast of Massachusetts, the Andrea Doria, which sank in 1956.

In the late 1960s, Jerry Bianco set about building a submarine that could submerge to the sunken ship and salvage the valuables. He painted the sub yellow not because of the famous Beatles song but because the yellow paint was the best deal he could find.

On October 19, 1970, after four years of hard work, the sub was lowered into Coney Island Creek. The crane operator wasn’t supposed to lower the sub entirely into the water, but he did. Bianco had only removed the ballast from one side as money-saving measure, so the sub ended up tipping on its side so much that Bianco’s investors lost faith in its ability to float, and it never left the creek. The Quester I still sits in the same spot today.[6]

4 K-219

On October 3, 1986, Soviet submarine K-129 was patrolling in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,100 kilometers (700 mi) northeast of Bermuda. An engineer noticed a leak from a plug in the torpedo room and tried to stop it. Water started rushing in. Eventually, a torpedo casing split, and the resulting explosion killed three crew members and started an enormous flood. One of the crewmen gave his life to enter the nuclear compartment to shut down the engine, and they were able to surface.

When the captain opened the hatch, however, he noticed something strange: There appeared to be two long scratch marks along the side of the submarine, but they hadn’t collided with anything along the way. The Soviet Navy suspected that the cause of the scratch and explosion was an American submarine patrolling nearby, the USS Augusta. The US Navy, to this day, denies that they attacked K-219.

In 2010, Soviet captain Nikolai Tushin gave an interview about what he believes collided with K-219 instead: an unidentified underwater object called a “Quacker,” called that because of the sound it makes, a cross between a duck quack and a frog croak. These odd sounds started to be noticed by sonar operators during the Cold War, likely because of the advances made in sonar during that time.[7] If a Quacker is responsible, it can still visit K-219 at the bottom of the sea today.

3 U-166

Most people know about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, but less known is the German U-boat patrol in the Gulf of Mexico in an effort to sink American merchant ships right on their home shore.

One of the 17 U-boats in this German fleet was U-166. In 1942, it spotted a steam passenger ship called the Robert E. Lee, and the unsuspecting passengers on board thought they saw a shark streaming toward them underwater until a torpedo struck the ship and sent her sinking to the bottom of the ocean. While survivors clung to lifeboats, the US Navy’s PC-566 dropped a depth charge on the U-boat, never finding out whether they had successfully hit it. Coast Guard planes also spotted and bombed another U-boat, but once they returned to base, they were told that the matter was classified and never found out whether they had made a hit in either case.

It was only in 2001, upon a petroleum survey’s discovery of a U-boat near where the Robert E. Lee sank, that historians found the answer: The U-166 was sank by the first attack.[8] Both the Robert E. Lee and U-166 now sit at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, an eerie reminder of a German attack incredibly close to American soil during World War II, less than 80 kilometers (50 mi) south of the Mississippi River Delta.

2 The Surcouf

At the time it was launched in 1929, the Surcouf was the largest submarine in the world, built to rival the ever more advanced U-boats put out by the German Navy. When Germany invaded France, the Allies were fearful that they would also seize control of French submarines. The Surcouf was ordered to Plymouth, England, and the French crewmen didn’t exactly enjoy being boarded by their historical foe, despite being on the same side, and there was a fight onboard which resulted in four deaths.

Tension didn’t exactly stop after the fight. Each side of the French forces believed the other was secretly working for the Germans, and the British even suggested that some French ships attacked British ships. Eventually, the Surcouf was ordered to the Pacific and stopped in Bermuda to refuel. In February 1942, she disappeared in the Caribbean off the coast of Panama and was never heard from again.

One theory is that the sub collided with an American merchant ship, which reported striking something in the water. Some people credit the loss of the Surcouf to the Bermuda Triangle, years before it would become infamous.[9] Whatever happened, neither the remains of the Surcouf nor her crew have ever been found.

1 U-537

The Germans had some strange military initiatives in World War II, but perhaps one of the most unusual was the scientific outpost they created in the Arctic Circle. Since the Allies occupied the westernmost areas, they were much better able to predict the weather for their naval strategies. That was until Germany decided to set up a weather outlet of their own. This weather station was delivered by U-537, which was outfitted to be able to install the equipment on the northern shore of Labrador.[10]

The submarine persisted north despite pretty intense obstacles: It hit an iceberg and sustained major damage, rendering it unable to submerge. The Germans, however, managed to reach their destination and set up their weather station. They disguised their setup as much as possible, making up a fake Canadian name for their equipment and strewing American cigarette packs around to make it seem like it was an Allied station. On its way back to its port in occupied France, U-537 was attacked three times by Canadian planes but managed to escape.

Louise enjoys coffee, dogs, and people-watching.


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In mid-2018, Chris Martin was having his UK home renovated when he discovered a World War II bunker in his back garden. The two-room concrete bunker found at the Middlesbrough home was large enough to hold up to 50 people. Martin plans to turn the bunker into an office or wine cellar.

He isn’t the first person to make an amazing discovery in his backyard. People have been finding strange items and treasures on their properties for years, including a stolen vehicle, a bag of cash, ancient fossils, and even mysterious objects. Here is a list of 10 fascinating discoveries in ordinary yards.

10 Stolen Ferrari

In 1978, children were playing in their Los Angeles yard and digging in the mud when they touched something unusual under the ground. The children flagged down a sheriff’s car nearby and told him about the strange object they had found.

The sheriff came back with some help and made an odd discovery. They unearthed a green 1974 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS worth about $18,000 when it was brand-new. It was a mystery to authorities how the vehicle could have ended up there.

The car was purchased by Rosendo Cruz in October 1974, and it was stolen on December 7. The police couldn’t figure out what had happened to the Ferrari, but the insurance company decided to reimburse Cruz for the vehicle anyway. It remains a mystery as to who placed the car in the yard.

The car was eventually purchased from the insurance company for about $7,000 by a mechanic who restored much of the vehicle. The Dino remains unlisted on any Dino registry.[1] But hopefully, someone is out there taking it for a joyous spin down some winding roads.

9 1,000-Year-Old Human Remains

Ali Erturk was building a trout pond in his Utah backyard for his father when he came across something unusual. The 14-year-old boy thought he had found an animal bone. But after continuing to dig, he realized that the bones might have belonged to a human. Erturk discovered the first bone about 2 meters (6 ft) below the surface.

After the police arrived, they quickly realized that the bones were incredibly old and referred the case to the Utah Department of Heritage and Arts. The department workers soon determined that the bones belonged to a Native American who had lived over 1,000 years ago.

Humans have occupied this area of Utah for over 10,000 years. The department gets multiple calls a year that are similar to this one.[2]

8 $10 Million Worth Of Gold Coins

A Northern California couple stumbled across something rare as they were walking their dog. Buried in the shadow of a tree was $10 million in gold coins. There were over 1,400 coins dating from 1847–1894. They were also in rare mint condition. The face value of the coins only added up to $27,000, but they were so rare that they were worth much more. The couple knew that they were about to be rich.

Some experts believed that the coins were stolen, but the robbery could never be proven. The couple remained anonymous and decided to auction off the collection. The first coin to sell was an 1874 $20 double eagle that brought in $15,000. An 1866-S No Motto $20 gold piece was valued at more than $1 million. The entire collection was estimated to be worth over $11 million.[3]

7 Mysterious Crystal Object

In Kitchener, Ontario, two sisters were digging in their backyard for worms for an upcoming fishing trip when they discovered a large, transparent, shiny object with a bluish hue. Some believed that it was part of a meteorite that had fallen just a month earlier, but nobody could seem to identify it. The family hoped that the object had a high value and could be sold.[4]

A local gem and mineral expert didn’t know what it was, so the piece was sent to the University of Waterloo for further testing. The curator of the school’s Earth sciences museum was finally able to identify the object, but it wasn’t anything special. It was a type of glass sold in various colors that was used as a garden ornament.

After the object was identified, it was sent back to the two sisters.

6 Mammoth Bone

A family in rural Iowa went out to pick blackberries, but they returned with more than just a bucketful of berries. The family had discovered a 1.2-meter-long (4 ft) mammoth femur.

This was just the beginning of what would be found on their property. The father took the massive bone to the University of Iowa to have it identified. The university’s Museum of Natural History continued the excavation and found several other bones on the property.[5]

The team of excavators has found parts of at least three woolly mammoths, although none of them is complete. The crew found several bones, teeth, and tusks belonging to the creatures. After examining the discovery, scientists have determined that the woolly mammoth bones are about 13,000 to 14,000 years old.

5 World War II Explosives

About 75–100 people in a Southern California neighborhood were evacuated after authorities discovered several World War II–era explosives in the backyard of an abandoned home. The house was once owned by a World War II veteran who had died months before the discovery, but it is not clear if he was the owner of the explosives. The house had been vacant after his death, and transients had taken over the property.[6]

After searching the yard and home, authorities found several grenades, mortar rounds, rusty artillery shells, bullets, and more. Many of the devices were duds, but authorities were concerned about some of the ammunition. Most of the explosives were transported to another location for safe disposal, and nearby residents had to wait many hours to return to their homes.

4 Cursed Money

In 2011, Wayne Sabaj found a nylon bag with $150,000 stashed in his Illinois backyard garden. The carpenter, who had been unemployed for two years, was picking broccoli when he discovered the cash.

He turned the money over to authorities, and they told him that he could keep the cash if it was not claimed by the end of 2012. Eventually, his 87-year-old neighbor, Delores Johnson, and a liquor store stepped in to claim the money.[7]

Johnson suffered from dementia, but she told her daughter that she got rid of the money because it was cursed. Johnson died before she could claim the bulk of the money, but it would later go to her daughter.

Due to a diabetic problem, Sabaj died just 10 days before receiving his smaller portion of the money. Sabaj’s father went into cardiac arrest after finding out about his son’s death, but he was awarded the amount that Sabaj would have received. Mrs. Johnson may have been right about the money being cursed after all.

3 Rusty Old Safe

A New York couple always noticed a piece of metal under some trees in their backyard, but they thought that it was just an electrical box or cable. A landscaping crew at their home discovered that it was actually an old rusty safe.

Inside the safe, they found wet money and lots of jewelry in plastic bags. There were dozens of rings (including an engagement ring), diamonds, and other jewelry. There was also a piece of paper with their neighbor’s address.

The couple went to the neighbor and asked if they had ever been robbed. They replied that their safe had been stolen the night after Christmas 2011. They even knew that the safe contained cash and jewelry that was worth about $52,000.

The couple returned the safe to their neighbor. When the couple was asked why they didn’t just keep it for themselves, they replied, “It wasn’t even a question. It wasn’t ours.”[8]

2 Whale Fossil

Gary Johnson first discovered a half-ton whale fossil when he was a teenager exploring the creek behind his family’s home in Southern California. A local museum passed on adding it to their collection back then. In 2014, 53-year-old Johnson contacted the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County about the fossil after another sperm whale fossil was recovered at a nearby school.

A paleontologist from the Natural History Museum claimed that the baleen whale fossil was around 16–17 million years old. Only about 20 baleen fossils are known to exist.

The fossil was lodged in a 450-kilogram (1,000 lb) rock, and it was hoisted from a ravine by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Their search-and-rescue team used the fossil recovery as a training mission, but they typically rescue motorists and hikers who have careened off the roadway onto the steep and rugged hills.[9]

1 Cold War Bomb Shelter

John Sims discovered a Cold War–era fallout shelter underneath the lawn of his Tucson, Arizona, home. He uncovered the shelter after receiving a tip from a previous owner of the home.

Sims started digging shallow holes in the backyard, but he began to believe that the shelter had either collapsed or was under a bricked-in corner of the yard. After hiring a consultant with metal detectors who found where to dig, Sims hit the metal cap that covered the entrance of the shelter.

He discovered that the shelter was from 1961 and had been built by Whitaker Pools. Made of concrete with a domed fiberglass ceiling, the bunker could be entered by walking down a spiral staircase. It led to a large room that was emptied of any furniture.[10]

The shelter appeared to have been deliberately closed off after the Cold War. Between the 1960s and 1980s, 18 intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads were deployed in the desert around Tucson, making the city no stranger to the Cold War. Sims plans to restore the bunker to its original glory.

I’m just another bearded guy trying to write my way through life. Visit me at www.MDavidScott.com.


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Throughout history, the world—particularly the the United States—has seen its fair share of conspiracy theories come and go. From reptilians disguised as humans to chemtrails, it’s fair to say that most of these theories are entirely absurd.

From time to time, though, a conspiracy theory that many thought to be ridiculous is shown, in fact, to be correct. In such cases, the truth can prove to be much more terrifying than fiction. The following are ten examples of such real-life conspiracies.

10 Project SUNSHINE


Despite its cheery name, Project SUNSHINE was by far one of the darkest conspiracies ever conceived and the most horrifying to be proven real. The project was commissioned by the US Atomic Energy Committee and the US Air Force.

Designed to investigate the effects of nuclear radiation on humans and the environment, Project SUNSHINE saw the US government harvest and use, often without the permission of parents, the body parts of dead children and babies. Younger children typically have higher amounts of strontium in their bones, meaning that their tissues are more susceptible to radiation damage. Thus, they made better test subjects for the project.[1]

9 Project MKULTRA


MKULTRA is one of the better-known conspiracies. The general premise—now proven to be true—was that the US government was testing psychedelics and hallucinogenic drugs on unsuspecting American citizens and military personnel, in order to investigate the viability of behavior modification programs. Essentially, the US government was testing mind control techniques on its own populace and left many of its “participants” with trauma and even brain damage.

There are plenty of cases of MKULTRA subjects acting violently or dangerously, and the fact that the US government was so willing to endanger the lives of its own citizens without their consent is perhaps the most chilling part of the whole conspiracy.[2]

8 The US Government’s Alcohol Poisoning

This conspiracy doesn’t have a particular name, but it’s one that has been the subject of much discussion over the years, particularly recently. During Prohibition, the US government tainted industrial alcohol with methanol—a commonly used antifreeze—in an attempt to curb the drinking of it. Reports differ on just how much methanol was added, though most agree that it wasn’t enough to be lethal and was intended more as a deterrent than a punishment.

On the other hand, it has also been reported that there were around 10,000 deaths during this period as a result of the poisoning, so perhaps the intention was darker than we think.[3]

7 US Government Spying


In June 2013, intelligence contractor Edward Snowden released thousands of top-secret documents to various journalists, which detailed the sophisticated intelligence network the US, in conjunction with several other Western countries, had been using to spy on civilian populations around the world. Much of this spying was done through social networking companies; for instance, in 2016, US government agencies sent approximately 50,000 requests for user data to Facebook, roughly 28,000 to Google, and about 9,000 to Apple.

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this story is how the National Security Agency conducted multiple espionage operations on US-allied governments, such as Germany, Belgium, France, and Spain. Creepy stuff.[4]

6 Gulf Of Tonkin Incident

On August 2, 1964, in the midst of the Vietnam War, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam’s coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several North Vietnamese torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Maddox was also reportedly attacked by North Vietnamese vessels on August 4.

In 2005, an undated NSA publication was declassified, revealing that there was no attack on the Maddox on August 4.[5]

Since the NSA’s disclosure, many have accused the US government of intentionally faking the incident to increase support for the US war in Vietnam and to justify further military action in the region. In fact, on August 10, the US congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a bill that authorized President Johnson to do whatever was necessary to assist “any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty.”

This technique was also seen in the early 2000s, when the government administrations of President Bush of the US and Prime Minister Tony Blair of the UK asserted that the Iraqi government was actively constructing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, prompting the Iraq War. Later, US-led inspections found that Iraq had in fact not been stockpiling or producing WMDs to begin with.

5 The First Lady Who Ran The Country

In October 1919, President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that rendered him incapable of governing. Some of us probably know that part. What you might not know, however, is that after his stroke, his wife, First Lady Edith Wilson, decided what matters were important enough to bring to Woodrow’s attention, essentially giving her the unofficial role of president until Warren Harding took over in 1921. Because Woodrow never technically resigned, the vice president at the time, Thomas Marshall, could not take over, and Wilson instead decided to allow his wife to govern for some time.[6]

Perhaps the scariest thing about this whole story is that the US government didn’t inform the public of this. (The people only learned of Wilson’s stroke in February 1920, and even then, the full details weren’t known.) It’s events like these that are the framework of the relatively modern and widely believed Deep State conspiracy theory, which posits that there is an unknown party in the government, independent of changing administrations, that makes most of the decisions.

4 The US Government’s Weather Manipulation

In 1993, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the US military, and the University of Alaska created the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, otherwise known as HAARP. Since then, numerous conspiracy theories have sprung up surrounding the mysterious project, everything from satellites that can cause earthquakes to huge transmitters that can create tornadoes and tsunamis. However, what most people don’t know is that there actually was documented weather manipulation project during the Vietnam War—decades before the creation of HAARP.

Operation Popeye was an five-year project in which the US government used the age-old technique of cloud seeding to increase precipitation during the rainy seasons over North Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Trail in order to disrupt the NVA’s moving of vehicles, weapons, and rations across the trail. The general idea of cloud seeding is to send an airborne object, typically an airplane, flying through a cloud while releasing small particulates that give water vapor something to cling to so that it can condense and become rain.[7]

What’s scary about this is if the military has done it in the past (and given the length of the operation, it must have been at least partly successful), what’s to stop them from doing it again?

3 The Canadian Fruit Machine

Despite being one of the strongest proponents of the LGBT community today, Canada’s history isn’t as clean as one would think. In the 1960s, the Canadian government hired a university professor to create a “gaydar,” what it called the “Fruit Machine” at the time. The university professor, Frank Robert Wake of Carleton University, went about this by forcing subjects to look at same-sex erotic imagery while he measured pupil dilation, perspiration levels, and changes in pulse to gauge just how “fruity” they were.[8]

The program was part of a long-term effort to remove homosexuals from positions of civil service. In the late 1960s, funding was cut off—but not before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had collected files on over 9,000 suspected homosexuals.

2 The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama is the designated spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Those carrying the title are generally seen as embodying the tenets of Buddhism: inner peace, enlightenment, and virtuousness. However, CIA documents published by the State Department in 1998 indicated otherwise: For much of the 1960s and some of the 1970s, the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatzo, along with many other prominent Tibetan figures, were funneled millions of dollars by the CIA. This funding was part of a concerted effort by US intelligence to undermine Communist China, and global communist presence, by propping up Tibetan guerrillas in their fight against the communist state. According to the report, the CIA funded approximately 2,100 Tibetan guerrillas with $500,000 annually and gave the Dalai Lama himself an annual $180,000 subsidy.

The funding ended in the early 1970s, after President Nixon began to open up more to China in efforts to improve crumbling relations. The official CIA report stated that the purpose of the program was to “keep the political concept of an autonomous Tibet alive within Tibet and among foreign nations, principally India, and to build a capability for resistance against possible political developments inside Communist China.” The Dalai Lama wrote in his autobiography that he saw the cutting off of the funding as “a reflection of their anti-Communist policies rather than genuine support for the restoration of Tibetan independence.”[9]

1 Operation Mockingbird


Operation Mockingbird was a 1950s program in which the CIA recruited and propped up various media organizations to influence public opinion. In April 1976, the Church Committee, a US senate task force, conducted an investigation into the CIA’s influence over both foreign and national news organizations and stated that the CIA maintained a huge global network that provided intel for the organization and “at times” attempted to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda.[10]

The damning report also stated that these same individuals gave the CIA direct access to a large number of “newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets” and claimed that approximately 50 of the CIA’s assets were individual American journalists or employees of US media organizations.

I’m a freelance writer and student who loves writing.


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From ancient Greece, where small fried fish were peddled, to Aztec marketplaces, where tamales, insects, and stews were a delicacy, ready-to-eat street food sold by vendors has been around for centuries. It’s still a staple of many cities today. Whether you want a hot dog, taco, or something more unique, there’s a food truck for that.

These days, many who have taken to the profession have indubitably experienced their share of ups and downs, predicated on a volatile economy and uncertain monetary prosperity. The following ten entries examine several unsavory street vendors who boiled over in events too bizarre and disgusting to comprehend or imagine prior to eating.

10 A Spicy Sriracha Shower


You never know when you might cross paths with an unhinged individual destined to ruin someone’s day. For Carlotta Washington, her run-in with Islam El Masry turned into a racist food fight after she attempted to pay for her lunch in quarters in June 2018. El Masry, the owner of Small Pharoah’s halal cart in Portland, Oregon, became so perturbed about Washington’s change that he responded in the only eloquent way he knew how: by calling her the “n-word,” a “stupid f—ing b—” and demanding that she “get the f— away” from his cart.

As if his romantic tirade wasn’t classy enough, El Masry took his fury a step further by and hurling a Gatorade bottle at her. Not long after that, he proceeded to douse Washington in sriracha. Numerous onlookers came to Washington’s defense as she sobbed in disbelief, covered in hot sauce. Three police officers arrived on scene a short time later and arrested the temperamental vendor on misdemeanor harassment and assault.

Incensed by the vendor’s demented actions, local residents began harassing the owner of an Egyptian food cart in downtown Portland the following day. The only problem was that it was a completely different individual with no association to the sriracha-wielding cook. Some 15 to 20 people holding signs shouted obscenities at Gharib Muhammad’s wife as she operated their food cart. One man staed, “I remember what you did yesterday.”[1]

9 ‘Can I Get A Large Coke?’


When approaching the food truck of Johnny B. Jones (aka “Big Dad”) in Springfield, Tennessee, one could order a burger and fries with a side of cocaine. It eventually became public knowledge that the beloved neighborhood cook was offering hot dogs along with the daily special, his infamous booger sugar. Booked into Robertson County jail on a six-count indictment in spring 2018, the 57-year-old could very well be trading in his apron for a fashionable orange jumpsuit.

Jones’s dire predicament began following a joint investigation by the Robertson County Sheriff’s Office and the Springfield Police Department’s narcotics division nearly a year prior to his arrest. It seems that arrogance was more of a factor than logic for the peddler, as detectives observed an innumerable amount of transactions at Big Dad’s stand, all while he turned famished frowns into smiles and, perhaps, rapid heartbeats. “It was a shock to us, what we found out,” said Detective Houston Evans. “I’m sure everyone else who heard about this is shocked, as well.”

The distinctive red and yellow truck that had become so loved by Springfield locals throughout the years is now a grim reminder of the growing drug problem throughout their state. In a final twist of irony, Jones’s home-style cooking food truck was situated near one of the most laughable localities, a police station and sheriff’s office.[2]

8 Daily Specials

A woman in Long Island was smoking more than just sausage when she converted her hot dog truck into a miniature brothel. In 2012, Catherine Scalia, 45, decided to expand her business by handing out suggestive cards titled “Strips-R-Us” and advertising a “topless cleaning service” and “one-on-one strips.”

Disgruntled and nauseated neighbors not privy to her marketing strategies eventually complained to authorities, stating, “In the summertime she’s out in her bra and panties. It’s disgusting. She’s filthy, she’s dirty. How could men take that?” In her own defense, the mother of four contentedly gloated about her professionalism and unyielding restraint when it comes to children, asserting, “I zip up when I see kids.” In spite of such morality, Scalia soon found herself inside a jail cell after offering one of her daily specials to an undercover police officer.

This was not the first time that her flesh-peddling ways led her to the slammer. Scalia was arrested eight years prior after performing sexual acts on her co-chef in the “captain’s chair” of the same hot dog truck. According to one local resident who observed several satisfied clients blissfully leave her establishment, “They seemed pretty happy. Now I can see why.” One can only hope that her proficiency in cleaning is as highly regarded as her “home cooking.”[3]

7 The Hot Dog Nazi


Michael Anderson of M.A.’s Gourmet Dogs in Anchorage, Alaska, garnered quite the reputation after serving up sizzling hot dogs with an attitude. Known as “the hot dog Nazi,” Anderson was infamous for his strict rules (such as refusal to serve anyone talking on a cell phone) and his tendency to lose his cool if customers dared to stray from his stringent regulations.

His bizarre tirades became endearing to local residents for nearly 20 years. That was until he was charged for unwanted sexual contact with a teenage employee in 2015. Ironically enough, the incident occurred near Anderson’s pushcart, situated in front of the old Federal Building, of all places. According to Anderson’s accuser, he coerced her with alcohol before touching her “down there.” In addition to his appalling advances, the 54-year-old vendor took a liking to gorging on marijuana brownies while on the job and washing it down with pints of vodka.

With several charges stacked against him and his reputation in shambles, Anderson killed himself in 2016, one day before he was set to go to trial. To date, the vacancy on the infamous corner he stood on for over two decades echoes a sobering memory of a troubled and wasted life.[4]

6 Virgin Boy Eggs

An unmistakable, pungent aroma reminiscent of a nursing home is what you can find permeating the streets of the Chinese city of Dongyang. As local residents flock to their neighborhood vendor, buckets of boys’ urine boil over as eggs are soaked and cooked in the fragrant yellow “broth.” The unique snack, popular for its “fresh and salty taste,” is a local tradition that has been passed down by ancestors for centuries. “Virgin boy eggs,” as they’re so eloquently named, are claimed to have remarkable health benefits. Gallons of piss are collected from primary schools and used as the main ingredient by egg vendors throughout the city.

Virgin boy eggs are not only served up on street corners but in residences as well. In those instances, the magical yellow liquid is personally collected by locals from nearby schools under the guise of a therapeutic appetizer. “If you eat this, you will not get heat stroke. These eggs cooked in urine are fragrant,” said egg vendor Ge Yaohua. “They are good for your health. Our family has them for every meal. In Dongyang, every family likes eating them.” Interestingly enough, government officials listed the nauseating treat as part of the city’s cultural heritage, ensuring its popularity and consumption for centuries to come.[5]

5 Satay Chicken

“Satay chicken, not dog?” asked a skeptical tourist on a Bali beach after purchasing mystery meat from a vendor. “I’m happy just as long as it’s not dog,” the man said before he naively devoured poor Lassie. Sadly, such revolting grub is commonplace in Indonesia, where dogs are tortured prior to their slaughter for human consumption. An investigation led by Animals Australia found that vendors throughout Bali have been deceptively selling canine meat to unsuspecting tourists under the guise of chicken. “Tourists will walk down a street, they’ll see a street store selling satay but what they are not realising is the letters RW on the store mean it is dog meat being served,” Animals Australia’s campaign director Lyn White said.

In a place where dog meat is legal, hoards of unscrupulous vendors hunt, steal, beat, hang, or poison the canines in order to turn a quick profit. An unapologetic 83-year-old, for example, resorted to snatching an average of 12 dogs a week due to the fact that he could not find another source of income. After capturing his prey, be it an older dog or a puppy, the elderly man described bludgeoning the animals with a metal pipe in a nonchalant fashion without the slightest hint of remorse.

As grotesque as his method is, it is far more troublesome that countless vendors have been known to use cyanide as a means to kill. Dr. Andrew Dawson of the New South Wales Poisons Information Centre stated that its use poses a significant threat, considering that, “Cyanide is not going to be destroyed by cooking. So there will be cyanide throughout the dog’s body. The actual risk depends upon how much poison is in the dog meat.” To date, no human deaths have been reported from the consumption of dog meat in Indonesia, yet. Time will tell.[6]

4 A Special Ingredient

As if urine-soaked eggs weren’t stomach-churning enough, a 59-year-old paani puri vendor in India was arrested in 2011 for adding his own special flavor to his sauces. Naupada resident Ankita Rane, 19, began keeping a close eye on vendor Rajdev Lakhan Chauhan, who had a reputation for being “quite gross,” from the confines of her balcony. “We have seen him scratching himself or picking his nose if no one was around. I had always asked my friends to refrain from eating there, but they were so hooked to the taste that they rubbished whatever we said.”

That all changed, however, after Rane witnessed Chauhan urinating into his saucepans before blending his tangy delicacy into the paani puri mix or the neighborhood favorite, ragda. After several days of dousing his utensils with golden showers, the saucy street vendor was filmed in the act. The video was then shown to local residents. When neighbors in the area learned of Chauhan’s special ingredient, they surrounded his cart and took turns beating him up before dragging the devious urinator to the police station.

When questioned, Chauhan simply stated that he had nowhere else to pee and that urinating into the pans kept the residential streets of Bhaskar Colony clean. Despite his righteous intentions, police decided to detain Chauhan but were confused about what to charge him with: “In the end, all we could book him under was the Bombay Police act for urinating in public places.” Chauhan ultimately pleaded guilty and was fined 1,200 rupees before being let off with a warning.[7]

3 Turf Wars


In 2016, when ice cream man John Cierco pulled up to his “favorite spot” in New York City, a sense of ire pulsed through his veins upon finding a pretzel vendor encroaching on “his” corner. Moments later, the pretzel peddler was pummeled over the head with a baseball bat.

Such barbaric acts over turf become surprisingly commonplace when profit-oriented territory determines ones success. In spite of cities not dictating certain locations for food carts or trucks, unwritten rules have allowed vendors to virtually own particular spots for decades on end. This has spawned violent turf wars by established vendors, who see newcomers as competition in a desperate economy.

In 2012, bullets flew outside Yankee Stadium when 52-year-old Horace Coleman shot two competitors multiple times with a .357 magnum. According to witnesses, Coleman, known on the streets as “Ace,” had been at war over his sidewalk turf for quite some time. “They were trying to bully him out of his spot,” said Coleman’s friend Gracie Olivera; that is until the pistol-packing vendor—dressed in a pinstripe suit, a flamboyant derby hat, and gold-framed sunglasses—took matters into his own hands. “He didn’t say anything. He walked up, pulled out and started firing. Bang! Bang! Bang!”[8]

2 Human Tamales


Working on an anonymous tip in 2004, Mexican police raided the home of a tamale vendor suspected of having a dismembered corpse in his kitchen. Upon the discovery of carved-up body parts, detectives noted that the appetizing ingredients were in the process of being boiled on the stove with herbs and spices.

The homicidal vendor, who worked as a butcher for eight years, vehemently denied using human meat in the tamales that he sold from his cart. Nonetheless, police took it upon themselves to test the tamales for human remains as opposed to taking the word of a man halfway into the process of filleting a fresh cadaver. According to the resourceful chef, he killed the unidentified man in a drunken argument the day prior to seasoning him for lunch.

Following an analysis, police found no trace of human flesh in the food. However, police claimed to have found “other materials” and ingredients suggesting that the unorthodox cook was preparing to make a “new batch” of tamales while in the vicinity of his decomposing, edible victim, or soon-to-be cuisine.[9]

1 Tarek El-Tayeb Mohammed Bouazizi

The only vendor on this list worthy of accolades is Tarek el-Tayeb Mohammed Bouazizi, who, on December 17, 2010, set himself ablaze, igniting a revolution. Working as a vegetable seller in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, Bouazizi’s dream was to save enough money to purchase a food truck. Sadly, the 26-year-old’s hopes and aspirations came crashing down when a policewoman confiscated his unlicensed vegetable cart and his produce. To add insult to injury, the officer slapped Bouazizi, insulted his dead father, and spat in the scrawny vendor’s face.

After his complaints to local municipality officials fell on deaf ears, a humiliated and dejected Bouazizi doused himself with fuel in the town’s square and set himself on fire. As Bouazizi clung to life in the hospital, outrage erupted throughout the country over the high unemployment, corruption, and autocratic rule.

Following his death on January 4, 2011, Bouazizi became a legend, with his martyrdom symbolizing the people’s struggle for survival and how it has shaken despotic Arab governments in what many have referred to as the “people’s revolution.” In response to the growing protests, Tunisia’s President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia On January 14, 2011, bringing an end to his dictatorship after 23 years of power.[10]

Adam is just a hubcap trying to hold on in the fast lane.


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The story of the Amber Room has all of the elements of an Indiana Jones film: the bounty of kings, the spoils of war, theft by dastardly Nazis, a tireless search by the Soviet Union, mysterious deaths, and a priceless treasure waiting to be found.

Construction of the opulent “Eighth Wonder of the World” began at the command of the king of Prussia in 1701. Although estimates of its size vary, the Amber Room was believed to span about 55 square meters (592 ft2) after 18th-century renovations. It contained over six tons of amber backed by glittering gold and set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.

As a peace symbol between allies, the Amber Room was moved from its place in Charlottenburg Palace twice—once to Winter House in St. Petersburg and then to Catherine Palace in Pushkin. As an act of war, the room was moved once more before being lost forever.

In 1941, invading Nazi soldiers tore down the room, packed its panels into 27 crates, and shipped it to Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad), Germany. When the city was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1943, the room went missing.

In subsequent years, governments, historians, archaeologists, bounty hunters, and treasure seekers alike have sought it out, interviewing thousands of witnesses, poring over records, digging up locations all over Europe, and spending fortunes along the way. As of this writing, the room has never been found.

10 Unmoved From Kaliningrad, Germany

Although the prominent theory holds that the Amber Room must have been destroyed by the bombs which rained down upon the city then called Konigsberg, some evidence contradicts this. In over 1,000 pages of reports compiled by the decade-long Soviet investigation, no witnesses attest to any unusual odors as the city burned. Officers involved in this investigation believed that it would be impossible to miss the equivalent of 6 tons of incense burning at once.

In 1997, a German raid in Bremen lent credence to the idea that the room had survived the bombing.[1] One of its Florentine mosaic panels turned up for auction. After its seizure, the panel was authenticated but the seller claimed ignorance as to its origin. His father, a deceased Wehrmacht soldier, never shared the secret of the panel, not even with his own flesh and blood.

9 Hidden In A Silver Mine On The Czech Border

Helmut Gaensel was a bounty hunter. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the bounty he hunted was the bejeweled panels of the Amber Room. Former SS officers living in Brazil had tipped him off to a location. According to them, the panels were deposited in the 800-year-old Nicolai Stollen mine near the border between Germany and the Czech Republic.

Gaensel was not the only man to hear the tale. While he and a team of engineers, mining experts, and historians attempted to dig into the mine from the German side, a rival group led by Peter Haustein, then mayor of the town of Deutschneudorf, tried burrowing in from the Czech side. Though the competition led to international headlines and legal headaches, neither team proved successful.[2]

8 Covered In A Murky Lagoon

The mayor of the Lithuanian town of Neringa believed that the Amber Room was hidden beneath the dirty waters of a nearby lagoon. According to Stasys Mikelis, SS soldiers were seen attempting to hide wooden crates in the shoreline near the end of the war. They did not count on rising sea levels to submerge their loot.[3]

Not only did Mikelis believe it, he assembled a research team in 1998 to find it, hoping to put his town on the map. His dream was not realized.

7 Lost In A Bavarian Woodland

Georg Stein was a strawberry farmer and an avid treasure hunter. His heart was set on finding the Amber Room, but he got too close according to some sources.

Stein claimed to have discovered a secret radio frequency and to have listened to the last-known communication about the transfer of the Amber Room. This message was reportedly sent from the Castle Lauenstein on the border of Thuringia on a direct shortwave to Switzerland.

Stein then arranged to meet a “search competitor” in Bavaria. The meeting was not to be. In 1987, Stein was found dead in the woodland.[4] His body was stripped, his stomach slashed open with a scalpel. The death was ruled a suicide.

6 Beneath Wuppertal, Western Germany

Pensioner Karl-Heinz Kleine believes that he knows the location of the Amber Room and who hid it there. According to Kleine, the Nazi’s chief administrator in East Prussia, Erich Koch, secreted the treasure in his hometown of Wuppertal in the industrial Ruhr area.[5]

It would not be a far stretch to imagine it of Koch. Even the Nazis were appalled by his brazen thefts and use of concentration camp inmates for personal gain. Koch was tried for corruption before a Nazi court in 1944 and sentenced to death. Later reprieved, he returned to favor and continued amassing his personal fortune until the end of the war.

Once captured in Poland, he was sentenced to death for the murder of 72,000 Poles and for sending another 200,000 to labor camps. But he escaped his sentence yet again. Koch’s ill health prevented Poland from carrying out his death sentence, and he lived in prison for 27 years, unrepentant to the last.

5 Shipwrecked In The Baltic Sea

The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff on the night of January 30, 1945, was the worst disaster in maritime history. Under the press of the Red Army and rumored defeat, a great evacuation of German civilians began on the Baltic Sea. Every seaworthy vessel was placed into service.

So it was that the Wilhelm Gustloff, a luxury liner designed for fewer than 2,000 people, carried 10,582 shivering evacuees on that fateful night. It was flanked by only one military escort, which stood no chance when a Soviet submarine fired three torpedoes at the Gustloff. Each torpedo hit its target. An estimated 9,343 people died that night, half of them children.

The exact location of the Gustloff has long been known and searched. But some still claim that it may contain the hidden remains of the Amber Room. As the wreckage of the Gustloff is recognized as a war grave, diving to it, penetrating it, or both is illegal. But a lack of resources has left Polish authorities unable to protect it.[6]

4 Aboard A Ghost Train, Walbrzych, Southwest Poland

It has long been said that a Nazi train loaded with treasure was lost in secret tunnels under a mountain in Walbrzych. Nobody knows the name of the train, its mission, or from where its precious cargo came.

Some speculate that the lack of written evidence of the train strengthens their hypothesis. Secrecy, the theory goes, was more important than paperwork, even to the Germans. Some theorize that the train may have carried the stolen wedding bands and other personal jewels of interned Jews, while others insist that the train bore the crated panels of the Amber Room.[7]

In 2015, two men, a German and a Pole, claimed to have found the train. The local government of Walbrzych refused to comment on the matter except to warn that the train may be booby-trapped by mines if it exists.

3 In a Bunker In Mamerki, Northeastern Poland

In 2016, officials of the Mamerki Museum reported to have found a hidden room inside a World War II–era bunker using geo-radar. Bartlomiej Plebanczyk of the museum believed it possible that the panels of the Amber Room were hidden inside.

His theory was based upon the testimony of a turncoat Nazi soldier. In the 1950s, the former Nazi told Polish soldiers that he had witnessed heavily guarded cargo trucks delivering their load to the bunker in winter 1944.[8]

2 Buried In Tunnels Under The Ore Mountains In Eastern Germany

In 2017, treasure hunters Leonhard Blume, Peter Lohr, and Gunter Eckhardt claimed to have deduced the location of the room via archival and radar sleuthing. Both the East German and Russian secret police held years-long searches for the Amber Room. It is from their records that these men reportedly found a clue as to the room’s whereabouts.

Eyewitnesses claimed that a shipment of crates had been hidden inside the tunnels. The entrance to the tunnels, they said, was then blown up. Blume, Lohr, and Eckhardt eagerly surveyed the “Prince’s Cave” near the Czech border, and the results were astounding.

Mr. Blume said, “We discovered a very big, deep, and long tunnel system and we detected something that we think could be a booby trap.” Their search continues.[9]

1 A Secret Russian Location Known By Stalin

The impending raid of Winter Palace was known to the officials and curators of Catherine Palace. According to the official record, they attempted to disassemble and hide the Amber Room. When the brittle panels began to crumble, they chose to wallpaper over them instead. But they could not outwit the Nazis, who discovered the trick almost at once.

This conspiracy theory holds that Joseph Stalin fooled the soldiers after all. The panels they stole were replicas, while the real Amber Room had already been shipped off and hidden elsewhere. If true, the Amber Room may have been cleverly saved, only to be lost forever.[10]

Olene Quinn is the historical fiction author of The Gates of Nottingham and Prince Dead. A self-described armchair historian, she resides in Northern California.


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Growing up in the United States, you learn about all the big, quintessentially “American” sites and structures from a very early age. You’re told that they are important and given a vague explanation of why. Then you set about the task of never really thinking about them again.

That’s a shame because they can be quite fascinating—usually for reasons that they were never meant to be. Behind the stately columns and torches lies an entire world of weirdness hidden away from the public eye.

10 The Washington Mini Monument

The Washington Monument, the giant white obelisk in Washington, DC, was built in honor of the first US president, George Washington. You probably knew that. What you may not have known is that the monument has a forgotten baby brother.

Buried beneath an unassuming manhole right beside the famous landmark is a 3.7-meter-tall (12 ft) replica. Placed there in the 1880s, around the same time that the Washington Monument was finished, this shrunken clone served as a “Geodetic Control Point” for the National Geodetic Survey (NGS).[1]

Officially named “Bench Mark A,” it was basically used as an exceptionally accurate starting point when making maps and planning railroad routes. However, due to its proximity to the monument, the NGS employees decided to dress it up a bit rather than use the standard plain metal rods.

Unfortunately, the miniature monument has sunk into DC’s marshy soil over the years. So it was given a proper burial. It was entombed in a brick chimney and sealed off from the world. It continues to sink about 0.5 millimeters (0.02 in) each year.

9 The Capitol’s Flag Factory

Aside from being your typical stately government building, the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, offers a special service: For a small fee, you can own an American flag that has been flown over the Capitol. So, if you wish to own a flag that is slightly more America-y than your neighbor’s, you’re welcome.

But before you reach for your wallet, there’s just one thing. The flag you receive will indeed have been flown over the Capitol, but only on one of three tiny, hidden flagpoles for 30 seconds.

Since its inception in 1937, the Capitol Flag Program (CFP) has supplied patriotic citizens with genuine “Capitol-flown” flags. However, when demand eventually outgrew supply, the CFP had to get creative. Rather than continue to sell the prominently displayed flags above the Capitol’s entrances, they just installed a bizarre “flag factory” on the roof.

Three unremarkable flagpoles, complete with a small service elevator and crew of workers, are used to fly as many flags for the state-mandated 30 seconds as possible each day. Security cameras have even been installed to prevent workers from flying the flags for a disgustingly disrespectful 29 seconds.[2]

8 The Golden Gate Bridge-Boat-Tunnel Thing

While it isn’t a really a national monument, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is still a world-famous symbol of American ingenuity. However, this bright orange engineering marvel came dangerously close to not existing. San Francisco almost built a tunnel instead. Stranger still, they almost built a tunnel designed by a man who had presumably no idea what a tunnel actually was.

When shopping around for ideas about how to span San Francisco Bay in the early 1930s, city officials were delivered an unusual proposal by local inventor Cleve F. Shaffer. His eccentric concept called for two bridges to be built—one from each shore—which would each connect to its own ship floating stationary in the bay. A tunnel would run between the ships, which would be raised and lowered to allow sea traffic in and out of the city.[3]

Aside from the fever-dream design, the problems introduced by the plan were many. The narrow spiral ramps within the bridge-ships would create nightmarish traffic jams. In addition, the fact that most of the bridge was freely floating was a recipe for maritime disaster.

Tempted by the relatively low price tag, the city of San Francisco came bafflingly close to accepting this design before settling on their now world-famous suspension bridge.

7 The Supreme Basketball Court

The “Highest Court of the Land” is a title that has long been held by the US Supreme Court. It is well-deserved, albeit in a metaphorical sense. A more literal example would be the secret basketball court which sits just above the courtroom.

Once used as a storage area for journals and other legal documents, the fifth floor of the Washington, DC, Supreme Court building was converted into an all-purpose workout area for off-duty employees in the 1940s. At some point, the focus shifted to basketball and a slightly smaller-than-regulation basketball court was constructed.

In recent years, justices such as Byron White and William H. Rehnquist have shot hoops there to blow off steam. Sandra Day O’Connor used it to host women-only yoga classes. A weight-lifting area even caters to justices looking to strengthen their cores.[4]

Unfortunately, this court is off-limits to the public. As it sits just above the courtroom on the fourth floor, there are strict rules in place. Signs warn visitors not to play when court is in session because squeaky sneakers can really blow your concentration when deciding the legal fate of millions.

6 The Disturbing Vision Behind the National Parks

Many people are aware that Theodore Roosevelt founded the US Forest Service and more or less created the concept of a “national park.” However, most people don’t know that he had help—from some of the most distressingly racist people on the planet. They saw national parks as an opportunity to prove the importance of racial purification.

These men were Madison Grant, Gifford Pinchot, and a handful of other aristocratic supporters of eugenics, the belief that some creatures—including humans—are genetically superior to others. They were fond of warning of the impending “race suicide” that America would face if it didn’t replenish its stock of white people and even suggested that certain people should be legally forbidden to reproduce.[5]

However, they were also very vocal about the importance of wildlife conservation. When Roosevelt approached them for help in establishing the national parks, they saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

Essentially, their idea was to use the parks as a metaphor for human society—the noble bear and elk (white people) deprived of land and resources by weaker but more numerous species (nonwhites). Luckily, the message was lost in translation and now we just like looking at all the pretty trees.

5 Crazy Horse’s Ironic Insult

In 1948, sculptor Korczazk Ziolkowski began work on possibly the most ambitious statue in the world. Using the very mountains of South Dakota’s Black Hills, he planned to honor Native American folk hero Crazy Horse with a massive memorial, the largest on the planet. Unfortunately, he didn’t bother to consult any actual Native Americans before starting work.

Aside from the fact that Ziolkowski began unknowingly blowing apart a sacred mountain with no permission whatsoever, the statue itself has proven problematic as well. The plan calls for Crazy Horse, mounted on horseback, to be pointing dramatically across the land.

This is a reference to a folktale in which a white man asks, “Where are your lands now?” The legendary warrior replies, “My lands are where my dead lie buried.” It makes for a moving image. But there’s one small problem: It is unbelievably rude to point in Native American culture.[6]

Needless to say, Native American spokesmen have been condemning the statue for decades, comparing it to a Mount Rushmore that features the presidents picking their noses. Luckily, the statue is not yet finished. Here’s hoping that someone takes over soon who is willing to actually speak to the people being honored.

4 The National Mall’s Dodged Bullet

The National Mall in Washington, DC, is absolutely packed with monuments to great Americans and moments in American history. The Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, and the Lincoln Memorial all call this long, grassy stretch home. However, in the early 1920s, it came dangerously close to adopting a new monument, seemingly praising one of the darkest moments in the nation’s history.

Having only been abolished half a century prior, slavery was still an extremely tender topic during the early years of the 20th century. This is exactly why the “Mammy Monument” was so baffling.

Proposed by North Carolina Congressman Charles Stedman in 1923, this statue featured a large slave woman holding a white infant. It was to be a memorial to slaves who “desired no change in their condition of life.”[7]

Understandably, in an era in which many white Americans were still struggling to decide if freeing the slaves had been the right move, a monument to slaves that looked upon slavery “as the happy golden hours of their lives” might have been problematic.

Nevertheless, the Senate approved the proposal, nearly constructing the statue ironically close to the Lincoln Memorial. However, overwhelming backlash ultimately caused the project to be canceled.

3 Lincoln’s Cave Drawings

Speaking of the Lincoln Memorial, it isn’t immune to Hidden Historical Weirdness Syndrome (HHWS), either. Like other HHWS sufferers, Lincoln’s famous shrine hides its secrets well. Only a select few ever get to see it, but there is a man-made cavern full of modern cave paintings hiding just beneath Abe’s massive throne.

During the monument’s construction in the naturally swampy Washington, DC, terrain, workers had to dig down 12 meters (40 ft) to hit anything solid enough to build on. Then they poured several concrete pillars to support the weight of the memorial. This inadvertently created a huge artificial cave system beneath the structure. In the years following its 1922 completion, it even began growing stalactites.

But the truly bizarre bits are the cave drawings—charcoal graffiti left by bored workmen over 100 years ago. Perfectly preserved in their sealed tomb, intricate illustrations of dogs, horses, flapper girls, and men smoking pipes stare from the giant columns supporting Honest Abe.

Plastic sheets have been placed to protect a few of these drawings, but most are still exactly as they were left a century ago. Tentative plans are in place to open this otherworldly time capsule to the public in the near future.[8]

2 The Roosevelt Geyser

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial sits on a quiet island in the Potomac River in Washington, DC. In honor of the 26th president’s love of nature and conservation, it largely consists of a simple park. However, upon Roosevelt’s death in 1919, proposals for a memorial began pouring in, and the current design was nowhere near the most likely.

At first, officials were drawn to a plan put forth by architect John Russell Pope. On the southern banks of DC’s tidal basin—home of the Jefferson Memorial—a fountain would be constructed in honor of Roosevelt’s spirit, which “sprang out of the deep sources of the nation’s history.” However, this would be no ordinary fountain. Larger than life, like Roosevelt himself, this fountain would blast water to a staggering 61 meters (200 ft), twice as tall as the Lincoln Memorial.[9]

Obviously, the man-made geyser idea never saw the light of day. Not only did many agree that it was too soon to build a memorial to the only one-year-deceased president, but the irony wasn’t lost on the public. After all, was such a monumental waste of water really the best way to honor the greatest conservationist in history?

1 Lady Liberty’s Makeover

New York City’s Statue of Liberty is far and away the most powerful symbol of the United States. Instantly recognizable the world over, this (now) green behemoth has welcomed ships to NYC since 1886. But bizarrely, her iconic look was not her first one—she was originally a Muslim woman.

Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, the statue’s designer, had first planned to build the colossal statue/lighthouse for the opening of Egypt’s Suez Canal. She was to be a fellah (“Arab peasant”) clad in a simple Middle Eastern robe.

Entitled Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia, she would represent the Egyptians, her torch lighting the way for the rest of the world. However, after throwing obscene amounts of cash at the canal project itself, the Egyptian government passed on the costly—and entirely cosmetic—statue.

But Bartholdi was determined to bring his vision to life. So when the French government approached him to design a monument for the US for its centennial celebration, he jumped at the chance. After swapping her Muslim robe for a more Roman number and changing her official name to Liberty Enlightening the World, Bartholdi presented the United States with his now world-famous creation.[10]


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