Everyone loves a good plot twist in movies. History is ripe with such plot twists that no one saw coming. So here is a list of 10 Greatest Plot Twists in History that no one saw coming.
On June 28th, 1914, Gavrilo Princip’s group “The Black Hand” messed up their first attempt to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His colleague was to throw a grenade under the carriage as the Archduke and his wife passed over. The grenade delayed and blew up as the next car that came by. He panicked, swallowed a cyanide pill, and jumped in a nearby river. Except for the cyanide pill just made him vomit, and the river was only 6 inches deep, so he was caught pretty easily.
Gavrilo Princip felt dejected and proceeded to get some food at a local restaurant. After the assassination attempt, Archduke Franz Ferdinand told his driver to head to the hospital where he and his wife could visit those injured from the failed plot on his life. Cars hadn’t been around for too long, so when the driver got lost and tried to reverse the car, it stalled right in front of the restaurant where Princip was finishing lunch. He walked outside, saw the Archduke standing there, and fired into his neck.
Essentially, the most revolutionary event of the 20th century was a do-over.
9First Female President of the US
Elected in 1913, Woodrow Wilson was one of the most prominently public US presidents. He had a key role in geopolitics during World War 1 and the aftermath. He was highly public with a ton of speeches, meetings, and press availability, even for a president.
After a global meeting in Paris in 1919, The President returned home, but in October had a significant stroke. His wife Edith Wilson and only his closest advisers were aware of the stroke which left the president unable to write, stand for long, and even speak at times.
Edith decided that she had two options, either let the public know and basically give up on her husband’s dreams, or take over the majority of his duties. So, she told the public that the president would be retreating from the public eye to focus on his work, avoiding meeting with any press, his cabinet, and the public. Edith essentially became President of the United States for the next year or so. She did ask for The President’s advice when he felt well, but primarily, she was running the country.
This wasn’t known until many years later, but now she is generally recognized as the first acting female president of The United States.
In 75 B.C., Julius Caesar was captured by Cilician pirates, who infested the Mediterranean Sea. Caesar was kidnapped by pirates who didn’t know who he was. He joined them in their all exercises and games for 38 days. He also wrote poems and speeches which he read aloud to them. They demanded twenty talents of silver for his ransom. Caesar was offended and demanded they ask at least fifty talents, which they got.
Caesar joked that he was going to have them arrested and crucified when they let him go, which they all found very funny and laughed with him. He was set free then. He immediately manned some ships and set sail from the harbor of Miletus against the pirates. He found them still there, lying at anchor off the island. He captured all of them and crucified them, just as he had often told them he would do when he was set free.
7Juan Pujol García
During World War 2, Germans received an application from a Spanish government official named Juan Pujol García who was fanatically pro-Nazi and often traveled to London on official business. So naturally, Germans recruited him as a spy. Pujol soon established himself as a trustworthy agent. He was paid handsomely for his intelligence reports. He even created an extensive network of sub-agents living in different parts of Britain. His reports were so credible that MI5 launched a full-scale spy hunt.
In reality, at the start of WW2, he wanted to help the allies but was rejected. Naturally, he decided to thwart Germans operations as much as he can on his own. So he created a fake profile as a pro-Nazi fanatic and became a German spy. He began inventing fictional sub-agents who could be blamed for false information and mistakes. Then he went back to the British and became a double agent.
He even misled the Germans about the timing and location of the invasion of Normandy in 1944. The false information Pujol supplied helped persuade the Germans that the main attack would be in the Pas de Calais, so that they kept large forces there before and even after the invasion. He not only fooled the Germans but also helped finance the British OSS with the money the Germans had been paying him ($340,000 USD to support his network of agents).
He received both the Iron Cross from Germans and Member of the Order of the British Empire.
At the start of the Cold War, Henry Murray developed a personality profiling test to crack soviet spies with psychological warfare and select which US spies are ready to be sent out into the field. As part of Project MKUltra, he began experimenting on Harvard sophomores. He set one student as the control, after he proved to be a completely predictable conformist, and named him “Lawful”.
Long story short, the latter half of the experiment involved having the student prepare an essay on his core beliefs as a person for a friendly debate. Instead, Murray had an aggressive interrogator come in who basically tore his beliefs to pieces, mocked everything he stood for, and systematically picked apart every line in his essay to see what it took to get him to react.
The test subject didn’t react. It just broke him and made him into a mess of a person and left him having to pull his whole life back together again. He graduated, but then turned in his degree only a couple years later, and moved to the woods where he lived for decades. In all that time, he kept writing his essay. Slowly, he became so sure of his beliefs, so convinced that they were right, that he thought that if the nation didn’t read it, we would be irreparably lost as a society. So, he set out to make sure that everyone heard what he had to say, and sure enough, Lawful’s “Industrial Society and its Future” has become one of the most well-known essays written in the last century. In fact, you’ve probably read some of it. Although, you probably know it better as The Unabomber Manifesto.
In the early days of World War 1, the British navy converted a cruise ship, the RMS Carmania into a makeshift war vessel. To avoid detection, they disguised it as a German armed merchant cruiser, the SMS Cap Trafalgar. The plan worked for the British Navy, as the British ship managed to sink a German vessel, which happened to be the real SMS Cap Trafalgar, which had been disguised by the Germans as the British ship RMS Carmania.
4Princess Olga of Kiev
Olga’s husband ruled Kieven Rus, a fairly large part of Eastern and North Eastern Europe. The Drevlians, a small city state of the empire, rose up in protest and killed her husband. Since Olga’s son was only three years old, she took the power of her kingdom into her hands with the support of Russian army. To mend ties and avoid civil war, the Drevilians proposed to marry their prince to Olga. When the matchmaking ambassadors arrived with their marriage proposal, she buried the whole envoy alive.
She then sent back word that she accepted the marriage proposal but wanted to be escorted by a large noble escort as befitting her status. When the Drevlian nobles showed up, she offered them a large bath house to clean up from the long journey. She then burnt it to the ground with everyone in it.
She then invited the Drevlian populace to a funeral for her husband, which was attended by many as it was basically a feast with free food and booze. She then ordered her soldiers to murder over 5,000 unarmed and drunken civilians. Finally, she marched on their city. The Drevlians surrendered and offered to pay a huge tribute to spare their lives. So she granted the request, and asked as a tribute, only for a bird from each house. This was a seemingly kind and reasonable request, that the city happily fulfilled.
You see birds often nested in the roofs of these old houses. She proceeded to order her men to tie sulfur matches to the birds and lit them on fire. This sent the fiery flock back to their nests that burnt the whole city down.
Chevalier d’Éon, was a French diplomat, spy, freemason, and soldier who fought in the Seven Years’ War. He had androgynous physical characteristics and was a good mimic, a good feature to have as a spy. D’Éon appeared publicly as a man and pursued masculine occupations for 49 years.
As a spy, he successfully infiltrated the court of Empress Elizabeth of Russia by presenting as a woman. For 33 years, from 1777, d’Éon dressed as a woman, identifying as female, claiming to have been assigned female at birth, and demanded recognition by the government as such. The court agreed but it required that d’Éon dress appropriately in women’s clothing. He claimed to have been raised as a boy because his father could only inherit from his in-laws if he had a son.
Rumors circulated in London that d’Éon was actually a woman. A betting pool was started on the London Stock Exchange about d’Éon’s true sex. After a year without progress, the wager was abandoned. Once he retired he revealed to the public that he had been a woman the entire time.
Doctors who examined d’Éon’s body after death and discovered male organs in every respect perfectly formed. So essentially he was double crossdressing.
Whitey Bulger, ran an organized crime syndicate in Boston from the late 70’s to early 80’s and no one could understand how he was getting away with it for so long since everyone knew he was doing it. It turned out he had a friend who was in the FBI and was an informant for the FBI. He was made a top-echelon informant in the FBI’s war against the Mafia. Due to his connections, he had contact with Mafia bosses and could pass on information to the FBI about what they were doing.
He would rat on other organized crime families and once they were arrested he took over their territory. It was a win for his friend since he was making all the busts and win for him since he would take over more territory.
He was however arrested in 1995, sentenced and received two continuous life terms in prison after being convicted of 11 murders, drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, racketeering, and other crimes.
Chester Arthur was a cog in the ill-famed corrupt New York political machine. He was a notorious supporter and beneficiary of the “spoils system”. His entire career, he awarded government jobs to his party members. Before becoming Vice President, he was head of the New York custom-house, a symbol of waste, fraud, and ineptitude among federal offices. He was nominated because he was a stooge of the leader of the New York machine, who was too notoriously corrupt himself to be electable.
When he became president after the assassination of James Garfield in 1881, he shocked everyone (including his friends and supporters) by refusing to make the corrupt appointments his party demanded. To the surprise of reformers, Arthur took up the cause of reform, though it had once led to his expulsion from office. He was praised for his veto of a ‘Rivers and Harbors Act’ that would have appropriated federal funds in a manner he thought excessive. He pushed the Pendleton Act through Congress, establishing a federal civil service based on merit.
In short, politician breaks promises he made to get elected and gets admired for it.