Embarrassing Things We Learned About In 2021 That Made Us Glad It Wasn't Us

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Vote up the embarrassing historical stories you're glad didn't happen to you.

History is filled with stories of heroes and villains, and epic tales of bravery and debauchery. We read these accounts and our hearts race with excitement at the gallant deeds - and then plummet with fear when the hero has a misadventure. Sometimes there's a story that makes us cringe so hard that we have to turn the lights off and lie down for a second.

These events may have taken place years ago, but we can't help feeling bad - humiliated, even - for some of the people involved. These are among the embarrassing stories we learned about in 2021 that just made us glad it wasn't happening to us.


  • A Group Of European Nobles Broke Through The Floor To Meet Their Fates In The Nastiest Way Possible
    Photo: Master of the Codex Manesse / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    A Group Of European Nobles Broke Through The Floor To Meet Their Fates In The Nastiest Way Possible

    In July 1184, a bizarre, tragic, and - to some - comic event known as the Erfurt Latrine Disaster took place.

    A mix of nobles and high-ranking officials met at St. Peter’s Church in the German city of Erfurt at the behest of King Heinrich VI to settle a dispute. As the group gathered in one of the church's rooms, the floor gave way and collapsed. Underneath was the church's latrine - basically, its personal sewer system where all its waste collected.

    An estimated 60 to 100 people drowned in the smelly disaster.

  • A German Submarine Sank During World War II Because Of Its Toilet
    Photo: Wincent3 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0
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    A German Submarine Sank During World War II Because Of Its Toilet

    The German submarine U-1206 came about later in World War II and was fitted with a new, high-tech toilet that could flush underwater and funnel the waste into the ocean without the sub surfacing. Special technicians were trained to operate the complex devices.

    When a crew member (reportedly the captain, although he denied it) attempted to use the toilet alone, something went wrong and he had to enlist the help of the specialist - who opened the wrong valve. Sewage and seawater flowed in and made contact with batteries beneath the restroom, which produced chlorine gas. The sub surfaced to release the gas; when enemy forces saw it, they attacked, killing one man and badly damaging the sub. The crew fled in lifeboats, later to be captured. 

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    A Man Tried To Prove A Window Was Unbreakable - Unfortunately, The Window Frame Wasn't

    Garry Hoy worked for a law firm in Toronto, Ontario. The 38-year-old corporate and securities lawyer had a bizarre party trick he enjoyed demonstrating for visitors to his office on the 24th floor. To demonstrate the strength of the unbreakable office windows, he would launch his body at them and bounce off. 

    On July 9, 1993, Hoy was giving a tour of the firm to young law students when he decided to showcase his trick. Unfortunately, while the glass did not break, the entire window popped out of its frame, and he fell to his demise.

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    Scotland Invaded England While England Had The Plague, Promptly Bringing It To Scotland

    In 1349, hearing of the Black Death sweeping over England and believing it to be part of God's vengeance on the English, the Scots decided to take advantage of the situation and mount an attack on Durham, in northern England.

    The bubonic plague quickly swept through the invading Scottish army, killing nearly 5,000 of them, with the retreating men bringing the lethal infection to Scotland.

  • Mao Zedong Told Everyone To Kill All The Sparrows, Leaving Nothing To Kill The Locusts
    Photo: The People's Republic of China Printing Office / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    In 1958, Mao Zedong, as the leader of the newly formed People's Republic of China, instituted The Great Leap Forward to reconstruct the country from an agrarian economy into large-scale industrialization. Part of this was the Four Pests campaign against flies, mosquitoes, rats, and sparrows.

    People killed millions of sparrows, but this left crops vulnerable to locusts. This agricultural policy, poor weather, and famine led to the demise of 45 million people.

  • A Union Army General's Last Words Before Being Fired At Were, 'They Couldn't Hit An Elephant At This Distance'
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    A Union Army General's Last Words Before Being Fired At Were, 'They Couldn't Hit An Elephant At This Distance'

    During a North-South incident in Spotsylvania, VA on May 9, 1864, a Union Army general laughed as his men attempted to escape musket fire. He proclaimed:

    Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? Why are you dodging like this? They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance.

    Moments later, he was slain by a Confederate shooter.