During the 1956 Olympic torch relay, a veterinary student named Barry Larkin tricked onlookers by carrying a fake torch made of a chair leg, a pudding can, and flaming underpants. He managed to hand it over to the mayor of Sydney who gave a speech without realizing it was a hoax.
2. In 1955, someone dropped a 600-year-old plaster Buddha Statue only to discover the plaster was covering a solid gold statue beneath.
3. In 1950, four students from Glasgow stole the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey and smuggled it back to Scotland in a Ford Anglia. The stone, also called the Coronation Stone, is the stone upon which British royalty is crowned, and was taken by the English from Scotland in 1296.
4. In 1952, at the age of 18, Donnie Dunagan became the Marine's youngest-ever drill instructor. He served 3 tours in Vietnam and was wounded several times, earning 3 purple hearts. He also kept a secret for over 50 years that he was a child actor and the voice of young Bambi.
5. In 1956, a magician named P. C. Sorcar was performing the "cut a person in half" trick using his assistant for a televised performance. Immediately after she was divided, the host ended the show. People were horrified, thinking she had been killed, but time had just run out on the broadcast.
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In 1954, Soviet prisoners overthrew their guards and, for 40 days, established a gulag republic with a democratically elected provisional government, marriages between male and female prisoners, indigenous religious ceremonies, and a general flowering of art and culture.
7. In 1951, Thelma Howard was hired as a maid for Walt & Lillian Disney. Walt would gift her shares of Disney stock every X-mas for the next 30 years. She died in 1994. That's when it was discovered that she still had all 192,000 shares valued at $9 million. It went to disadvantaged kids and her disabled son.
8. During a 1957 Phillies game, Richie Ashburn hit a fan named Alice Roth, the wife of Philadelphia Bulletin sports editor Earl Roth with a foul ball, breaking her nose. When play resumed he hit her again with another foul ball as she was being taken out on a stretcher.
9. In 1952, a double-decker bus was crossing London's Tower Bridge when the process to close the gates failed. Driver Albert Gunter made a split-second decision to accelerate the bus, clearing a six-foot drop onto the other side. The passengers received only minor injuries and Gunter won a £10 bonus.
10. In 1956, two young girls named Patricia and Barbara who were obsessed with Elvis Presley went missing after going to see "Love Me Tender" for the 15th time. Elvis was so concerned that he issued a public appeal over the radio pleading with them to be “good Presley fans and go home and ease their mother's worries."
In 1954, famous rhythm-and-blues singer Johnny Ace died after jokingly pointing a gun toward himself and accidentally shooting himself with it. His last words were "It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded… see?"
12. In 1952, a nuclear reactor in Canada had a partial meltdown. American and Canadian service personnel disassembled the reactor a few minutes at a time to limit radioactive exposure. Jimmy Carter was one of the Americans. His experience led him to cease the development of the neutron bomb as POTUS.
13. In 1953, Swanson had 260 tons of leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and didn't know how to get rid of it. They asked their workers for ideas, and one man thought they should package it in individual trays with sides and freeze it. The TV dinner was born.
14. In 1954, an archaeologist named Kamal el-Mallakh discovered 1,224 intact pieces of wood from 2500 B.C. under the Great Pyramid of Giza. A boatbuilder then spent 14 years figuring out how they fit together and un-warping them to assemble the "Khufu ship", visible in a museum today.
15. In 1953, a paperboy acquired a hollowed-out nickel-containing a ciphered message while collecting for his deliveries. He told the daughter of an NYPD officer and the news got to the FBI, eventually leading to the arrest and conviction of KGB agent Vilyam Fisher four years later.
In 1952, Albert Einstein was offered the Presidency of the State of Israel. He declined, saying that as a scientist trained to deal with objective facts, he lacked the aptitude and experience to deal with people.
17. In 1953, a North Korean fighter pilot named No Kum-sok defected to South Korea with his MiG-15 and was rewarded $100,000 from the United States.
18. In the 1950s, during the height of the Red Scare, Einstein offered to appear as a character witness in defense of W.E.B. Du Bois who was being indicted by the feds for failing to register as a "foreign agent." Einstein's offer made the judge drop the case.
19. In 1952-54, Felisa Rincón de Gautier, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico had snow delivered by plane to the city so that the children who had never seen or played in the snow, would be able to do so.
20. In the 1950s, Casinos in Las Vegas offered “Atomic Tourism” in which guests could watch atomic bombs being tested in the desert as a form of entertainment.
April 11, 1954, was the most boring day in history, according to a computer program tracking news. The most noteworthy events of that day included a general election in Belgium and the birth of a Turkish academic.
22. In the 1950s, a Catholic Priest named Gerald Fitzgerald proposed banishing all sexually predatory priests to a remote island for life.
23. In September 1950, the US Navy sprayed San Francisco with "harmless" bacteria to simulate a biological attack. The not-so-harmless bacteria caused a spike in a rare UTI, killing one man. A lawsuit against the government was rejected on the grounds that the government-held legal immunity.
24. In 1951, a poor woman named Henrietta Lacks donated her cells to science without knowing it. Her cells would be the first "immortal cells" that could be kept alive for medical use. They have been used for everything from creating the polio vaccine to cloning.
25. In 1950, Brazil was so sure they would win the World Cup final against Uruguay that the local media hailed them as "future champions" before the match and 22 gold medals had already been made with the names of Brazilian players. They lost 2-1.