The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth's Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes

Khalid Elhassan - April 29, 2021

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Franz Reichelt on the front page of a newspaper the day after his jump. Le Petit Parisien

15. A Crazy Jump From the Eiffel Tower

Accompanied by journalists, Franz Reichelt ascended the Eiffel Tower. Two film crews set up their cameras and positioned themselves, one on the ground to catch the drop from the tower, and another at the tower to film the dummy being thrown. People were perplexed however because they could see no dummy. It gradually dawned on them that Reichelt had not brought one: he planned to test his design by jumping off the tower in person. A guard stopped him initially, but Reichelt convinced him to let him proceed. Friends and journalists also tried to talk him out of it, but without success.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Franz Reichelt’s plunge. Imgur

Climbing the stairs, Reichelt paused to give the crowd a cheery “A bientot!” He then continued to the tower’s first deck. There, as the cameras rolled and people shouted at him to stop, he climbed on a stool placed atop a table adjacent to the guardrail. He seemed to hesitate for a moment, as people urged him to reconsider. However, he then steeled himself, and at 8:22 AM, jumped. Reichelt’s suit was a flop, literally and figuratively. He fell straight down about 200 feet, to the frozen ground below. He struck with an impact that left a six inch crater, and crushed his spine and skull. Unbeknownst to him, an American had successfully parachuted 225 feet from the Statute of Liberty just two days earlier, using what became the standard half-spherical backpack parachute.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Davy Crockett. Pintrest

14. That Crazy Time When America Had Jeep-Mounted Nukes

Once upon a time, the US Army had soldiers running around West Germany and South Korea with nukes on Jeeps. The Davy Crockett Weapon System was a smoothbore recoilless rifle that fired a tactical nuclear explosive to a range of up to 1.25 with the M-28 version of the weapon. The upgraded M-29 version increased the range to 2.5 miles. Developed during the Cold War in the 1950s, over 2000 Davy Crocketts and their launch systems were deployed with US ground forces from 1961 to 1971.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Jeep-mounted Davy Crockett. NPR

It was a notoriously inaccurate weapon – but then again, pinpoint accuracy was not a big deal, considering its warhead. The Davy Crockett’s deadliness stemmed more from its radioactivity than from its explosive yield. The warhead produced an instantly lethal dose of radiation within a 500-foot radius, and an incapacitating and likely fatal dose within a quarter mile. As such, the weapon was more of a broad area radiation dispenser than a surgical smart bomb. However, as seen below, the weapon had a crazy glitch: it was dangerous to its own users.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
A Jeep-mounted Davy Crockett. National Museum of the United States Army

13. It Took the Pentagon a Decade to Realize That Handing Nukes to Three Soldiers in a Jeep Might be a Bad Idea

The maximum range of Davy Crocketts was 1.25 to 2.5 miles. So there was always a risk that the firing team, and other NATO personnel in the vicinity, would get irradiated by their own nuke. The weapon’s greatest danger however was the fact that it was deployed at all, and deployed very low down the chain of command at that. The Davy Crockett was effectively placed under the complete control of three soldiers roaming the battlefield in a Jeep. In theory, they would only fire when authorized from high up in the chain of command. In practice, they would have been able to fire a nuclear weapon at their own discretion.

Crazy as it sounds today, it took ten years before the Pentagon decided that it might be unwise to give a lieutenant, a sergeant, and a corporal, the discretion to initiate what might quickly escalate into a global nuclear holocaust. The West Germans were eager to deploy the Davy Crockett with their ground forces. However, they US refused to give them the weapon, because they wanted to incorporate it into their defensive strategy in a manner that would have made its use nearly automatic as soon as war began. That would have eliminated NATO’s option to fight without nukes, and risked an escalation from tactical nukes in the battlefield to a global nuclear Armageddon.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
King Farouk. Imgur

12. The Pickpocket King

Farouk I of Egypt (1920 – 1965) was king from 1936 until his overthrow in a military coup in 1952. His reign was marked by corruption, incompetence, and bizarre behavior that seemed extra crazy coming from a crowned monarch. Among other things, Farouk was a kleptomaniac. Not just in the figurative sense, as in a ruler who robbed his people blind – although Farouk fit the bill quite well on that front. This king was also a kleptomaniac in the literal sense, in that he could not resist stealing things and picking people’s pockets.

Farouk was popular early in his reign, when he ascended the throne as a slim and handsome young man. He quickly squandered that goodwill with his poor governance, and ruined his good looks with gluttony that saw him balloon to 300 pounds. That made him an object of derision, and he was often described as a “stomach with a head”. His lavish lifestyle during the hardships of WWII further eroded his public standing. Farouk liked stealing things, and he took pick pocketing lessons from a convict whom he pardoned in exchange for teaching him how to lift things. As seen below, Farouk’s victims included Winston Churchill.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Winston Churchill looking at King Farouk, after the Egyptian monarch stole the British Prime Minister’s watch. Pintrest

11. King Farouk’s Picking the Pockets of Winston Churchill Was Just the Tip of a Crazy Iceberg

During a dinner hosted by King Farouk I during WWII, Winston Churchill discovered that his pocket watch had gone missing. It was a prized family heirloom, a gift from Queen Anne to the British Prime Minister’s ancestor, John Churchill, First Duke of Marlborough. After an outcry and search, Farouk, who had been seated next to Churchill, sheepishly turned it in, claiming to have “found” it. That was just the tip of the iceberg of the Egyptian monarch’s crazy behavior. Take the time early in WWII, when Farouk had repeated nightmares in which he was chased by a ravenous lion.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
A caged lion. Premium Times Nigeria

Frazzled from loss of sleep, he consulted the rector of Cario’s ancient Al Azhar University, who advised him “you will not rest until you have shot a lion“. So Farouk went to the zoo and shot two lions in their cages. By 1952, the corruption and crazy had completely eroded the king’ss standing, and he was overthrown in a coup. Hastily fleeing Egypt, he left most of his possessions behind. The new government auctioned his belongings, and it was discovered that he had accumulated the world’s then largest collection of pornography. He settled first in Monaco, then in Rome, where he literally ate himself to death, collapsing at a restaurant dinner table after a heavy meal in 1965.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
‘Justine’, one of the books written by the Marquis de Sade, that got him locked up. Wikimedia

10. A Crazy French Pervert

Donatien Alphonse Francois, Comte de Sade, is better known to history as the Marquis de Sade (1740 – 1814). A French aristocrat, de Sade became notorious for his deviant practices, perversions, and erotic writings that combined pornography with philosophy and violent sexual fantasies. So much so that his name gave rise to the terms sadist and sadism. De Sade was a pervert who is known to history chiefly for being a pervert. He did write about politics and philosophy, but it was the deviant stuff that made him famous.

Indeed, were it not for the deviant things that he did, and the deviant things that he wrote about wanting to do, little would be known today about history’s most famous Marquis. De Sade was an advocate of radically unrestrained freedom. His fantasies’ emphasis on violence, criminality, and blasphemy – and his real life partaking of criminally violent deviancy – kept him behind bars in prisons and insane asylums for most of his adult life. On and off, he spent 32 years behind bars, including 10 years in the Bastille. Most of his writings were penned while he was incarcerated.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
The Marquis de Sade. Smithsonian Magazine

9. At a Time When it Was Nearly Impossible for an Aristocrat to Get Locked Up for Mistreating a Commoner, This Pervert Did Multiple Jail Stints for Deviant Mistreatment of Commoners

The Marquis de Sade was addicted to prostitutes from early on. He was even more addicted to mistreating them. He first appears in the record in the early 1760s, when numerous Paris prostitutes complained of his mistreatment. That led to several short stints behind bars, before he was exiled from Paris to his rural residence. The details of the abuse are murky, but the fact a French aristocrat ended up in jail during the Ancien Regime, based on his treatment of prostitutes, indicates seriousness.

His first big scandal occurred in 1768, when he lured a street beggar to his home with an offer of a housekeeping job. Once he got her in his home, de Sade tore off her clothes, tied her to a sofa, and alternated between flogging and pouring hot wax on her. His victim finally escaped out a second floor window and pressed charges. However, his family made the ensuing investigation go away with a royal decree that removed the case from the jurisdiction of the courts.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
The Marquis de Sade. Tawdry Knickers

8. The Marquis de Sade’s Perversions Were So Bad, They Got Him Sentenced to Death

In 1772, the Marquis de Sade had another major scandal, when he and his body servant incapacitated numerous prostitutes in Marseilles with Spanish fly, then had their deviant way with them. The duo were sentenced to death, but it was in absentia: they had skipped the trial, and fled to Italy. They were caught and imprisoned in Savoy, but escaped after a few months and hid in de Sade’s rural castle in southeast France. There, de Sade had a high turnover of employees. He kept hiring youngsters as domestics, only for them to quit within a short time, complaining of the Marquis’ predation and abuse.

When the youngsters’ parents complained to the authorities, de Sade fled to Italy once again, until things quieted down. He returned to France in 1776, and resumed his crazy perversions, which steadily intensified, with one scandal following another in quick succession. Finally, the authorities tricked de Sade in 1777 into going to Paris to visit his supposedly sick mother. Unbeknownst to him, she had actually died. Soon as he arrived, he was arrested and locked up in the dungeon of a royal fortress.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
The Marquis de Sade. Lost in the Funhouse

7. Emerging From a Dungeon, This Perv Got Himself Elected to the National Convention

The Marquis de Sade was imprisoned in harsh conditions until 1784, when he was transferred to the Bastille. He remained there until he was transferred to a mental asylum in 1789, just two days before the Bastille was stormed at the start of the French Revolution. De Sade was released in 1790 amidst France’s revolutionary turmoil. Taking to the new order, he took to calling himself “Citizen Sade”. Within a few months, he got himself elected to the French National Convention as a representative of the far left.

De Sade barely survived the Reign of Terror, during which he was imprisoned for a year. He emerged from jail in 1794, utterly destitute. In 1801, Napoleon Bonaparte ordered de Sade arrested for pornographic and blasphemous novels he had written a decade earlier, and had him imprisoned without trial. In 1803, the Marquis’ family had him declared insane and transferred from prison to a mental asylum. There, he continued writing, and staged plays with inmates as actors. His writing career finally to an end in 1809, when the police ordered de Sade kept in solitary confinement, and deprived him of pen and paper.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Ferdinand Magellan. History

6. Magellan and the South American Giant

During its circumnavigation of the globe, the Spanish expedition headed by explorer Ferdinand Magellan dropped anchor off Patagonia – a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America. There, they came across a naked giant singing and dancing on the shore. Magellan ordered one of his men to make contact, by also singing and dancing to demonstrate friendliness. It worked, and the giant was coaxed into meeting Magellan. As described by a scribe who kept a diary that was later turned into a book about the voyage:

When he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist“. The explorers made contact with the rest of his tribe. In subsequent weeks, they hunted with the locals, and built a house ashore to store their provisions. Things went well at first. However, this was an interaction between European explorers and Native Americans, so – as seen below – it was bound to end badly.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Interactions with tall natives in Patagonia gave rise to crazy tall tales about Patagonian giants. Princeton University

5. A Tragic Encounter With a Tall Native Grew Into Tall Tales About a Land of Giants

When Magellan was finally ready to depart from Patagonia and continue with his circumnavigation of the globe, he wanted to take some Patagonians to display back in Spain. So he invited some aboard his ship with the lure of trinkets, got them drunk until they passed out, and placed them in chains. When the Patagonians came to, the ships were already underway, sailing away from their homeland. Sadly, the kidnapped Patagonians did not survive the voyage. Nor, for that matter, did Magellan.

However, the sailors who completed the trip and returned to Spain brought back with them a crazy tale of a land inhabited by giants. It was a tall tale that kept growing taller. Later voyages described encounters with Patagonians who stood ten feet tall. Others reported coming in contact with ones whose height was measured at twelve feet. Yet others swore that they had encountered Patagonians who truly towered above normal people, and stood fifteen feet tall. Reports of the South American giants gripped European imaginations for over 250 years.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Patagonian giants. Fine Arts America

4. It Took Centuries to Dispel the Myth of Patagonian Giants

The first challenge to the tall tales of Patagonian giants came from Sir Francis Drake, the famous British seaman and pirate, who encountered Patagonians during his own circumnavigation of the globe. As described by his nephew: “Magellan was not altogether deceived in naming these giants, for they generally differ from the common sort of man both in stature, bigness and strength of body, as also in the hideousness of their voices: but they are nothing so monstrous and giant-like as they were represented, there being some English men as tall as the highest we could see, but peradventure the Spaniards did not think that ever any English man would come hither to reprove them, and therefore might presume the more boldly to lie.”

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Patagonian Tehuelche in 1904. Wikimedia

Nonetheless, the stories of South American giants persisted. As late as 1766, rumors circulated that a British Royal Navy ship had encountered a tribe of natives who stood nine feet tall. However, when the ship’s account of the voyage was finally published, the natives were recorded as being six and a half feet tall. That was tall, especially for that era, but not incredibly so. It certainly did not make the natives giants. In reality, the tribe in question, the Tehuelche, were statuesque and bigger than average. However, they stood in the six foot range.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
King Alexander of Greece. Bridgeman Art Gallery

3. A King Killed by a Monkey

King Alexander of Greece came to an undignified end, when he was taken out by a monkey. No, not that Alexander, the great conqueror of the ancient world, but a more recent one. This Alexander (1893 – 1920) reigned over the Kingdom of Greece from 1917 until he met an unfortunate end three years later. Less imposing than Alexander the Great, this Alexander is perhaps better known to history for the undignified manner of his death than for anything he accomplished in life.

Alexander became king in 1917 during World War I. He ascended the throne after the Allies forced his father to abdicate because he was pro German. Once Alexander took the throne, the pro Entente politician Eleutherios Venizelos became Greek premier. He dominated the king and government, and joined the war on the Allies’ side. After the Entente won, Venizelos and his puppet king were committed to an ambitious political platform called Great Greece. As seen below, that platform collapsed when His Majesty had an unfortunate run in with a monkey.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
King Alexander of Greece and his wife, Aspasia Manos. Wikimedia

2. An Unfortunate Brawl With a Barbary Macaque Monkey

The Great Greece plan consisted of expanding the kingdom to encompass all the lands that had once been inhabited by Greeks, going back millennia. The expansion was to come at the expense of the defeated Ottoman Empire, which had been reduced to a rump that is now Turkey. So in 1919, with tacit French and British support, King Alexander ordered an invasion of Turkey, to seize the Ionian coast. Then a monkey intervened, and ensured that the king never got to see the end of that adventure.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Barbary macaque monkeys. Julia Mathewson

It began with a visit to the Royal Gardens on September 30th, 1920. While strolling with his German Shepherd, Fritz, king and canine came across a Barbary macaque monkey. The dog attacked the monkey, which fought back. The king rushed forward to separate the brawling animals, but unbeknownst to him, the monkey had friends. Another monkey arrived at the scene, and seeing what appeared to be the king and a dog ganging up on his pal, joined the fray. He fell upon Alexander, and bit his leg and upper body several times.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
Turkish propaganda poster, depicting the expulsion of Greeks from Anatolia. Pintrest

1. History’s Most Significant Monkey Attack

King Alexander’s entourage heard the commotion, rushed to his aid, and chased the monkeys away. By then, the damage had already been done. The monkey bites became inflamed, and the king developed a serious infection. Doctors debated amputation of the leg, but none of them wanted to take responsibility, so it was left until it was too late. By the time amputation was considered once again, the infection had spread into the body. King Alexander died of sepsis three weeks after the animal fight, at age 27. Those monkey bites had far reaching consequences.

The Crazy Plan to Stop Earth’s Rotation and Other Bonkers Schemes
A Barbary macaque monkey. People Magazine

Alexander’s death resulted in the restoration of his deposed father. The restored king disliked the military, who had supported his deposition. So he drastically cut and reorganized the armed forces, and engineered the ouster of the pro Entente Premier Venizelos. That caused the French and British to question Greek commitment to the campaign in Turkey. As a result, they made their own deals with a resurgent Turkey. Between that and military turmoil, the Greek invasion of Turkey ended in a humiliating disaster and defeat. Crazy as it sounds, modern Greece and Turkey exist as they do today because a king and his dog picked the wrong monkey to mess with.

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Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

All That is Interesting – Newly Declassified Documents Reveal That a Top US General Planned For Nuclear Attack During the Vietnam War

Amusing Planet – Franz Reichelt’s Fatal Jump

Atlas Obscura – The 1962 Laughter Epidemic of Tanganyika Was No Joke

Beschloss, Michael – Presidents of War (2018)

Boing Boing – US Air Force Proposal: Pause the Earth’s Rotation So Nukes Would Miss Targets

Cracked – America Wanted to Stop the Earth’s Rotation to Trick Soviet Nukes

Ellsberg, Daniel – The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017)

Encyclopedia Britannica – Marquis de Sade

History Collection – Weird Historic Events That Would Break the Internet

Lely, Gilbert – The Marquis de Sade, a Biography (1961)

Mad Monarchs – Farouk of Egypt

New York Times, October 6th, 2018 – US General Considered Nuclear Response in Vietnam, Cables Show

Seattle Times, October 6th, 2018 – Cables Show US Was Close to Adding Nuclear Weapons to Vietnam War

War History Online – Crazy: General Westmoreland Initiated Plan to Use Nukes in Vietnam

We Are the Mighty – America Wanted to Stop Earth’s Rotation During Cold War

Wikipedia – Alexander of Greece

Wikipedia – Davy Crockett (Nuclear Device)

Wikipedia – Farouk of Egypt

Wired – Fantastically Wrong: Magellan’s Strange Encounter With the 10-Foot Giants of Patagonia

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