These people inspire us to stand up for what we believe, even if it’s bizarrely nonsensical.
1. Man Crosses Atlantic in Raft with no Water
In 1952, Alain Bombard grew concerned with how many lives were being lost at sea. As a well-regarded scientist, it was within his means to start developing safer nautical emergency equipment. However, Bombard was ridiculously stubborn, and was convinced that people were dying in life rafts simply because they weren’t good enough at managing their resources.
To prove his theory that safety required better sailors, not better safety equipment, Bombard prepared to set sail on a raft across the Atlantic ocean. He didn’t bring any fresh water, and only a sextant to guide him. Neither a newborn baby, nor Bombard’s sailing partner abandoning him could deter the will of this determined Frenchman.
At sea, Bombard fashioned a harpoon and began catching fish, which he used for a source of water. Using water from fish, rainwater, and a limited amount of sea water, Bombard was able to stay alive. No word on how much pee he drank, so we’ll just assume a lot. After two grueling months of this, his raft finally finished crossing the ocean, arriving in Barbados. He had lost 25kg, but the important thing was that he never had to admit he was wrong.
2. Swedish King Refuses to Admit What Day It Is
It was The Age of Enlightenment, and intelligent reform was sweeping through Europe. Almost everywhere, leaders worked together to rid themselves of the inaccurate Julian calendar and unite under Georgian time and date. This worked pretty fine for everyone except the King of Sweden, who just had to be weird. Rather than simply adjusting the date to be on the same page as practically everyone on that side of the world, Charles XII came up with a way dumber solution. Since the Swedes were at the time 11 days behind, Charles XII decreed that Sweden should just skip the next 11 leap years. Effort was the enemy of Charles XII, obviously.
Why was this so backwards? For starters, it ensured that the date in Sweden was always wrong compared to the rest of the world, and Swedes themselves had trouble keeping track of the date. Also, Sweden got into a war and everyone kinda tried to forget about the King’s dumb time change plan. But they couldn’t forget about the King. Rather than simply admit he was wrong, Charles the XII declared the original system to be the best, and changed everyone back to the Julian calendar. However this didn’t even work right, and the King was forced to make up a date, February 30th, just to get everything back the way it was. He refused to “get with the time” for the remainder of his reign. Sweden didn’t switch to the dates used by everyone else until 50 years after they started trying.
3. Woman Refuses to Quit Smoking for 97 Years
Jean Calment led an exceptional life. For starters, she was the longest living human being on record, having seen 122 birthdays. Also, she was a bad ass, dropping a house/rap album in her final years.
Judging from her health habits, we have to assume that Calment only lived that long because of a stubborn refusal to die. She started smoking when she was around 22 years old. Despite turning 100 she still refused to give it up. Hey, we can’t blame her: it couldn’t possibly send her to an early grave.
Which is why it was so funny that she decided to quit at the age of 119. Naturally, this wasn’t due to health reasons or any other reasonable explanation. Calment was simply too stubborn to have someone else light her smokes for her. Rather than ask for help, she just gave up smoking after nearly a century of puffing coffin nails. This explains why there aren’t that many centurian meth smokers: they’re just too proud to request assistance.
4. Man Refuses Separation from His Dead Siamese Twin
Humans are capable of engaging in tremendously deep relationships. Some of the most developed relationships include that between a husband and wife, a mother and child, and a Star Wars fanboy and his anti-depressant medication. But no relationship can beat the levels of weirdness established by Chang and Eng Bunker.
Joined by the liver, Chang and Eng achieved world fame as a touring freakshow. This allowed them to save enough money to retire to a nice North Carolina farm. There, they successfully attempted to lead as normal lives as possible, including owning slaves and chasing women. The two Bunker brothers managed to make a combined 21 babies. None of their babies were Siamese twins, but if all 21 were stuck together we’d pay to see that.
Although they initially slept in a bed built for four, their wives squabbled. A Big Love situation was worked out, with the Bunker brothers alternating days spent with each spouse. Weird, but understandable when you’ve got a disability to work through.
What is not understandable is why in 1874 Eng decided to not cut himself lose from his brother. The process of separation had been medically safe for some time, but the Bunker brothers elected not to risk losing their public spectacle cash cow. One morning, Eng woke up to find his brother had passed in the night, there was now a dead corpse sticking out of his sternum.
Eng’s wife begged him to get surgery, Eng’s doctor begged him to get surgery. But Eng would have none of it, insisting he would stay with his brother until death. Which happened later that day. Apparently, the human body can only take so much, and playing all of the roles in a “Weekend at Bernie’s” reenactment is beyond the limits of man. Who knew?
5. Mountain Man Chooses Dynamite Load over Police
Albert Johnson seemed friendly enough, at least for the brutal Canadian wilds of 1931. He checked into the settlement of Fort Macpherson, shaved up, then proceeded to build a tiny cabin in the woods in which to live. Nice enough, so when Mounties heard that someone was disabling traps in the area and all signs pointed to Albert Johnson, they probably just wanted to give him a warning.
But Albert Johnson was far too bullheaded to be warned. When police came to talk to him, he refused to answer the door, ignoring them until they went away. Soon, the police obtained a search warrant, and four policemen went out to Johnson’s shack. After being ignored further, the police broke down the door of the shack. At this point, we’d probably just give up and receive our small citation. But not the recalcitrant Albert Johnson. He opened fire on the police, and managed to battle all four of them back.
Fed up, police organized a party of nine armed men, 42 angry dogs, and a load of dynamite. They blew up the building with the dynamite, only to find Albert safely tucked away in a hole in the floor. Police were unable to subdue him despite 15 hours of gunplay. One has to wonder if Johnson also shot 42 dogs, or if the dogs just ran around happily marking trees and ignoring the situation.
By now the legend of Albert Johnson had spread around the area. Forming a posse to take him down was not difficult, and a large group of men chased Johnson through the woods. Johnson still managed to back them off, shooting a constable through the heart. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police blocked off the area and enlisted natives to track Johnson. Despite all of this, Albert managed to scale a 7,000 foot cliff to make a new hideout.
Finally, an airplane was enlisted and Albert Johnson’s location was discovered. Sending a veritable battalion of men, Johnson was finally cornered and taken down. We imagine he laughed maniacally throughout the entire ordeal.
6. Man Refuses to Admit Witches Aren’t Sex Freaks
It’s 1484, and Heinrich Kramer hates witches with a nuclear passion. Unfortunately, it would still be several centuries before society devolved to be stupid enough to support his views. That didn’t stop Kramer from being obstinate, however, desperately attempting to arrange witchhunts in Western Europe. This really didn’t take, and he was thrown out of the area and called senile by a local bishop.
At this time maybe most of us would stop worrying about old hags on brooms, and maybe just spend our time trying to avoid the plague, or maybe finding clean water to drown ourselves in. But not Kramer, oh no. He set about getting collegiate approval to write a theoretical explain-all book about witchcraft.
How did he get this rare endorsement? He lied. His witchcraft book, The Mallus Maleficarum, contains a lengthy approval from Cologne University. In fact, that university asserts it outright rejected Kramer’s proposal as error-prone and shady.
It didn’t matter, because the money started rolling in. The Malleus Maleficarum became the go-to manual for secular courts to prosecute witches. At this point, Heinrich Kramer was too far invested to ever see the truth. Thus, he responded to critcs with hilariously bad explanations for his mistakes, all of which seem to involve penises.
Kramer shaped his book to refute commons claims about witchcraft. This meant replacing logic with flat-out bulshitting. For starters, Kramer examined claims that witches can make a man’s penis disappear. Then someone pointed out that an agent of the devil can never destroy something made by God. This left Kramer scrambling for an explanation. Finally, he decided that witches just turned penises invisible. Problem solved, Kramer moved onto the next issue, which involved claims that magic devils can knock up women. But conception is creation, and the devil can’t create. Kramer explained it all by asserting that a devil has sex with a guy, steals his sperm, gives it to another devil, who uses this hand-me-down sperm to impregnate a lady. In Kramer’s mind, the world of witchcraft has more sperm swapping than a porn website.
Finally, the Spanish Inquisition came along, took one look at the Malleus Maleficarum, and decided it was more savage than they wanted to be.
Unfortunately, nowhere in the Malleus Maleficarum does it mention chasing down witches while accidentally frying balls on moldy bread. So, it would be another 200 years before humans finally learned their lesson.
7. Man Starts War over Argument with Neighbor
We all grew up with an annoying kid who would call his mother to the scene rather than receive playground justice. It turns out these kids grow up to be power-tripping assholes with inferiority complexes. Who knew?
One such pair of grown-up manchildren started a war over a petty argument in 1859. Charles Griffin and Lyman Cutler lived on San Juan Islands, a piece of territory whose ownership was disputed by the U.S. and Britain. Griffin and Cutler were neighbors. One day Griffin shot a pig after it trespassed onto Griffin’s property and destroyed some crops. The pig was Lyman’s, and the two men set about haggling over restitutions. Feeling badly, Griffin offered $10, which is like $250 in modern money. Carter insisted upon $100. Rather than settle their argument like men, reach some middle price that neither party liked, the two started posturing. Carter called the British police to arrest Griffin. Since Griffin was American, military protection stormed over to stop Griffin’s arrest. Things escalated until a full out, real-deal battle broke out between the two nations. This skirmish is now referred to as the Pig War.
When bigwigs in Washington and London heard about it, they were pretty damn embarassed at how stubborn their citizens could be. Both nation’s leaders took quick steps to end the conflict peacefully. As is the case with America “ending the conflict peacefully” meant “we both build up our militaries on opposite ends of the disputed area.” Always win-win negotiators, those Yanks.
These seven anecdotes illustrate that there is a fine line between “standing up for what one believes in” and “being a complete douchebulb.” Here’s a good tip for distinguishing between the two: If you’re fighting for something that a bunch of other people are fighting for, like Civil Rights, you’re standing up for what you believe in. If you’re the only one screaming that you are right, and you’re floating out in the pacific ocean with a dead twin on your back and no idea what day it is… then the problem is you, jerk.
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